I’m now in my 60s, and every week I help out with reading classes at my grandson’s primary school in the north east of England. We have a lot of fun, but I still cannot believe how disorderly and noisy the classroom is (and how disrespectful many of the children are, frankly) compared with my own boyhood in Hong Kong.
I went to a boys-only preparatory school in the then colony, when the cane was not only in regular use – it was pretty much in daily use. The way our class teacher, Mr Han, kept order was straightforward, and could be described as the ‘last boy standing’.
Here’s how it worked. If a child committed what Mr Han considered to be a serious breach of expected classroom behaviour, he would be ordered to stand for the rest of the day. If a classmate subsequently misbehaved, the boy currently standing would be allowed to sit down and his classmate would be forced to his feet.
At the end of the day, the last boy standing would be ordered to take down both his shorts and underpants and bend over the desk. He would then be given six hard strokes of the cane across his bare buttocks. Not only did this sting like crazy, it was of course quite embarrassing for the other boys to see your bottom and private parts.
The cane would leave angry red marks across your behind, and you would also be given a note to take home to your parents, who in the vast majority of cases would also then be spanked or caned by their parents, for bringing the family name into disgrace.
The result of all this was that Mr Han’s classroom was the quietest, most orderly and most efficient I have ever experienced. The threat of the cane was enough to keep us boys fully in order for most of the time. If someone was told to stand up, it was quite rare for that boy to be relieved by another. And if you were caned, you generally not only went home with an aching bottom, but also aching legs, because you’d probably have been standing most of the day.
I got the cane twice in these circumstances – the first time for laughing at the boy standing near the end of the day. I wasn’t on my feet long before the bell rang and Mr Han took the cane from his cupboard. I remember very clearly how ashamed I was, and how frightened, as I bent over the desk. My fear was totally justified – that cane bit like a viper.
Back home, I remember handing my mother the punishment slip, the disappointed and angry look on her face. She took down my clothing and examined my bottom thoroughly – then I was told to fetch her slipper, which she used to spank me with. I hobbled into her bedroom and back with my shorts and pants still around my ankles, then I was put over Mother’s knee and given an unmerciful slippering, which on top of the cane was complete agony.
The second time I was first up at about 10.30 in the morning, on my feet all day in class, and bent bare-bottomed for the cane at the end of it. Again, my mother’s slipper followed up on the discipline that evening.
This CP did us all a lot of good, and every week I help out at my grandson’s school, I can’t help thinking of some of the little bottoms there which would definitely benefit from such treatment!