Page 2, 4th February 1949

4th February 1949
Page 2
Page 2, 4th February 1949 — gOFT PSYCHOLOGY

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Reason and Rod ?

SIR,-May I reply to "Catholic Headmistress" and her supporter, Dr. C. Burns. Unlike Dr. Burns, I can see nothing brave in any anonymous contribution, though normally an experienced teacher's opinion would impress me more than that of a doctor, inexperienced in the cleat of educating children in classes.

I don't think Dr. Burns should complain of emotion in others, when his calm reason allows him to describe school corporal punishment as a "beating," very analogous to fox-hunting. Most of his evidence is particular and out of date. Even the recommendations of his 1937 committee have not yet been carried out. Birchings may still be ordered, 1 believe.

Both your correspondents may like to know that the whole of my address will he published in the Catholic Tetteher shortly. In the meantime, let me answer the two questions put. By " Soft Psychology " I mean those schools of psychology which remove a person from all responsibility for bad thoughts, words and actions by adducing phobias, complexes, maladjustments, etc. These. I think, are extenuating bad, never completely exculpating. Ideal circumstances have never been sine qua non of sanctity, whereas real rogues sometimes evolve in psychologically ideal circumstances.

If a hull or a lunatic runs amok in a china shop he is not held responsible for the consequent destruction, but is every child or adult who behaves similarly to be classed as an irresponsible animal or lunatic?

If so, gone is the Christian conception of the Personindividual, rational, self-determining, self-controlling, immortal, free. Gone also is the inherent knowledge of good and evil. Gone, too, is free will. We are reduced to the level of animals, creatures of circumstance. The adequacy of the Grace of God is no longer accepted.

It is waste of time to-quote Sister Marie Hilda and Fr. Les cester King against me. I have attended lectures by both of them. I presume that, as Catholic religious, they do not belong to schools of psychology which oppose Catholic dogmatic and moral theology.

Second question: By a badly-nin *Play Centre" I was making no reference to play methods in normal schools, I meant leisure time play centres, where the inspiration, supervision and control of leisure activities is inadequate, and, in consequence, the children do what they like, damage what they like and steal what they like, from the apparatus provided by the authority for their own collective use.

Christian morality says that from seven years of age-about-a child has an increasing knowledge of right and wrong. He has no grievance when someone makes him realise when he has done wrong, in addition to his own consciousness of guilt.

If, however, schools are not to check, deter, or condemn any obvious fault in the child, then. 1 say, they will degenerate into " badly-run 'play centres?'

My whole contention is this. Has the pendulum swung from harsh discipline to complete laissez-faire? If so, what is the golden medium? I have been accused of advocating a general return to corporal punishment. Trite, I did recommend it for brutal bullying. What I did advocate was a return to "firm influence" over children. The methods of control can be various, and if some parents or teachers decide to use corporal punishment to reinforce their influence, I, for one, could see nothing wrong morally with that decision, in spite of this headmistress's doubt as to its value. It has a limited value as the Jesuitsamong the world's best educators still realise. We need not take seriously the alleged suppressions and consequent serious outlets in the normal child, Can the headmistress quote me an attested case?

W. D. Femmes, President of the Catholic Teachers' Federation.

33 Beechhill Road, S.E.9,

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