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Reasonable Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

Posted August. 20, 2010 13:12,   


A student received a punishment of doing 108 prostrations for misbehavior at school. Reflecting on what he did while doing the prostrations, he fully accepted the punishment from his teacher. His Christian parents protested the Buddhist nature of the punishment, but later accepted it after the teacher told them that it had nothing to do with religion and was good for his health.

Compared to the emotional damage caused by physical punishment or insulting censure, reasonable alternatives to punishment whose necessity is also recognized by students make a big difference in the level of acceptance and educational effects. Last month, a video of an elementary school teacher in Seoul beating and kicking a boy was released on the Internet, earning the teacher the negative nickname “palm blast.” The video prompted the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to institute a ban on corporal punishment at all kindergartens and schools in the city, sparking heated controversy. The ban will take effect in the second semester.

The central government plans to revise laws to ban corporal punishment at school. With heightened socio-economic levels of parents and democratization of Korean society, parents and students’ perceptions of the “whip of love” has changed significantly.

The state-run Korea Educational Development Institute proposed Wednesday two alternatives to corporal punishment under the premise that punishment causing physical pain be prohibited. The first plan is parental counseling and deduction of scores and the other involves indirect punishment such as doing push-ups.

The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations found the proposed revision of the law “timely,” while the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union “welcomed” the proposal to improve the system. Having misbehaving students write a letter of introspection is an old but effective method.

A survey of federation members, however, found that 52.8 percent believe the alternative punishments will be “ineffective.” On school sites where immediate behavioral correction is necessary, immature students and juveniles tend to scoff at punishment that lack physical pain. It might be worth considering allowing teachers to inflict physical punishment by using tools as regulated by school rules or conduct indirect punishment, but teachers should be banned from using their hands, legs or other parts of the body to punish students.

It is important to prevent the ban on corporal punishment from causing teachers to lose their right to run classes or give up their authority to control student behavior. Thorough assessment of teachers is necessary to sort out those unqualified who apply violent punishment to students.

Leftist educational superintendents are seeking to adopt an ordinance to protect students’ human rights by banning corporal punishment and the students’ right to demonstrate on a school campus. The ban on physical punishment should be seen from the perspective of human rights rather than ideology. Using this opportunity, a clear standard needs to be set to ban punishment that goes beyond educational purposes.