"George" from South Africa
Many thanks for your wonderful expose of what's really going on in school corporal punishment. As a male victim of frequent 'punishments' in South Africa during the 70's I have a great deal of experience with both the subtle and overt sexual abuse which underlay my corporal punishment experience.
The culture of abuse in South African schools back then sounds very similar to the culture in Southern US schools today. While the official corporal punishment law dictated that only the principal could administer punishment to boys only, using a 'light cane,' every teacher kept a wooden bat (similar to the American paddle) in his classroom. I was beaten in every state of dress and undress with every object imaginable, including wooden/plastic rulers, shoes, paddles, canes, and once even an aluminum rod by my science teacher for failing a pop quiz. This was a very common reason for spanking, or 'cuts' as we called it then. It was an almost daily occurrence for the class teacher to line up almost half the class, and punish them in the hallway or boys' restrooms.
Girls were slapped on their hands or back of their legs with rulers, while boys were usually beaten across their buttocks. Invariably, a male teacher would offer girls an 'alternative' (just as described in your book), in that she could write out lines (200 or so lines of "I shall not talk in class," or something similar), or she could take 'it' on her buttocks. Whenever this offer was made, one or two girls would take the 'lines', while most would take up the 'spanking offer.' In gym class (Phys. Ed.) girls were routinely punished over their buttocks by their female gym instructors. I remember that one gym teacher used a skipping rope on girls. The message I took from all this, is that even where corporal punishment is supposedly tightly regulated, there is a difference between what is supposed to go on, and what really happens behind the closed doors of the schools.
It was, by the way, very taboo to tell your parents about school punishment. It was seen as almost 'manly' to get as many punishments as possible. We would mark off each stroke, using a pen, on the back of our school ties, and even add a few so it looked like we'd received more than we really had. I once attempted to open a dialogue with my mother and inform her about a 'spanking' I'd received that day at school. My mother's response was to trivialize the assault and end the discussion, without even knowing what happened, with, "Well, you probably deserved it then."
The result was that everything went on in total secrecy - an interesting collusion between kids who didn't tell what really happened, parents who turned a blind eye or didn't want to know what really happened, and teachers having free reign to ruin the young lives of those they were supposed to be nurturing.
I have spent many years trying to forget my childhood and adolescent 'legal' abuse. Even at 35 it is difficult. Hopefully your book will finally shock the complacent and help bring about an end to the terrible practice of 'spanking.'
Many thanks again.
"George," October, 2002