Corporal Punishment in American Education: Readings in History, Practice, and Alternatives

By Irwin A. Hyman; James H. Wise | Go to book overview

PART II
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES

The information presented in the Introduction and in many of the essays which follow clearly demonstrates that corporal punishment in American homes and schools is a firmly entrenched tradition. However, as with many traditions, the true historical context may be either unknown or poorly understood. While many advocates of corporal punishment preach "moderation and love" it is obvious that the major intent of the practice is to inflict pain upon the body of the recipient. While the putative purpose is to change children's behavior, an examination of historical evidence reveals that the end result of this practice has often been disaster for children. The first essay by Gertrude Williams documents the historical precedents for extreme physical cruelty which is now considered child abuse. Dr. Williams attempts to demonstrate how the history of childhood in Western society is a chronicle of familial, religious, economic, and politico-legal sanctions for violence against children. Dr. Williams's presentation is somewhat polemical and tends to represent her own view of child advocacy. However, it is also a scholarly attempt to relate, through historical analysis, one course of child abuse in our society, the acceptance of hitting children.

While the Williams's article speaks of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of violence against children, the essay by C. B. Freeman presents a brief history of attempts to eliminate the flogging of English schoolchildren in the seventeenth century. While evidence of authorship is not clear, it is apparent that in 1669 and in 1698 petitions against the flogging of schoolchildren were presented to Parliament. C. B. Freeman, an Englishman and librarian, offers an interesting analysis of the unsuccessful movement to end flogging of English schoolchildren. Corporal punishment, although under more control and for the most part less severe than in the seventeenth century, is still practiced in English schools.

John Manning's article, "Discipline in the Good Old Days," was written in 1959 when the public was concerned about gang violence in the

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