Robert Barron column: Glad straps no longer used in schools

You would have to hold out your hands, palms up to expose the most sensitive parts

It’s rare that I get a chance to get into our local schools but, when I do, I can’t help but notice just how different they are than in my time.

One thing that really stands out for me is the relationships the students have with their teachers these days. There’s an informality to the give-and-take between teachers and students in modern educational practices that was utterly absent in my day.

In a lot of cases, the kids treat their teachers like their friends, and some even call teachers by their first names.

There was a much more formal relationship between teachers and students when I was being educated in Catholic all-boys schools in the 1960s and 1970s. Friendship was out of the question, and you certainly wouldn’t dare call one by their first names.

Basically, you pretty much lived in fear each school day of being a victim of corporal punishment, whether you were really guilty of something, or just tied in to a bad situation by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those were the fun days when straps were commonly used on kids.

For those who have never had the honour of seeing, or being struck by one, a strap was typically made of hard leather and was about one-half inch thick and one foot long.

You would have to hold out your hands, palms up to expose the most sensitive parts, and the teachers would then raise the strap above their heads and swing it down as hard as they could to connect with your fingers and palms.

It would hurt worse than anything, and you would get between five and 10 hits on each hand before it was over.

Even while enduring this agony, you wouldn’t dare let a tear seep out of your eyes because that would only add shame and ridicule to an already horrible situation.

Your hands would hurt so bad afterwards that you often couldn’t hold a pen to write for awhile, and that meant you could be setting yourself up for a second round of humiliation and pain.

And, at the time, you wouldn’t run home to tell your parents that you were being mercilessly struck by your teachers because you added the risk of getting in even more trouble with them.

Many parents felt that, because they were raised to respect the church, you were likely asking for it if some religious figure at your school felt the need to beat the devil out of you.

It was a trying time for many of us, and we couldn’t wait to get out the school door at 3 p.m. every day.

The only advantage I saw to nurturing this type of learning environment was that I always got good marks.

Heaven help you if you didn’t.

While there are some discipline issues in today’s school, I tend to think that educators made the right decision to step away from demeaning and actually physically hurting kids as punishment.

Most of the kids I meet these days actually like being in school and being educated, and they seem much more relaxed and adjusted than many of my classmates were at their age.

Any adult that raises his hand to hurt a child should be prosecuted.

I wish it was that way when I was a kid.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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