Switch (corporal punishment)

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A switch is a flexible rod which is typically used for corporal punishment, similar to birching.

Punitive switching[edit]

Switches are most efficient (i.e., painful and durable) if made of a strong but flexible type of wood, such as hazel (also used for a very severe birch) or hickory; as the use of their names for disciplinary implements. It is indicated that birch and willow branches are time-honored favorites, but branches from most strong trees and large shrubs can be used also. Often found simply nearby from a garden, an orchard or from the wild. In the Southeastern United States, fresh-cut, flexible cane (Arundinaria) is commonly used. The usage of switches has been hotly contested in North America and Europe.[1]

Making a switch involves cutting it from the stem and removing twigs or directly attached leaves. For optimal flexibility, it is cut fresh shortly before use, rather than keeping it for re-use over time. Some parents decide to make the cutting of a switch an additional form of punishment for a child, by requiring the disobedient child to cut his/her own switch.

The practice of switching is banned in the United States School System in 29 states and no longer occurs in public settings.[2] In 21 states, including Mississippi and Texas, corporal punishment is still practiced in schools.[3] Many adults from rural areas still vividly recall being switched as children.[4]

Parents in the United States (where the wider paddle[5] is the most common spanking implement) are reputed to threaten disobedient children with gifts of utilitarian coal[6] and switches for Christmas should they not reform their behaviour, although the actual practice of this is rare to the vanishing point, especially as most people live in urban areas where less suitable wood is easily at hand for the old-fashioned woodshed treatment[7] and most modern educators consider such severe physical discipline cruel and it is often banned by law as child abuse.

  • The tamarind switch (in Creole English tambran switch) is a judicial birch-like instrument for corporal punishment made from three tamarind rods, braided and oiled, used long after independence in the Caribbean Commonwealth island states of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.[8]
  • The Gilbertese tribal community at Wagina in Choiseul province (Solomon Islands) reintroduced by referendum in 2005 traditional "whipping" with coconut tree branches for various offences - the national justice system opposes this.[9]

Media references[edit]

  • In the season two episode, "The Ghost of General Lee" of The Dukes of Hazzard, when Jesse Duke thinks his nephews Bo and Luke Duke faked their deaths, he yells at them "After all you've put me through, I oughtta take the switch to both of you!".
  • In the movie The Harder They Come, the lead character, after assaulting another character is punished by "8 strokes of the tamarind switch."[10]
  • In the season one episode, "Basic Genealogy" of Community, Troy's grandmother asks for a switch several times to beat Britta and Troy with.
  • In Spring Awakening, Wendla asks Melchior to hit her with a switch as a way to sympathize for Martha, who is abused by her father.
  • In the Don Bluth short Banjo the Woodpile Cat, Banjo was asked by his father to retrieve a switch.
  • In Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, Pryor describes how his grandmother would discipline him by making him go and retrieve a switch with which she would then beat him.
  • In Episode Three, Season Five of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, guest star Paula Deen and Kathy jokingly whack Kathy's tour manager Tom in the backs of the legs with a switch. Kathy then quickly turns to hit guest star Michael McDonald (comedian) in the chest and accidentally hits Paula in the face.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gould, Mark (January 9, 2007). "Sparing the Rod". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  2. ^ Celis, William (August 16, 1990). "More States Are Laying School Paddle to Rest". The New York Times (The New York Times). Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  3. ^ JEGATHEESAN, RAMYA (August 20, 2008). "Rights groups want corporal punishment banned in U.S. schools". Globe and Mail. CTV Globe Media Production. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ "School Spanking Issue Heats Up". New York Times Service. St. Petersburg Times. May 10, 1972. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ Quaid, Libby (August 20, 2008). "Racial disparity found in school paddlings". Associated Press. The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ Archer, Bill (December 25, 2007). "Coal for Christmas seen differently in regions where mining reigns". Associated Press. Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ Romano, John (January 28, 2003). "Bucs welcomed victims to woodshed". Times Sports Columnist. St Petersburg Times. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ Parker, Quincy (March 7, 2007). "Human Rights Abuse Concerns". The Bahama Journal. Jones Communications Nassau Bahamas. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Floggings cut crime: village leader". AAP. The Sydney Morning Herald. March 9, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  10. ^ McFarlane, Keeble. (April 15, 2006). "Violence is an intrinsic part of the culture". The Jamaica Observer. Jamaica Observer. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 

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