Would a Christian send their sons to this school?(65 Posts)
Some might say this thread belongs in Chat, possibly as an "Am I being Unreasonable?" thread. But I'm starting it here, because, as a Catholic, I see this as a Christian question. It's certainly a moral question anyway.
My db and sil are moving to Zimbabwe next year with their family. A couple of weeks ago I realized the school they were intending to send my 2 dns to was one I had heard of before. I asked them if they were aware that corporal punishment is used there, and they said they were, but didn't think it was something they'd have to worry about because they assumed it was only used for serious misbehaviour, the kind dns would never be involved in. My information was different, though I didn't say so at the time, because I thought I ought to check up first. But they had not said anything to my mother, who had been a campaigner for STOPP (Society of Teachers Opposed to Corporal Punishment) back in the 1970s. I warned them that she'd be bound to find out eventually, and would go ballistic. So they did tell her shortly after that, and her reaction was what I expected. She was furious, and there was (and is) quite a lot of bad feeling about it. She obviously felt betrayed, because when were growing up corporal punishment was still legal in Britain, but our parents made sure we went to schools where it wasn't used.
My sympathies were with my mum, because I'm opposed to all forms of corporal punishment. But I didn't feel entitled to get up on my high horse about it, because it could be very hard to find a school in Zimbabwe that didn't use it. It put db and sil in a dilemma. I thought I'd look into it, and see if I could find out more about that school - a boys-only school I'll call "Prince". If I could satisfy myself that it was used infrequently enough that the dns were unlikely ever to suffer it, my mum might accept the idea of them going there. Or else, if I found the opposite, I'd have to inform db and sil of that fact.
The attitude my db is taking is quite casual (which is one thing that makes my mum angry), and I can see that both he and sil are quite attracted to Prince, because of its high standing and "traditional" values. Many of the better schools in Zimbabwe were established by the British in colonial times, and tend to follow some very old traditions that are no longer even permitted in schools here. I don't think they quite realize that a lot of those traditions are unhealthy and dangerous. Even if most boys survive them apparently unscathed, there are bound to be many who do not.
I already had one informant who had taught at Prince for a couple of years, and the impression I got from her was that corporal punishment was an everyday thing, and was not reserved for serious misbehaviour. But I decided to look for some back-up. I found this on a "school memories" site:
"I remember when I was in Prince in '98. Got into trouble because I didn't do my homework, the teacher was Mrs Saich, my maths teacher. She was the scariest thing alive. I remember the prefect coming to collect us and told us to stand outside the classroom. There was 4 of us didn't do our homework, we were pretty nervous. The prefect finally escorted us to the vice headmaster's office, but to our unfortunate luck, his door was closed. We ended up goin to the headmasters office, his door was wide open. We waited for 20 minutes then he called us in "Barnes". He gave us a small speech on how we should behave and then told us to stand outside, he called us all one by one into his office, all i coud here was 3 loud "smack" sounds and then I was next, got into the office bent over and that pain from his stick still makes my butt sore today. but a week later i got over it and laughed about it. Good times."
Shortly after that I found myself on a forum where old boys of Prince exchange news and memories. Two responded to questions about how long they'd spent there and how many times they'd been "lashed". The first one says:
5 times (i was a goodie goodie I suppose)
not doing homework
whole class got lashed for upsetting a teacher
And the second says:
"6 years and got lashed 3 times
1. not having a hat
2.talking at assembly
3.some prefect wanting to get me lashed before i became a prefect (silly man!)
i was a goodie goodie for the most part and clever enough for the rest of it."
