SLR,-A letter in your columns a few weeks ago from Fr. G. Flanagan raised the question once more of methods of discipline in Catholic schools. He suggested that it would be of interest to have information of the principles and practice of the great educational orders today. Apart from the letter of the Rev. W. J. Battersby of the de la Salle Brothers, which implied that St. John Baptist de la Salle would have been in line with the best contemporary practice, there has been nothing particularly helpful. Surely your correspondent, John Brennan (December 12), can hardly regard his reference to the dictum of a 17th century Saint and Martyr as being any real contribution to this grave matter.
I am strongly of the opinion that this is something that requires discussion and research on co-operative lines. So much more is involved beyond the question, "Shall we use corporal punishment in our schools?" It is most unfortunate that the present pre-occupation with crimes of violence and juvenile delinquency should confuse our minds, as it is doing. Whether corporal punishment should be regarded as a normal part of discipline in a normal school (whether boarding or day, grammar or secondary modern, or primary) is in itself a distinct field of enquiry.
In my experience (which has included grammar schools, central schools and training colleges), this practice, unless of rare occurrence, is a symptom of wrong basic assumptions about education, the function of the teacher and what is good for teacher and pupil. It is to my mind a confession of failure, but not by any means always culpable failure, on the part of those who use it. Many of the arguments in its favour are, of course, only rationalisations of the pre-existing practice. Ephemeral discussion in correspondence columns cannot do a great deal to clear the issue.
We want the problem analysed into its many factors and a concerted attempt by qualified and responsible people to put forward sound findings. Then a report might clear the air and give real guidance where needed.
I do not know much of the part played by corporal punishment in girls' schools, as distinct from mixed schools, but excessive rigidity of method and the needless multiplication of rules which one finds in some of them create a wrong atmosphere. An enquiry into disciplinary methods should go beyond mere discussion of corporal punishment.
Might one put in a plea in the interests of those who are doing a hard job in our secondary modern schools and of their pupils, that headmasters of grammar schools should not say of their own unsatisfactory (ill-behaved) pupils that they are only fit for the secondary modem school? Recently two such remarks on speech days have had Press publicity and given rise to critical comment from enlightened non-Catholic teachers.
F. D. Rudwick.
4 Station Road, London, N.3.
Ste,-Mr. J. E. Cotter rightly says that, in protecting society from the cowardly attacks of armed thugs, we should not lose our sense of proportion. It is my view that we are most likely to do so if we adopt a sloppy and unrealistic attitude about discipline.
It is quite inconsistent of Mr. Cotter to say that flogging does not act as a deterrent, and then affirm that it may be a deterrent in the case of a prisoner who attacks a prison warder -because he cannot get away with it and that punishment is certain." There is the crux of the whole matter; all such violent criminals should be made to feel that they cannot get away with it, and that punishment is certain.
I know that Mr. Claude Mullins said that no criminal ever thinks he will be caught. but that is not the view of the majority of police officers "on the beat." Those whom I have asked say that the habitual criminal is afraid of being caught, and for that reason seldom, if ever, carries a gun or cosh.
The young thugs who assault old people with coshes and knives are seldom normal. sensitive, and intelligent human beings, but are almost invariably mentally defective in the legal sense that, in their case, the mind has not attained normal development, and in consequence may be devoid of any moral sense or social obligation.
This particular aspect of crime and criminals opens up considerable speculation and enquiry in the religious field, but the salient factor is that while the "cosh boy" may be unresponsive to moral persuasion or civil responsibility, he is nevertheless a free member of a society which accepts certain standards of moral and civil behaviour with which he must be made to conform.
Mr. Cotter holds it against judges that they are conservative, and opposed to every move to mitigate the penal code "throughout history." Surely a judge must be conservative by the nature of his office. and must on all occasions offer a strict and impartial interpretation of the laws relating to crime, and to exercise his authority concerning the penal code, irrespective of the claims of psychological medicine and ephemeral sociological ideas?
George A. Wheatley. Totton, Southampton.
Anglican view SIR,-Your unpopular. not to say unique, stand against the revival of judicial whipping filled me with admiration.
As an Anglican, I am appalled that four centuries of Protestantism should have brought us no further.
As a father, I fear that success with their present project might encourage these miscreants to reintroduce the supreme iniquity, juvenile birching. What right have we to stigmatise Nazis or Bolsheviks as anti-Christ, when until recently we would flog a small child of 10 with an instrument of torture weighing over half a pound after giving him six weeks to think about it? Not, it seems hardly necessary to say, for any crime of violence.
A fine way, indeed. to bring in this Coronation year. Ralph Robson. 21 Windermere Avenue, Eastcote, Ruislip.