Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child
Spare the rod, spoil the child is a saying in English. It apparently is based on something in Proverbs, but means, quite literally, if you have an unruly child then sparing them corporal punishment will result in the child being more unruly. I attended a Grammar School in England in the 1960s, called Alderman Newton’s Boys School which in some cases employed teachers who adhered to this saying in the strictest sense. In this school replace rod with a bamboo cane that’s frayed at the end, designed to cause maximum pain.
The school’s uniform was green jackets and black trousers and for the first two years I had to wear a cap of green quartered by red piping. I looked like a walking bogey!
On arrival my first impression was not good. Coming from a fairly liberal junior school I was suddenly thrust into a school with a long and honorable history in which tradition played a huge part. Not least of which was the mortar board and cape of the teachers.
To be fair, not all teachers wore this, most going for a suit or jacket and trousers. But there was those, particularly in assembly who did wear this apparel, and I guess they were the strictest of all the teachers.
We were split into houses on arrival, a bit like Harry Potter, and mine, if I remember correctly, was Highfields. Which it turns out was also the name for the red light district in Leicester – not an auspicious start.
Discipline was pretty fierce to a small (actually I was tallest in my class) child who came from a school where though discipline was restricted and teachers preferred to talk to you rather than cane you. Not so at my grammar school.
I lost count of the number of times our second year French teacher threw the backboard duster, a heavy wooden object, at a child’s head, hard, because he was talking in class. And getting your knuckles wrapped with a heavy wooden ruler, using the thin edge, was obligatory, it seemed, as it happened to someone on a daily basis.
As good a student as I was (or maybe I wasn’t) I didn’t escape the wrath of the headmaster. On the final day of term in year two, the whole back row of our class, sitting quietly reading during an English literature lesson, were summoned to the headmaster’s study. Here we were systematically caned by the outgoing headmaster. That was six kids caned in one sitting. You may ask why, we certainly did. It transpires we each had elder brothers in the same school who had left the year before and the headmaster hated them because of the disruption they had caused, but he had never been able to pin anything on him and had no reason to cane them, so we all took the wrap. His statement is etched in fire on my mind. What sort of vindictive coward was in charge of this establishment? I was caned once for something I had never done and my fellow inmates told a similar story. All of us had brothers at the school and all were paying a price for some vindictive craziness inside the outgoing headmaster’s head.
I was never a fan of school, any school, but hated that school with an absolute loathing from that day on and couldn’t wait to leave.
Tom Kane © 2018
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As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.
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