Education and punishment – to flog or not to flog? (The Graphic 1879)

To flog or not to flog?

To flog or not to flog?

This is a short piece looking at attitudes to discipline in education as expressed in The Graphic (an illustrated weekly newspaper) of 1879.

Debates about beatings seem to have been around a long time.  Here The Graphic, June 21 1879, tackles flogging in the British Army and then moves on to flogging in schools.



Army flogging

“FLOGGING.–During the conversation on the subject of flogging in the army several Members of Parliament indulged in a good deal of vague talk.  They spoke on the deplorable effects of flogging on the moral character of the delinquent, since such a punishment must necessarily deprive him of all self-respect.  Perhaps in saying this they transferred their own refined feelings to persons on a wholly different level of culture; but whether they did so or not, the fact remains that an army could hardly exist in the field unless its leaders had the means of inflicting some stern and swift penalty.  And what more effective penalty can be suggested than that already in use?  It is quite right that the list of offences for which men are flogged should be from time to time revised.  We may hope that in the army as elsewhere there is a steady, if slow, improvement of moral tone; and in that case it would be impolitic and unjust to maintain harsh rules which are no longer indispensable.  But misdemeanours are sometimes committed which, if not punished in this manner, are virtually not punished at all.”

(In the United Kingdom today there is alarm in some quarters over a recent ruling by the Supreme Court regarding the Ministry of Defence’s current duty of care.   It seems we’ve come some distance from the flogging question.)

School beatings

“A much more promising field for philanthropists who detest the idea of flogging is to be found in the regulations which exist in schools.  Here there is ample room for enquiry and reform.  We do not say that every boy who is whipped is the worse for his experience; but we have no doubt that the general effect of whipping boys is distinctly bad.  And unless all the best educationists are wrong the practice is quite unnecessary.  A schoolmaster who must have frequent recourse to the birch or cane confesses his incompetence, and ought to look out for some less disagreeable means of making his bread.  Public opinion moves slowly in England, and generations may pass before flogging in schools is quite given up.  But parents might at least insist that it never shall be administered in anger, or by the master against whom the offence is committed.  They would this prevent a vast amount of petty misery and a sense of much bitter wrong.”

(It actually took over a century before public opinion moved enough in England to ban flogging in schools – 1987 in state schools and 1999 in most private schools. The British army were let off in 1881).

Senor Ortega and his Ligero

Senor Ortega and his Ligero

Kindness in education


The performance of Señor Ortega and his trained bull at the Aquarium calls up reminiscences of the marvellous power of Mr Rarey, the horse-tamer, and is certainly not less surprising and entertaining.  The docility of the huge pet, its evident fondness for its master, and anxiety to comply with his wishes, are clear proofs that kindness alone has been resorted to in the course of its education.  Some of the feats are shown in our illustration; but many others are performed, including a sham bull-fight, in which “Ligero” rushes in mock rage at the crimson banner carried by Señor Ortega, and feigns to toss and gore him.  The Señor is in the habit of riding “Ligero” through the streets of the various cities in which they are engaged to exhibit, and it is said that he never retires to rest without kissing and being kissed by the affectionate animal.”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018

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