Discipline Victorian Style

One of the things that fascinates modern children who visit our Victorian School is the discipline. It seems to me that modern pupils have little or no concept of the ways in which children were disciplined in years gone by.

caningThe first thing to say is that discipline was very strict. In some ways it had to be, because school classes were often large, and were led by one teacher with assistance from monitors or pupil teachers. But also there was a belief that children had to be trained to do good.

Some of these beliefs came from religious views. Christian teaching said that people were born with a tendency to do wrong and therefore needed training to do right. We are all familiar with proverbs such as “spare the rod or spoil the child”, and “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  The Victorians fully embraced this thinking and believed that it was essential that children be taught to keep to the rules.

This is quite different from modern thinking, where children are taught to question everything they are taught, and quickly learn how to push at the limits. In addition, parental discipline has  declined, and schools have had to follow the pattern.

In modern schools a cane is considered almost barbaric and any form of physical punishment is termed abuse. The Victorians had no such scruples and  used canes, the slipper, the ruler and even the belt, to discipline wayward children. Undoubtedly there was some abuse, those who used the punishment excessively, but there were also many who exercised their authority fairly and with restraint.

Interestingly enough, many modern children seem to think they might prefer some form of mild corporal punishment to the sloppy and ineffective punishments meted out in schools today. I have heard of school classes that have descended into chaos because teachers have been unable to maintain control, with their only weapon being the detention. I have wondered, for many years, whether a detention has done any good. I have never spoken to anyone who has said to me, I really appreciated those detentions, they got me back on the right path, but I have had several who have said to me that corporal punishment kept them on the straight and narrow.

You may have gathered by now that I am in favour of corporal punishment, as long as it is carried out fairly. My belief is that a short sharp shock is often sufficient correction to point a child in the right direction, and it is quickly over. Often the possibility of punishment is sufficient deterrent in itself. In my view, the detention is a feeble punishment that achieves very little and results in a fair number of naughty children growing up into uncontrollable teenagers and anti-social adults.

I’ll come back to the subject later.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Comments (17)  
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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i think detentions are amazing they really done it for me!

  2. Today, I believe the only students who would actually submit to a caning, especially one which entailed the embarrassment of a “bent over” posture, are those that really don’t need such a tough sanction. Others who do, would, more than likely, rip the cane from the headmaster, and proceed to beat him! After being expelled, they would “smoke dope” in celebration of their new freedom.

    • Not all kids smoke dope,
      hella no i dont, that stuff’s the worst it kills you.
      Also, being in a bent over posture i dont think would bother kids either because if they were doing something funny enough to get them in trouble chances are they’re just gonna laugh about it with their friends.
      In addition, corporal punishment is abuse but with a teacher. What’s the difference between a mother slapping her child with a wooden spoon across the face, than a teacher with a cane? Is it just because the teacher is a professor of education that makes it right? We have schools for people who consistently misbehave for a reason. From corporal punishment, children are getting hurt both mentally and physically. The punishment, if received enough, can lead a child to act out more, or result in them believing that its right to punish other people with violence, which is obvi why we have serial killers, phsycos, and parents who are charged with abuse.
      Dont fight me on this, you really wont win.

      • Im not fighting im agreeing
        Parents pay for students to go to school, but they would NOT pay for them to be punished would they

      • I agree

  3. I am afriad I must disagree with you, although something must be done about the decreasing quality of our schooling, and indeed social standards in general I would not advercate the use of corporal punishment.
    Perhaps the threat of it but never it in itself for not only has it been shown to be detrimental to the psychological of both humans and animals but it also causes a accumulation of increased aggressive and destructive behaviour including retaliation and further criminal action.

    And for those with a less or quieter character it can lead to school avoidance, phobia, low self-esteem, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, and potentially suicide.

    It believe that one should first investigate the source of a problem before a conclusion is made.
    Cut off the head an the body dies, as it were.

    • I agree with Samantha that restarting corporeal punishment is not the answer, but I am even stronger in disagreeing about threatening without serving – if you’re going to threaten something, be ready to do it, because the child will realize you won’t do anything, and even worse, view you as a liar.

      We need to back up even further, and realize that negative reinforcement of any sort is not effective, which is why detention is so iffy. Studies going back a century have shown that positive reinforcement is better, and yet most schools merely dabble in the idea with silly star stickers or something of the sort for good behavior – shouldn’t offering something the kids would very likely want keep them in line, and make them regret misbehavior when they don’t get it?

      And in terms of punishment, which is needed in reality, apathetic indifference is what works best in my book. When my baby sister acts up around me, I don’t yell at her or hit her or put her in actual time out – I take her into another room she has nothing to play with it, lean against the door, and say I won’t let her out until she calms down and says sorry. I have to sit through an amount of tantrum throwing in my face, but with a few minutes of indifference she catches on and behaves the rest of the night.

      • I agree

    • i agree with you that is true

  4. Normal detentions are not that effective at curbing behavior.

    But one type of detention that is effective in maintaining discipline is a Saturday Detention.

    The pupil who is issued a Saturday detention has to come into school on a Saturday morning at 9am in full school uniform for a three hour detention. The fact that the pupil has to come into school on a Saturday and wearing their school uniform is very embarrassing for the pupil and the pupil does their best not to get another one.

    One girl had decided to play truancy for a full day by not coming into school after she had been sent to school. Any pupil who is missing from school gets a phone call home to their parents to see why they are not at school, it was soon found out that the girl was sent to school but as she never turned up it was treated as truancy.

    She was made to make up the time she had lost from her truancy by attending school in her own time so therefore was given two Saturday detentions.

    I can guarantee that the girl won’t think again about playing truancy for she knows that she would find herself attending school in full uniform for a Saturday detention.

    I still believe that corporal punishment should be brought back into schools.

  5. Please keep your comments on topic. This is not for you to post vague sweeping statements that are generalised and unsubstantiated by facts. We are talking about whether Victorian style punishment was effective. Anything off-topic will be moderated.


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  8. its the adults that need the discipline not the child

  9. There are 2 problems with corporal punishment in school:
    1. Inappropriate use where the teacher using CP does so for the wrong reasons either sexual or to do with the abuse of power. I am NOT saying all teachers who used it did so for those reasons but some did.
    2. Over-reliance on CP where teachers who could use simple good organisation and other simple techniques or strategies do not do so but rely on fear of CP to keep a class in order.
    An example of 2 is where teachers arrive at a classroom after the class and then have to restore order. They could get over that by simply being at the classroom door when the pupils arrive and establishing order far more simply.
    I am not against CP in schools merely wary

    • This comment is basically off topic although I will let it through as it could be applied to Victorian times. Posters are reminded that off topic replies will simply be deleted.

  10. The School Cane,
    Only required to make B/G proper at schools

    If they are good at school no punishment required

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