Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Flogging: the horse is not dead, but a child could soon be.

My blog post on flogging from a few weeks ago, Flogging is a form of torture. Don't pretend that it is otherwise, was also sent to the local papers and was published by The Barbados Advocate yesterday. Today, it generated some interesting discussion. Interesting, because the portrayals of parents who object to their children being flogged at school are often of irate, 'ignorant' people, who are shown as a bit wild, see for example a cartoon from this week's Jamaica Observer (albeit around a set of different circumstances).

The parents who spoke to me were black and white Bajans. These were well-educated people, and had gone to a range of schools. They had also travelled abroad. They were parents of teenage children. They were products of schools who all had used flogging as part of their code of discipline. The father in one case was a prominent business man, who ran his own company. He and his wife have several teenage boys who attend one of Barbados' famous older schools. He told me of the case where one of his boys had come home after a beating by a teacher (not the head), with bruising on parts of his body that suggested he could have suffered injury to some internal organs. The beating had been administered with a short, thick stick. The reason for the beating was a trivial incident between the boy and another pupil that involved some staining from a soda bottle. The parent photographed the injuries and went to discuss the incident with the school. The teacher and head gave their rationale for the beating and stood by what the law allowed in schools. When presented with the pictures they quickly sought to end the discussion. We went on to discuss if this sort of incident should lead to prosecution of the teachers. The parent told me that when he had threatened to take legal action the school head had said that in previous such cases the courts had defended the schools.

Another parent who was present and with whom I had had a 'vigorous' debate on discipline a few days before joined our conversation. He added that discipline sometime needs to be passive. I found that profound, given his pro-beating line previously. In other ways, restraint is something that a person charged with discipline can also exercise. I told a story again of my father and how he had left me to stew after I fell from a tree in a neighbour's garden, from which I had been forbidden to go, and came home with cut knees and stones in the wounds. My father had made clear that my disobedience had been the cause of my injuries, and that I should tell the stones to come out of my wounds, he left me to ponder the consequences. My parents were medical people, and after a short time (I forget how long) they both came back and bathed my wounds and bandaged my knees, giving me antibiotics to avoid an infection. I cannot remember all of the details now but I remember that I never climbed another tree for many years, and never one anywhere than in a grassy knoll.

To me, and to the parent who stressed passivity, the essence of discipline is true to the word. It is learning how to do the right thing at a given moment, and that sometimes mean as a child, for instance, learning to walk away, or correcting a slight quickly, or not retaliating, etc.

The parent who stressed passivity also reminded us of something that I already knew: aggression is learned behaviour, but defence is an instinct. Our bodies will flee or fight. So, always remember that when you visualise a flogging. The beater has learned (acquired the know how) to beat. The beaten either wants to get away or fight back.

I also added my view about those who flog in schools. Because we want excellence, if there is to flogging, I want it done by the best. Those who pass 'flogging' at teaching training courses with the highest marks in the study, not those who excel in theory but those who aced the practical. If parents have to suffer flogging then it must be with the assurance that the child is getting the best the schools can offer. If there is to be excellence in education and flogging remains part of the code of discipline, Barbadians need to not settle for mediocrity in that area.

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