Ed Balls, the relevant government minister, has made a statement that goes far beyond the issue at hand, however:
"The use of physical punishment against any child is wrong; it is outside the law and is not fair to children. I do not think that we should tolerate any use of physical punishment in any school or learning setting in which trusted adults are supposed to be looking after children, not abusing them."These two sentences are a catalogue of non-sequitors and straw men. But I'm also wondering at the context - the physical punishment of children in the UK is not outside the law, but specifically allowed (with the proviso that no lasting mark must be left).
The words "or learning setting" also send chills down my spine given that Balls has been targetting home education lately, seeking to hand various parental rights over to the state.
But my main points here would be this: I don't believe there's any rational argument against physical punishment of children which doesn't ultimately apply against any punishment of children. And then again, if it applies to any punishment of children, likewise it does to grown-ups. Punishment inherently is painful in some sense, otherwise it is not punishment. And all the arguments made that physical punishments are wrong have their point in the pain, not in the physicality of the pain. If infliction of physical pain is automatically "abuse" as it is here caricatured, then why not any other form of pain and hence any other punishment? The division is arbitrary.
The anti-smacking arguments prove too much. In my opinion smacking is much kinder than pyschological forms of punishment which leave lingering unpleasantness. An explanation of the crime that the child can understand and see the wrong in, an explanation that wrong should be punished, a quick smack, a cuddle and then back to joyful learning and play - that's all it has to be. The real problem is that this implies ideas about justice, crime and punishment that the secular mind does not like and that's why they want to get rid of it. Yes, some parents might go too far - but "thin end of the wedge" arguments make appallingly bad law. Shall we ban all knives from your home and kitchen because some people use them for murder? Ban cars because there exist bad drivers?
The problem with stigmatising the "kind smack" as described above as "abusing" children is not simply that it drags a simple smack into the category of child abuse and makes it look bad. It's also that it trivialises real child abuse. We know little children who really have been abused in horrific ways. For Mr. Balls to lump what they've suffered in the same category as a loving tap on the wrist is a gigantic insult, and a belittling of the real horrors they have endured.