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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 25 Mar 1969

Vol. 239 No. 6

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Corporal Punishment in Schools.


asked the Minister for Education whether he proposes to take any action following the recent petition signed by over 8,000 people protesting against the use of corporal punishment on school children.

The matter of corporal punishment in national schools is at present under very active consideration. All the relevant aspects of this important question need to be gone into very thoroughly before a final decision can be given. I hope, however, to be in a position to issue a statement on the matter in a month or so.

Is the Minister aware—possibly they may be studying this matter——

I am very much aware.

——that a true interior discipline which is what should be our aim in the opinion of those who have studied the problem, is not served by corporal punishment, the main victims of which in our schools at present are those children who are most likely to be harmed by its use, namely, the backward or the difficult child, whose cases should have a deeper study than they at present get and whose cases can only be aggravated by indiscriminate use of corporal punishment?

I am very much aware of the difficulties involved. At present, we are having discussions with the managerial and teaching bodies with a view to discontinuing corporal punishment in infants and first class and to tightening regulations in regard to its administration in the higher standards. As an ultimate sanction, some form of corporal punishment is required. I am looking at the matter very closely at the moment. The matter is by no means as simple as the Deputy suggests. It is a highly complex problem. I am convinced that at the lower classes—infants and first class—corporal punishment should be abolished but, at higher levels, I feel it should be there as an ultimate sanction. At the moment, we are discussing ways and means of tightening the administration of corporal punishment in relation to the higher standards.

Is the Minister aware of the experience in other countries that it is possible to maintain discipline—because we agree that discipline is necessary to maintain the class—but that there are more dependable methods of maintaining discipline than by corporal punishment? Would the Minister agree that, if teachers were to be given facilities at the present time for training in classroom psychology, it might be possible to dispense with this method of corporal punishment?

A lot of evils have been committed in the name of psychology. Other countries have found quite the reverse of what Deputy M. O'Leary claims. They found that, when this thing was gone into too precipitately, chaos ensued in the schools. While we can certainly tighten up the controls and abolish corporal punishment in the lower classes—human nature being human nature, particularly with older boys and girls—I feel an ultimate sanction of this kind should be there to preserve a measure of discipline so that the ordinary process of education can continue in a reasonable way in the schools concerned rather than rush into a situation where you have total disorder in the school if you rapidly break away from a system of corporal punishment as an ultimate exercise in a case of total indiscipline.

I just want to say to my colleague, the Minister for Education——

Has Deputy Burke a question to put?

I am asking the Minister a question. He would want to be very careful in answering Deputy Michael O'Leary who has the habit of misrepresenting our colleagues here in this House. I only just say that, arising out of the Minister's reply. Further——

Is Deputy P.J. Burke not lucky that he did not get stuck in the window of Trinity College?

The standard of Parliamentary decorum in this House has deteriorated. I am just advising my colleague, the Minister for Education, to be careful in replying to Deputy Michael O'Leary. He might be misrepresented.

I take it that this is an exercise in psychology?

This question is too serious for buffoonery.

Deputy M. O'Leary has gone as low as it is possible for him to go. I can say that during my time in this House he is the lowest creature we have had here.

Question No. 29.