The Philippine House of Representatives has passed a bill banning corporal punishment (striking) of children. The bill is now with the Senate for consideration.
Physical abuse of children is reprehensible because kids do not have the strength or maturity to defend themselves.
But let's detail abuse in various forms and consider what is the most prevalent abuse in the Philippines today:
What is physical abuse meant to do? Get a child to obey, mostly. It is punishment, like shouting, only heavier. From that, the child is supposed to learn to follow the law, or rules, or commands. Any abuser is likely to argue good intent.
The fear is that physical abuse will cause excessive pain (broken bones) or emotional damage causing social dysfunction, aggressive behavior toward others, insecurity, or any number of psychological maladies.
Physical and emotional pains are commonly understood.
But what is this thing called "deprivation" abuse?
It is: "punishment caused by withholding stimuli which are normally needed to assure good physical and mental health".
For example, the CIA uses deprivation to encourage enemies to reveal secrets. They put the subject in a small white room with no furniture, no noise, and no reference to time. Lights are turned off and on every few hours, simulating the passing of days. In short order, the prisoner becomes disoriented, loses track of time, panics and quickly goes mad enough to start blabbing.
It is benign physical abuse, but extreme mental and emotional abuse.
It is also deprivation to withhold food, clothing, shelter or education from a child.
My concern in this article is withholding education because most people appear blind to it, as abuse.
If a child is denied proper instruction on social values, the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, and applied skills or knowledge, he will suffer. The degree of suffering is measured by the gap between the health he could have had if properly educated and the health he ends up having (no teeth or way too many babies, for example), the opportunities and wealth missing, or the emotional well-being stolen from him. It will simply take longer than a "white room" to get the dysfunctions to show. Poverty. Joblessness. Sickness and physical pain. Depression. Aggression.
Maybe that is not punishment to the Department of Education, or to the Congress, or to the President. Because the pains don't appear during the school years; they come later, rather like delayed stress syndrome from combat. But the root cause is lack of education.
I think it is abusive in the extreme to withhold education. And stupid to neglect the effects.
The abuse happens to millions of Filipino kids who attend public schools every day.
The Philippines averages 45 kids per classroom, suppressing a student's opportunity to learn to speak well and learn well. Teachers are of modest skills, a deficiency which withholds first-class knowledge from students. Instruction is by rote, withholding from children the ability to think and organize independently.
The emotional damage is deep and long-lasting, reflected in adult hyper-sensitivity, social dysfunction (envy and anger, primarily), and incompetence.
The rationalizations abound.
- "We don't have sufficient budget. We do all that we can do."
- " It isn't really abuse; no bones are broken."
- "The Philippines has an excellent school system compared to some other countries."
- "Look at how many Filipinos can speak English."
It's like walking past an 11 year old girl who is being beaten by an adult man and doing nothing about it.
- "I didn't want to interfere."
- "He is probably the parent."
- "He might have a gun."
- "She probably deserved it."
I suppose Congress will ban whacking of kids physically and pretend to walk a moral high ground. Politically they have done what they need to do to show they have childrens' interests at heart.
Meanwhile, the tragedy of so many children deprived of a quality education will remain unspoken. And the children will pay a very steep price, indeed. Deprived of knowledge. Deprived of skills. Deprived of wealth. Deprived of health.
Adults are doing that to them. The President, the Congress and the Department of Education are complicit in this abuse.
For myself, I am tired of walking by and doing nothing about it.