Corporal Punishment: Should it be banned in Guyana?
As a teacher in the public school system in New York City, I have followed with great interest the ongoing debate on Corporal Punishment in Guyana’s Independent press, SN and KN.
Mahendra Doraisam’s letter in KN (July 4th) titled, “CP is from a fossilized system” makes nice, neat, political and cultural arguments for Guyana to join the other states that have outlawed CP, but falls short of one important aspect: What do we put in its place? Should we just follow other nations because it sounds culturally progressive?
Simply put, corporal punishment is a disciplinary tool that, if used wisely, sparingly – not abusively – and follows the Education Ministry’s guidelines, will ensure a classroom environment where teaching and learning can take place.
Outlawing CP, I fear, will create an environment where all teaching and learning will grind to a halt. Rowdy classrooms and disruptive students will create a situation where all will be deprived of a healthy learning environment. (Ask me. I work in a NYC classroom. Both Richmond HS and John Adams HS located in this Guyanese village in Queens, New York have closed down because of low student achievements. Go figure).
Am I arguing for the liberal and ready use of the cane whip? Flogging if the student gets 1 out 5 Math problems right? Of course not!
Retaining CP on the books, using it only in rare cases, namely for a category of well-defined disruptive behaviors will inculcate a (positive) fear in the minds of students – and cause them to behave appropriately and respect the rights of other students. In other words, the mere existence of this disciplinary tool – rather than the quick and abundant use of it – will elicit positive conduct and behaviors from students.
It is often said that CP is a poor man’s (read poor countries’) disciplinary tool. So let us look at New York City. CP has been outlawed; replaced with a system of referrals and hearings etc. One writer in the New York Times, in a well researched article full of facts and statistics, said this system is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars each year (many teaching days lost by teachers going to hearings) – and it doesn’t work. Each year, the classroom environment gets worse than the previous year. Can Guyana (per capita income USD 3,000 a year) afford a system like this that will put a burden on the taxpayers, and for an alternative disciplinary system that has proven not to work?
At the end of the day, what we need is a reasonably disciplined student body and a classroom that is conducive to learning and teaching. And, if an enlightened corporal punishment system – whose essence lies in its existence on the books rather than flogging at the drop of a hat – will produce the desirable classroom environment, let it be.
Finally let us avoid these loaded phrases: “CP is from a fossilized system”; “Govt. is advocating beating the kids”.
They emotionalize and do not contribute to a meaningful debate. We need facts, higher order reasoning and a disciplinary system that works.