G. Y. writes:
Let me first say I do not "believe in" corporal punishment. Historical and medical evidence show beyond any reasonable doubt it to be a failure, despite the largly self-righetous rationales to justify the "satisfaction" (both ego & sexual) authoritarian types get from administering such discipline. Alas, if one is considering only if it "works" as an immediate "cure" for bad or undesirable behavior, the answer is yes. This is not ipso facto that this also makes it a good or desireable solution, however. Besides, arguing things like "tradition" is foolish. Slavery was a universal tradition until quite recently. But I digress. The question is, Do methods of school student discipline like spanking & uniforms justify employing them despite what we know? If emotions are to rule us rather than reason, which is unfortunately usually the case, then we may as well make them as successful/effective/satisfying as possible for the adults, "rights," "fairness," "niceness" be damned. Ultimately, it's a matter of what we want & what we decide.
Still, I feel I must also say I know from personal experience that such methods do "work," particularly so with boys it seems. As a lad (grades 1 through 8) I attended a parochical boys school where bare-bottom strappings before your classmates & having to wear prim suits with abashingly brief short pants were de rigueur. It was not surprising how docile & well-behaved we were, between the dread of painful mortification & the constant embarrassment of having to publicly go about looking (and, most importantly, feeling) sissish-- and I don't know of anyone who was "damaged" by this treatment.
I know, things were quite different in the "good old days." All things considered, I think it is just as well.
Jordan Riak responds:
G. Y. describes with vivid realism the experience of dread, mortification, and humiliation that were integral to the system of discipline he experienced during his school days. And then, much to this reader's astonishment, says, "I don't know of anyone who was 'damaged' by this treatment."
Mr. Y.'s quotation marks around 'damaged' suggest a qualification which he doesn't subsequently clarify. I can't help wondering just what kind of damage he might have been looking for as a result of public strappings delivered by grown men against the bare buttocks of compliant young boys, and then breathe a sigh of relief at not finding it. Surely, he can't have been looking for sadomasochism, if we can call that a form of damage.
If anyone is skeptical about the connection between sex and beating, I suggest that that person log onto the Internet and do a Net search for "discipline" or "spanking." What emerges is evidence of a thriving industry catering to legions of adults who eagerly wish to be transported in their fantasy lives into settings resembling Mr. Y.'s old school. I have even seen advertisements for houses of prostitution in major daily newspapers of Sydney and London, touting completely outfitted classrooms including supplies of school uniforms from which to choose -- too loose or too tight, whatever the customer prefers, and guaranteeing maximum discretion as would be expected by high-ranking patrons.
In Spare the Child, page 186, Dr. Philip Greven writes: "These are the realities that most of us remain eager to deny... So long as children are beaten by adults, the obsessions with domination, with power and authority, with shame and humiliation, with painful pleasure -- all hallmarks of sadomasochism -- will remain an enduring consequence of the ordinary violence and coercion done in the name of discipline... Sadomasochism is not an aberration; it is inherent in corporal punishment..." (1990)
And Helen Merrell Lynd writes in On Shame and the Search for Identity, page 67, "The experience of shame is itself isolating, alienating, incommunicable; and there can be no doubt, given what we know of the genesis and development of the flagellant fantasy, that anyone unfortunate enough to be afflicted with the English Vice is bound to feel extremely ill-at-ease in his relationships with other people. Not only is he sexually impotent without having recourse to a fantasy which places him in the position of a naughty child of six or seven, but he has to live with the shame of knowing that he is unable to reveal his true self to other people." (1958)
And historian George Ryley Scott writes in The History of Corporal Punishment: "In many cases, the avowed disciplinary value of flagellation in schools and colleges was a mere pretense to enable sadists to secure sexual titillation." (1974)
G. Y. responds:
I trust the following will be of interest & of use to you.
In the 1950's I attended a parochial boys' school where corporal punishment & humiliation as means of discipline were de rigueur. Humiliation was generally accomplished for the grade school boys, grades 1 to 8; ages 6 through 14, by the uniforms we had to wear: prim suits with short pants. The shorts were made particularly galling & chagrining as they were snug-fitting & cut to well-expose one's thighs, and as we wore anklets with them, not knee-socks, one's legs were quite shamefully naked from crotch to ankles. The rationale for this was: "To teach a sense of humility, self-control, and submission to authority by serving as a constant reminder to the student of their subservient and diminutive status, and the need to mortify the flesh." The high school boys wore like suits but with long trousers; however, they could be put back into shorts as a punishment for "childish behavior" for whatever length of time the dean deemed necessary.
Corporal punishment was administered with a leather belt. There were three levels: For a grade school boy who "acted up" in class, the routine was to have him come to the front of the room and "present your thighs," to face your peers and spread your legs for the teacher to strap, up to 5 strokes to each inner thigh. For more serious "minor" offences for grade school lads, and for all "minor" offences for high school boys, a bare-bottom strapping before the class was the routine, a minimum of 10 lashes. The third degree for all boys over 10 was reserved for "serious" transgressions like cheating, lying, etc, and this was carried out by the dean in his office; for which & wherein you'd be stripped naked, helplessly bound over a heavy chair, then strapped across your buttocks & thighs until you "learned your lesson." 20, 30 or more blows being not unusual.
I now have this "education" to thank for my BD/SM fetishes & desires and I would suspect many other of the boys who went to this school do also. Buy the way, the institution has long been closed.