The Punishment Book

The Punishment Book

I am so glad we don’t have such a thing  today. The book speaks of a more brutal time – “A Record of Cases of Corporal  Punishment” – as it tells us on the inside cover. The one I have found in Cwm  School dates from 1959 and what strikes you first of all is the range of  misdemeanours which were deemed worthy of physical punishment. In some cases it  seems disproportionate and certainly in some completely unproductive.
The first entry concerns Vivian Thomas who  was a persistent truant, for which he received two strokes of the cane. Many of  the other entries concern more serious offences, such as bullying. Some  families appear repeatedly, as well as some individuals. Clearly as a deterrent  the effect of the cane or the slipper was limited. And of course all the  victims are boys.
Vivian came back for more when he was  punished for bullying two pupils, one of whom suffered “severe lacerations” to  the wrist. In brackets after his name it says “This child is very naughty.”
He wasn’t the only repeat offender.
One boy kept getting himself into trouble  over a period of about 4 months. He seemed to have a particular problem with a lunchtime  supervisor. Swearing at her, then locking her out of the school at lunchtime,  and being found in possession of a knife taken from the Dining Room – and using  it, though we are not told what he actually did with it. Damage to the drinking  fountain in such circumstances was perhaps a step too far. As a result he was  given two strokes of the cane.
James got himself into trouble for fighting  with pencils in class, “resulting in a pencil being driven into Mark Lewis’  hand.” For this he was suspended. For “indiscipline to the class teacher” Paul  received “one slap on the buttocks with a gym slipper.” His friend had one  stroke of the cane “in the presence of his mother” for throwing a stone and breaking  two front teeth of a boy with the unfortunate name of Dean Stone.
Swearing (or “dirty language”) and smoking  are common misdemeanours. In fact two boys aged 9 were caught smoking after  stealing four bottles of milk and thumping another boy. One of them “spoke  truth.” He received one stroke. His accomplice, Jeffery, at first lied about  it, so he received “one stroke to persuade and one as a punishment.”
Sadly he was back for more a couple of weeks later. Jeffery was part of a gang  of boys who set upon Stanley. But then Stanley had his turn a couple of months  later when he himself was caned for truancy.
It would be wrong to think that this was a  violent school. There are, in fact, few entries, no more than four per year. But  violence was certainly rewarded with a violent punishment. And the same names  keep cropping up for the same offences.  It  is hard to see what good it did. I imagine that the cane was regarded as an  occupational hazard. For some of the boys it certainly didn’t modify their  behaviour.  It just reinforced the fact  that the exercise of physical power is the way to achieve what you want.
Of course it can be dangerous to judge the  past by the standards we employ today, but I know that I am happier having  worked in schools during more enlightened times

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