Full version Corporal Punishment

Corporal Punishment

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Category: Social Issues

Autor: reviewessays 28 February 2011

Words: 1268 | Pages: 6

Position Paper Admonishing the Use of

Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

The position this paper represents does not delve into the historical theories or the moral philosophies as to whether or not corporal punishment toward children is, in and of itself, effective or morally acceptable. Instead, the position of this paper is to argue against the use of corporal punishment as a means to behavior modification in public schools throughout America.

For years the debate about the use and effectiveness of corporal punishment by teachers in schools has divided educators and theorists. Attempts have been made to determine if the policy of bringing physical harm to a child does indeed thwart misbehavior and encourage students to follow the established rules and regulations set forth by the schools. Although the United States Supreme Court has ruled it legal to administer corporal punishment in schools, 28 states in America have banned the practice.

My argument against the use of corporal punishment is two-fold. One position is that corporal punishment, administered by teachers, is not the most effective means of halting undesirable behavior in the classroom or encouraging acceptable behavior. In addition, my position opposing corporal punishment in the classroom is based on the personality of the teacher; concern that those giving the punishment may not possess the ability to objectively administer the penalty in an unbiased, impartial manner.

Despite studies performed to examine the effects of corporal penalty, there is no compelling evidence that the administration of such penalty on students serves as a deterrent of misbehavior any more than alternative methods. Other means of addressing the situation such as home contact, written statements, time-out, daily progress sheets, isolation, work detail, detention, or Saturday suspension class, all serve as viable consequences that deter classroom disruption (Diamantes, 1992). Another indicator of its ineffectiveness to deter misbehavior (any more than alternative methods) are what some consider to be the ‘conditions’ that must surround corporal punishment for it to be effective.

To be effective, corporal punishment must follow wrongdoing instantaneously, the punishment must follow nearly ever act of wrongdoing, and punishment should be inflicted by surprise. The punishment must be inflicted on only the guilty party and in proportion to the wrongdoing (Benatar, 1998). This bit of advice would trample on student’s due process and silence any defense they may have against the accusation. A study by conducted in Arkansas from 1982 until 1988 that sought data to support, or not support, the establishment of alternative discipline programs found that overall, only 12 percent of the administrators reporting felt corporal punishment is in any way effective. Corporal punishment simply does not further the nation’s compelling interest in providing a sound education (Lynn, 2001). Those who oppose the paddle site techniques such as positive behavior support (PBS) as a newly fashioned approach to problems of behavioral adaptation. PBS is an intervention technique developed to enhance the student’s quality of life as well as reduce behavior problems (Dunlap, 2003).

In addition to the non-quantifiable effectiveness of corporal punishment, the risk of inappropriate characteristics, especially when angered, is another concern for many parents. A study performed in 1983 by writers J.O. Rust and K.Q. Kinnard examine the personality traits of those educators who use corporal punishment. The results of the survey indicate educators who use corporal punishment tend to be comparatively closed minded, were likely to have been punished themselves, have fewer years of experience, display limited disciplinary techniques, and tend to be anxious, emotional and impulsive (Diamantes, 1992). Despite the findings of this report, I believe the overwhelming majority of educators who use corporal punishment are professionals who exercise proper restraint with non-abusive, well-meaning intentions.

That said – there are concerns of parents and guardians about the intentions of those teachers who may not fit into the aforementioned role. Even if the odds are slim, no parent wants to take the chance of having their child(ren) struck by anyone who might not have the best of intentions. Teachers often have a large amount of autonomy in their classrooms and the ability to use discretion as to what they feel may or may not warrant corporal punishment. This being the case, I feel there is too much room for personal preferences, biases and cultural misunderstandings – be it conscious or subconscious – to allow individual teachers free reign with using physical harm as a means to deter misbehavior. In many instances, schools that allow corporal punishment have instituted minimum acceptable procedures to protect students from overzealous applications of the paddle (Elrod, Terrell, 1991).

The Arkansas found that only 14 percent of paddling took place after a cooling down period by which the teacher applying the paddling had a chance to collect his or her emotions prior to the punishment. Add to that the fact that less than one percent of the schools reporting indicated that paddling would occur after a witness had been informed. Since this would serve as a precautionary measure to make sure every student receives some degree of due process, it seems unconscionable that school officials would not make witness notification mandatory (Elrod, Terrell, 1991).

Another concern, a more sinister apprehension concerning corporal punishment, is the idea of inappropriate sexual undertones during the application of paddling students –particularly female students however not exclusively. Many of those who want to outlaw corporal punishment often argue that there are disturbing sexual undercurrents in the practice. They argue some teachers experience sexual excitement through the beating as the buttocks are often chosen as the site on the body to which punishment is administered (Benatar, 1998). The Arkansas study determined that a paddle is the instrument of choice in 99 percent of the schools responding. The few remaining used belts or straps. More than 67 percent of those schools used three or four swats across the buttocks with the paddle as suitable punishment, sometimes fewer depending on the offense. Considering the lack of supervision in most of the cases mentioned earlier, this further supports my opposition to corporal punishment as a means of behavior modification.

In addition to the possibility of sexual impropriety, discrimination concerns – both racial and gender – are points of contention. It is well know that minority groups receive a disproportionate share of corporal punishment (Benetar, 1998). Although no attempt was made to determine race or ethnic origin of recipients of corporal punishment in the Arkansas study (Elrod, Terrell, 1991), personal, discriminatory biases is often presumed and concerns parents.

Overall, too many uncertainties in the areas of general effectiveness and a lack of trust for all teachers to handle themselves appropriately cause me to oppose corporal punishment in schools. The biblical adage, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’, is probably true however, the determination of the punishment should fall on the shoulders of parents or guardians.


Benatar, D. (1998) Social Theory and Practice, p. 237

Diamantes, T. (1992) The Clearing House, March/April Vol. 65 No.4 p. 233-5

Dunlap, G. (2003) Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Winter Vol. 8 No. 1 p.58-60

Lynn, R. (2001) Journal of Law and Education, July 2001, retrieved Feb 23, 2006 from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3994/is_200107/ai_n8958400/pg_3

Rust, J.O. and Kinnard, K.Q. (1983) Journal of Social Psychology, p. 91-98

Wilburn T. Elrod and Terrell S. M. (1991) Contemporary Education, Vol. 62 Spring, p. 188