Columns

To beat or not to beat — that is the question

James Moss-Solomon

Sunday, December 02, 2012    

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THE issue of corporal punishment rages on in the public media, and has elicited comments from all and sundry. Illogical statements have followed this widespread discussion, which has been quite emotional for many, and harsh criticism has been the order of the day.

But the discussions are by no means foolish, and many have sought to show parallels and differences between Jamaica and several nations.

There seem to be two main paths being explored as it relates to the severity of punishment. The first is the one where corporal punishment (lashes) can still be imposed on convicted criminals under certain circumstances. The second is the administering of this as a form of punishment in schools. The third but minor path in the discussion is the ability of parents to use these methods at home.

As it pertains to criminals, there are the human rights concerns about the cruelty of these methods as it has been abolished by so-called "civilised" countries, mainly in Europe and North America. These persons see this as outdated and ancient, and reminiscent of the barbaric tendencies of the former colonial masters and the churches, as in slavery and the Inquisition. The Roman scourging of persons such as Jesus Christ is revolting to the sensibilities of today.

Yet the opposite view is proposed by those whose loved ones have been senselessly killed. They are joined by the persons whose daughters and sons have been viciously raped, damaged for life, or killed afterwards. They wish for hanging, flogging, and castration as reasonable payments for those crimes. So the argument on this path is divided.

As it pertains to the practice in schools, the debate is similarly contentious. The no-flogging (caning) proponents are vehement in saying that this is in conflict with their fundamental rights and wish to offer alternative solutions. In fact, some are so enraged that they are willing to test this constitutionally (as is their right).

The Ministry of Education is caught in the middle, knowing full well that 40 and more students in a classroom cannot be conducive to teaching and learning, but not having the resources (human and financial) to reduce class sizes by 50 per cent.

Among the parental groups of objectors are those who go to school enraged when two teenagers have a fight, and are willing to inflict physical injury on students, teachers, and even school administrators. Then when their child fails to pass any exams after skylarking, announce to the PTA that "mi a go kill it wid lick when mi reach home". Certainly not a good argument based on any logic, and this is only second to: "Is my wife and if a feel to beat her is just so"!

This takes us down the third but minor road (at present) of home discipline. In the light of modern rights of the child legislation, many parents in Jamaica should be incarcerated (lock up to rahtid) for these violations. The same parents who offer alternative solutions give their children expensive cellphones to take to school in complete violation of the school rules. Sometimes it is the parents themselves who call children when classes are in session.

One parent informed a principal that he couldn't understand why his son was suspended from school. In his view it was totally wrong and didn't the principal know that "mi send the youth to school to sell mi ganja". The matter of the threats that accompanied this revelation was reported to the police in the area.

On a purely personal note, my classmates and I endured the discipline of the cane without major defects, and in most cases it straightened us up in terms of responsibility for our actions without getting us killed. I have no doubt that some teachers took a sadistic delight in caning, but those were in the minority, and perhaps should have been excluded from the profession on psychological grounds.

Children today may face the unwarranted punishment of death by the gun, so times have indeed changed.

At this time the verdict is still out in the public opinion but will continue to enjoy ventilation for some time to come, or perhaps it will be overshadowed and become another nine-day wonder. Of this debate one thing emerges as a truism, and this is simply that general discipline and manners are the responsibility of the parents, and the teacher should be a secondary resource, not a primary pillar, in the upbringing of children.

Well, the next topic was the decision by the Church of England not to allow women as bishops in the organisation. This is similar in most "traditional" religions, and itself speaks to an unwillingness to implement change. I have found the local discussions very interesting and I have noticed the almost political diplomacy adopted by the men of God from different religious faiths.

I find the irony very amusing. The Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church due to differences over marriage and divorce. Following the schism, the King of England (the main miscreant) empowered himself as his position of head of the church, passing on to his heirs and successors from "generation to generation" without election. Today, the head of the church is a woman (Queen Elizabeth), who must be quiet and tolerate discrimination against her own gender.

However, I did learn something new in the usages of the English language. I now understand the concept of "titular head" which I had previously misinterpreted to mean "head in title only". I stand corrected. It now means "your tit is on your head".

The attitude of the "traditional churches" can be examined in terms of the findings of the census that showed growth in non-traditional religions. Let us be frank and admit that women make up the majority of church-goers, so we seem to be expecting a miracle for them to worship in a place that deems them inferior in some way. Perhaps there is a meaningful lesson to be learned as this debate is just beginning, and many persons are seeking to further distance themselves from the very contentious issues involved.

Beating and discrimination are both acts that should rightly be challenged by those who abhor them. However, let us agree that rudeness, incalcitrance, violence, and irresponsibility are unacceptable also. Let us therefore focus on rehabilitation and a respect for rules, laws and the rights of others.

Finally, we turn to the woes of the NSWMA which admitted that out of some 65 vehicles, they are able to keep only 11 running consistently, and this situation contributes to the pile-up of garbage. I sympathise with them, as maintenance is a word not found in the Jamaican dictionary.

All owners of diesel engine vehicles and machinery are subject to running on the dirty crap that Petrojam is able to produce. This is 50 years behind the current technology of vehicle manufacturers and prevents us from being able to utilise efficient engines in our trucks, vans, buses, and totally locks out the small efficient diesel cars manufactured in Europe and Japan.

I notice that a lot of fuel for ships is being sold offshore as it may be cheaper, cleaner, and less destructive to their engines than the very inefficient Petrojam. So we lose those sales to commercial and cruise shipping as well. Then Petrojam loses money as well. Wake up, please, this is the 21st century, folks.

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