Prescription for Reform
by Herbert Arnold Falk, Ph.D.,

Excerpted from the closing chapter of CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: A SOCIAL INTERPRETATION OF ITS THEORY AND PRACTICE IN THE SCHOOLS OF THE UNITED STATES, Teachers College, Columbia University, Contributions to Education, No. 835, New York, 1941. pp. 145-147

For education to become an instrument of social reconstruction, the practice of corporal punishment, and the attitudes which form the basis of such practice, must be eliminated from educational procedure, orientation and thinking.... [W]e wish, however, to point out the lines along which progress must be made if modern education is to be free from the vestiges of passing educational and social systems. The abolition of corporal punishment is contingent upon special legislation, increasing social intelligence, and a better prepared teaching profession....

Progress towards forms of discipline consonant with contemporary social and educational ideals no doubt entails the increase of statutory provisions and board regulations prohibiting the use of corporal punishment.

It is clear, however, that an effort mainly directed to legislation will fall short of its purpose. For the enactment of such statutes and efforts to make them effective will largely depend on an enlightened public opinion. As yet the growing realization of the nature of the contemporary social setting, the need for social planning, the educational implications of social planning, the changing emphasis and practices of modern education are not definite enough. As this realization increases, corporal punishment in the schools will no longer be tolerated. The effort to abolish corporal punishment must, therefore, be part of a larger educational effort to render adults sensitive to the new social and educational needs and ideals.

Finally, the abolition of corporal punishment is contingent on a more intelligent and better-trained and better-selected teacher. A teacher who is emotionally balanced, who understands that education is a process whereby the individual recreates himself by engaging in what to him are meaningful experiences, and who is capable of guiding activities emerging from the children's individual interests along educationally fruitful lines will surely find no need for resorting to the infliction of pain as a means of school control.

Legislation, public enlightenment, and an intelligent teaching profession are mutually complementary factors in the abolition of corporal punishment. An enlightened public opinion will make prohibitive legislation possible and its execution effective. Legislation will habituate the public to an educative process not based on force. An intelligent and well-trained teaching profession will reconstruct education along lines which do not tolerate the use of coercion, thus reinforcing enlightened public opinion and in turn being reinforced by it.

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