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Cane Talk

A man severe he was, and stern to view,
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learn'd to trace
The days disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he:
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd:
Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.

These lines of Oliver Goldsmith describe a typical schoolmaster. This suggests that only frowning looks and severe actions could control the traunts. Why was he severe? His love for learning made him strict. He wanted his young ones to learn. That was his end result. So he was cruel to be kind. But is his means justified, though they are for a good cause?
Kamala Das’ poem is an answer to this question. She describes a child’s feeling on the constant nagging of a teacher - ‘why don’t you join the others? Why are you so peculiar?’ In spite of being in the midst of students, she feels as lonely as a cloud in the vast sky.
William Blake too writes
‘I love to wake up on a summer morn....... but hate to be watched by the cruel eye of the teacher.’
Why do children, who love everything, hate learning? Why do they hate school? Why do they hate teachers? They watch cricket match for hours! They read storybooks non-stop, they play games without feeling tired. But when it comes to studies - they can’t sit silently in class for a full period, they can’t learn non-stop for an hour why?
There are many reasons, but the main reason is the corporal punishment we teachers are resorting to! We make education a compulsory aspect. We develop a fear complex in them. We teachers use various methods of corporal punishment on them.
Such a punishment is not new. It ranges back to our forefathers, who were dealt with severely by their masters. The punishments were typical. They were made to sit like a chair to the wall (Godakurchi in Telugu), were made to go around on a donkey, were tied a with a heavy log around their neck, they were insulted etc., but they never minded. Those days were different. They were the golden days since they treated teacher as a God ‘Acharya Devo bhava’ and the students learnt willingly.
Now the days have changed, system has changed, the life style has changed, and the children’s attitudes have changed. Being in the teaching profession myself for more than three decades, I find a vast change between past and present. I was a mentor in legendary institutes like Sophia College, Swamy Vivekananda College, Arya Vidya Mandir in Mumbai and in St. Alphonsa’s junior college in Hyderabad. There were days when I moved amidst students with a cane in my hand. They dared not move an inch in my class. Though they liked my teaching, they were scared of me and I gloated over myself for being a disciplinarian. The word disciplinarian itself shows I watched them with four i’s (eyes) and hit them at the slightest opportunity.
Of course, I never enjoyed beating the students, though the students felt so. You watch any LKG child’s play! The child plays the game of a teacher with a cane. He enjoys the power of a teacher to punish so many! But is it not a shameful act for us teachers? When they treat it as a noble profession, they treat us as bullies.
Gandhi taught students in Tolstoy Form. Some of them were unruly. Once, a student was beyond control and Gandhi gave him a blow. He trembled as he hit him. If he so wished, he could have beaten back Gandhi, but he realized the pain Gandhi felt in beating him. Whether he changed for good or not, Gandhi never beat any other student again for he felt, he exhibited the brute in him. It pained me too whenever I punished my students. They never noticed my pain but I never knew how else I could be!
Sometimes when I asked the young ones, ‘suppose your children behave like this, how will you react? Pat came the reply ‘ I will punish them severely’. When they had no children, when they did not misbehave they were angry! Why can’t I be angry? That justified my anger.
On one occasion, I gave a hearty laugh in class and the whole class was delighted at it. I could see a sigh of relief in them. With happiness writ all over their faces, they continued listening! I even overheard a student saying, ‘Why can’t he be like this always!’ That decided my course of action. That was the be all and end all of all the beatings I gave!
I read ‘Only a vulgar mind would command a thing when he can get it with love for a mere asking.’ I understood the full beauty of it then.
I developed new techniques of my teaching. I made mathematics interesting, jovial and exciting. The students derived serendipitous joy - the joy of discovery - in doing Mathematics with me. Mind you, with me, not under me! I believe this is persuasive technique. Instead of thrusting a thing on someone, we can convince him of the beauty of a thing and its extended implication.
Now as a Director of St.Alphonsa’s school I am staunchly against corporal punishment. I do face the question sometimes when I beat the students earlier, why can’t they now? As I have already detailed upon - if we were bad once, we need not be bad forever. We need not continue to hand over bad things.
Why should we give up corporal punishment?
To begin with, I have my own daughter’s experience to quote. My daughter is good at dancing and her grasping power is tremendous. She can show expressions aptly. We enrolled her with a dance teacher who was a B.P. and a diabetic patient and whenever she arranged a programme she used to get very irritated. She threw her stick on the students ruthlessly. My daughter was scared of her but continued all the same till she herself was beaten once, for missing a class for a special reason. She refused to continue learning however much we tried. She gave up her life ambition for a small beating.

