FEAR OF LEGAL SUITS: To cane or not to cane is not the question, but rather why teachers can no longer instil discipline without worrying about upsetting parents
CANING may be a painful subject but it certainly whips up one's attention. Whether or not several lashes from the rotan will transform our young miscreants into upright students has for a long time been debated upon, analysed and dissected. And the analysis continues.
The revival of caning as a topical issue came with a proposal by National PTA Collaborative Council president Datuk Mohd Ali Hassan last Friday.
"To cane or not to cane?" is not the question being asked this time around: it is whether the right to wield the cane, which now solely rests with the headmaster and authorised teachers, should be given to all teachers.
Several years ago, the Education Ministry did mull the possibility of extending that power to all teachers. The reason -- an increasing number of cases involving student misbehaviour. Some of the offences committed would make even the most notorious gangster proud.
Many measures have been proposed and enforced. Campaigns, road shows and spot-checks have been organised; and hotlines and crime prevention clubs introduced. There have been threats of expulsion, and jail; the police have been brought in to assist in student monitoring; and the number of school counsellors increased.
But there has been little impact. So, how effective would several lashes on the buttocks be?
The cane will only help breed fear, not cultivate respect. Students can be forced to fear authority but they cannot be compelled to respect it. And without respect, any adherence to authority will only be short-lived. It may also serve to further humiliate a pupil and stir up resentment.
The best method to quell the runaway desire of students to use violence as a form of expression is to earn their respect for authority.
Adolescence is often a difficult time, and it is even more so now. Increased exposure, working parents, an education system that demands academic excellence and teachers who are not always committed to their profession are only some of the factors that students have to put up with.
And who do they turn to? Where can they go when both their parents seem to be working all the time? When whatever time they have is spent at tuition classes? When their teachers seem more eager for the end of a school day than they are?
Teachers should thus be armed with the skills that will enable them to talk to the youngsters of today -- a small but highly-complicated package, with an intellect and maturity never possessed by their predecessors.
Parents, on their part, need to show their children how to respond to anger and stress, and arm them with what has become quite the buzzword among psychologists -- coping skills.
But most importantly, parents must stop muscling into the teacher's territory.
Teachers are no longer the forbidding embodiment of discipline, neither do they command the necessary awe and respect from students these days largely due to a shift in the attitude of parents.
In the past, a student punished by the teacher would be chided further by his parents when the incident was reported to them. The child would make concerted efforts to hide the tears and welts from the parents when he arrives home for fear of further punishment.
In this day and age, however, the majority of parents pamper their children to no end, snarling through gritted teeth when someone else in authority deems it fit to discipline their child.
Incidents of parents lodging police reports against teachers who allegedly mete out harsh punishments on their children no longer induce raised eyebrows and gasps of disbelief.
Teachers can't instil discipline without having to worry about a parent slapping them with a legal suit, or being carted off in a police truck the next day. A concerned parent should support any reasonable action taken by the teacher as it is for the benefit of the child.
"If parents insist on embarrassing teachers by lodging police reports and filing suits, there will come a day when teachers will refuse to do anything more but teach," said an exasperated teacher.
If that happens, should we then wonder why youths now are more indisciplined, or why social ills are on the rise? And why a simplistic solution such as giving more teachers the power to cane won't work?
By Chok Suat Ling | firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: New Straits Times Columnist 31 May 2012