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Sample of an Argument and the Written Analysis Based on It

Why You Shouldn't Spank Your Child


I

The idea is spreading. Sweden was the first to completely ban corporal punishment in
1979, and has since been followed by 15 other countries. Corporal punishment in schools
has been outlawed in 107 states. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of
Children provides a list of supporters. Its aims are endorsed by, among others, UNICEF
and UNESCO.

II

There are various arguments from legal authority, including the judgments of higher-level
courts, and the recommendations of United Nations committees and their opinions on
treaty interpretation. But the moral arguments seem to boil down to two: a rights-based
claim, and a consequence-based claim:
"Hitting people violates their fundamental rights to respect for their physical integrity and
human dignity, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Children are people too and equal
holders of human rights... Corporal punishment... has been found to be a threat to the
healthy development and welfare of children and their societies, and an ineffective form of
discipline or control. Constructive, non-violent, child discipline is needed. It should be
formulated and applied in a manner that respects the human dignity and rights of the child
and understanding of child development." from a summary of a UNESCO report dated
15 June 2005, Eliminating Corporal Punishment The Way Forward to Constructive
Child Discipline.

III

Information on possible consequences, and on parenting without corporal punishment, is


available from the global initiative, from Wikipedia on corporal punishment and
on spanking,

and

from

private

sites

such

as http://www.corpun.com/

or http://www.nospank.net/. But claims made against corporal punishment would include:


It doesn't work. There is short-term compliance but less long-term obedience.
It escalates into further abuse, especially since the amount of force required might have

to be increased over successive punishments.


It destroys trust and respect between children and parents/teachers.
It causes psychological problems in the child and in the adult the child becomes
subservience to authority or rebelliousness, resentfulness, aggression, depression, shyness
and inhibition, insecurity, mistrustfulness and feelings of being unloved, lowered selfesteem, generalised fear, stress and anxiety.
It correlates with higher rates of drug abuse, alcohol dependence, delinquency and
crime, and violence. Corporal punishment teaches the acceptability of violence and
extends the cycle. Children who are hit grow up to strike their own children and spouses.
IV

It's true, however, that a correlation is not causation, and that there's no necessity about
these outcomes a child who is struck won't necessarily turn into a vicious adult.

So, it is claimed, there is room for corporal punishment being justifiable under some
circumstances. Replies to pro-corporal punishment arguments would include (adapting
from the global initiative site):

VI

Children need to be disciplined. But corporal punishment is a very ineffective form of


discipline. The fact that parents, teachers and others often have to repeat corporal
punishment for the same misbehaviour by the same child testifies to its ineffectiveness. In
the countries where corporal punishment is banned there is no evidence to show that
disruption

VII

of

schools

or

homes

by

unruly

children

has

increased.

Parents have the right to strike their children. Children are not their parents'
possessions. Children are entitled to the protection of human rights along with everyone
else.

VIII Children need to be smacked for safety. Of course you can pull them out of danger,
and teach them about it. But if you strike them you're confusing the message and are
distracting the child from the lesson to be learnt.

IX

It's just a little slap. Firstly, the little slap still causes pain and is intended to do so.
People who are violent against women don't get away with arguing "it was just a little
slap". Secondly, there might be psychological damage without physical damage. Thirdly,
"minor" punishment causes unexpected injury; children are small and fragile. Ruptured
eardrums, brain damage, and injuries or death from falls are among recorded
consequences.

Now, what you make of these arguments will depend, of course, on a whole host of other
beliefs you might hold. For instance, do you believe in human dignity and human rights,
or is all rights-talk "nonsense on stilts"? Are you persuaded by the psychological
evidence? And how effective do you find alternative parenting techniques?

XI

For my part, I'd argue as follows.


What is the purpose of any punishment? You lock people up to directly prevent harm to
the community, to satisfy the community's bloodlust for

retribution/revenge,

to deter commission of similar crimes by the offender or by anyone else, and


to rehabilitate the offender.

XII

But in any of these cases, punishment seems to stand in need of justification. That is,
when you inflict suffering or physical damage on a person, or limit their freedom, you're
doing something that, on the face of it, is wrong: you need to justify why it's right after all.

