Sir,-On a recent visit to Dublin I called on the secretary of the School Children's Protection Organisation and was allowed to see the originals of the letters appearing in their publication " Punishment in Schools." Your readers will recall that this book contains a selection of 70 from' a much larger number of complaints from parents. regarding the excessive punishment of their children in the Irish National Schools.
These letters, none of which is anonymous, bear the mark of sincerity, but even if some are exaggerated, owing among other things, to the unreliable testimony of young children. they nevertheless reveal a very sad state of affairs. Letters in an Irish evening paper confirm this, not so much because of further complaints from parents, hut because so many readers for the opposition" are open advocates of frequent corporal punishment as a normal teaching technique, even for girls. These readers, some of whom are teachers, sincerely believe that control of children without this sanction is quite impossible, and that moreover in countries where it is forbidden or reduced to a minimum, the results must be chaotic and the educational standards low, I am sure that the large classes in congested buildings lack of teaching apparatus, and almost complete lack of physical training must make teaching in Ireland very difficult, and probably many teachers coping with such difficulties cannot conceive of children being willing and eager to learn without force.
Some of these teachers actually spend several pounds from their salaries on helping their pupils with the purchase of text books, for it is not always possible for even the poorer ones to get these
provided free. Added to all this, all children, even the dullest, are obliged to cope with two languages from the very beginning of their
school career. In such difficult conditions, it is obvious that many teachers would be driven to exasperation; in a different set-up corporal punishment would seldom occur to them.
The rules regarding corporal punishment are wise and moderate, especially the one which seems to be the most often broken : " In no case may corporal punishment be inflicted for mere failure at
lessons." Evidence that this rule and others of the same kind are widely ignored seems to me to be convincing, hence the need for the
School Children's Protection Organisation. This organisation, by the way, is run by a committee of practising Catholics, and not as the Minister of Education pretends to believe " aliens, not of this country and its traditions."
These facts have been put before the Department of Education which, in the words of the Minister does not intend " to go mucking back into that kind of stuff."
(Miss) Kate Rorke Educational Psychologist.