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Do you remember the cane and strap?


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About James

I have lived a lot of years and the more years I have lived, the fewer answers i have found. I hope that by engaging here we can discover some answers together.


It doesn't seem that long ago that children were disciplined with the strap at home, or caned at school for misbehaving.

I remember the days of corporal and capital punishment in Australia. I remember news of the executions of Edgar Cooke in WA and Ronald Ryan in Victoria. In my eyes, these examples of capital punishment were two of the most despicable, mindless acts ever perpetrated by a sanctimonious gang of politicians calling themselves a government.

Corporal punishment was all the rage when I was at school.

Corporal punishment was all the rage when I was at school. Picture: Shutterstock

But today I want to focus on corporal punishment -- or imposing physical pain in response to an undesirable act.

Read more from James St James: They said old Holdens never died ....

Do you remember being smacked by your mother or father?

I remember being hit over the head with a saucepan by my father when I responded to one of his directions in a manner he considered undesirable. I also remember reacting in a highly animated manner, despite the fact that there was really no pain to speak of, just a loud noise and significant fright on my part.

Do you remember your mother or father getting out the ‘strap’, ‘shoe’ or ‘wooden spoon’, then using it to inflict a measure of pain on you? There was an even greater measure of anticipated pain that was never realised, regardless of your response.

Or were you one of those unfortunate individuals whose parents dealt out punishment with more clinical precision and sincerity, believing greatly in pain's medicinal benefits?

I clearly remember all of this and, in particular, the fear-laced apprehension that occurred after my mother said ‘just wait until your father gets home’, before describing in detail what would happen when that came to pass.

There was always pain to follow, but as I recall, the anticipation was much worse. I always had the presence of mind to overreact in the hope that it would shorten the experience. 

Perhaps you were one of the few who were punished more often, more aggressively and with longer-term consequences than was vaguely necessary.

If that is so, my heart goes out to you. You will see little humour in this trip down memory lane.

Did you ever find yourself subjected to corporal punishment in the school system?

In other words, did you ever find yourself on the wrong end of a cane, or worse still, a split cane. I certainly remember the palms of both of my hands being on the wrong end of a split cane in Year 5 of primary school, after suggesting to a teacher that he had not evolved nearly as far as other homo sapiens (which to this day, I remain convinced he had not).

I also remember being called up to the office many, many times in high school for many an infraction. On one such occasion, I was called in to see the acting deputy principal after one of our teachers had been spat on in a stairwell.

I was asked if I did it, to which I responded of course not! I was then asked if I knew who did, to which I responded that of course I did. That was followed by the obvious and clearly anticipated question of  who? I explained that while I found the incident distasteful in the extreme and entirely uncalled for, I could not possibly divulge the name of the perpetrator.

I was then threatened: ''Son, you will either tell me who it was, or you will get six on the best!”

I said: ''Mr Hoad, you and I both know that that is not going to happen.''

I was asked again, threatened again and then sent back to my room, as loyal to the pigs who spat on this defenceless teacher as I needed to be.

I remember this being a close shave. One of the few. There were many other encounters that did not work out so well.

Since those years, corporal punishment in schools has largely been killed off, which is a very good thing. Not only was it a Stone Age practice devoid of intellectual rigour, but it simply didn’t work in deterring transgressions. I never found the cane something to fear, or even consider.

There is also the argument about the long-term psychological and emotional effects of corporal punishment.

I know there are strident advocates of stricter schools and greater discipline, who argue there are no adverse effects from a cane, occasional back-hander, or flying duster. Of course, most people who say this are not qualified to do so and, in truth, have no idea what harm it did or didn't do. I find such naive, unthinking ''experts'' nauseating.

I'm not sure whether corporate punishment has any long-term effects or not. I have not done the research. But I suspect that no matter what long-term damage it may or may not cause, it does not work as an effective deterrent. And if it doesn't, why do it?

Do you remember corporal punishment? Share your close shaves with us.

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