Is Nancy Reagan to blame for the caning ban in British schools?
Bearing in mind my post of yesterday, it’s perhaps not surprising that the British education system’s historic love affair with the rattan cane finally came to an end in the eighties.
It’s demise was messy and drawn out. In 1982, two Scottish mothers, Grace Campbell and Jane Cosans, went to the European Court of Human Rights, which upheld their view that beating children against a parent’s wishes was a violation of their human rights.
The Education Secretary of the Thatcher Government, Kenneth Baker, recently recalled that:
“After these cases, it was clear that corporal punishment could not be sustained. It was on the way out anyway – many schools were giving up and there was a strong ‘stop smacking’ campaign at the time.”
July 1986 was the crucial month when the proposed banning legislation came to a vote in Parliament. It was by no means certain it would get supported by a majority, but in the end fate played a deciding factor.
Several pro-caning Tory MPs missed the vote because they were stuck in a traffic jam caused by preparations for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. And Margaret Thatcher herself (who was against the ban), did not vote as she was having dinner with Nancy Reagan, wife of the US president.
In the end, the vote was won by 231 votes to 230!
So it could nearly have been a very different story.
But if nothing else, the protracted saga of the campaign for abolition, followed by the legal wrangling in Europe, and finally the progress of the Bill through Parliament, kept the subject constantly in the headlines.
The coverage in newspapers and current affairs programmes often contained fascinating information and juicy anecdotes which would never otherwise have come to light.
And that was one of the good things about the eighties.
But are schools in (the south of) America now going through a similar painful process.
A new legal case has just come to court concerning the paddling of an 18 yr old!! girl, Audrey Pee, by former principal Bill Brand at East Webster High School in Mississippi:
She was paddled after she wore a pair of sweat pants that exposed her ankles to school, her mother said.
Linda Pee said the dress code rule against cropped pants was adopted on a day when her daughter was absent and was not mentioned in the student handbook.
She said Brand did not check the school’s “do not spank” list, but instead asked her daughter if she was on it. Audrey Pee told him she was not on the list, her mother said.
The mother of the girl hopes the trial will push education officials to abolish corporal punishment.
Ironically enough meanwhile, back in the U.K. things have deteriorated to the extent that many black parents are sending their children to school in Africa, because they want them to receive the sort of strict discipline and corporal punishment which disappeared in the eighties.
The Sunday Times revealed in an article headlined African Cane Tames Unruly British Pupils that “scores of British school children are being sent away to take their GCSEs in Ghana, exchanging truancy and gang culture for traditional teaching and strong discipline, including the cane.”
Oh well, “What goes around, comes around!”