Grappling with Corporal Punishment


Gujarat is well-known for being one of the states of India that most firmly holds onto conservative values. In fact, Gujarat is India's only "dry-state" in which the consumption or possession of alcohol is illegal at any age. I don't mean to make the assumption that a society's tolerance of peoples' inebriation is a sign of liberalness, but I just use it as an example that I think highlights a larger trend.

I get more of a glimpse into this character of Gujarat and, more specifically, Kadod when I see how students are disciplined at school. I remember during training back in New York when we were told to prepare ourselves to witness teachers using more physical methods of punishment than we're used to in the states. Without much further explanation, I expected the kind of disciplining when a student might perhaps have to stand in front of the class for an extended amount of time, or a teacher might hit students' hands or rear ends with a ruler.

To say the least, my first experience seeing a teacher beat a student in the middle of the school courtyard jarred me and made my head spin for a few hours. At the beginning of a class's assigned recess period, students file out of their room in a straight line and head to the recess area. One thirsty boy jumped momentarily out of the line to get some water just a few feet from where they were walking. A teacher saw what the student did, grabbed his arm with one hand, and began giving the kid blow after blow on the head with his other hand. I could hear each hit, and I was standing at least 100 feet away.

Being sent to the principal's office has a completely different meaning to the students here. Compared to what the principal does to misbehaved students, what the teacher did to the thirsty student is like getting pat on the back. Yogeshbhai and I were teaching a 9th standard class during which Yogesh caught a back-row student chewing tobacco. Yogesh sent him immediately to the principal's office. The student didn't return for at least 20 minutes, and when he did, I'd never seen someone look so defeated and demoralized. All the boy could do was slump back into his bench and keep his head down for the remainder of class.

More recently, I taught a class where Yogesh, seemingly out of nowhere, smacked a student twice across the face with the palm of his hand. I tried to finish teaching without sounding completely unnerved and rattled, but in the inside I was horrified. After class, I asked Yogesh why he had hit the kid, and he replied, "Because he was playing with a roll of tape under his desk." Whatever happened to giving students warnings?

I came to Kadod with the understanding that there were going to be a lot of things that would be different and that I would simply have to learn how to adapt. Eating with only my right hand, keeping our house doors open for visitors, and not eating any meat just to name a few. But this degree of corporal punishment is really hard to swallow. I see it happen and something inside of me wrenches every time. A rational, logical side of me says that it's culture, and it's different from my own. Honestly, I don't know where to begin making any conclusions.


Fatboy Yim said...

hey man, gosh dude. seeing people get hit is disturbing, especially when it's a kid. i dont blame you for feeling so torn and unsure. though i am sure it's a part of their culture, i cant help but believe that hitting kids or anyone reinforces or reaffirms anything but fear. Question is, do you want your kids to fear you? I'm sure you'd rather approach teaching through different means, perhaps through the lens of love, compassion and understanding. it's great that you're processing all that is going on and all that's happening. keep challenging it, keep questioning. and i think what kids need the most is a person who support and motivate them.

miss you man. best of luck brother. i'm excited to hear and read more about your life abroad. keep writing and updating.


Fatboy Yim said...

if you wanna read my blog, it's

Anonymous said...

I was kadod high school kadod student now. I am in America and i am in grade in 8.i miss my teachers and friends.thanks for write our town.
Eric teach me un 8-h
Anmol shah
student kadod high school

Anonymous said...

MY Name is Anmol but i choose anonymous

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