Corporal punishment is violence, says one who knows

LAWRY Mahon speaks from painful experience when he tells his student teachers that corporal punishment should never be reintroduced into Australia’s education system.

He has bad memories of being hit with canes and leather straps by brutal teachers for minor misdemeanours and false accusations.

The 65-year-old was born in Warrnambool and gained his primary education at Panmure, but it was when he moved to Sale and other Catholic secondary colleges that classrooms became a nightmare. He dropped out disillusioned and angry after year 11, then took up a teaching career later in life.

A suggestion by federal government advisor Kevin Donnelly this month for corporal punishment to be returned in a limited form ignited a passionate objection from Mr Mahon, who lectures at Victoria University and spends his leisure weekends at Port Fairy. 

He recalls being punished so hard for allegedly neglecting to hand in his homework that his buttocks were badly injured after being caned 10 times in succession. “The teacher broke the cane on the sixth whack, then went and got another one and gave me another four,” Mr Mahon said yesterday.

When his father, who was also a teacher, saw the injuries he confronted the principal the following day. However, rather than prompting a school apology it made matters worse — young Lawry copped a further six whacks with the cane for telling his parents.

“The following day the teacher flicked me my corrected homework and didn’t say a word,”  he said. 

“In the ’50s and ’60s some teachers had a sado-masochistic-sexual approach to punishment.” Mr Mahon now teaches a democratic form of education discipline which gives children a part in setting boundaries and accountability.

“I’ve never had a problem with kids bucking the system because they want to learn,” he said.

“All this needs to be based on great, appropriate and respectful relationships.

“There’s no logic in corporal punishment. Violence   teaches children the power of being a bully. It’s from a bygone era in the 1700s and 1800s when they would take students to the school boundary and hit them with a rod.

“It was legal everywhere.”

Mr Mahon said enduring years of violent punishment influenced his decision to leave education after two attempts at year 11 at Monivae College in Hamilton.

“The only college where there was no teacher violence against me was at CBC  Warrnambool,” he said.

Mr Mahon has completed a teaching master’s degree and is undertaking a doctorate. 

“I love it. I’ve also got a project where I take students to remote Australian communities to assist with education there.”

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