Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Spare the Rod?" Revisited

School starts tomorrow for my middle- and high-schoolers, so an article in this morning's paper seemed rather timely: Has corporal punishment, a.k.a. the "Board of Education," mostly gone the way of the dinosaur for a good reason, or are the few holdouts doing the right thing?
– A sign stuck to the principal's desk outlaws whining. A blue jar on a nearby shelf claims to hold the ashes of problem students.
But it's the custom-made, arm-length pine paddle that delivers the old-school discipline that Anthony Price says has helped turn his junior high school around.
He stands behind a practice headed toward extinction.
Most local students returning to school this month will not face corporal punishment. But in a time when child psychologists, Dr. Phil and even Supernanny tout timeouts and tenderness, a dwindling number of holdout school districts continue to believe in the power of the paddle.
I've discussed this subject in an earlier post,so I won't repeat myself, except to revisit what I though was the central point of that post:
The big difference between many kids now and kids when i was in school is the lack of respect for any sort of authority at all. I think what seems to be missing is that little sense of fear, which may have come about because actions don't seem to have any real consequences anymore. I know that I saw the business end of Mom's Kappa Delta paddle way too many times as a kid (and it was the happiest day of my young life when she somehow lost said paddle...and I had nothing to do with that, honestly!). My parents never hit me in anger, it was never more than a few times, and it only happened when i did something really, really bad. (And of course there was always the spectre of getting "swats" at school too, which sounded even less fun; I was a really good kid at school, if for no other reason than that.) I also think the prospect of having that happen again colored the decisions I made later the extent that, even now, I judge whether or not I decide to do something by whether or not I might "get in trouble" for doing so. Granted, the adult ramifications of being in "trouble" are different, but that little element of fear helped in the formation of my moral compass. I wonder what can replace that healthy fear now that corporal punishment seems to have been put on the taboo list.
Now compare that with a quote from the principal in today's article:
"We, as Americans, have let our school system get a little bit out of control," Mr. Price said. "I love children, but when I see how many are going astray, it's heartbreaking. ... Corporal punishment adds just one small fear factor back into the system."
It sounds like he and I are pretty much on the same page here.

Granted, some educators abuse the practice, just like some parents hit their kids out of anger. The article notes that some districts have paddled kids in the past for infractions as small as untucked shirttails (my thoughts on that subject here), while I believe that the practice should be reserved for much more serious offenses than that.

And I realize that, in a perfect world, a school would never have to seriously discipline a student, because everyone would be receiving the proper amounts of discipline at home. But let's face it--many parents have abdicated their responsibility in that area, some so much so that they actually expect the schools to act as parents. I'm not sure that widespread corporal punishment would be desired, but I also think it might be a decent option for students for whom nothing else works.

There have been a lot of new Musings readers added since two springs ago, so I'm going to close by reprising the questions from that earlier post:

--Were you spanked as a kid? If so, did it ever get out of hand?

--Would/do you spank your own kids?

--Is there a difference between corporal punishment and child abuse? Is it possible to do the former without it leading to the latter?

--If corporal punishment is an idea that's past its time, what else can be done to instill that healthy sense of fear that seems to be missing from many young people today?

--And finally, am I all wet on this topic? Is this [lack of fear] even a major factor in the bad behavior and lack of respect exhibited by many kids today, or is something else a much bigger contributor to the problem?

Chime in using the comments; even if you replied last time, I realize that new situations may have come up, or your thinking may have changed for other reasons. And be sure and read the whole DMN article, which has a lot of interesting background information on corporal punishment through the years.

Better pay up for your cookies, or it'll cost you a (thin) mint: Forget to pay for your Girl Scout cookies? A troop in Akron, Ohio is filing lawsuits against their biggest deadbeat customers (granted, one of them racked up a debt of $3500).

Lost in translation: A road sign in Wales seems simple enough; it instructs cyclists to dismount by reading, "CYCLISTS DISMOUNT." But its Welsh translation seems to have gone awry, as it advises speakers of that language that "bladder disease has returned."


Eric Grubbs said...

I still stand behind the comments I made with the last time this was brought up.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: Corporal Punishment

Spare the Quarter - Inch Plumbing Supply Line, Spoil the Child