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Should Corporal Punishment in Schools be Allowed? Arguments For and Against

Updated on November 21, 2016
SuperBrainwave profile image

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Teacher and class.  Corporal punishment in schools has effectively been banned in many parts of the world, but is seen as a vital tool to preserve order and respect in other places.  In the US, laws and practices vary considerably from state to state
Teacher and class. Corporal punishment in schools has effectively been banned in many parts of the world, but is seen as a vital tool to preserve order and respect in other places. In the US, laws and practices vary considerably from state to state | Source

Corporal punishment in schools is an emotive and controversial topic for many people. The arguments for and against mainly revolve around the ethics and practicalities of using it as a way of maintaining student discipline.

People who are for corporal punishment generally take the view that provided it can be properly regulated, it can be an effective way of maintaining discipline in an educational setting, while those who are against it generally view it as an ineffective method of maintaining discipline and/or unethical.

The idea behind the practice is that pain is deliberately inflicted on a student, usually by a teacher, as a punishment for an offense that has been committed. As well as serving as a punishment, the punishment is also intended to act as a deterrent against future rule breaking.

Typically the punishment is performed by striking the pupil repeatedly with some sort of implement, such as hitting the palm of their hand with a ruler. Paddling is common way of administering corporal punishment in the USA.

Corporal punishment in schools is prohibited in over 30 countries globally, including Canada, Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand and most of Europe. The United States tends to be spilt along North-South lines as far as allowing it is concerned, with Northern states generally prohibiting the practice and Southern states generally allowing it.

In answer to the question: Should corporal punishment in schools be allowed? Here are the main arguments for and against that people use.

Arguments For Corporal Punishment in Schools

  • Because it works. That is why it has featured as a traditional tool of teachers for so long. There is no other equivalent that acts as both a punishment and deterrent in the same way. The psychological and physical immediacy of a short sharp shock is simply the most effective way to affect behavior in some circumstances.
  • As long as it is properly regulated, there should be no problems with it being used in schools. Some of the negative stories used by people opposed to corporal punishment are the result of failures in regulation and leadership, not corporal punishment itself.
  • It can be administered quickly. The pupil can then continue with his or her learning, unlike other forms of punishment, such as suspension from school when they miss school time and their education is damaged.
  • It is also an effective use of staff time, unlike other forms of punishment, such as detentions, when hours of staff time can be wasted supervising students who have misbehaved.

Teacher's desk.  Opinion differs as to whether corporal punishment enables the teacher to maintain order and respect for authority more effectively, or whether it encourages the idea that physical violence against children is acceptable, even welcome
Teacher's desk. Opinion differs as to whether corporal punishment enables the teacher to maintain order and respect for authority more effectively, or whether it encourages the idea that physical violence against children is acceptable, even welcome | Source

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.

— Mahatma Gandhi
Two students receiving the cane in a drawing from 1888.  Corporal punishment in schools has a long history and was unquestioned as method of disciplining children for centuries.
Two students receiving the cane in a drawing from 1888. Corporal punishment in schools has a long history and was unquestioned as method of disciplining children for centuries. | Source

Arguments Against Corporal Punishment in Schools

  • It is a form of abuse against children - psychologically, as well as physically. It also sends out the message that violence is socially acceptable, which is entirely the wrong message to be giving out.
  • There is no evidence that schools who use it are any more disciplined or orderly than ones that don’t. If anything, the effects of it seem to be more negative than positive and serve to undermine the teacher-pupil relationship.
  • Where it is used, there is evidence that it is not used in an even-handed way. For instance, statistically speaking, boys tend to be given the punishment more than girls, and Afro Americans seem to be given the punishment more often than white school children for similar offenses.

I think I wish I had never spanked my children, but I have. And they remember every instance like they tattooed it on their palms. I think it's a terrible lesson, to use physical punishment to make a point about not behaving, not being kind to their siblings, to other people. I mean that's just absurd. But I've lost it, I understand it.

— Ayelet Waldman
Ellen Key with sculptor Carl Milles in around 1915.  Key is best known for her book: The Century of the Child, published in 1909, where she argues for a child-centered approach, and against corporal punishment.
Ellen Key with sculptor Carl Milles in around 1915. Key is best known for her book: The Century of the Child, published in 1909, where she argues for a child-centered approach, and against corporal punishment. | Source

Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.

— Ellen Key

School Corporal Punishment and the United States

The legality of corporal punishment is decided at a state level in the USA and so laws vary in different parts of the country.

  • Currently the practice is banned in public schools in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia.
  • New Jersey and Iowa also ban the practice in private schools too.
  • New Jersey was the very first U.S. state to abolish school corporal punishment in 1867.
  • Corporal punishment is most often used in the South, mainly in public schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Legality map of the USA: The blue areas show the states where corporal punishment is prohibited.  The practice is most common in the old South and the Mid-West.
Legality map of the USA: The blue areas show the states where corporal punishment is prohibited. The practice is most common in the old South and the Mid-West. | Source

Your opinion!

Should corporal punishment in schools be allowed?

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© 2012 SuperBrainwave

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    • Galadriel Arwen profile image

      Galadriel Arwen 4 years ago from USA

      Being able to strike another is a sign of brutality. Learning to mediate with conversation and reasoning an educated way to deal with others and a way toward peace and understanding. Today is the beginning of something great! You are learning something new today, maybe something important, maybe something small and silly, but definitely something fascinating! Your mental energy makes it easy to absorb so take it all in and enjoy! being in an environment of corporal punishment takes learning away and lends itself to anarchy.

    • Duchessoflilac1 profile image

      Rebecka Vigus 4 years ago from Johns Island, SC

      No one needs corporal punishment, however teachers have their hands tied now in not being able to give consequences for actions. Kids have no respect for the institution of education.

      If I had a nickel for every time I told a student, "If it's not yours don't touch it." I'd be one of the wealthiest women in the world. There is no respect for anything or anyone. That has to come from home.

    • FloridaFacts profile image

      FloridaFacts 4 years ago from Florida USA

      I think corporal punishment sends out the wrong message. You should be able to discipline kids without it.

    • Galadriel Arwen profile image

      Galadriel Arwen 4 years ago from USA

      I do not believe the threat of physical abuse is appropriate in any setting. If a student is disruptive and preventing the others to learn. He needs to be removed. As a former educator, I have never believed in negative reinforcement and have witnessed myself in a class that positive reinforcement works better. Instead of placing the names of bad people on the wall, I chose to place good, and erase the bad. WOW what a shock some had when instead of the attention they wee used to receiving was gone; they were erased. The good students who were summarily not emotionally supported and commended received the much needed focus and attention. The rules changed when focus was no longer going to the miscreant, but the valued excellent students were awarded. These great children were allowed to participate in Friday's award film and win prizes for the right answers. The others were sent out of the room and to the library under guard. This way, everyone had a better experience in class and the misbehaviors were no more. P.S. Those who misbehaved changed their tune and became good also. Just a hint to those who do not believe good deserve all the attention!

    • profile image

      William Charles 2 years ago

      Caning In Schools Used To Be Very Affective Punishment In Schools On Children,

      And Do Believe Bring The Cane Back In Schools Will Restore Good Behaver Of Children In The Class,

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