Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Did corporal punishment save a struggling school?
April 28, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Three years ago, David Nixon took over the principalship at John C. Calhoun Elementary School. "Thirty minutes into his first day of school at John C, a father walked into Nixon's office and said, 'I want to give you the authority to whip my son's butt.' Nixon was surprised, but after he thought it over, he decided to give every parent the same option." Did corporal punishment save a struggling school?

As of 2008, corporal punishment in American schools is legal in twenty-one states (no longer in Utah), mostly in the southeast. Children with disabilities, minority children, and boys are physically disciplined in schools disproportionately more often than other children, as noted by Human Rights Watch (report) and the Center for Effective Discipline (resources). Still-fascinating Corpun (previously) claims that most American students prefer the "'short sharp shock' of intense but brief pain to long, tedious hours of unhealthy incarceration," and observes that in South Korea, where corporal punishment is both legal and sometimes abusive, seventy percent of students think that teachers' use of the cane is fair.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (policy) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (policy) both oppose corporal punishment in schools. The AAP also discourages the use of corporal punishment in the home. Elizabeth Gershoff's famous 2002 meta-analysis of 88 studies found ten "strong associations" between corporal punishment and negative child behaviors and experiences. Her 2008 summary report on principles and practices of effective discipline includes 130 references providing evidence and arguments against the use of physical punishment.

Not everyone agrees that corporal punishment is always detrimental. (Indeed, Gershoff's meta-study received comments questioning its validity.) Robert Larzelere argues counter to Gershoff that "detrimental child outcomes are associated with the frequency of any disciplinary tactic, not just physical punishment," suggesting that "excessive misbehavior . . . is the actual cause of detrimental outcomes in children." Larzelere and Brett Kuhn's own 2005 meta-analysis finds that optimized corporal punishment results in significantly better outcomes (PDF) than alternatives like time-out, reasoning, privilege removal, scolding, and ignoring. Their executive summary (PDF) asserts that "outcomes of physical discipline depend on how it is applied." They castigate previous studies for ignoring the distinction between abusive vs. optimal use of corporal punishment.

The Economist comments on the rapid decline of school corporal punishment elsewhere in the world and refers to the United Nations campaign to end all corporal punishment of children by 2009 as a piece of "Utopian dottiness."

Back at John C. Calhoun Elementary, referrals to the principal's office have gone down by 80% since David Nixon's arrival, and the school has won "three statewide Palmetto awards, one for academic performance and two for overall improvement—the school's first such honors in its 35-year history. Not everyone agrees with his methods, but most parents and teachers will tell you [Nixon] couldn't have pulled off such a turnaround without his wooden paddle."
posted by jeeves (160 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven. - George Bernard Shaw
posted by Joe Beese at 2:04 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did corporal punishment save a struggling school?

From the article:
John C isn't as bustling as typical elementary schools. The hallways are hushed as kids move wordlessly between classes, lined up single-file on the right side of each hallway
So, no.
posted by dersins at 2:07 PM on April 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


Beating children is cheaper, faster, and easier than using time-outs, reasoning, and critical thinking to teach behavioral skills, so I'm not surprised when lazy sadists are hired as school principals. Fuck you, David Nixon.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:17 PM on April 28, 2009 [30 favorites]


I've spent an evening in the tank, if you gave me the choice between 10 days in US jail and 10 strokes from the cane. Its no choice I perfer the cane. the guy with the cane isn't going to try to stab me or worse.
posted by Rubbstone at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2009


I'd be totally fine with this as long as the students are permitted and encouraged to mete out corporal punishment to the teachers and principal -- and especially David Nixon -- if they deem it necessary to maintain order.

Otherwise it seems kind of unfair.
posted by edheil at 2:23 PM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


BTW, it probably is very true that corporal punishment can in some cases be preferable to other forms of punishment. That should call into question the legitimacy of the other forms of punishment, not legitimize corporal punishment.
posted by edheil at 2:24 PM on April 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I've spent an evening in the tank, if you gave me the choice between 10 days in US jail and 10 strokes from the cane. Its no choice I perfer the cane. the guy with the cane isn't going to try to stab me or worse.

