From Linley Boniface in the Dom 0n Monday:
…My kids love hearing about the teacher who used to soak his strap in warm water every morning; about the uncle who was regularly caned on the back of the legs for refusing to get a haircut; about the family friend whose secondary school had a tradition of caning the last boy home from the annual cross country.
Presumably, my children are enthralled by these anecdotes for much the same reason that I used to be transfixed by stories of the thumbscrew, the rack and the dunking-stool: because there’s a perverse pleasure in rubber- necking on barbarism from a safe distance.
The notion of corporal punishment in schools is thrilling rather than scary for my kids because it is unimaginable to them that their teacher might beat them until they bleed for spelling a word wrong. School has inevitable trials, but my children have never associated it with pain, terror and humiliation.
New Zealand was among the last countries in the industrialised world to ban corporal punishment in schools, but attitudes have now changed to the point where most parents would be outraged at any suggestion that teachers be allowed to take a belt, strap or cane to kids.
Bafflingly, though, it appears to be the location of the beating rather than the act itself that some of us object to. We don’t want kids being hit in the classroom, but we’re happy for them to be hit in the home.
Despite clear evidence that the world around us is chock-full of people who couldn’t successfully raise a family of tadpoles to adulthood, we believe anyone above the age of 18 can be trusted to use restraint, caution and common sense in deciding exactly how hard to hit the children in their care.
This is presumably why, in July and August, we will go through the utter tedium of yet another public consultation exercise on the child discipline law.
Two years ago, by a majority of 113 votes to 8, Parliament gave children protection from physical assault by their parents. Advocates of smacking claimed the changes would lead to the criminalisation of good parents, but this has not happened.
Police reviews of the law have found that there are very few complaints about smacking, and that parents are not being prosecuted for minor assaults.
Opponents of the law change started getting signatures for a petition calling for a referendum even before the act was passed. So now – even though this was one of the most widely debated policy changes in New Zealand’s recent history; even though it was passed by a huge majority; even though the law is clearly working well – we’re about to spend $10 million on a postal vote referendum….
She makes a good point and she makes it damn well. Who knew that she could write so well? A serious message conveyed with wit and good prose. You’ve been selling yourself short with the normal junk, Linley.