  • The present day children are only lonely children from nucleus families in 99% of cases. Being pampered by parents, they become very sensitive. Leave alone caning, they can’t bear the slightest admonition.

  • In some cases, it is the other way round. The children miss love and affection at home and if they are beaten in school, they may turn out to be antisocial element.

  • Anger knows no bound. The teacher may not have a serious intention of hurting the child severely. But it turns out to be fatal quite often. There are umpteen cases to quote. A random browsing of daily newspapers speaks volumes about it.

  • There are four ways of winning a person as per our Vedas. Sama, dana, beda, dandopayam. Dandopayam should be the last resort, if at all, but not the first.

  • All children are not alike. Majority of them change for better when cajoled and convinced, but not when whipped.

  • If they get used to whipping, the teachers become hard hearted in due course and the taught become hard nuts to crack.

  • In the best interest of teachers and taught the corporal punishment has to be given up. Ten minutes of ill-feeling on any side keeps a person irritable the whole day. Ten minutes of smile keeps a person in good humour for the whole day.

If the management encourages and endorses corporal punishment.

  • A school is a temple of learning. It loses its divinity in its work and work place.

  • Management is exhibiting brutal instinct.

  • It cannot be role model to teachers, because what sauce is for goose is sauce for gander. It is transmitting negative thoughts into the person they wound severely.

  • Sometimes for one student’s misbehaviour all the others suffer.

  • Students feel insulted not because they are chided but because they are made a butt of ridicule.

  • Bad manners are contagious. One angry man makes many more angry and irritable.

  • Parents can’t bear and tolerate their children being insulted, ill treated, punished and beaten up brutally.

But ironically still, some institutions employ special brigade to just walk into a class and thrash erring students.
Of course, I do understand that to pass and implement such a rule - totally give up corporal punishment - evokes undoubtedly a terrific uproar. It is because for years together it has got into our blood - to spare the rod is to spoil the child.
My own experience vouchsafes against it. I have given up beating some 20 years ago, but the results were tremendous. Majority got cent percent. They loved their class work as much as I loved my subject.
There are many ways and means of exciting interest.

  • The constant statement of students is so and so teacher’s teaching is so boring that we sleep, we play, we talk etc. So every teacher should modify his method of teaching to enthrall his students. They will be spell bound if they can make it interesting.

  • The subject may be dull and drab but the jokes, day-to-day experiences, live examples comparisons with their favourite topics etc., would captivate them.

  • A convincing way of making them do their homework is more appealing than a dictatorial method.

  • A healthy competition promotes interest in the subject.

  • If one thrashing drives a student miles away from a teacher, one word of appreciation takes him closer to the teacher.

  • To cut a long story short, should we bring back the cane? A big no!
    If a child lives up with appreciation, he learns to love himself.
    If a child lives up with love, he learns to spread love.
    If a child lives up with criticism, he becomes a cynic.
    If a child lives up with smacking, he loses confidence.
    If a child lives up with admonition, he becomes scornful.
    If a child lives up with caning, he turns out to be a revolt.
    When our altruistic teachers can transform this earth into heaven with their true love, affection and persuasive methods, do we still need cane?

    Written by K V R Rao
    Life member - Hyderabad Psychologists’ Association,
    Director - St Alphonsa’s Educational Institutions, Hyderabad
    Webmaster – Telugu Bhakti Pages www.telugubhakti.com
    K V R Rao
    B 4 Banjara Cottage
    Hyderabad 500073
    Phone Resi 040-23733392 Offi 040-23817536/37
    Email : meekosam@rediffmail.com


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