Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
 
Of Correction
By Joseph Priestley (1733–1804)
 
From Observations on Education

IT is a maxim with many, that no parent, or tutor, should correct a child except when he is perfectly cool, and that to correct with anger defeats the purpose of it; and in confirmation of this they quote the example of one of the old philosophers, who being asked why he did not correct his slave, who had given him just provocation, replied, “Because I am angry.” It appears to me, however, that this maxim may be very easily pushed too far, and by that the proper effect of discipline be lost.
  1
  Young persons seldom transgress their duty without being conscious of it, and without being sensible, at least after some time, that they deserve correction. They have also a general notion of the degree of their demerit, and consequently of the degree of provocation which it must give their parent or tutor; and the disposition to transgress for the future is best prevented by their just expectations being answered, i.e.,, by their being actually received by their parent or tutor, with what degree of displeasure, and the effects of it, which they are themselves sensible, or which they may be made sensible, that they deserve. But they will equally despise their tutor, if the displeasure which he expresses be either too little, or too great, for the occasion. In fact, they judge of him by themselves, and they have no notion either of being offended without being angry, or of being angry without correcting for the offence, and before their anger be subsided.  2
  Besides, it is not the remembrance of the mere pain which correction gives them that tends to check their disposition to repeat the offence, so much as the fear of the displeasure, which they foresee their behaviour will excite in their tutor against them; and it is not possible to express displeasure with sufficient force, especially to a child, when a man is perfectly cool; and mere reproof, without sufficient marks of displeasure and emotion, affects a child very little, and is soon forgotten.  3
  It is certain, however, that upon the first intimation of an offence, a man is apt to conceive of it as much more heinous than it really is, and consequently to be inflamed beyond due bounds. We ought, therefore, to wait till we perfectly understand the nature of the offence, and have considered the punishment due to it; but to wait longer than is necessary for this purpose is to refine beyond the dictates of nature; which, however specious in theory, is seldom found to answer any good end in practice.  4
 
 
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