WTF are you talking about?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:25 PM on April 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


When parents are willing to leave work and come to school to spank their kids with their own belts after an offense, the principal is put in a bit of a spot. I'm surprised that there are so many parents eager to have someone else spank their kid.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Elementary school.

This guy is beating up on grade schoolers. What's going to be funny is to be outside David Nixon's house in 6 or 7 years when these kids get bigger than him and decide to come pay him back.

Either that or, since he's such a raging success, they should just promote him to toughest, gang-iest high school they have, right now. No security guards or cops to hide behind, just Tough Guy and his big paddle. I'd pay to see that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:26 PM on April 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


most American students prefer the "'short sharp shock' of intense but brief pain to long, tedious hours of unhealthy incarceration."

For some kids, school itself is little more than "long, tedious hours of unhealthy incarceration," with rebellion bringing "intense but brief pain."
posted by No Robots at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shouldn't it be the kid who chooses the punishment?
posted by unSane at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2009


Shouldn't it be the kid who chooses the punishment?

The article indicated that kids who show remorse don't get the paddle. At least some of them are learning either actual remorse or the ability to fake it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on April 28, 2009


I don't have much of an opinion on spanking at home. My parents didn't use corporal punishment and I likely won't on my children.

But I sure as hell wouldn't let some school administrator lay a hand on my child[1].
If you're going to beat your kids, beat your kids, don't outsource it.

[1] Punishment-wise. I'm not going to get all sue-y if someone needs to grab my kid to break up a fight or take them out of a classroom or something.
posted by madajb at 2:30 PM on April 28, 2009


Still-fascinating Corpun (previously) claims that most American students prefer the "'short sharp shock' of intense but brief pain to long, tedious hours of unhealthy incarceration," and observes that in South Korea, where corporal punishment is both legal and sometimes abusive, seventy percent of students think that teachers' use of the cane is fair.

This is one of those moments where I wonder if people really think that's an argument in favor of corporal punishment. I mean, shit, in kindergarten, kids prefer to eat glue rather than use it for sticking things together. What kids prefer isn't always what's best for them.
posted by shmegegge at 2:31 PM on April 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


We had corporal punishment in grade school. The students accepted it, the teachers uniformly hated it but it was effective and possibly necessary given the mob they were trying to deal with. (And it had parental backing - we never let our parents know about it unless we wanted another dose at home.)
We also had corporal punishment in High School. The students resented it - I for one would have inflicted grievous bodily harm on anybody attempting to cane me - it was totally ineffective and completely unnecessary. So circumstances alter cases I guess.
posted by speug at 2:34 PM on April 28, 2009


in South Korea, where corporal punishment is both legal and sometimes abusive, seventy percent of students think that teachers' use of the cane is fair.

The other thirty percent just earned their first caning!
posted by pwnguin at 2:34 PM on April 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Fuck you, David Nixon.
posted by mattdidthat at 5:17 PM on April 28 [3 favorites +] [!]

Yeah! This is a completely black and white situation with cartoon villains and easy answers! Right on!
posted by ND¢ at 2:34 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


drjimmy11: "This guy is beating up on grade schoolers. What's going to be funny is to be outside David Nixon's house in 6 or 7 years when these kids get bigger than him and decide to come pay him back."

Teach them "might makes right" and they will learn.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:35 PM on April 28, 2009


Some fairly rambling thoughts here, sorry....

I was interested to note when I clicked the link that the actual title of the main article about David Nixon is "The Principal And The Paddle - One South Carolina educator used corporal punishment to turn around his struggling elementary school. Why he's so conflicted about it. (emphasis mine)

I also noted this, which stems from a first-grade student (that student would probably be five or six years old): "After a conversation in Nixon's office, the child was paddled at home. Parents are given the option of spanking their child themselves; on rare occasions, they come to the school and use their own belts." (again, emphasis mine)

I find it very hard to understand how anyone could ever, under any circumstances, hit a child -- so maybe that makes me a poor judge of this. But it seems to me that this school's policy is simply reinforcing a circle of violence that may be taking place at home, which seems an odd stance for any institution that is supposed to be a Mandated Reporter.