I tried to investigate some of those examples, thinking that some of them might have been "repeat offences", where they'd been warned two or three times before getting a lashing. But I probably asked too many questions, and I sensed some kind of defensive wall going up. The first poster didn't reply at all, and the second made a little speech about boys knowing what the boundaries were, and accepting lashing as "the price to pay for doing whatever we teenage boys decide we would rather be doing". He sums it up this way: "Prince operates by a set of principles and systems that every boy learns very quickly and you decide where in that system you will fit. There is a reason most of us talk fondly about lashings, war cries, straw bashers, etc with a lot of fondness....when we look back on our time at Prince they are all little things that help us remember some of the best years of our life. "
Now, I'm not questioning his sincerity, and maybe all the old boys on that forum take the same attitude (though two posters isn't a big sample). But a lot of it has a familiar ring. This stuff was almost history in this country when I first started going to school, but anyone who reads books knows something about those English public schools of the past where harsh treatment was considered part of every boy's education. Many seemed to survive it, or at least many became successful people, but we also know that many were screwed up by it. The literary critic Cyril Connolly once said that there were emotional reflexes hard-wired into his nervous system by his schooldays at Eton that he couldn't get rid of as a grown man. If someone said to him "So and so wants to see you in his office", it triggered an immediate surge of fear, because it evoked memories of school beatings. It must take quite a lot of courage to admit to something so ridiculous, and you have to wonder how many others there are who were emotionally damaged in ways that aren't visible, and who would never let anyone know. Are there any on that forum, for example? I'd like to hear from the casualties of the system, as well as from the tough guys, but I probably never will, because they'd never step forward. Maybe they'd stay away from forums like that altogether.
Anyway, by this time I was faced with the prospect of telling db and sil that it's unlikely the dns would get through their time at Prince without getting lashed. I gathered all the evidence together and emailed it to sil, because I believe I can get through to her in a way I might not be able to with db. There are times he can be amazingly thick, especially when things come up that run counter to his plans. But she's away at the moment, and probably won't read it till Wednesday. So I've still got some time to consider my own attitude.
What made all this quite difficult for me was trying to take a position that went against my beliefs. I had to recognize that telling them what I'd found out would cause them a big headache. So I had to take a practical approach myself. If it proved impossible to find a boys' school that didn't use corporal punishment (or at least one where they could afford the fees), there was no solution except to find the school where it was used the least. So I had to look into some alternative schools. But the feeling that I was compromising my convictions was quite unpleasant, I have to say. I questioned those former boys in a tone of voice that was like their own - i.e. light and jokey - but that wasn't what I felt. So I'm wondering what to say when I speak to db and sil face to face. Should I tell them what I think? Should I tell them how repellant the whole idea of beating boys actually is, or should I keep my mouth shut and just leave it to them? What do you think a Christian should do?
My understanding is that corporal punishment is quite common in many African schools.
I have some Nigerian friends and they view the school that our children go to as having exceptionally low standards of behaviour (but see it as the best of a bad job locally! )
You may well find this is an issue in many schools in Zimbabwe
WHY ON EARTH ARE THEY MOVING TO ZIMBABWE...DONT THEY KNOW THE PLACE IS A MESS AND THERE IS MASSIVE FOOD SHORTAGES.
beeper - there are only massive food shortages if you are poor and don't have a decent income - I should imagine that the OP's family are going to be on a decent income and therefore able to afford all the imported food which is available in the shops.
Okay, I can see this question has gone down like a lead balloon. And it's become a bit academic since last night in any case, when my sil made it clear in a phone call to me that she would not accept the idea of corporal punishment for her sons under any circumstances, and my db has not contradicted her. What practical problems that will cause remains to be seen. But I've got up a head of steam about this now, so I think I'll just let off some of it here.
I decided that this question belonged here in the "faith" corner of MN in the first place because of an email I received, which was one of three I've had from someone who had been to a boy's school in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. What he has to say about corporal punishment in general is worth quoting. (Just to clarify something in the text that would otherwise not be clear, his school was run by Jesuit priests).
[Excerpt from email]
I understand what you say about this being a practical question, but the low opinion you already have about corporal punishment is one I would stick to quite closely if I were you. Don't let yourself drift too far from it, even for practical reasons. As for the effects of corporal punishment, you don't have to spend too long debating it. The most common effect is no effect at all. It's probably the case with most boys, for whom it's just pointless suffering with no result. Or it can have a bad effect - as it did with me. It made me more hostile, and less inclined to see my teachers as people I really wanted to learn anything from. What it can never have is a good effect, because there's nothing good about it. Its purpose is to hurt and intimidate, and no good can come of that. So the worst result is actually where it succeeds. If it successfully intimidates, then avoiding bad behaviour is not the result of improved character or better understanding, it's just fear-based obedience. You can get that much from a dog. But if you intimidate someone you also humiliate them, and that's about the worst thing you can do with young people. For sure there are other ways of humiliating too, no one's denying that. You can do it with words. There were boys who were immune to the cane, but could be reduced to tears by sarcasm or ridicule. But whatever the method, it's a bad result. Read the biogs of criminals and you often find it somewhere in their early life that they were humiliated by someone, their parents, teachers, or others, and they spend the rest of their lives trying to get revenge on people who are long dead. Humiliation is lethal, that's a fact. And corporal punishment should be banned for that reason alone.
