Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teachers and the Question of Corporal Punishment

In recent years, great controversies have spanned across all news networks, with their focus being the extent of the teacher's control over children. Central to these controversies is the question of whether a child should be disciplined by his parents or by his teachers, and whether the law should punish teachers who take action or refuse to take action against harmful student behavior. Fortunately for Americans, the answer lies within the works of a man who greatly influenced our very declaration of independence: John Locke.

In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke explains that a child, not having full possession or full development of his mental faculties, cannot be considered to have full liberties and rights. For the rights and liberties owned by a grown man are owned solely because he is capable of no longer being a danger to himself or others, knowing well the boundaries within which he may interact with his neighbors (sect 58-59). But before such faculty is developed, he is held under the near-total authority of his parents in all matters not requiring the state's intervention.

It is the child's lack of maturity which grants his parents authority over him otherwise excluded to the rest of mankind. This institution is so obvious that it is generally considered natural. For without such an appreciation for the institution of parenthood, as well as the powers it must necessarily grant parents, not only is the child susceptible to harm and potential death, but so are those in his neighborhood. And if a child is not properly raised, the likelihood of his harming society could very well continue into his adult years.

This authority, to all reasonable men, must necessarily include discipline through corporal punishment. Were a child fully capable of reason, respecting the superior understanding of his parents and acting with wisdom, such correction would not be necessary. But shy of such respect, all those under parental authority must have pain substituted in place of reason until reason is achievable, the more primitive regions of the mind being conditioned to follow law when higher portions cannot or will not.

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