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The Better Discipline? To Punish or Not!

A group of us teachers were conversing the other day and the topic came up on ways in which children were punished, especially in schools in the past. It seems that it was the same right across the country of Belize from north to south, east to west. After comparing the changes one can only ask the question, “Is too much punishment better or worse than no punishment at all?”

Students from San Pedro will all recall a certain teacher principal in the 40’s, a woman who used to impart punishment with a paddle and sash cord that she considered “fire and brimstone”. When she landed the paddle on the backs of the boys she expected discipline and learning. Some people felt that there was forced learning, while others feel that many attended school in fear and it is this same fear that caused many to drop out even before the compulsory age of fourteen. Today most folks talk about her as a ruthless woman who accomplished what she was set to do but in the hardest of ways.

A favorite style of disciplining 25 years ago was with the belt. The teacher usually kept a stiff belt or rope, which was used to dispense up to ten cuts whenever one was rude, noisy and undisciplined. It was also used when one did not learn his spelling, reading, or mathematical tables. The magic question is, “Did it really make one learn his tables and spelling?”

A certain female teacher used to enjoy kneeling us at the corner of the classroom and placing heavy books on our extended arms. If the arm should bend or fall limply on the side, then the punishment turned into a lashing. Other teachers used to put us to kneel on bottle stoppers with the sharp edge turned upwards. This caused tremendous pain after a short time. And who will not remember the teacher putting on the “dunce cap” on top of students’ heads and standing them in the front corner of the room to be embarrassed by everyone. One miserable female teacher that we had used to inject her long finger nails into our skin until there was a mark or some blood. Do these punishments seem familiar to you? Do you remember being asked to touch your toes and the teacher would belt you across your buttocks six or ten times?

And do you know what? Our parents used to encourage this. Some would send a little gift like a chicken for the teacher so that he or she would have greater energy to impart the punishment. Parents encouraged teachers to whip even harder and they seldom went to school to complain of a brutal whipping. Today some parents go to school to complain due to a simple punishment, not even a whipping. It turns out that some teachers are afraid of some students. What a world we live in! So what do you think? Were students better disciplined 25 years ago with the system of punishment?

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