Don’t beat students, even with flowers

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Don’t beat students, even with flowers


As the debate over corporal punishment continues to rage, it might be best to look at a few examples.

There is no corporal punishment at the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy. Instead, they have a system of penalty points. A student gets one penalty point for failing to study, three for violating a teacher’s instructions, five for playing computer games in class, and so on. If a student gets more than 15 penalty points in a semester, the student will be ineligible to receive a scholarship or recommendations for college. If the points exceed 40, the student must do volunteer work, and if a student gets over 80 points, the student will be expelled. There are also merit points that students can use to offset their penalty points, but they are not easy to earn.

At traditional village schools, there was another system of discipline. Teachers ordered students who made mistakes “to bring the mulberry branch.” Mulberry was used because the wounds from a lashing with a mulberry rod heal well and without infection. For more serious infractions, an ash wood rod was used. Ash was used because it is firm yet flexible. It is said that the scars made by an ash rod last forever.

Amnesty International maintains that corporal punishment is a “cruel, inhumane punishment” that “degrades human dignity.”

Maybe that is why there are few countries that still practice corporal punishment, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Recently, education authorities banned corporal punishment and replaced it with a penalty point system, drawing complaints from both parents and teachers. Some teachers reacted so strongly that they said they would stop teaching if the ban was enforced. But there are a number of people who equate corporal punishment with violence and welcome the decision.

It has been said that one of the most important things to consider when evaluating a person’s actions is his or her intention. If the person inflicting the punishment feels more pain than the one who is punished, the punishment is given with love. If, however, it is the other way around, the result is violence.

But what are the standards by which we judge someone’s intent? Perhaps we would do well to remember the title of a collection of essays written by television talent Kim Hye-ja: “Don’t Beat Someone - Even with Flowers - If You Love Them.” It’s time for a new system.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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