Should Corporal Punishment be Allowed?

The existence of corporal punishment has been traced back to the early beginnings of time, dating back to some of the first civilizations using it for military aspects and also parenting on children, according to the biblical verses dating back to the 6th century B.C. such as Proverbs 23:13-14, Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol, and Proverbs 13:24, Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Even since ancient times, corporal punishment or physical punishment towards children has been in place in various nationals society and culture, whether it be from parents, clergy members, or schoolteachers.

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However more recently, many have argued that the use of corporal punishment merely uses fear and power to instill better behaviour by children, and that it has more negative aspects than positive. The question, Should corporal punishment be allowed in schools? still remains highly controversial. One proposed solution is to outlaw the use of corporal punishment in schools, through increasing legislation and repealing former laws that allowed it. Supporters of this solution may feel that the children are in an unsafe learning environment and will fear more about punishment than their education, and in turn will create a more difficult atmosphere for students to succeed. Those opposing this view will often argue that corporal punishment teaches children right from wrong and establishes a clear line not to cross. These contrasting views create the controversy surrounding schools as many parents will often have differing viewpoints while their children are attending the same school, and administrators attempt to find and implement the best system for students.

The negative effects of corporal punishment cited by critics are based off of research relating to prolonged and excessive use of the punishment. Studies have shown that occasional use for serious behavioral issues sets clear boundaries that will keep the student in line in the future, and will understand the accountability for their actions and decisions. Corporal punishment offers an alternative to traditional suspension, detention or another form of disciplinary action. The child’s education is not interrupted and make-up work is not required for missed class instruction one of the most commonly used argument against corporal punishment is that it is unethical, however in 2014, 94% of parents with children three to four years old reported that they had spanked their child within the past year, and 76% of men and 65% of women agreed with the statement, “a child sometimes needs a good spanking.”(Should). Just because someone’s morals don’t align with yours doesn’t make them wrong or unethical, according to Child Trends.

Often when given the chice many students will choose corporal punishment over the traditional disciplinary action. Allison Collins, a high school senior at Robbinsville High School in North Carolina USA, stated she chose corporal punishment over in-school suspension when her phone rang in class. Robbinsville High School’s policy allows students to request a paddling in place of in-school-suspension, or ISS. Last year, 22 students attending Robbinsville chose paddling over suspension, according their principal David Matheson. Many of the schools that do offer corporal punishment have very direct and strict guidelines to follow, such as Central Parish in Louisiana. Central Parish states that three swats with a paddle “approximately 20 inches long, 4 inches wide, and not exceeding ?? inch in thickness” is the appropriate punishment when being used. In the United States, the use of corporal punishment is not prohibited, as there are no federal bans or laws regulating it.

However it is not permitted in the head start program, a publicly funded pre-school often used in lower income areas. In 1977, the US Supreme Court decision in Ingraham v. Wright found that corporal punishment was not cruel and unusual punishment and therefore is allowed in schools. However there have been no recent court rulings on this topic, to coincide with a differently opinionated time with different values and research. Different countries have differing values, such as India compared to the United States. According to Paulo Pinheiro of the UN General Assembly, 2 out of 3 children in India receive corporal punishment in the classroom, with boys receiving punishment more often (73%) compared to the girls in the same grade (65%). Physical punishment is widely used and ingrained in both the government funded and private schools of India, many will attribute this to the large class sizes as the population is so great. Many will argue that this punishment is necessary to control a class of this size as students can quickly get out of hand. The use physical punishment provides a clear boundary they will know not to cross again and in turn will assure more self control for the students in the classroom, and thus create a better learning environment for the students.

