Eliminating corporal punishment: The way forward to constructive child discipline Authors: Edited by S. Hart with J. Durrant, P. Newell, and F.C. Power

A Review of Eliminating Corporal Punishment

Spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking… Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles… Forcing a child to stand for a long period; hold an uncomfortable position; stand motionless; kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones; retain body wastes; perform strenuous exersize; or ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice… THIS IS CORPOREAL PUNISHMENT. Anytime a young person is subjected to this treatment they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive.

Earlier this year the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, released the seminal publication available for anyone interested in securing the most basic right of any person today: that is, the right to live in peace. While it sounds simplistic and naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. There is physical violence, like war, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence. There is mental abuse, like parental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs. But there is also the abuse of being neglected everyday by the institutions that purportedly are designed to empower children and youth, such as schools, hospitals, and governments. There is violence hurdled through popular media, like television shows, songs on the radio, and video games. And there is the violence that surrounds young people everyday, seeping into everyone’s hearts and minds without us being aware of it: another bombing overseas, another vicious attack on public funding, another slander against youth in the paper…

These abuses add up. As the book notes,

“Corporal punishment of adults is prohibited in well over half the world’s countries, yet only 15 of the 190-plus nations have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the family.”

 

There is little wonder in my mind about why young people appear “apathetic” and “disenchanted” with a world so intent on numbing them to pain, hatred, cynicism and violence.

That is why this book is so important. For the first time my Americanized eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the global imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people today. That is, we must stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and that our world faces. While I’ve always believed that, I’ve never been fully able to describe why – until now. Now I’m beginning to understand the larger picture.

By situating its premise in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the CRC, Eliminating Corporal Punishment serves as a powerful international wake-up call, shattering any formerly sentimentalist or naive perceptions about the need to fight with young people for their rights. The CRC boldly declares that,

“Young people must be meaningfully involved in promoting and strategizing action on violence against children… Children… need to be well informed about their rights, and fully involved in the life of the [community and] school…”

 

This call situates corporal punishment as a fully-authorized premise for social action in 198 countries around the world- minus the US and Somalia- and even they have signaled their intent to sign on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted.

So the majority of global society aggress that corporal punishment is a significant premise social change. I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Sure, its premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood… and its exacerbated by dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… but I wouldn’t have been able to confirm that for you without this book. Today I understand that corporal punishment is at the heart of all this, and more.

What this book essentially does is provides an astoundingly comprehensive, yet relatively simple summary and analysis of corporal punishment, its background, and the effects and outcomes on our society. Then it carefully proposes culturally-relevant, socially-progressive responses to developing holistic, caring, and supportive responses to discipline that all adults – parents, teachers, youth workers, and others – can stand to learn from. A variety of illustrative anecdotes and a massive research scan all confirm that this is the most powerful, positive change that can possibly affect young people in around the world today.

There is so much I can say about this book. My own copy is almost completely marked-up on many pages, and I have dog-eared dozens of pages to reference and return to in the future. I would strongly suggest this book to anyone who wants an introduction to corporal punishment; to anyone interested in understanding the larger societal influences, impacts, outcomes, and forces at work behind corporal punishment; to anyone who wants to discover the international affects of corporal punishment; and to anyone who wants to understand the relationships between corporal punishment and adultism, ageism, and discrimination of all sorts. In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares.

 

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