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i see the argument all the time when it comes to cp that it teaches children respect for authority or their parents or teachers, but i find that deeply bizarre. i would never respect someone more for hitting me, in fact my response who be the exact opposite i would loose respect for anyone striking me… i would in fact hold them in contempt and loathing.  i really would like someone to explain to me how hitting people makes them think more highly of you, or how it makes them think more highly of people in power in general. i can see how it can engender fear, that seems like a reasonable response to being assaulted, but why would you respect someone for doing it to you.


I’ll have a go at most things, but as regards your above query I really can’t think how to assist you to some understanding of the issue. Being in your 70s and although deprecating the corporal punishment of children today, remembering an era when it certainly did some good might help.

Ultimately though I fear that it may be a case of, as I believe a famous jazz musician is reputed to have replied to someone who asked him what jazz was, if you have to ask you’re never going to know!


I respected most of my teachers, but CP had nothing to do with it. It was because I saw them as good people doing their best.  An exception was the Deputy HM, who was a bombastic buffoon who used the cane seemingly at random. I certainly feared (and if possible avoided) him. I am not exactly sure what “respect for authority” means, but I would certainly say that those who were caned the most had little of it.


I agree with Oliver Sydney that it is a matter of definition. Respect for the law, other people’s rights or the authority of a teacher is not a matter of esteem or admiration but rather one of practicality and convenience.


All I can say on this subject is that I had more respect for a spanking at school than I did for a detention or lines. And the prospect of the cane certainly acted as a deterrent.


I don’t believe CP in itself teaches respect, but was accepted as fair when coming from those who gained respect through their teaching.  My father was a teacher and, although he disliked doing so, he did use a cane from time to time, generally for continuing misbehaviour after a verbal warning had been given.  I have come across a pile of his old papers in recent weeks and found a handwritten letter, which is undated, but I would estimate it is from the early 1950s:

Dear Sir,
We, the boys of your class, write to assure you of our unbounding gratitude to you, for the patience and perseverance with which you have taught us during the past year.

Your lessons have been a source of delight, with pleasant diversions, in which the only cloud was the stroke of the cane.

We shall always remember this year of our schooling.

Wishing you the best of health and luck always, your sincere scholars

The letter concludes with 32 signatures.

I am proud to say that my father was greatly respected and a number of ex-pupils contacted me with cherished memories when he passed away.  A well-known historian wrote a newspaper article about him:

Primary school had one superlative teacher, formidable but encyclopedically learned and indulgent of the blabbermouth that was already, I regret to report, me.  He looked as if he had been hewn from oak and was outwardly severe, but you could tell he loved the kids and was wonderful in the way he brought out all our enthusiasms. He also had the non-pc habit of giving us all a general knowledge quiz each week and rearranging the class seating plan according to the result. It was he who first instilled in me my love of history.

So it is the teaching, not the CP that teaches respect, but CP was one of the avoidable pitfalls of life for those of us educated in the years after WW2.


Lovely post and tribute to your father, thank you. It put me in mind of a wonderful history teacher, who taught me to understand history and many other things. He was a vocal opponent of corporal punishment, and reacted with astonishment and disgust when one of his sixth form class returned from the headmaster’s study having been beaten. But at the same time as I left the school for university he left to become headmaster of a different grammar school. When I saw him the following Christmas he admitted that he had used the cane. This caused much amusement among his former pupils, one of whom said to me “I bet he laid it on hard!”


I don’t think it’s a matter of respect. It was just a matter of maintaining discipline which generally it did pretty effectively.


If there is a rule that you must call teachers “sir”, and if you know that if you break that rule, you will get a very bad sting on the palm of your hand, the chance are you will remember to call teachers “sir”. In that sense, schools were probably more “respectful’ in the caning days. Did that mean that boys got into the habit of being polite when they were outside school and the threat of pain wasn’t there? I doubt it.



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