The ABC and the Fairfax Press argue I want to reintroduce corporal punishment to schools - wrong. See below published in the Herald Sun.
Kevin Donnelly writes that he is NOT in favour of a return to corporal punishment. Picture: Thinkstock
THERE’S an old saying when it comes to reporting — never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And I know, based on personal experience after the past two days.
On Tuesday, I was interviewed on Sydney’s 2UE talking about school suspensions and discipline and, as a result, a number of newspaper reports are arguing that I want to bring back corporal punishment. Wrong.
Based on the radio interview it’s clear that I am not arguing that corporal punishment should be rolled out across state and territory schools.
It is simply wrong to say, as written by news.com.au when reporting reactions to the interview, that I want corporal punishment “reinstated” in schools.
The front page report on Wednesday’s Age that I have “no problem” with corporal punishment is also misleading. Let me say again, I am against corporal punishment and I don’t believe it should be used in schools.
What I did do in the interview was to reminisce about the phys ed teacher at Broadmeadows High in the early ’60s whose approach to badly behaved students was to ask them to meet him behind the shelter shed after school and to have a “talk”.
At the end of the story I specifically said that “that those days are gone” and “no” to corporal punishment. I should also have added that I can’t remember any of my classmates taking him up on his suggestion — the invitation, by itself, was enough.
In the interview I did refer to the example of one or two non-government schools where, with the support of their parent communities, corporal punishment might be used as a last resort.
I wouldn’t send my children to such a school but I respect the right of schools and their communities, within reason, to set their own discipline policies.
It should also be remembered that the majority of states and territories have legislated against corporal punishment in government and non-government schools, and that is a good thing.
Society has moved on since the old days of the cane and the strap and while the old-fashioned approach may have been effective in some cases 45 years ago, such is no longer the case.
And there are better ways to address discipline problems in schools. Counselling and offering guidance, getting parents and their children to sign up to the school’s discipline contract and teaching about responsibility and respect are all necessary.
For far too long the emphasis, especially from many parents who treat their children as “little emperors” and argue their children can do no wrong, has been on “rights” instead of “responsibilities”.
At home and at school, children need to be taught respect for authority, civility and how to relate to others with care, sensitivity and according to the golden rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Especially given the dramatic rise in bullying — especially cyber bullying that now occurs 24/7 — and the growing use of sexting, it’s obvious that more needs to be done to address discipline and behavioural issues.
Teachers, when surveyed, say badly behaved students are one of their main problems and it’s one that seems to be getting worse from year to year.
And it’s not just Australia: an English report looking at classroom behaviour surveyed teachers and 23 per cent agreed that there are problems with badly behaved students.
Teachers interviewed also said that the most common cause leading to misbehaviour were parents, with 72 per cent of teachers identifying “lack of parental support or poor parenting skills” as the problem. The survey also concludes that 26 per cent of teachers felt that parents did not respect the teacher’s authority. It is not unusual now, after a teacher disciplines a child, for parents to argue it must be the teacher’s fault.
Judged by the amount of phone calls and SMS messages I’ve received since Tuesday’s interview, it’s obvious that discipline is at the forefront of public debates about how to create more effective classrooms.