But it's got pretty unsavoury associations too. When I got your first email, I thought about it for a while, and then tried an experiment. I typed "corporal punishment" into a search engine, and took a look at what I found on the first page of results.
There are a few sites that could be called "objective". There is a Wikipaedia link and an Encyclopaedia Britannica link, as you'd expect, where they try to deal with things in a factual way, rather than giving opinions. Where you do get the opinions is with those sites that oppose corporal punishment, like endcorporalpunishment.org and stophitting.com. I looked at those for a while. But since you're a Catholic, I decided to follow that angle, and after a bit of site-hopping it led me to stuff like this: "It should be noted that Catholic nations have played a leading role in educational reform, with Poland, Luxembourg. Italy, Belgium, Austria and France abolishing corporal punishment of schoolchildren in 1783, 1845, 1860, 1867, 1870 and 1881, respectively." I thought I'd gone dyslexic when I read that. Even the most recent of those dates is still fifteen years before the foundation of [his school] in 1896. The first thing I asked myself was whether those Jesuit priests who were beating boys in British parts of the world for all the decades that followed were doing it with the approval of the Vatican. It's hard to imagine, isn't it? If you really wanted to do a thorough job, maybe you should write and ask them. I wish I'd known about this twenty-five years ago. I'd have made a shit-storm like you wouldn't believe.
Back on the search results page, there are sites that you might think are serious - like "World Corporal Punishment Research". But a quick visit shows that they're just magnets for saddos. There is one, www.archivist.f2s.com/cpa/mainpage.htm, which is supposedly a "factual" site. But you only have to skim down the page looking at the headings and then you get an idea what they're about. Corporal punishment in schools... institutions... in films and TV... instruments of punishment... readers' contributions... photos... One link is to "A recommended supplier of handcrafted punishment straps and canes. The designs are based upon the original implements used in schools and other institutions. Browse the illustrated online catalogue...." And when you do browse it, you find things like "Crook-handled School Cane. 30" x approximately 3/16" diameter (810 x 5mm). The classic swishy cane dreaded by all schoolboys - £8".
What fun grown-ups have, eh? Another site of "recommended interest" also seems to be a "factual" site. But when you click on it, right there on the first page is a video clip to download showing a classroom caning from Singapore - www.corpun.com/vidsc9.htm . I played it, and it's as revolting as I remember it when I was on the receiving end. But if you're looking into this, you'd better play it too. You might as well know the nature of the beast. But of course the site's owner can't stop himself dwelling on the details: "The offender can be heard vocalising his pain after each stroke. After the second stroke, it can be seen that his right leg is almost buckling under him as he begins to stand up. He will probably be hurting for a few hours, and his buttocks will be superficially wealed, and maybe lightly bruised, for a few days. Informed sources reckon this is a very average school punishment for Singapore."
And very average for Zimbabwe too, I'm pretty sure. At any rate, that's about the force used in my day, and I've no reason to think it would be less these days. And, in case there's any doubt in your mind, it's an extremely painful punishment. Until you've had a whack of a cane across your arse you don't know what pain is. It's just that that boy isn't very well trained. Things might be different in Singapore, but in Zim you'd be jeered at for crying out during the punishment. You're supposed to show fortitude, even down to the expression on your face. Also, public punishments have never been a Zim tradition, as far as I know (except maybe at Prince today, where it seems to be partly public, if your friend is to be believed).
