Prohibiting corporal punishment beneficial
By Dr. Robert E. Fathman
Pacific Daily News, November 2, 2003


It is very sad to read that the Guam Department of Education is going to consider revising the discipline policy to make it easier for educators to hit children.

Educators who want to hit children, and school board policy-makers who allow this to occur, do so because they think physical punishment is necessary to maintain order, and that the pain and occasional bruises inflicted is a deterrent to misbehavior. Such thinking is completely faulty and reflects ignorance of decades of educational research. Scientific surveys of school administrators conducted a year or two after corporal punishment has been abolished in a district show decidedly that student behavior is seen as improved or staying the same, not deteriorating.

All of the educational research clearly shows that schools that use physical punishment have lower graduation rates, worse performance on national achievement tests and higher drop out rates. Vandalism rates are worse at these same, poorer performing schools. There has never been a single study showing any benefit to use of corporal punishment in schools.

If banning corporal punishment led to chaos in the classroom, those states and countries that have voted out this practice would reinstate it. Only one political entity ever did so -- Nazi Germany. It has, of course, been banned in the present German state.

Prohibiting corporal punishment works. Doing so improves classroom behavior.

Just what lesson are we teaching our children when we have a person who is bigger and stronger tell them, in effect, "I don't like what you did so I am going to hit you?" Is this what we want children to learn? Why not instead model nonviolent conflict resolution, using more humane methods?

Corporal punishment has been abolished by every nation in Europe, Central and South America, China, Japan and in 28 U.S. states. Are children in Guam so much worse behaved than children in these other areas of the world that they can only be managed by brute force? Are the teachers in Guam so less well-trained that their only recourse for classroom management is intimidation by brute force? I am sure they are just as capable of educating children without hitting as are teachers in, say, Wisconsin, Spain, California and all the other places in the world.

I hope the leaders in the education field in Guam do their homework and achieve a passing grade in protecting the children in their charge. There is no place in a modern society for teachers to hit children in schools. Good school discipline is instilled in the mind, not the behind.

Robert E. Fathman, Ph.D., is president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools.

See Pacific Daily News Editorial: Abolish: There is no need for corporal punishment in the public schools

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