Caning at Eton.

Excessive punishment by older boys.


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In his presidential address to the Child Study Conference at Tunbridge Wells last night, Sir James Crichton-Browne, M.D., discussed disadvantages of the public schools, and in advocating regular examination by a public medical official, described the result of his own intervention at Eton a year ago in the matter of caning of the younger boys by the older ones.

“Incredible as it may sound,” he said, “I, an outsider, a Scotsman, a plebeian, a medical man, imposed at the point of the pen new rules on that ancient, august, exclusive seminary. It came to my knowledge that in one of the houses there existed a state of matters as regards corporal punishment which I regarded as highly reprehensible. I have no general indictment to prefer — the houses at Eton, under the control of scholars and gentlemen, are, I believe, almost without exception, conducted in the most admirable and humane way.

Headmaster’s action.

“But in this particular house the baleful license given to the older boys to inflict physical pain on boys a little younger or weaker than themselves had degenerated, as such a license is always apt to do, into gross cruelty, brutal punishment being inflicted on the most trivial and ridiculous grounds. I brought the matter to the knowledge of the headmaster. He promptly held an inquiry, and as the result of it wrote to me: ‘I am satisfied that on the part of the older boys in this house there was an excessive and regrettable exercise by them of their authority.'”

Later the headmaster issued to house masters the following orders:

1. That every case of caning shall be reported by the captain to the house tutor.

2. That there must be no canings without previous consultation between the boys who are allowed to cane.

3. That members of “Pop” (the society of the twenty-eight most popular boys who enjoy certain privileges) are not to arrogate to themselves the right of caning.

4. That only the lightest canes are to be used.

 


Corpun file 24624 at www.corpun.com

Daily Mail, London, 16 June 1910, p.6

Caning at Eton.

To the Editor of The Daily Mail


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Sir, — May I take exception to an article in The Daily Mail on “Caning at Eton.”

It seems to me a great pity that the public should be given a false impression of the existing state of affairs at Eton; in fact I am surprised that Sir James Crichton-Browne, whose words were quoted in this particular article, should in his capacity as “medical man” have given any publicity to a regrettable incident which has only once occurred and is not likely to occur again.

I dispute his statement that “the baleful licence given to the older boys to inflict physical pain on boys a little younger or weaker than themselves is always apt to degenerate into gross cruelty.” As I have already said, the incident referred to was unique (nothing like it, to my knowledge, having ever happened before), and was brought about by the dearth of responsible people at the top of the house. The result was that irresponsible boys suddenly found themselves in a position of authority which they did not know how to fill. But this so very seldom happens that one may rightly conclude it to be the exception, proving that, as a rule, the Eton system of corporal punishment is an excellent one.

ETONIAN.
Eton College, Windsor.