It doesn't take long to suss out that there's nothing factual about these sites at all. Apart from the encyclopaedia-type sites, the only ones you can honestly call "serious" are those that oppose corporal punishment. The ones you can see promoting it are ones no schoolboy would ever be allowed to look at. It isn't just that they're pornography, they're actually only one step short of child-pornography. If he was using the school computers, there'd be a lock on stuff like this.
So all I can say is, nice company they're keeping, these "educators of boys". And how long did this minimal research take me? Putting aside the time I spent on the "Catholic" diversion, it's one hour, tops. It's a pity that much research couldn't have been done by any of those complacent people at Prince. At any rate, Paula, I wouldn't be in a hurry to make any accommodation with this stuff, even for practical reasons. It's bad through and through. The fact that the whole civilized world has banned it ought to tell you something.
[End of Excerpt]
I think that definitely makes it a Christian question, doesn't it? I know damn well it's a Catholic one anyway. What strikes me is how isolated Zimbabwe must have become - not just politically isolated, which it obviously is, but morally isolated from the more advanced parts of the world. And these are not bog-standard schools. Prince is rated by Africa Almanac as the 2nd best school in Zimbabwe (my informant's school is rated 1st), and the 6th in the whole of Africa. These are places that are stuck with habits and practices they copied from English public schools of a previous era, and it looks like the advances of the last fifty years have passed them by completely. What is particularly deplorable is that these are the schools that are setting the standard for all the others.
Hiya - it's me again - all I can suggest really is your SIL and DB personally contacting any of the schools they may be interested in and finding out the options on having their children "immune" from CP and go from there . Or look at HIS...and see if costs can be worked out
PS - you do realise that you're first name is in the excerpt that you quoted don't you?
Hi QoQ. Have my doubts now whether the "immunity" you're talking about exists at all in schools in Zimbabwe. But I don't know if it matters now. Sil's actual words were (as near as I can recall them), "I don't even want them in a school where things like that go on". I kind of suspected something like that might happen. She tends to do that, keep her mouth shut for a while, then it suddenly kicks off. But the fact is she was quite passive as long as all this stuff only existed in theory, but when she realized (after reading what I sent) that it was a daily reality, she did a complete about-turn. So I don't think even St G's would be acceptable at the mo. I was browsing the International School's site and trying the links to the different schools, and came across Heritage, which is British-based in its curriculum, and also had the magic sentence, "Corporal punishment is not allowed in the school". So I passed that on too.
(No, i didn't realize my first name was in the text. Never mind, it's a lovely name )
Thanks for all the info.
oh yes Heritage is a lovely school. When I was there it was regarded as being quite expensive (and posh LOL) - but I think it's still a lot cheaper than HIS - I don't know - but I suspect that they probably still charge in Z$'s......whereas HIS is US$'s
"Bad through and through" - that email was quite enlightening, Bona. I hope you passed it on to your SIL. Anyway, I'm glad things are resolved, at least from the moral point of view, because her reaction was definitely the right one.
Me, I'm all in favour of corporal punishment, so long as it's done by consenting adults in private. Welts on the bum do nothing for me personally, but if it spices up your sex life, I say go for it. Where I draw the line is when it's done to minors under the pretence of discipline. That's not foreplay, it's child abuse. The seamy side of this activity was well known long before the internet, and everyone knows its associations with sado-masochistic pornography. You'd have to be a self-deluding dickhead not to know that when you start doing things to children that dominatrixes do to adults for money or fun, your life has taken a serious wrong turn. So, beat each other black and blue, for all I care, but do it behind closed doors please, and keep children out of it.
As someone brought up in that part of the world, I know only too well how inward-looking and basically pig-ignorant Zimbabweans can be. And I think the situation in boys' schools might be different if privileged people from European countries who go out there as teachers took European values with them, and didn't trade them in for local ones as soon as they arrived. Otherwise, I can't see what use they are, and what contribution they make. If Zimbabwe wants uncivilized people, they don't need to import them. They have plenty of their own.
That video clip was thoroughly vile
i think all the teachers at that school should be forced to watch it just so they can see themselves as they really are. Pigs.
"As someone brought up in that part of the world, I know only too well how inward-looking and basically pig-ignorant Zimbabweans can be."
