Thrashings were still acceptable when I was a girl. Not only acceptable, but often encouraged. It was good for character building, Mr M used to tell us, his 13-year-old maths class. It was his way of explaining his delight in cruel and unusual punishments for his Standard Six class. For some reason, standing on one’s chair seemed to be the appropriate tool of torture if you talked in class or struggled to find the X and Y intercepts of an equation. Climbing up onto a high stool does not seem like a harsh punishment if you think about it. And yet it was mortification for us girls in our short(ish) skirts. The humiliation of being stared at, not knowing if the boys next to or behind you were peeking up your skirt. Mr M would be struck off if that happened today. He’d have been struck if my lovely dad, the headmaster of the school, had heard of it. My dad believed in reasoning, not beating. He believed that adults set the tone for the behaviour of young people, that children responded ...

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