NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2008

The Council of Europe, a 47-country body, has recently launched a campaign to abolish physical punishment, says The Economist.

  • Some 23 countries (18 of them European) have banned corporal punishment completely.
  • There are 106 countries -- including many places where it was common only a generation ago -- that have put a stop to corporal punishment in schools.
  • Countries where teachers still use force include the United States, where a 1977 Supreme Court ruling found that a constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" applied only to judicial proceedings.
  • After that decision, individual states were left to decide; in 22 states, corporal correction in schools occurs in at least some districts.
  • According to Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Michigan, nearly 300,000 American children were physically punished at school last year.

Throughout the world, the movement to end corporal punishment is gaining ground:

  • In 1979, Sweden became the first country to outlaw all violence by adults on children.
  • Last year, New Zealand became the first English-speaking country to ban smacking.
  • Three Latin American states (Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela) joined the non-hitters last year.

However, drawing lines between the permissible and the unacceptable can be tricky:

  • In Britain, parents can strike, but not bruise.
  • In Canada, children aged 2-12 can be struck, but not with objects or on the head.

Regardless of the law, social changes are making parents in rich countries much more reluctant to use spanking, says the Economist. 

Source: "Spare the Rod, Say Some," The Economist, May 31, 2008.

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