#EndViolenceNotChildhood- Spare The Rod Save The Child
Many years ago when I was in school I had a teacher who was known for her razor sharp tongue and her extremely short fuse. A tall, towering personality she scared us out of our wits and we were convinced she had built her upper body strength purely by whacking kids over the years. She did it for the exercise.
Those were the dark ages before the Right to Education Act. It was considered routine and even beneficial to children not to mention good for the teacher’s digestion to spank the nearest available child for the most minor infractions. That was the reason why the naughtiest kids were asked to sit up front. For the less naughty ones who still managed to whisper at the back of the class, there was always the well-aimed piece of chalk that hit them squarely on the forehead motivating good behaviour and rapt attention.
Things haven’t changed all that much. Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 prohibits cruelty to children. This makes teachers and parents liable for assaulting juveniles or exposing them to unnecessary forms of punishment. While people know of the ban on corporal punishment the gap between knowledge and practice is like the cricket pitch. Looks short on TV but not that easy to bridge when you actually have to run the 22 yards.
A couple of years ago I met a teacher, an educationist known for her experience in the field and an important person in framing education policy. She told me it was best not to tell children about their rights and the ban on corporal punishment. Once they know their rights they will question the teacher who will not be able to control bad behaviour. And there it is. The word all adults are in love with ‘control’. Teachers are often judged by their ability to ‘control the class’. So over the years, they have built up an artillery for exercising control. Warning shots in the form of banging the duster on the table. Short range weapons such as the use of rulers to rap the knuckles. Guerrilla warfare like sneaking up on unsuspecting dreamers in class and swiftly administering a whack on the back of the head; and long range weapons such as the aforementioned chalk missiles. They have also developed nuclear weapons like mass punishments for the whole class of kneeling down in corridors so all the other classes can make fun of you; and techniques of verbal taunts and name-calling that they probably learnt from their mothers-in-law. All in the name of control.
Ellen Key the Swedish writer and educationist once said “Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.”
And so children watch, learn and absorb that what every adult seeks, is control. In other words, power. Consequently, that is what they learn to seek. As friends and siblings who bully. As boyfriends and girlfriends who learn to use emotional blackmail and silent treatments effectively. As spouses who passive aggressively and sometimes aggressively, make their displeasure known. And eventually as parents and teachers who develop their own artillery of weapons for control. The circle of violence continues across space and time.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The only way now is to use that duster to wipe out the harmful past and use that chalk to rewrite a mindful present. The future will take care of itself.
Photo Credits : Unknown
Words By : Chandrika Rao
Chandrika Rao is a Psychologist and Development Sector Professional, passionate about children’s and women’s issues and mother to a teenage boy. You can follow her on twitter @chocandcheese