Bitching,  Self

The Difference Between Correct and Right

This is a republished post I wrote?in 17
March 2011 from an older blog of mine called It
talks about bullying and corporal punishment in schools and at
home, and ultimately the difference between what is correct, and
what is right and how it has changed over the
Having watched ?Changeling?,
my wife extracted a quote from the movie that has since become the
guiding principle in raising our son: ?Never start a fight, but
always finish it.? Considering our son is just over 2 years old,
educating him on the finer points of full-contact defensive martial
arts may be premature. But the statement does bring to mind the
differentiation of what is correct, and what is right. Technically,
“correct” and “right” are synonymous, and should be interchangeable
in usage. But when you consider that one is a more formal usage of
the definition than the other, and apply that sentiment into
situational analysis, each holds new meaning in context to what you
are facing. Consider the
viral video dug up by Deadspin of Australian Chifley College
student Casey Heynes
fighting back a (no doubt
smaller-sized) bully with a swift,effortless bodyslam onto the
floor. Of course, the school?s code of conduct dictates that the
correct action against bullies and bullying should be reported to
school teaching staff or the discipline master, but honestly, how
often does that happen? Instead, the overwhelming public view is
that Casey did right, not just by himself, but by victims of school
bullies everywhere in representation as ?the victim that fought
back?. Through
discussions of a similar nature (a surprisingly wide range spanning
from corporal punishment in parenting, to the
?mentality?of today’s Singaporeans in nurture and
education, to the recent rise in corporate and public sector
whistleblowing policies), the disparity between correct and right
grows ever wider. The comparison really boils down to how one deems
justice and fairness to be properly handled, particularly in an
institution governed by a formal authority (e.g. a school, large
corporation or even a government office). In most situations, such
authorities will have set more immediate resolutions such as dress
code, usage of facilities and handling deadlines. However, you
start treading into murky territory when social ideals come into
play. The bully-victim scenario, for example, is not adequately
addressed by any authority?s code of conduct simply because the
underlying fear of repercussion has not been taken into
consideration. This is unfortunate, since the primary issue that
makes such situations so prevalent ? rampant, even ? is the very
fact that victimisation is rarely a one-off event. Fear also
creates a very twisted symbiotic relationship between bullies and
their victims; the more bullies feed on fear, the hungrier they are
for it, and the longer the victims suffer the bullying, the greater
their fear grows. That is not to say the overseeing authority of
the institution in question is to be undermined. In Casey?s
situation, both students suffered the consequences as befitted the
convention of their school ? they were both suspended, albeit with
the instigator serving a longer term. Though it does send a rather
mixed message on where the institution stands in the justice of it
all, one thing is clear ? no one oversteps authority, even when
it?s right. Middle-aged Singaporeans today will remember when their
own parents and even schools would regularly and without hesitation
use canes and wooden rulers for such disciplinary travesties as bad
grades, incomplete homework and dirty clothes. Indeed, schools of
our yesteryears saw no problem in meting out disciplinary action
with physical pain. My own primary school education saw me on the
receiving end of some rather memorable classroom knucklebusting and
even a couple of public canings. Today?s society will find such
corporal punishment archaic, low class, and generally frowned upon,
with complete disregard that they are one of the very same
generation of people who were the recipients of the same school of
discipline they regard as barbaric. Much more importantly, whether
we like it or not, most of us grew up into better persons because
of it. If we were to acknowledge this paradox between ideology and
reality, certainly this can be quite accurately described as
incorrect, but right.


  • Rachel

    I’m sorry, spanking is just wrong. How many psychologists and child development experts does it take to drum it in? Also how does it make sense to teach a kid to behave by using violence and then telling the same kid that its wrong to hit others? To respect authority without questioning it? I don’t want to create a generation of good citizens. I want to create individuals who can think for themselves.

    • Blogfathers! SG

      Don’t apologise, Rachel. I fully understand and respect your disagreement, In fact, I will even agree — up to a point.

      I would like to present a counter-theory:

      To borrow from Prof. Gershoff, “The act of corporal punishment itself is different across parents – parents vary in how frequently they use it, how forcefully they administer it, how emotionally aroused they are when they do it, and whether they combine it with other techniques. Each of these qualities of corporal punishment can determine which child-mediated processes are activated, and, in turn, which outcomes may be realized.”

      If a parent hits simply out of anger, I will fully support locking him or her away, maybe throwing a hungry crocodile into the cell, and throwing away the key. But there are situations in which hitting others, though incorrect, might be right, some of which may require teaching kids that hitting others may be right (case in point, physical bullying and self-defence). So IMO, the outcome must justify the means, otherwise, I am guilty as charged.

      I also play fair with my son. I’ve given him the choice of hitting me as well, and from him punching me in the face that day, we both learnt what anger management means. That was a hell of a lesson in self-control for both of us.

    • Rachel

      I have no doubt you are a good dad, but not many people are. I went to a bog standard primary in Singapore for all my years of pri schooling in the late 80s and am forever haunted by memories of 2 of my female classmates who revealed to me in private how they obtained those marks on their bodies and other obvious signs of abuse – being made to do all the housework, not given sanitary napkins to change and period blood leaking down to their white socks and canvas shoes during P E lessons. Many parents don’t know where to draw the line between spanking out of anger and spanking in control. I struggle to see how a child differentiates between the 2 types of spanking and then not take 1 type of spanking badly and the other type not. The problem is if governments do not legislate against spanking in the home, then there will be parents (let’s not even try to imagine how many!) won’t give it a second thought and will spank for all the wrong reasons. Spanking also makes other forms of disciplinary measures less effective. All I have to do to get my kids to do whatever they have to do is to threaten to forbid them their videogames for the day. Always works a charm. Yes I could have spanked them instead of taking some time to observe what makes them tick and connecting with them on a personal level, and then taking away those things that I know they like in exchange for getting their work done. Spanking is a far quicker, easier, approach. Not without its risks. Whem you take away privileges, there is no long term risk of psychological damage. The only risk is, well, it may not work and they won’t listen to you – but then that is just a sign that you as a parent will have to put in more time and effort to work out what your kids need and want… I know which way I’d rather. And yes if governments restrict spanking, parents can complain about governments limiting their freedom to discipline however they want – but I think that’s a small price to pay for the safety and wellbeing of the other kids who are not fortunate enough to have parents who know how to draw the line when it comes to spanking.

  • Rachel

    I will just post a link to the Wiki entry which is very comprehensive in itself :
    Sweden for example, has outlawed corporal punishment in schools and homes for a very long time. In the early days, parents were surveyed and their opinions were that you cannot discipline children without spanking them. Fast forward to recent times, parents surveyed were pretty much in agreement that we do not need to spank kids in order to teach them discipline.

    It takes laws to change people’s mindsets. And once people’s mindsets are changed, they then realise that hey, actually this can work. Unfortunately if there are no laws about this, then people remain steadfastly stubborn and loyal to whatever parenting techniques they were brought up under when they were children themselves. People are very resistant to changes in paradigm shifts unless they are forced into it somehow – in Sweden’s case, the government.

    The AAP itself has stated spanking has limited effectiveness. Its all there in the link.
    America is one of those Western developed countries which has not outlawed spanking in schools even. Well, at least not in a few states. It’s understandable that a lot of the pro-spanking literature and websites you see online is going to come from these countries where spanking is not banned.

    I don’t spank my children. I was raised in Singapore being spanked as a child. I disagree with that method of raising children. Absolutely. But I acknowledge that my parents really didn’t know any better.

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