Here’s a true story:
I was a young teacher in my second year of teaching. The current Headteacher Mr Walton had decided that the field should be out of bounds. The wet weather had created such muddy conditions that the classrooms and corridors were becoming caked with mud. He informed the staff that anyone walking on the grass would be caned. He was hoping this deterrent would solve the problem.
He hadn’t reckoned with Terry. He was a young student from the new comprehensive intake who had been a problem from the start and was no respecter of rules. Indeed it appeared that Terry regarded rules as a challenge. He earned the respect of his fellow students by flouting rules with blatant disdain.
Terry was the perennial thorn in the side of the school. He was loud, aggressive, rude and surly. He disrupted lessons, picked fights and openly defied everyone and everything.
I was walking down the corridor when I was asked by the Head to assist with the apprehension of young Terry. He had been brought to the Head for flagrantly walking on the grass and when he had ascertained his fate he had promptly got up and run away. This was not playing the game. The Head was used to Grammar School boys. They took their punishment like a man. They didn’t run away!
We went hunting for Terry.
Soon Terry was found. But Terry refused to come quietly and what followed is indelibly imprinted in my mind.
Two burly male teachers marched Terry down the corridor to the Head’s study. Terry was screaming and struggling. When he started kicking out at the two staff two other male staff grabbed his ankles and lifted him off the ground. He was carried headfirst, screaming and writhing along the corridor and he was manhandled into the study. I followed in the wake.
By this time the Head had become angry. His authority had been challenged. What originally was one stripe was now six. He intended to make an example of Terry.
The four male staff had to drag Terry to the desk and physically restrain him by all four limbs; each taking an ankle or wrist and tugging so that Terry was pinned across the desk like a frog awaiting dissection. All the while Terry continued to shriek and struggle to his utmost. He certainly had a florid vocabulary for a thirteen year old.
The Head retreated to the other side of the room and then ran, jumped in the air and brought the cane swishing through the air with all the force he could muster.
Terry screamed and went taut in some great spasm. Then he resumed his struggles in a futile desperate attempt to free himself from the four staff.
The Head repeated this five more times.
At the end of it they let Terry loose and he stood in the doorway with knotted fists and purple face swearing at the six of us.
Some say that caning does no harm. That it is a deterrent. The blood running down Terry’s legs from the split skin on his bum was not the harm. In my opinion the hatred and loathing in his mind were the injuries that would leave the everlasting scars. They wouldn’t heal.
As for deterrence – it was the same string of surly, defiant individuals who were paraded for beatings every week.
In the UK:
In the USA: