The use of force

‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ appears somewhere in the bible and has been a practiced adage in most cultures up to modern times. It is a sanction that has immediate effect and spares an adult the task of explaining the consequences of his or her behaviour to a child or pupil and persuading them that it is disruptive and will have bad affects on their own progress as well as that of others. For some reason this issue stirs emotions and leads to fierce debate for and against corp

It would be hard to set up an experiment to prove the point conclusively either way but a recent natural turn of events in a West African country proves effectively that children who are persuaded rather than forced to behave appropriately end up with greater control over their own thoughts than those whose behaviour is imposed from outside by coercion.

Children in the same catchment area and from the same social background go either to a state school where corporal punishment has been abolished or to a private school where it has been retained. The former have begun to internalise the reasons for constructive behaviour whereas the latter conform to the rules out of fear. The compliance of the latter may be swifter and so more attractive to parents and teachers but the ‘education’ of the former, while slower, will be more long lasting.

And, more importantly, those who are persuaded to behave appropriately have a higher level of ‘executive functioning’ than those who are forced. Excuse the jargon but get the point! Those who come to decisions about how to behave as a result of their own reflection on what they are told by their elders are much more likely to be self-starters in later life than those who have habitually behaved in a certain manner out of fear of the results of non-compliance. It all comes down to internalising what I learn rather than habitually seeing it as imposed from outside. The latter form of behaviour does not make for creative citizens.

When we come to our own beloved country what do we see? Corporal punishment in schools is still widely practiced but it is slowly on the way out. What is more alarming is that the culture of force is extensively used on adults. It is almost normal practice. These past 10 or 11 years we have seen an escalation of violence being used on people who do not conform to the political agenda set by the ruling party. Anyone who tries to propose a different agenda is literally beaten up. Even a comparatively unthreatening sideshow like the row in the Anglican Church is stoked by violence.

Zimbabweans are patient. It has been said over and over again. And we end up wondering if this is a virtue or a vice. What is certain is that creativity, executive functioning, except in those cases where people are using foreign money in safe projects, is at an all time low.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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