And I know how racist and ignorant people that were "brought up in that part of the world" can be too
So do I. It was one reason my liberal and forward-looking parents thought highly of my db's school. It was the one school in Zimbabwe that had made any real effort towards racial integration (whatever its faults might have been in other areas). My own school was in Malawi, which has been independent since 1964, so we had no such problems there. But db's school came into conflict with the Rhodesian Front government over the issue of racial quotas. The school threatened to close its doors altogether rather than change its enlightened policy. It was the most respected school in the country and carried a lot of clout, and it was the government who backed down. Since that time the same school has been quite outspoken on the question of human rights, and as a result has been in regular conflict with the Mugabe regime. So its credentials are pretty good.
My db went through a bad patch in his teens and was often in trouble, and his attitude to his school remains a bit antagonistic as a result, but he does give them a grudging respect for their advanced views in that area. And neither he nor I nor my parents would like to be thought of as "Rhodies", the term for red-neck whites who wanted to preserve white rule in Zimbabwe. And possibly it's Rhodies you're referring to when you say "racist". But race hasn't even been mentioned in this thread so far, so you'll have to clarify your remark.
Queen of Quotes, my Dad and Stepmom are in Zim at the mo and are very well off. My dad works for the UN and even they find it very difficult to get basic food stuffs. They were over the moon to get 4 pints of milk a couple of weeks ago, the food shortages are effecting everybody to different levels. . They then only kept one pint and handed the other three on to their staff at home. Also the electricity means that even when people can afford to pay for food it doesn;t keep as it goes off so quickly (as you know) . The last 18 months have been even more horrendous than before, he has been there for three years.
I typed a really long reply to both the last 2 posts, but you know what, I don't have the energy for it. My DH's entire family have been living out there since they were born (apart from 2 of my SIL's) and they range from the ridiculously wealthy, to the poor we've both been out there in the last 18 months, DH withint the last 12 months so we know what it's currently like.
FWIW - Milk in Zim ALWAYS goes off quickly, electricity or no electricity - infact when we were actually living there you'd be lucky if you bought 4 "packets" of milk at the supermarket, got home and opened them and at least 2 of them were actually useable
The "really long reply" you had the energy to type out, but didn't have the energy to post with one click of your mouse button, no doubt contains the explanation for your use of the term "racist" in a thread where the subject of race hadn't even been mentioned. So now it'll always be a secret, will it?
I'm glad your SIL has decided against the school and hope that she finds one she can be more comfortable with.
I don't know their circumstances so this may or may not be an option, but they could perhaps consider an internet school. My son currently attends one - it is based in the UK but he has class-mates in an African country (possibly Zimbabwe but I can't recall offhand).
His school is specifically a high school (Yr 7 to 11), but I believe there is also a similar school which offers Primary classes.
Ok - I find the use of
"I know only too well how inward-looking and basically pig-ignorant Zimbabweans can be. "
"If Zimbabwe wants uncivilized people, they don't need to import them. They have plenty of their own."
extremely offensive.......happy now??
I don't know what happened to your "really long reply" that never got posted, but the question that ends your much shorter reply - "happy now??" - is a stupid question, when anyone can see that the word "racist" doesn't even appear in the text.
In the year or so that I've been on MN I've kind of gathered that you're always up for a run-in, whereas I've always managed to avoid them, except for one time when I clashed with you - over corporal punishment, as it happens. But I'm up for it today, and that's an understandable reaction from someone who's had to suffer insinuations of racism. So you're disappointing me. All I'm getting back from you is a shit-eating grin.
The phrase "put up or shut up" springs to mind.
why should I "put up or shut up" when you are making stereotypical racist (after all the majority of Zimbabweans are Black) remarks such as those 2 that I quoted above???
Someone doesn't need to say the word "racist" or "racism" to be racist.
If you think either of those two remarks is stereotypically racist, then I can only describe you as stereotypically thick.
Let's take the second one first: "If Zimbabwe wants uncivilized people, they don't need to import them. They have plenty of their own." When a country is near the top of the table for human rights abuse, does a remark like that really need explaining? Don't you even read the papers?
