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Corporal Punishment Via Ethical Communication


Part 1: The Situation
At a daycare that I used to work for, there was a huge issue with
parents using corporal punishment on their children, while in the
classroom. At first, it was not an issue because it happened all the
time, when a teacher would tell the parent about their childs
unacceptable behavior on a particular day, the parent may slap the
child in the face right then, or spank them in font of their classmates,
hoping to embarrass the child. This became an issue because some of
the children, who were apart of the class, did not even know what
corporal punishment was, or that it existed, and would go home,
frightened to their parents. Some of the childrens parents who did
not believe in corporal punishment, did not take this situation lightly,
and did not want their children exposed to it. The Director of the
daycare then took it upon herself to write a letter stating that corporal
punishment could no longer be displayed in front of other children,
but there would be a designated room for the parent to go in, if they
felt the need to punish their child on the spot.
Part 2: Communication and Ethical Issues Involved
The failure aspect is that the document that was created and shared
throughout the entire daycare, was communicated in a poorly manner.
The Director did not think about the code of ethics that every
technical communicator should understand, but then again, technical
writing was not in her job description. In the document,
professionalism, confidentiality, and honesty were being broken. The
director mentioned the name of the childs parent in the document
who complained, along with lying about her own personal views of
corporal punishment, which should not have been embedding in the
first place. The Director stated that all teachers, including herself,
were against corporal punishment, and it would not be tolerated at
the daycare, unless the parent wanted to go into a closed area to do
so. Not only, did she breech confidentiality, listing the parents name,
but she put words into the other teachers mouths, by speaking for
them, and not notifying them. This document created a huge amount
of chaos, ethically, because in some cultures, corporal punishment is
accepted, however the Director was trying to force parents to shun
away from it. When providing a document for a mass amount of
people, you have to stay neutral about a sensitive subject because
ethically, depending on the culture, corporal punishment can be apart
of life.
Amongst intellectuals, the use of corporal punishment is sometimes
explained as being routine and a normal procedure. Advocates for the
use of corporal punishment propose that there are advantages, while

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opponents claim that spanking or physical discipline harms children
psychologically and interferes with their development. The use of
corporal punishment has been linked to aggression, and higher
incidences of violence. However, other researchers have found that
the use of corporal punishment has the benefit of immediate
compliance with few detrimental effects (Cross, 1998). Corporal
punishment includes much more than spanking. Although spanking,
slapping, and paddling are the typical examples of corporal
punishment, the definition covers many other activities as well.
Corporal punishment is technically defined as the infliction of physical
pain contingent upon the occurrence of misbehavior (Hicks-Pass,
2009). The key terms in the definition are physical pain and
contingent. The word contingent means that the recipient of the
physical pain must see a cause-and-effect relationship between the
infliction of pain and the event that caused it. Scholar Robert Wilson
(1972) points out that in Protagoras, Platos typical description of
corporal punishment is: "if he [the child] obeys, well and good; if not,
he is straightened by threats and blows like a piece of wood." Plato
was stating that if the child obeyed their parent, everything works out
for the good, however, if the child disobeyed their parent, then the
child needed to receive some type of corporal punishment.
Throughout history, corporal punishment was seen as acceptable and
expected because of the advantages that corporal punishment
encompasses. Within the advantages of corporal punishment lie the
specifics and quickness of the punishment. A major advantage of
corporal punishment is that it is a very specific, concrete and obvious
consequence. In various homes and schools the child knows exactly
what will happen if they misbehave. In some cases it is very obvious to
the child what the consequence will be if they act up (Vockell, 1991).
Knowing exactly what is going to happen if the child misbehaves at
home or in school, will make the child misbehave less, in order to not
receive a spanking. This allows the parents to be stern, assuring that
if the child does not follow directions, they will suffer the
consequences of enduring pain. Although the child will get a beating,
the pain will be over quickly. As many scholars have suggested, the
idea of corporal punishment is very controversial so as a technical
writer, you cannot be bias.
Part 3: Discussion Of What Should Have Occurred To Correct
The Situation
What should have, occurred, is that the Director should have been
honest, and thought about the ethics of all type of families at the
daycare. Parents were truly upset because the document was shared
throughout the entire facility, and they take pride in beating their
children, because it is a disciplinary method that works for them.
Scholar Usha Rajdev states:

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Findings suggest that corporal punishment is being
favored among most countries. Hitting or yelling at a
child, a common practice in some schools is not ethically
acceptable by me, as an educator, nor by my students who
witnessed several incidences whilst in India. We were
caught in the ethics verses culturally acceptable norm
'dilemma.' (165)
Depending on ones culture and ethics, some of the parents got
spankings growing up, so they did the same with their children, and
believes it as a method that works.
Part 4: Implications For Technical And Professional
Communicators
The implications this case has for technical and professional
communicators is that they should always be honest, professional, and
always keep a neutral outlook on everything because you never know
who is going to be reading the material and you never want to offend
a certain cultural or ethical group. According to scholars Dan Voss
and Madelyn Flammia (2007), one of the major basic values for ethical
communication is avoiding conflict of interest. Technical and
professional communicators should not put their personal opinions in
any documents that they are working on. Along with avoiding conflict
of interest, Voss and Flammia also state honesty and cultural
sensitivity is vital.
Communicators should seek the truth and also speak truth. Also, by
acting upon cultural sensitivity, no specific ethic group will be
overlooked or left out, bringing everyone together. Accompanied by
the 2 values mentioned above, all Technical and Professional
Communicators should follow Voss and Flammias 10 values for
ethical communication:

Honesty
Legality
Privacy
Quality
Teamwork
Avoiding conflict of interest
Cultural sensitivity
Social responsibility
Professional growth
Advancing the profession (Voss and Flammia 73)

If the Director of the daycare had followed these basic values, none of
the confusion and unprofessionalism would have occurred. She would
not have showed her bias ways, lied about how all the other teachers

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felt about corporal punishment, used the parents name in the
document, breeching all confidentiality, and because she opposed
corporal punishment, some families who have corporal punishment as
apart of their culture, were furious. Since communicators are the
translators of our world, the ethical choices when writing or speaking,
Technical and Professional Communicators make today, will shape our
communicational world tomorrow.

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Part 5: References
Cross, Richard (1998). Defending the family: a sourcebook. Rockford,
Ill.: Catholic Social Science
Press
Hicks-Pass, Stephanie (2009). Corporal Punishment In America Today:
Spare The Rod,
Spoil The Child? A Systematic Review Of The Literature. Best
Pratice In Mental Health
5(2), 71-88.
Wilson, Robert M (1972). A study of attitudes towards corporal
punishment as an
educational procedure from the earliest times to the present.
ProQuest Dissertations and
Theses, 1.
Vockell, Edward L (1991). Corporal Punishment: The Pros And Cons.
Clearing House 64(4),
278-283.
Rajdev, Usha (2012). Ethics and corporal punishment within the
schools across the globe.
Journal of International Education Research, 8(2), 165-172.
Voss, Dan, and Flammia, Madelyn (2007). Ethical and Intercultural
Challenges for Techincal
Communicators and Managers in a Shrinking Global
Marketplace. Technical
Communication, 54(1), 72-87.