For corporal punishment

Sir — I refer to the letter from Tom Scott of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment.

I was undergoing training as a boy-entrant at an RAF Wireless School in 1937. A trainee was found guilty of stealing a florin (a week’s pay) from a comrade and since he was under 18 his parents’ permission was sought, and obtained, for the intended punishment of nine strokes of the birch. The entire trainee population of about 80 were formally paraded three deep around the gymnasium to witness the meting out of the punishment.

During my remaining ten months at that training school there was no recurrence of the offence. It proved a total deterrent. At the annual reunion of the survivors of those days, that birching usually comes up in discussion over 40 years after the event.

The culprit, far from being “humiliated” in the modern jargon, went on to become one of the best sportsmen of his Entry, and served his country well in war.

Is it just coincidence that when we had birching and some discipline in the home: (a) we had virtually no mugging, (b) people could go about their normal lives in our towns and cities after dark, (c) public transport was well patronised and treated with due respect for other users, (d) no schools were burnt down, (e) citizens could attend sports functions without fear of stabbing, or being struck by a dart or bottle, (f) the nation was not confronted with the vast sums now contemplated, to build more “corrective establishments” to house louts for whom one dose of the birch would have been adequate correction.

Could it also be coincidence that in those times there didn’t exist the lucrative posts of educational psychologist and all the other ‘ologists who still fail to find answers half as effective as the proven birch?