27 JANUARY 1939, Page 21


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR] SIR,—Mr. Kittermaster says that the system now prevailing in public schools whereby senior boys art allowed to cane junior boys " does nothing but gratify an urhealthy sense of power, and indulges a certain morbid sex-sensation in the execu- tioners."

This is, at best, a very wild generalisation. I had some small experience, both as a recipient and executioner of punishment, at the same school at which Mr. Kittermaster was a housemaster, and I very much doubt if his statement even approximately represents the truth. The " privilege " of caning was extended only to heads of houses or house- monitors, senior boys presumably of some proved integrity of character. I cannot believe that the only emotions these boys experienced when administering a beating were gratifica- tion of an unhealthy sense of power or of their morbid sex instincts. The only emotion I can remember myself, on the occasion of beating a small boy for repeated trivial breaches of discipline, was profound embarrassment at the difficulty of knowing whether I was beating too hard or not hard enough. As I discovered later, this could have been obviated by practising on a cushion beforehand.

Of course, there may be exceptions. Psychologists tell us there are sadists everywhere. But there are not more among the senior boys in public schools than elsewhere.—Yours