Corporal punishment/spanking of children: Legal status
Second, although I think that corporal punishment is sometimes justified, I nevertheless feel uncomfortable about the idea of people being punished physically. I have a distinct distaste for the practice, and in the years that I taught school children I never resorted to corporal punishment. It may seem, then, as though my moral intuitions do not match my theoretical commitments. However, I think that an unease about corporal punishment is perfectly compatible with my theoretical position. There are many unpleasant practices that, although sometimes justified, should never be gleefully embraced. For example, it is sometimes justified to take another person's life, as in the case of self-defense, yet even in these circumstances we would judge the killer to be morally defective if he enjoyed or even failed to detest his killing of the aggressor. A killing is to be regretted even when it is justified.
corporal punishment, spanking of children: The pro-spanking position
An offshoot of this section is the pages, organised alphabetically by country and, for the USA, by State. All these schools announce that they use corporal punishment and give varying amounts of detail. There are now about 1,800 of these handbook links, covering Australia (1), Bahamas (2), Barbados (5), Ghana (7), Grenada (1), Kenya (2), Malaysia (9), Nigeria (3), Northern Mariana Islands (2), Pakistan (2), Philippines (2), Singapore (106), South Africa (3), Tanzania (1), Zambia (2), Zimbabwe (4) and the USA (about 1,600).
It might be asked what safeguards could be introduced in order to prevent unjust corporal punishment. In schools there are numerous possibilities. First there could be restrictions on 1) the offenses for which the child may be physically punished; 2) the implement used to inflict the punishment; 3) the number of blows; 4) the places on the body to which such punishment may be administered. These and other requirements could be monitored in a variety of ways. For example, it could be required that all punishments and reasons for punishments be approved by the principal, or that a teacher other than the punisher be present during punishment, or that parents be notified of all physical punishments. School psychologists or inspectors could interview children from time to time about punitive practices. Punishment within families is less easily monitored, at least if we are to respect people's privacy. But because it is even more difficult to monitor parental compliance with an unqualified ban on corporal punishment than it is to monitor parental compliance with a ban on only severe physical punishment, this monitoring problem provides no support for the elimination of all corporal punishment in homes. Rather what is called for is a sensitization of those (such as doctors and teachers as well as children themselves) who are well placed to detect abusive punishment. That is the very mechanism we use to detect other forms of abuse of children.