les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Let us not forget...

Well I just read a newspaper article written by a CofE clergyperson talking about the marks and scars he bears from the physical punishments doled out in his school - meted out, of course, "in the name of evangelical decency".

Obviously! What other reason could there possibly be?

Well in the case of my school you'd have to look for one.

I grew up in the Rhondda valley and attended normal state schools in the 1960s and 1970s. We had morning assembly, but the act of worship would probably best be described as common or garden liberal moralism. No muscularity here, thank you!

Yet despite this apparently laudable open-minded and flabby approach to christianity, education was still red in cane and slipper. Well, let's not go too far.

One of my earliest memories of primary school was a teacher who rolled up the trouser legs of one small lad and slapped his legs thoroughly for some misdemeanour or other. The cane was used, kids were shaken and slapped, physical punishment of kids under 11 was part of life.

In the secondary school I saw kids lined up in maths lessons to be caned - boys and girls. Others were slippered on their backside, what we called 'the dap', dap being the valleys word for a rubber soled gym-shoe. I was once boxed around the ear - I think it left a permanent defect in the hearing of that ear. Women teachers would routinely send children to men to be caned. I never saw a woman teacher use the cane.

I'm not writing this to justify these types of punishment, or to excuse or to relativise them. I still feel the horror of seeing that lad having his legs slapped and still remember with dread that one irascible teacher who I just avoided. You never knew what would send him off the deep end!

But these things had nothing to do with the brand of christianity espoused. It was the 1970s. Our schools were like that. They should not have been, but they were.

My father grew up in the 1920s and 1930s. He said there was one teacher who would throw chisels at the lads!

It's a bit like Luther's earthy language, the martyrdom of heretics, the hanging, drawing and quartering of traitors. There is such a thing as historical context and we mustn't forget or ignore it.

Our kids in North Wales went to schools where there was no physical punishment whatsoever. In the 1990s. Here in Roman Catholic France corporal punishment is against the law, but our kids saw pupils hit with books. And of course, there are lots of ways of bullying kids other than physically.

You cannot trace child-abuse to one theological current. Bullying is human, the result of sin and crosses all cultural and ideological boundaries, sadly.

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