A wacky idea? Not if you believe a disciplinary whack is sadly missing from modern classrooms


Alf is apt to avoid giving much credit to Australians, except to acknowledge their prowess at activities such as two-up.

But he makes an exception in the case of the Aussie who heads the Abbott government’s national curriculum review.

His name is Kevin Donnelly and he has backed the use of corporal punishment for ill-disciplined children in schools (although for some curious reason he says this must be supported by the local school community).

Alf learned here of this attempt to bring common sense back into schools and scrap namby-pamby methods that simply don’t work.

Kevin Donnelly, co-chair of the national curriculum review and a widely published commentator on educational issues, said on Tuesday that corporal punishment was effective during his childhood and still has some merit.

Mr Donnelly was appearing on 2UE radio to comment on Fairfax Media reports that NSW students are being suspended and expelled from public schools at record rates.

The statistics are fascinating: over 18,000 NSW students were suspended in 2012 – 1300 more than in 2011.

Dunno how this compares with the figures in this country.

Alf is tempted to suspect the figure would be higher in Australia than here by virtue of the convict genes that can be found in your typical Aussie.

Whatever country they are in, these little miscreants won’t be at school if they have been suspended, and if they aren’t at school they may well be out there on the streets causing mischief.

What to do?

“What would you, as you’ve been involved with this for so long, describe as the best punishment you can come across even if it is one that has gone away?” asked 2UE host Justin Smith. “I’m not alluding to the strap here. I don’t think you would ever resort to that. You would never advocate bringing that back surely?”

Dr Donnelly responded by saying, “Well” followed by a pause – an answer that surprised Mr Smith.

Dr Donnelly continued: “I grew up in Broadmeadows, a housing commission estate in Melbourne, and we had a Scottish phys-ed teacher.

“Whenever there were any discipline problems he would actually take the boy behind the shed and say, ‘We can either talk about this or you can throw the first punch’.

“That teacher would probably lose his job now but it was very effective. He only had to do it once and the kids were pretty well behaved for the rest of the year.”

Dr Donnelly went on to say “those days are gone”. But questioned further on the merits of corporal punishment, he said: “If the school community is in favour of it then I have got no problem if it’s done properly.

“There are one or two schools around Australia that I know where it actually is approved of and they do do it. I’m sure they only do it very rarely.”

Donnelly contrasted corporal punishment with “time out” zones which he said do not work because children can relax and avoid class work.

It looks like he has attracted controversy on previous occasions.

He once designed an anti-smoking programme funded by tobacco company Phillip Morris for Australian and New Zealand schools. And in a book published in 2004 he questioned whether gay, lesbian and transgender teachers should teach sex education in schools.

This does not seem to Alf to be an unreasonable question.

Donnelly and Kenneth Wiltshire, co-chair of the curriculum review, will hand their report to the government at the end of July.

As a fellow with a deep interest in education, Alf will be looking out for what they have to say.

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