Prior to 1850, when Thomas Arnold became headmaster of Rugby School and sought to
remedy many of the problems which beset all schools at that time, bullying, sometimes
in very severe forms, was common.
Dr. Arnold suggested, and his theory has since been endorsed by other authorities,
that bullying arose in many instances because of non-compliance by a pupil with unofficial
'rules' devised by the other boys. For example, in the modern context, it might be
thought by a group of older boys that the wearing of pink-socks was a desirable thing
for pupils of their school. Most boys would probably follow their lead but some,
perhaps unable to afford such expensive luxuries, might fail to conform. There being
no official school rule which could be invoked to force compliance, a group of older
boys would take it into their own hands to enforce compliance by harassing the offender
and, maybe, physically hurting him/her in some way. One notorious such 'punishment'
was known as 'roasting'. The offender's lower clothing was removed and his or her
buttocks held close to the hall fire until blisters arose on the skin. Some such
burns were recorded as taking many weeks to heal.
Arnold's remedy was to devise a scheme whereby a formal form of 'bullying' by a
selected group of boys was part of the System. He arranged for certain pupils to
be appointed as 'Prefects' who would be able to make some of the school rules and
punish the offenders, by caning if necessary! Good idea ?
Whether you like it or not, Many of Dr. Arnold's ideas were widely adopted by schools
in England and elsewhere in the mid-1800s and persisted to the middle of the 20th
One of the objections put forward by teachers, and others, today as an argument against
corporal punishment in schools, is that a teacher who caned a pupil might, out of
school hours, be accosted and beaten-up by a gang of the more rebellious pupils.
The simple answer is, of course, to follow Dr.Arnold's system and put the matter
into the hands of the more senior pupils, perhaps elected by the whole school .