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Victorian School Punishments

Updated on June 21, 2011
Corporal Punishment, from conceptexcellence.blogspot.com
Corporal Punishment, from conceptexcellence.blogspot.com
Caning, from victorianschool.wordpress.com
Caning, from victorianschool.wordpress.com

Victorian School Punishments

INTRODUCTION

I'm trying to recollect what prompted me to write the poem below, written about four decades ago. I guess it was my reading of Tom Brown's Schooldays, because you have Dr Thomas Arnold in the poem. But I think it was F.W. Farrar's morbid tale, 'Eric, or Little by Little' that influenced me; that was a grim account, that horrified me when I read it as a school-boy in the late '60s.

Recollecting my own school-days, I must say that I was caned only once, that too, on the calves of my legs. I was not the lone victim; the entire high-school class of 16 boys was given this punishment. In the 8th grade, I received a few sharp 'knocks' with a wooden 'ruler' or 'scale' on my knuckles. Not with the flat end of the scale, but the narrow, sharp end. It hurt really bad. I remember once, when caught doing mischief in class (I was in 8th grade, age 12 or so), I thought I would be subject to some really old-style Victorian caning (like you see in the second cartoon below); but I got a more refined form of punishment from the Principal himself, who I now remember was a cultured gentleman named Brinnicombe. I was asked to memorize a poem of about 16-20 lines in an hour and a half, and after a desperate struggle I did it!

While checking out the Internet, I found tons of material on corporal punishment, which seems to have been widely practised in schools in Victorian times. Well, the same school punishments were carried over to the British colonies across the globe. Schools in our country have been practicising corporal punishment well into the '90s. I think the anti-corporal-punishment movement has since picked up and we keep reading nowadays in the newspapers, sensational stories of how teachers in the districts (countryside) revel in punishing their students in sadistic ways.

Well, I hope you enjoy the poem. It seems morbid, but is actually very sarcastic.

Pratonix

Crime and Punishment in the Dark Ages


'Beat him till his back is blue, '
Said Arnold Thomas with a grin;
'If two and two is twenty-two
Then stealing is a mortal sin;
Proverbs thirteen, twenty-four
Is good as anything you know,
So beat him till his back is blue;

'For little boys with playful ways
May lose themselves in Satan's maze
And never find their way out till
They're beaten and the blood doth spill,
Freeing them of fiery fumes
That burn from nasty witches' brooms;
Let all the gleams of she-cats' eyes
Fade far away with every blow;
Likewise the crooked tales and lies,
Until the beaten back is sore:

'Then you may (but better not)
Pour some brandy down his throat,
Some salad-oil on his wounds
To alleviate the twinge of pain;
But if he tries to fake a swoon
Get up and beat him blue again.'

© Tan Pratonix/Roland N Oliver

(This poem was written at the age of 18! It strongly inveighs against corporal punishment.)

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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      5 weeks ago from London England

      They got rapped over the knuckles with a ruler. OUCH !

    • profile image

      Gadfly 

      5 weeks ago from Olde London Towne

      Recently, an old punishment register from an East end of London girl's school came to light. The girls there certainly received corporal punishment and lots of it. Must have been the inspiration for St Trinians.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      5 weeks ago from London England

      At the co educational schools i attended the girls were exempt from corporal punishment. I do recall a naughty girl being threatened with having her bare ankles hit with a leather strap, but the teacher did not proceed with the threat. In High school, some girls absented themselves for hours and when returning they were queried but knew nothing could be done to them. Since those days women have informed me that they in fact did receive corporal punishment.

    • profile image

      Gadfly 

      5 weeks ago from Olde London Towne

      Yesterday i got into conversation with Ladies whilst in Thresher park in London. One of them presumed it was to do with 'thrashings' and that started a discussion on floggings and corporal punishment as if they enjoyed talking about it.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      6 weeks ago from London England

      We had deterant punishment as well. Some sadistic teachers presumed boys deserved to be canned and selected a few for special treatment.

    • profile image

      Gadfly. 

      7 weeks ago

      "Hold out your hand ! Higher boy" !

      "Double dose or six of the best " !

    • profile image

      Aldhem. 

      7 weeks ago

      Lets not forget 'the Dunces cap'.

    • profile image

      Gadfly. 

      7 weeks ago

      We had the strap (or the tawse) in my school days and i received my fair share of it !

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      8 weeks ago from London England

      The boy sitting at the same desk as me and myself were sent to the headmasters office to be given the strap. Thing it would be the strap on the palm of the hand, we rubbed chalk dust in a vain attempt to soften the stinging pain. Unfortunatly for us he used a ruler on our nuckles. Both hands too !

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      6 months ago from London England

      Floggings in prisons were common during the Victorian era,

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      6 months ago from London England

      There are only a few countries in the world now where corporal punishment is still legal.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      2 years ago from London England

      I'm just reminded of the 1968 English public school feature with Malcolm McDowell as a student. The three chums are caught drinking alcohol in their dorm resulting in a violent thrashing in the school's gym. Leaning over a wood vaulting horse, 40 strokes are administered to the boy's buttocks after which McDowell's character thanks the person who caned him. Got to admit myself after the pain has gone it did leave a warm sensation!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      4 years ago from London England

      I did a count up of all the teachers i had that used the cane in classes during my schooling The result only five used corporal punishment to maintain school discipline out of the whole 30 teachers during my education. The five does not include the two 'sicko's' not my teachers who presumed they had the right to cane boys for their own gratification.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      4 years ago from London England

      merrie we meet

      Must confess that i never got caned by a Lady teacher during my school days. Their punishments were more like 'stand in the corner facing the wall' etc. In the infants class one paticular teacher would glue a piece of paper to a naughty boy's nose for humiliation in front of the class. I did however once get a tight slap from a Lady teacher for annoying her.

      They were the days!

      limpet

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      4 years ago from London England

      merrie we meet

      Punishment at school was mild compared to what we got at home. There a cane was called 'the switch' with no limitations on how many strokes and also with shorts removed.

      bless

      the limpet

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 

      4 years ago from London England

      merrie we meet

      Another form of chastisement in schooling of my tymes was 'the strap'.

      They could strap a pupil for no reason and say it was 'impudence'. They would make you hold out your hand and if the strap clipped the fingers it wouldn't count and was delivered to the palm of the hand. Each teacher had his own style in delivery of the strap and one brutal monster had massed strapping sessions for boys during lunch hour with smaller boys looking on in fear. Alternatively you could be strapped across the ankles.

      Bless

      limpet

    • profile image

      Doug Turner Jr. 

      8 years ago

      Harsh but how true of boarding schools. Good poem.

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 

      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      This poem is awesome! I think it's a very powerful piece. You're very talented... but of course you already know that.

    • profile image

      Darlene Turpin 

      8 years ago

      This poem again was marvalous..It sure was dark though, but then I can see back then and they way they punished in schools and in the homes..Boy Roland..you sure have changed in so many ways..I see them with each and everything you pen..You have matured, grown through Christ!..What a blessing to read your earlier poems..Your words always make me ponder and think..and you always bring your poems to life!

      Voted up and awesome!

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