Corporal punishment can inflict long-lasting physical and mental harm on students, as a study in 2016 found that children who were physically punished were in turn, more likely to have problems with aggression and attention, also studies have linked the frequent result of physical punishment to higher risks for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, stress, and other mental health concerns. Not only is mental health affected, but students or children that experience corporal punishment are more likely to relate violence with power, and in turn are more likely to have violent outbursts later in life, such as abusing a spouse. Certain studies have corporal punishment can create an unsafe environment for students preventing higher levels of education and thought,which is pushed for more and more in everyday society.However the opposing side argues that this form of physical punishment is beneficial to the student as it will develop a stronger value of morals, and deciding what is right and wrong, will increase the productivity of the classroom and may provide a higher authority for those teachers or professors in charge. In the United States, 29 states ban the use of corporal punishment while one recent study found that in states where corporal punishment is frequently used, schools have performed worse academically than those in states that prohibit corporal punishment. Internationally, 54 countries ban corporal punishment in all instances, including at home. Only nine countries do not bancorporal punishment in any instances: Botswana, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and United Republic of Tanzania.               

Multiple studies as of recent have shown a direct link between corporal punishment as a child and mental health issues, especially with aggression and attention. Children who experience corporal punishment are more likely to relate forms of violence with power, and are, therefore, more likely to be a bully or abuse a partner (Cuddy). Based off these studies, using corporal punishment does more harm to students than good. Rather than keeping the students in line, it is creating an unsafe and violent school environment, corporal punishment signals to the child that a way to settle personal conflicts is to use physical force and inflict pain. Such children may in turn resort to such behavior themselves (American). In the United States, at least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place from 1900 through 2017 were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack (Actually), which only exemplifies that using violence in schools can develop into a larger problem.

Many argue that if corporal punishment is illegal in military training and prisons, in the U.S., then it should have no place in the classroom on minors. In the United States alone, corporal punishment has been banned in 29 states, whereas only 15 states legally permit it.  Many use the argument that corporal punishment keeps students focused in their academics and in return will help them to succeed, however studies have shown that, Students who experience corporal punishment in kindergarten are more likely to have lower vocabulary scores in fourth grade and lower fifth grade math scores( Cuddy). Often corporal punishment is difficult to regulate as the pain inflicted can vary, and administrators or teachers administering the punishment can be subjective with the force in which they strike the student, or how they determine the amount of strikes for the offense committed. Corporal punishment is categorized into a four tier system, with the harshest punishments at the top in countries such as Saudi Arabia, as countries punishment becomes less severe they travel down the gradient. The United States, is in the third tier but appears to be approaching the second, containing countries such as Canada, Russia, Japan, China, South Africa and most of Europe  including the United Kingdom.

There is often a direct link with more economically developed countries being lower on the tier system, possibly due to the more researched effects of this form of punishment. However even in a drop of just one tier literacy rates of the country improved by 26% (Nation). These statistics provide the evidence many use to validate their arguments that physical punishment doesn’t work in the classroom but rather hurts the students overall performance, and sets up a vast range of problems in the future such as mental health. Mental health appears to be one of the largest problems with the not only the youth but across all age groups today, and the prevention of it could very well stem from this large contributor in the formative years of the person’s life. After considering both sides of this issue, I feel that ban of corporal punishment in schools is the more optimal solution to the problem. The primary reasons for corporal punishment being in place now is to maintain students accountable by using authority and force to strike fear into them. Based on my research I have found that this sort of physical punishment to developing minds and can cause more harm than good, such as varying mental illnesses, and makes the students feel in such a way that when faced with a problem violence or aggression is the proper response.

Also with the series of school shootings taking place in the United states such as the Parkland shooting, students that faced physical violence in schools are more likely to retaliate at the place that harmed them. Although some students will not respond to regular disciplinary action, I feel the better solution is to remove them from the learning environment to keep from distracting fellow peers, or taking away from the teachers lesson while still giving them the opportunity to do the work assigned and return to class when it appears they have either calmed down or understand why they were being punished. I believe this is a viable solution, as it is relatively easy and inexpensive for the administration to enact and creates a more productive learning environment. Also grade school has proven to be one of the most insecure times for many people, and using fear and playing off of that by those that are viewed as figures of authority should have no place in schools. If I continued my research, I would learn more about the effects of violence on students in their formative years and how it affects the brain’s ability to function, and the possible mental issues that could come with it. The problem of mental health is a worldwide issue, and if research was more heavily conducted in this field I believe it could possibly be a large factor contributing to mental health, violent crimes, and low levels of education.

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Should Corporal Punishment Be Allowed?. (2019, Jul 30). Retrieved September 30, 2022 , from
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