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Bedwetting and Corporal Punishment

On a whim, we read from a collection of George Orwell essays last night before bed, particularly enjoying his "Such, Such Were the Joys . . .", an essay about his youth at Crossgates, a British boarding school and, near as we can tell, a prep school for Hell.

At the beginning, Orwell recounts his bedwetting at age eight. It started shortly after he arrived there and, of course, it wasn't volitional. Nonetheless, he was beaten for it, such a thing being consistent with the mean barbarity of the place and the child-rearing theories of the time. We were a bit troubled to be reading this part of his history right before bed, but we woke up this morning unblemished.

Orwell also recounts the excessive use of corporal punishment: "I do remember, more than once being led out of the room in the middle of a Latin sentence, receiving a beating and then going straight ahead with the same sentence, just like that. It is a mistake to think such methods do not work. They work very well for their special purpose. Indeed, I doubt whether classical education ever has been or can be successfully carried on without corporal punishment."

It's interesting that educational standards in our era have declined at the same time as the use of corporal punishment. We're not qualified to comment on whether there's a connection, but Orwell might have drawn one. He, of course, was talking about classical education, not the science and math obsessed stuff found in the public schools today, but still.