By Voranai Vanijaka, Editor
Bangkok Post, January 16, 2011
Have you ever been spanked so hard that your pelvis jerked violently forward, the momentum sending your entire body upward? And when you landed on solid ground, you spun sideways, furiously rubbing your bum to relieve the pain?
Then the walk – your buttocks in such excruciating pain that your lower body skipped quickly forward to get away from your tormentor, while your upper body bent backward, not sure if it wanted to go along, all the while your hands still on your bum? Well, me neither.
But that was the scene captured in a video posted last year on the website (thai.corporalpunishmentthailand.com). (Note: The website was down at time of writing). The clip shows a teacher (perhaps a physical education teacher) at Mari Witthaya School in Nakhon Ratchasima taking to spanking like it was Sunday on the driving range.
The teacher, clad in an orange jersey, tested his rod and practised his swings. He bent his knees and took a wide stance _ bum out, weight centred and balanced. Then he cocked, keeping perfect form, before letting it rip. Smack! The crowd winced and gasped. The unfortunate young student’s pelvis bounced forward. in a violent metaphor of puberty.
The teacher full of pride, postured – chest out, arms wide in a menacing way, swaggering back and forth and signalling for his next victim like a French Revolution executioner with a long line of powdered-face bourgeoisie to take vengeance upon.
Step up, monsieur! Robespierre would have been proud.
An understanding of sadism might suggest that the teacher in the orange jersey was aroused.
In the hoopla over the seven detained Thais, as well as the prime minister’s nine-point Pracha Wiwat populist policy and the reds in Ratchaprasong, a piece of news last week that didn’t get the attention it deserves was the emergence of www.thai.corporalpunishmentthailand.com.
The website has anything and everything about corporal punishment in schools. It offers rewards for those submitting video clips of teachers disciplining/abusing (choose whichever term suits you) students.
The website has a clear mission, and whether corporal punishment in schools is right or wrong is immaterial. The point is it’s illegal. The website aims to expose the continuing illegal practice of making students do the funny dance.
Since 2005, corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed in Thailand. Teachers may not whip, hit, smack or cause any kind of bodily harm to students. (Emotional abuse is a different issue.)
When the news broke, reporters asked Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat for his opinion.
The minister said there are 15 million students in Thailand, nine million of whom are at the primary level, with only 700,000 teachers to educate them. (On a related note, two million Thai children are still without primary education, but that’s a different topic.)
He admitted that due to the discrepancy in numbers, corporal punishment may happen. It is not easy to monitor.
Chalermchai Jantapattanapong, a teacher at Wat Huay Pong School in Rayong, who was caught on tape spanking his students, said that before the term started, a meeting with parents was held during which school staff received the unanimous consent of parents to administer corporal punishment to their children.
Mr Chalermchai added that students are like the teachers’ own children. No teacher would ever beat a student to death.
Well, that’s comforting.
Parents’ agreement or not, however, it is still against the law, the website insisted.
Worapong Chiangsa, a Matthayom 6 student in Khon Kaen, and president of the Thailand Student Council, said that teachers are afraid of students. They are scared to even say anything that might provoke their anger. This is because youth today have a tendency towards violence. Teachers are also afraid of lawsuits and disciplinary actions.
Worapong admitted he prefers the use of the discipline rod. But corporal punishment must be administered with love. Like a parent spanking a child as a reminder to be good, a teacher should also spank with good intentions, not out of anger. This would be a good reason for teachers to use the rod.
Do certain students practically beg for a thumping? Sure they do. I was a student, I know. I have little cousins, I know. The urge can be almost irresistible to choke-slam them _ almost. Can students be threatening and violent against teachers? Yes, they can. Do many parents prefer teachers to use corporal punishment? Yes, they do.
Will the ”Rod of Love” _ employed as Worapong recommended _ help students to become better adults? Questions of legality aside, the answer is nope.
Violence doesn’t nurture. It’s vengeance.
If the argument is that the rod will help you become a better person, I say, just look around. The rod has long been a proud tradition in Thai culture. When I was a kid, the entire school was taken on a field trip to see a film called Tiger Teacher. Can you guess the theme of this movie? The film was based on a nationally revered teacher who ruled his classroom with the rod. He whipped students like they had stolen their mamas’ rent money. Kids in the audience winced and groaned. Were our teachers threatening us with this movie? Furious was the rod.
At the end of the film, a former student, now an adult and a criminal arrested by the police, came to Tiger Teacher, handcuffed and escorted, to offer apologies _ apologies for not having grown up to be a better person.
The message was, he should have obeyed Tiger Teacher. The irony was, no one bothered to point out that the rod didn’t work.
Dear readers, do you at times get the urge to take the rod to many of the politicians sitting in parliament? It’s unanimous, then. See? If the rod had worked on them as students, would they be the naughty politicians they are now?
If the rod had worked, would we have the rampant corruption, the clashes between vocational school students, the bribery, the under-the-table money and all the other illnesses that inflict our society? You can’t physically beat goodness into a student.
If a parent wants to discipline his or her child by spanking (with love), I say that’s family business, just don’t cross the line to child abuse. But if you are a teacher using a rod, it means you have given up on intelligence and patience, reasoning and decency. You have given up on your job, which is to educate and enlighten. The rod is misguided and shortsighted. It’s no wonder then that students grow up to become adults who mostly manage society and solve problems in a misguided and shortsighted way.
In the modern world, there are societies that have developed and prospered without the rod. Are we any less?
Oh by the way, happy National Teacher’s Day.