XIII In the case of corporal punishment, I would suggest, firstly, that evidence is increasingly
against the efficacy of deterrence/rehabilitation, at least on my reading of it. This,
like global warming, is an empirical matter, and a matter of whose authority you listen to.
XIV Secondly, corporal punishment does seem efficacious in short-term prevention, and, as I
have already mentioned, no one would suggest that the possible negative effects are
inevitable (although it's also true that, at the time of punishment, you can never be sure
that negatives won't eventuate). So there are quite likely to be situations where the good
outweighs the bad, and where punishment is the best option. Such an argument is

advanced, for instance, by David Benatar.


Lastly, as to retribution/revenge, I'd grant that this also is a possible defence. But I'd
XV

suggest that, in a civilized society, the entire category should be consigned to the dustbin,
along with most other murderous impulses that evolution has given us and that linger with
us.

By Adrian
November 25th, 2006

http://www.philosophyblog.com.au/arguments-against-corporal-punishment/

A Critical Analysis of the Given Article

In the article, Why You Shouldn't Spank Your Child, the author, Adrian deals with the issue of
whether corporal punishment should be used to discipline children. He argues that corporal
punishment should not be used as a means to discipline children. Words such as outlawed,
bloodlust, murderous impulses and small and fragile reflect bias language through which his tone
of disapproval and concern is conveyed as he attempts to convince parents, teachers and those
involved in bringing up children about the negative impact that corporal punishment has on
children.
He begins his case by stating that there are legal and moral arguments against corporal
punishment, but elaborates only on the moral perspective before presenting his own views on the
topic. He makes extensive reference to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of
Children website, and other sources such as a UNESCO report (15 June, 2005) and
http://www.corpun.com, a resource for corporal punishment research that offer credibility to the
moral argument which centres on the infringement of the childrens rights and the negative
consequences of corporal punishment. However, there is a gap in his reasoning as he does not
elaborate at all on the legal perspective. Moreover, there is evidence that he has referred to blogs
such as Wikipedia which are unreliable sources of information.
The claims made on moral grounds with respect to childrens rights are plausible as they state
that children should be treated with dignity as human beings, and that hitting them infringes on
their basic rights. There is a claim made for a constructive, non-violent form of child discipline
that recognises the rights of a child and understands child development. However, he offers no
viable alternative. Instead, he presents more claims that highlight the negative consequences of
corporal punishment, namely

It only ensures short-term obedience.


It deteriorates into abuse with the increasing need for repeated punishment that requires

more force.
It erodes trust and respect between children and parents/teachers.
It causes psychological problems in children that will also affect them in the long term as

an adult.
Having said all this, the author immediately presents a counter-argument conceding that
corporal punishment will not necessarily result in the consequences mentioned earlier. He

accepts that a child wont necessarily turn into a vicious adult. In doing so, this argument
against corporal punishment is complete. Other counter-arguments such as:
Children need to be disciplined
Parents have the right to strike their children
Children need to be smacked for safety
It's just a little slap
are deliberately worded so that they present corporal punishment in a negative light and are
subsequently challenged. Some of these refutations may be correct but they lack validity as there
is no external support such as research findings. Therefore, they appear merely as the authors
opinions.
The author then presents three claims to support his own point of view on the issue. His first
claim that corporal punishment does not deter or rehabilitate a child echoes what has been
mentioned earlier. The increasing evidence to support this claim, however, is not provided. He
simply states that its efficacy is as debatable as the global warming issue, and leaves it to the
readers stating that acceptance of his view is a matter of which research they accept. The second
claim hints of the authors own lack of conviction about the negative effects of corporal
punishment emerging in the future. The use of double negatives suggests that the author has a few
mental reservations about the argument.

He mentions an expert, David Benatar but does not present

his view. Lastly, he argues that corporal punishment should not be condoned by a civilized
society for the purpose of retribution/revenge. No rational parent or teacher would consider this
option in administering corporal punishment.
The author generally appears to be inductive in his reasoning, as he provides all the specific
support as to why corporal punishment is unacceptable and attempts to generalize, for instance,
claiming that any punishment needs justification to be administered and that acceptance of the
argument is based on ones beliefs or principles. Paragraph XIV presents an example of inductive
reasoning.
In summary, the authors first and second arguments appear to contradict each other, thus
weakening the authors stand that corporal punishment should not be used as a means to
discipline children. His last argument that parents and teachers impose corporal punishment as a
means of retribution or revenge is unacceptable. Although he managed to show some validity

and credibility in some of the earlier claims, his overall argument against corporal punishment is
weak and unsound due to lack of strong support.
751 words

Note:
This is just one way of analysing the given article. Students need to justify their interpretation
and analysis of a given article with examples.