Ban the corporal punishment of children
EDITORIAL, The Manila Times, March 31, 2006


AN 11-year-old boy suffered a deformity in his spine after an angry teacher straddled his back and shoulder. Another teacher forced two second graders to eat pencil shavings and one of them died.

These cases have made the corporal punishment of children the somber talk of the town these last two weeks.

Authorities here and abroad know that about 26 percent of all children in Asia are victims of corporal punishment meted out to them by parents, guardians and teachers. The number of child-abuse cases (including sexual molestation and rape) is high. Experts in the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Social Welfare note that what gets reported to the police is but a fraction of the true statistics.

A sign that we have not yet really come out of the Dark Ages is that spanking, or smacking, as the British prefer to call it, is accepted as something parents have a right to do to their children.

The saw “spare the rod and spoil the child” continues to be the allegedly divine mandate to punish boys and girls corporeally. That mentality is grossly wrong. Although the Old Testament, especially in Proverbs, has many references to “the rod,” the New Testament does not. And there are as many biblical experts who use their scholarship to validate corporal punishment as there are who read “rod” in the Scriptures to mean “iron discipline” but not necessarily the infliction of physical pain.

Studies indicate that even moderate spanking can ruin the adulthood of some children. Not all but a sizable minority of children who have experienced spanking develop anxiety neuroses, major depression, drug and alcohol addiction when they become grown-ups.

In New Zealand scientists have seen that one in three boys has a mood-altering gene which, among 85 percent of those who have suffered grave child-abuse including frequent spanking and constant scoldings, will develop criminal and antisocial behavior when they get older.

Three of the world’s foremost names in pediatrics, child development science and the art of parenting—the USA’s Drs. T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach and Benjamin Spock—all vigorously oppose spanking. The American Psychological Association and the USA’s National Association of Social Workers follow the lead of Spock, Leach and Brazelton. The majority—85 percent—of the members of the American Academy of Pediatrics either reject any kind of parental corporal punishment or allow it only in limited circumstances and under strict conditions and subject to rigid rules.

Most experts agree that all mankind will develop a peaceful, nonviolent and harmonious culture only when corporal punishment of children, including even the mildest form of spanking, is banned.

Unfortunately, among the ignorant and incorrigibly traditional parents and husbands, child- and wife-beating continues to be jealously treasured as an inalienable right.

In the West countries have banned spanking—although in Britain a parent’s right to smack a child is still absolutely prohibited.

We have laws that criminalize all kinds of violence—even attempted violence—on adults. Why don’t we also have laws making child-beating, especially by parents and teacher, a criminal act? Such a law will help make child-abuse eventually disappear in the Philippines.

In enforcing and publicizing that law, the authorities will be raising the level of human compassion and civilized culture among parents and teachers.

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