‘Can the cane: corporal punishment has no place in our schools’ – Language Analysis
The ongoing physical beating of children in several Australian Christian schools is causing ethical questioning and debate upon their hypocritical education system. On July 1st 2011, a letter to the editor titled “Can the cane: corporal punishment has no place in our schools”, high school teacher Mike Stuchbery distressfully condemns the legality of such disgraceful behaviour in schools.
Speaking with an impassioned tone, Stuchbery uses an introductory anecdotal reference as a high school teacher, to position readers to sense the positive atmosphere within a normal school environment. The depiction of the calm relaxation in his “teacherly Nirvana” connotes that his job as a teacher is an enjoyable gift, and is contradictory to that of the supporting image. However, he colloquially flips the tone by using comparative reference to corporal punishment used in Craigmore Christian School, Central Queensland Christian College and an unnamed South Australian School. The comparison of these schools to his own implies the clear distinction between the treatment of students, one of which physical abuse is clearly unnecessary for disciplinary purposes. Stuchbery indignantly questions the reason as to why teachers are permitted to “strike” students with a “wooden or bamboo implement”, appealing to a sense of fury as readers become aware of the violence and torture that exists within an environment of vulnerable young learners.
With a stern tone, Stuchbery articulates that “regardless of the justifications given, physically beating a child … is unacceptable”, appealing to readers’ sense of morality and sympathy towards the welfare of children. Specifically, by labelling the beatings as “barbaric” it conveys to readers and especially parents the extent of which teachers are being savagely cruel. He then logically reasons that creating wounds on the backside of a young person is “simple torture”, further channelling our indignation towards these actions, tapping into the sense of righteousness against the wrongful use of discipline. Readers are bound to be alarmed at the fact that teachers would have to report to Child Services if a student arrived at school with the very wounds they lash onto them.
Accordingly, the sarcastic reference to these “Christian” schools typically reflects Stuchbery’s view that there is a distortion of Christian values amongst them. He reasons from first-hand experience that punishments are for children that require loving help rather than physical abuse, arousing sympathy for the need to guide these young children who will learn from their mistakes without wounded bodies. Referring to Jesus as “some bloke”, he humorously recalls the teachings of loving others and not hurting them, from his attendance of Sunday school. Here he sways the readers by entering the joke as he remorsefully shames the Christian schools for their contradictory actions at the same time. Stuchbery provokes ridicule as he quotes from the schools that the punishments are revolved around care. Furthermore, readers are told the punishments are ironically followed by prayer sessions, tapping into the sense of outrage about the jump from conflict to peace.
Stuchbery adamantly condemns how the state and federal governments could be parties to such cruelty towards children, kindling feelings of frustration at the short-sightedness of such authority. Appealing to the hip-pocket nerve, he urges parents and teachers to stop supporting the abuse, by fighting against government funding to schools that harm children, until the punishments are abolished forever. Finishing with a parallel between the caning of child asylum seekers and children within our own borders, Stuchbery raises awareness, drawing people closer to be equally concerned for the same physical abuse of illegal immigrants being inflicted upon disobedient children in schools. The reference to asylum seekers refers to the supporting image, as the focus on the wired fence links the school grounds to torture and domination. The fact that the student in the distance is out of focus, belittles the existence of humanity and morality within the school.
Through the range of emotions, anecdotes, humour etc, high school teacher Mike Stuchbery was able to deliver his contemptuous feelings across to readers, persuading his target audience to support him by offering ideas to outlaw corporal punishment. His arguments and reasonings were well balanced, successfully delivering his opinion and shaming of corporal punishment within schools.