However, Zimbabweans were not the main target of that remark, as anyone can tell, even when it's lifted out of context. But, if there's any doubt, let's put it back in context. "And I think the situation in boys' schools might be different if privileged people from European countries who go out there as teachers took European values with them, and didn't trade them in for local ones as soon as they arrived. Otherwise, I can't see what use they are, and what contribution they make. If Zimbabwe wants uncivilized people, they don't need to import them. They have plenty of their own."
Who do you think those four sentences are aimed at? Who is the primary target, QoQ? In deference to Bonaventura who would like to avoid things getting personal, I'll refrain from expanding on it. You can do that for yourself.
Now let's look at the first remark: "As someone brought up in that part of the world, I know only too well how inward-looking and basically pig-ignorant Zimbabweans can be."
The thing that really caught my attention in previous posts (apart from that spectacularly hideous video clip) was this: "It should be noted that Catholic nations have played a leading role in educational reform, with Poland, Luxembourg. Italy, Belgium, Austria and France abolishing corporal punishment of schoolchildren in 1783, 1845, 1860, 1867, 1870 and 1881, respectively."
Those years belong to a period that we learned about at school, called the Age of Reason, where a decadent society ruled by the aristocracy was gradually replaced by a society where humanism was top of the agenda. It was out of that movement that slavery was abolished (to pick up the "race" question) along with other iniquitous things like child labour and unelected governments. And the idea that human beings had rights was something that was soon applied not only to other races, but also to children of any race, except in a few wilfully blind countries like the UK who carried on beating kids long after the rest of them had stopped (yes, "pig-ignorance" begins at home). Elsewhere children were recognized as fully human, and had the right not to be treated in degrading ways. So the abolition of corporal punishment in those countries was perfectly consistent with everything else. In the light of that, I'd say "pig-ignorant" is a pretty fair description of a country that is 214 years (and still counting) behind Poland.
It's also worth remarking that just two names have been mentioned in connection with the child-beating habits of that Zimbabwean school - "Saich" and "Barnes". No doubt both of them are Zimbabweans, but neither sounds like a black African name to me. So it doesn't need to be said (except possibly to you) that the pig-ignorance on display at that "posh" school is a pig-ignorance inherited from white people.
I would like to draw your attention to this
"According to UN International Conventions, "the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."
Therefore your remarks ARE racist.
FWIW - Saich did NO beating at all, they would have been sacked if they had, and Barnes was the head teacher at the time, most of the other schools in Zimbabwe where CP is still in use have Black headteachers.
I also happen to know of several Black zimbabweans with incredibly "English" sounding surnames, Smith and Thompson spring to mind of 2 I personally know...
And I would also like to draw your attentioin to the MN philosophy
"Having said that, we will remove postings that are obscene, contain personal attacks or break the law."
which I feel you have quite adequately flouted.
It seems your brain is unable to stretch beyond the end of the sentence you're writing. Quoting some definition of racism - which tells us nothing that everybody didn't already know anyway - does nothing except use up space in your message. You have not demonstrated anywhere how any remarks I made were racist, and I have demonstrated in detail that they aren't.
If any part of this thread violates the the MN philosophy about personal attacks, it would be this sentence from your post:
"And I know how racist and ignorant people that were "brought up in that part of the world" can be too"
Since the phrase "brought up in that part of the world" had previously been used by me to describe myself, it would be seen in any court of law as a personal attack on me, and one that is bordering on the libellous. I have no doubt that if I were to report it to the admins, they would remove your post. I very much doubt they would remove any of mine.
dear me this is unpleasant
Generalising Zimbabweans as 'uncivilised', 'inward-looking and basically pig-ignorant' sounds racist, whatever you actually meant, however uncivilized and pig-ignorant you personally consider Zimbabwe to be and however hard you qualified it.
I'm sorry that you can't see that the two comments of yours which I quoted are racist. But they are, and as well as your many (one at the start of your last post) personal comments made directly to me, I also find then personally offensive and racist.
I have already reported your initial post with those comments in, please feel free to report mine....
I have to when you same I'm "floudering"....and I'd love for you to point out to me how I'm floudering.
Ladies, this is getting out of hand. QoQ, withdraw the "racist" charge. It was ill-advised and doesn't stick. And Roxy, you cool it too. Let's not have a slanging match.
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