[Letters]The dangers of physical discipline in classrooms

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[Letters]The dangers of physical discipline in classrooms

Does corporal punishment have an educational effect? Letters in your Nov. 11, 2008 issue suggested corporal punishment should be allowed in school since most of the students who are likely to rebel against their teacher and disrupt the class can be disciplined by using physical punishment. It is thus assumed that corporal punishment has an educational effect, especially when it comes to keeping students in line.

From my experience, however, it seems there is no clear evidence that students might permanently correct inappropriate behavior after being punished physically. It’s nothing more than compliance in reality. In my school days, my friends and I pretended to change our behavior by abasing ourselves immediately after teachers used corporal punishment since we did not want more pain and humiliation. In fact, we often did not know why we were being punished. We just pretended to be better students after receiving corporal punishment because we wanted to end not only the physical but also the emotional pain as soon as possible.

Indeed, corporal punishment does not merely inflict physical pain. Victims of corporal punishment feel an emotional pain that does not go away quickly. It seems that they feel humiliated or resentful, which cannot be resolved instantly. In fact, it might lead to serious misbehavior in the future. In some cases, it is said that children who receive corporal punishment lose self-respect since they are not allowed an opportunity to defend themselves physically or psychologically.

Elizabeth Gershoff, a developmental psychologist who studies parenting and discipline, found that corporal punishment is related to several negative outcomes including mental health problems, increased aggression, delinquency and others.

Although the frequency of corporal punishment in Korea has decreased, we still tend to underestimate its emotional and psychological consequences. It seems that some people are still afraid that controlling students in classroom will be difficult without physical punishment.

Rather than resorting to corporal punishment to deal with disruption, teachers could give a warning and discuss the consequences of a student’s inappropriate behavior. In my opinion, what is more important here is how to motivate and encourage students not to disrupt or break the rules in class, not how to discipline students so teachers can easily control them.

Also, if teachers want to maintain their authority as well as earn their students’ respect, they should show more respect for students so that they will be able to recognize legitimate authority and respect their teachers in return.

Jeong Hannah, Seoul,

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