ARTICLES
Spare the rod, but don’t spoil the child

ONE piece of conventional school wisdom which has been squarely rejected in the recent years is the adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. It has been replaced with a “hands-off” policy.

Perhaps this has helped in removing the fear of the school from the young minds, but the change is not exactly an unqualified success. Its intended effect has been marred by a marked rise in indiscipline.

Actually, the pendulum has swung the other way, with teachers not having any adequate means at their command to control rowdy students. The headmaster of a reputed school confided in me that their hands have been tied while the students have been left free to do whatever they please. Reprimanding has no effect on them. Physical punishment is out. Imposing a fine only punishes the parents. That leaves the teachers only with the extreme measurement of rustication.

In other words, there is no middle path. There are instances of repeated misbehaviour which are too serious to merit only an admonition and too trivial to justify expulsion. How does one cope with such a situation? The result is that unruliness is on the rise.

Actually, some teachers are to blame for bringing things to such a pass. They did beat the students black and blue, even at the slightest pretext. But that does not mean that the whole community was like that. Now the wings of even well-meaning teachers stand clipped.

The problem arises when you brand everything as “corporal punishment”. The term evokes images of merciless spanking or caning. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A whack on the back or the tweaking of ears does not stand in the same league by any stretch of the imagination.

We happen to be blindly adopting the system followed in the West, without realising that the social mores in our country are a lot different.

Social behaviour here is a lot different. Parental love makes many mothers and fathers interfere too much in the lives of their children and even brand normal disciplining as “cruelty”. I know of parents who have fought with the teachers for “talking loudly” to their children. Some of them have got false medical certificates made so that their children do not have to take part in school prayers or sports. Are they being helpful or spoiling the formative years of their boys?

Students are likely to respect a teacher only if their parents do. But the well-heeled ones amongst us tend to treat them no better than low-paid employees.

Some rich students of a well-known residential school were recently reprimanded for their extreme misbehaviour. When two of them did not mend their ways, their parents were called to school.

Instead of scolding their children, the parents picked a fight with the teachers and dared them to take any action. This emboldened the students all the more and they became far more unbearable.

The Headmaster was left with no option but to expel them. All hell broke loose. The parents put their formidable political clout at play to get the order reversed. When the pressure did not work, they went to court. Mercifully, the court dismissed the plea. Now there is nothing to do except repent.

Teachers themselves were none too happy with the turn of events. But the aggression of the students left them with no alternative. Now could not the careers of the boys have been saved if the teachers were allowed to at least pull their ears, the way most parents do? A majority of them take pride in their parental feelings towards the students. Why treat them like villains?


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