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Argument: Corporal punishment does not represent teacher failures

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Supporting quotations

David Benatar. "Corporal Punishment Social Theory and Practice". Social Theory and Practice. Summer 1998: "Corporal punishment, pupils, teachers, and authority

Next there is a cluster of arguments about the relationship between corporal punishment and teacher-pupil relations.(21) These arguments make reference to what physical punishment says about such relations, what it does to them, and the impact that this has on education.

First, it is claimed that for a teacher to employ corporal punishment indicates that the teacher has failed to discourage pupil wrongdoing in other ways--by moral authority, by a system of rewards, or by milder punishments.

I am sympathetic to the claim that far too many teachers fail to foster an atmosphere of mutual respect between their pupils and themselves. They lack the ability or the inclination verbally to communicate expectations to children--first gently and then more strenuously. They do not first employ milder forms of punishment but rather resort to the cane in the first instance. Some might not believe in rewarding good behavior, only in punishing bad. However, from the claim that corporal punishment often indicates teacher failure, we cannot infer that it necessarily demonstrates such failure or even that as a matter of fact it always does. It is true that when the teacher resorts to corporal punishment this indicates that his prior efforts to discourage the wrongdoing failed. However, there is a big difference between this, a failure in the pupil, and a failure in the teacher. In either case it is true, in some sense, that the teacher failed to discourage the child from doing wrong--failed to prevent failure in the child. However, it is not a failure for which the teacher necessarily is responsible. I am well aware that the responsibility for children's wrongdoing is all too often placed exclusively at the door of children themselves, without due attention to the influences to which they are subjected. However, there is a danger that in rejecting this incorrect evaluation, teachers (and parents) will be blamed for all shortcomings in children."

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