Saturday, October 1

Do we can the cane?

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SPARE the rod and spoil the child is a saying that many of us baby boomers and Gen X-ers are used to. Many would have grown up coming in contact with the proverbial rod when we misbehaved, be it at home or at school.

Back in the day, if we ‘kena rotan’ or got caned at school, we would probably get twice the lashing and 10 times more of the scolding from our parents when we got home.

It reflected badly on parents if the child misbehaved at school. It was as if our parents failed in our upbringing, and if they did not take that step to discipline us at home after that, they’d be considered bad parents.

The effect from the caning? Well, most of us turned out all right. As a matter of fact, Eye have even heard of friends who are actually thankful, saying that if it were not for the harsh discipline that they received, they would have never repented of their ways.

Many feel that at the end of the day, thanks to the harsh punishments they received as children, they turned out for the better.

Caning is now perceived differently from how it was years back. Today, the cane is seen as corporal punishment that should be criminalised. Such punishment is seen as only suitable for hardened criminals and not children or minors.

It is likely that if a child gets caned at school today, the parents would threaten to sue the teacher or the school. Some would go as far as lodging a police report. Are their fears of the cane unfounded? Not really. There is some basis to these fears. There have been cases where teachers and parents alike have gone too far with the caning, resulting in physical injuries on the child, bordering on physical abuse.

There have been cases where students alleged that they were caned for no reason, or for reasons that did not warrant caning as a punishment.

The Eye is torn when it comes to the subject of caning. Do Eye believe in punishment? Yes. Do Eye believe in caning? If the cane is used wisely, yes. Do Eye believe that every teacher has the right to wield a cane? No. It takes someone who has enormous will and self-control to wield the cane.

In Malaysia and Eye believe, many countries in the region, caning is culturally acceptable. The rotan is sold widely in local grocery shops and is used as an implement for disciplining naughty children.

Many of the Eyes’ peers today have a good laugh when they reminisce about their childhood antics, including climbing up the roof of the house and even burying their grandmother’s rotan, just to avoid being disciplined when they had done something wrong.

Yet, when the government announced plans to abolish the caning of minors in court, many came out in support to say that caning in courts for juvenile offenders should be replaced with other rehabilitative methods, such as counselling.

The argument even led to the issue of caning in schools. Should the cane be canned in schools?

Those against caning are of the opinion that physical punishment such as caning begets violence. Pretty much like saying, monkey see monkey do.

In some western countries, the use of a cane and even a good ol’ spanking is seen as physical abuse, which psychologists claim will lead to the child growing up to being an abusive adult.

Caning is seen as barbaric and an impatient way of instilling discipline. Within this school of thought, caning makes the child more fearful, while some retaliate in a worse way. The belief here is that nurturing, encouraging and counselling through time and effort are the best methods to teach a child.

A recent survey run by national dailies found that while many were against caning as a way to discipline children, there were quite a number of teachers and parents alike, who were still for the idea of caning, in situations that they see fit or as a last resort.

A teacher in charge of disciplinary issues at a local school here uses a three-step approach before wielding the cane, and believes that it should not be used or wielded in anger.

First, the teacher will reprimand the student for his misbehaviour and provide some form of a pep talk or counselling.

If the student continues to misbehave, the teacher then moves on to step two, which is to call the parents to the school to discuss the student’s issues. If the student still continues to misbehave, the student will be called before the school’s disciplinary committee, along with the parents. This is where the decision on the punishment is made with parental consent – be it a suspension or the rotan.

In some schools where teachers have too many students to handle, the parents are informed by telephone that their child is to receive a caning because of a wrongdoing.

Schools such as these usually have guidelines when it comes to caning. Caning can only be administered to the buttocks, fully clothed or lighter caning on the palm of the hand, and it is usually the disciplinary teacher or the principal who has the right to wield the cane.

Going back to ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. This age old saying is attributed to Samuel Butler’s satirical poem ‘Hudibras’ published in 1662.

It is also found in the King James version of the Bible, under the book, Proverbs as “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The saying has some truth to it. In essence, it means that if you do not punish children when they do something wrong, they will never learn what is right and if you love your children, you would chastise them appropriately to set them straight.

While the proverbial rod in the saying does not necessarily mean a cane, Eye believe punishment and positive reinforcement go hand in hand when it comes to the upbringing of a child.

Even if it has to involve a cane as a last resort, but as the teacher says, never wielded in anger.

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com.