What is corporal punishment in schools

Corporal punishment was common in earlier times - but students and parents also knew how to defend themselves

The teacher with the rod

created on 07.10.2019 at 6:27 pm
updated on December 2nd, 2020 at 12:54 pm | x read
Aichach (SZ) slaps in the face, headbuttons, blows with the stick, paws and verbal derailments - for centuries, physical and psychological abuse of schoolchildren was widely regarded as an adequate means of teaching children to obedience.

Anyone strolling through the Aichach City Museum learns that corporal punishment in schools has only officially been over for around 50 years.

"Punishing students with a rod was customary until the last century. And the rods were an attribute of the school teacher through all the centuries," said the former city archivist Karl Christl in 2003 in the Aichacher Zeitung. Christl's article appeared in the course of the special pages on the medieval market days at that time and was entitled "I learned with the children and hit them on the buttocks". This quote is said to have been on the tombstone of a teacher in Swabia.

According to information in the city museum, in the Wittelsbacher Land in 1947, in a parent survey, most of the mothers and fathers were of the opinion that corporal punishment was necessary in the educational institution for school discipline.

Corporal punishment has been inadmissible at high schools in Bavaria since 1903, and it has always been at secondary schools. It was not abolished for elementary schools until 1970 through a corresponding change in the state elementary school regulations - that is, barely 50 years ago. In 1973 the Federal Republic declared corporal punishment in schools forbidden by law. In Bavaria, however, the Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that the Free State had a "customary right to chastise". Officially, corporal punishment only became history here in 1980.

Depending on the severity of the offense, the children used to have to stand facing away in the corner, sit on the so-called donkey bench, kneel on logs or stay in a dark room. Slaps, headbuttons, paws and blows with a stick were given out.

About 150 years ago there was the so-called "Narrenhäusl" under the Aichach town hall stairs, where young people were locked up for "malicious or wanton behavior" and put on public display, as can be read in the Aichach city museum.

In 1889 a detention room, a kind of detention cell, was installed in what was then the school building at the corner of Hubmannstrasse and Steubstrasse. It was converted into the headmaster's office in 1938.

On September 14, 1996, the Sunday supplement of the Aichacher Zeitung read an article by Wilhelm Schuster entitled "Watschen huge format". He devoted himself to "upbringing and schooling through the ages". According to Schuster, the opinion was also widespread among members of the Christian faith in the 13th century: "The lazy or disobedient child consequently had to feel the rod on their bare skin." the school system, new educational theories and educational programs emerged. However, it was still true: "True to the ancient Egyptian view, the ear of a child sits on its back - it hears when you beat it!" The teachers swung the stick and worked the bottoms of their pupils. "But even then, enlightened parents and educators denounced the corporal punishment. The resistance of some parents and clergy in the region against a beating teacher in the 19th century is proven by the diary entries of Ignaz Meyer, who taught in Gachenbach from 1872 to 1875.

Kilian Schmidl and Katharina Elschleger, under the direction of Christoph Lang, director of the Aichacher Stadtmuseum, viewed Meyer's writings from this period. Meyer himself describes in it that he punished students by making them "kneel out", giving them "paws"; the eccentric also wrote: "At school I drive the children to mate with a stick." Ignaz Meyer had the following argument with a father: "He said I shouldn't give the children any chats and he would stab me if I punish his child again. Now he has me and will hit me. I had to run away in a hurry and go home quickly go. He always ran after me and scolded me, but didn't catch me. "

The chastisements went too far for the pastor at the time. On September 30, 1874 Meyer stated: "Today the pastor at school gave me a reprimand because I punished too much." And at the beginning of October: "The pastor asked the parents to lodge a complaint against me about the punishment the school, and forbade me to punish the children. "

"There were increasing reports of trials against brutal teachers faced with school crimes," wrote Michael Westerholz in an article published on May 24, 2003 in the Aichacher Zeitung. Because more and more often the violence of the teachers triggered counter-violence in the students. "Frenzied pupils" used firearms, knives, stones, shoes, batons and lead balls in their attacks, as Eduard Stenger, founder and director of the Lohr School Museum, put together in the course of research for a special exhibition at the time. "But teachers also accumulated real arsenals," continues Westerholz.

In his article he describes that the often degenerate punishment in schools was also the result of "an appointment to the teaching post that was determined by chance, including the ambition of poor, often failed craftsmen". At the beginning of compulsory schooling in the 18th century, educational training was rare, with priests and sacristans, former sergeants and NCOs, but also craftsmen serving as teachers.


The Aichach City Museum reports on a display board about the so-called Ruethenfest, which was celebrated at regular intervals from 1670 onwards. The legend continues to this day that it goes back to the custom of going on an excursion with school children in the spring, during which they cut the later rods for the teachers.

In the so-called Priefer register, written in the 16th century by the then Aichach parish priest Vitus Priefer, it says that the students went out to "rutheln". The festive procession to the Ruthenfest was also associated with games and entertainment. In the 19th century the festival finally became a festival for children only. It began with a church service, and later a donated lamb was raffled among the girls and a chicken among the boys. A festive procession followed through the city, after which people gathered at the brewery cellars on the Kellerberg, ate, drank and the children played.

In 1852 the parades were forbidden by District Judge Ludwig Wimmer, but at the request of King Maximilian II, the "male festivals" were resumed from 1858 as historical parades. The last festival of this kind in Aichach for a long time took place in 1926. The reason: According to the Aichach city archivist Christoph Lang, it was "a financial disaster". "As a result of the world wars, the beautiful custom that brought thousands of strangers to the city fell asleep", says Josef Müller's book "Aichach once and now".

According to Christoph Lang, there is "no archival evidence" that the festival was originally actually an action in which the schoolchildren had to procure the means for their own punishment. Rather, it was probably annual or regular hiking days or school festivals.

There are only a few references to the beginnings of the children's festivals in the early weekly newspapers of the Aichach district, as Horst Lechner points out in his article "Rüdenfest! What magic lies in these words for Aichach's youth!" "It wasn't until 1870, when this event, also known as the Ruethen- or Rüdenfest, became a historical spectacle, that this changed," he explains. The author also does not consider it likely "that this festival served to let the outgoing schoolchildren fetch the rods with which they were later chastised".

According to him, the Virgatumsfest (Latin Virga for rod) originated in the Middle Ages when there were no holidays. Green branches were brought back from the excursions "as a sign of the reawakened nature". Since the term Rüetten with the linguistic modifications Rieden, Ruthen, Rietten, Ruethen and Rüden was also used as a term for an excursion into the countryside, depending on the region, it does not necessarily have to be associated with the cut of the rod. nay

Nayra Weber

Nayra Weber

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