I recently watched, again, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows
, which was an influence on The Book of Man
. When it got to the scene in which the schoolteacher slaps the boy’s face, it occurred to me that, in modern times, this seems to be a European thing.
Certainly in Scotland, children were beaten and humiliated by teachers as a matter of routine. From the novels of Barry Hines, I gather that the same was true of the North of England. But the only example of such institutional child abuse I can think of in American literature is in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
, which was written and is set in the 19th Century. In American books and films, I can’t think of any other examples of the prison-like routines - sanctioned violence, and having to address teachers as “sir” or “miss” - that were common in the U.K. at least until the 1980s. Was the U.S. different? Am I overlooking any books or films?