Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Quite chilling

A moving account of the vicious beating of children in the name of god at a Jesuit school in Sydney.


Corporal punishment was almost non-existent when I was at school, but I was caned once or twice for what now seem incredibly minor incidents. It hurt, to be sure, but not so very badly and it was over fairly quickly. I certainly didn't see it as a deterrent and barely even as a punishment; I was hurt more by the disapproval and disappointment of my teachers than by the physical attack. And besides, every child received worse beatings from its peers on a weekly basis.

I write this in stark contrast to the account linked above. My teachers took no obvious pleasure in caning me. I think they genuinely believed corporal punishment to be an effective and necessary tool for discipline and certainly not a recreational activity. I can't say that the canings were carried out humanely (I'm not sure what that would even mean), but they were carried out without fury or obvious excitement. They seemed designed to inflict pain and shock, but not excessively so. They were carried out under predictable circumstances, and semi-
officially, by the headmaster, not in secret or at the whim of individual teachers and most certainly not at random in an obvious effort to inspire terror and subservience for the gratification of teachers.

So while I feel that schools have no business beating children, I can't say that I was treated with any brutality.

Pertinent to this article is the contrast between the comparatively moderate beatings my peers and I received, which were manifestly not carried out in the name of god, and the brutal and horrific ones described in the article, which were. The school and its management turned a blind eye to completely unconscionable behaviour.

Can you see any of this happening in a non-religious school? I can't. Belief in god trumps everything, including morality, respect, caring, common sense and plain old decency. A religious environment is perhaps the only kind that can foster and maintain widespread and decades-long systematic and institutional child abuse.

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