Our Fearless Leader recently posted on his blog a short musing on his own father "whipping" him with a belt, and how he has changed the pattern in raising his own child. He uses the phrase "bewilderment at the situation" and in my own family I have to agree -- and here I'm rehashing some things I've written about more extensively in my own blog -- but my husband also came from a family where a solid blow with a wooden spoon was not uncommon, and I think he would share Mathowie's "bewilderment" at the idea that his mother -- my son's beloved Mimi -- could have found it within herself to hit a child. Before our son was born, my husband would have said "Yes, spanking is ok" but now he has told me he simply couldn't bring himself to do it ... he loves our son too much to ever think about inflicting pain on him even "for his own good."

I wonder how deeply David Nixon second guesses himself. As someone who (excuse me the hyperbole) hits children professionally, how much credibility does he have in investigating and reporting more serious abuse. After all, if spanking on the bottom is ok, why not the hands? And if the hands are ok, why not the face? And if six blows with a wooden paddle are ok, why not ten with a broomstick? Or a dozen with a bat? At some point we all can point and say "well, that's abuse" ... but I'm at a total loss to see how any person hitting another person with an object is anything but assault and abuse.

Not to mention -- how cold does your heart have to be to hit a crying five year old? A tiny child.......
posted by anastasiav at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


I hope the teachers are caned for not meeting required goals, as well? Fair is fair.
posted by flippant at 2:43 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't support corporal punishment for the same reason I don't support capital punishment. Not because there isn't necessarily a benefit to it, but because the proponents don't really seem to be the sort of people you want to be on the same side of an argument with.

I think that, in theory, a short, sharp shock might not be such a bad thing. Certainly compared to some of the other punishments I have endured it looks almost appealing.

Also, I imagine Nixon has as much credibility as anyone in reporting and investigating abuse. As a society, we condone all sorts of violence and draw very arbitrary lines about those forms we don't condone.
posted by BeReasonable at 2:54 PM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


if you gave me the choice between 10 days in US jail and 10 strokes from the cane. Its no choice I prefer the cane
You might want to check out this video (possibly disturbing and slightly NSFW) before making your final decision.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:56 PM on April 28, 2009


From the John C. Calhoun Elementary School home page:
Parent involvement is a key factor in the success of a child's education. No student will achieve what he or she is capable of without parent involvement. Parents are encouraged to have a working relationship and open communication with their child's teachers, staff and principal. Our faculty and staff are always eager to discuss our plans in the education and discipline of your child and we encourage you to support our plans at school, as well as, at home. There are several opportunities for volunteer involvement of community members and parents in our school and we welcome your interest in these situations. Please contact the school is you would like to volunteer your time and/or services.*
*Translation: "Child abusers welcome. Paddle provided. Apply within."
posted by mattdidthat at 2:58 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whatever your views on physical discipline, if you actually read the article I think you'll agree that it's not fair to call David Nixon either lazy or a sadist. As anastasiav pointed out, he's not exactly getting off on whipping babies.

My main editorial remark is to observe how very, very unfortunate (or pointed?) a photograph the editors chose to head an article on an "overseer's" paddling of children at, of all places, John C. Calhoun Elementary School.
posted by jeeves at 3:00 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear he had his own children circumcised and his cat declawed too.
posted by caddis at 3:00 PM on April 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


anastasiav: how cold does your heart have to be to hit a crying five year old?

Even in our school first graders were never subject to corporal punishment - as I recollect it was mostly warnings, time outs and suspensions for those of us who were really unruly in grades one and two.
As to the "cold heart" - as mentioned in my earlier comment the teachers hated corporal punishment but with 44 young thugs in a classroom designed for 25 well behaved children the occasional retribution served "pour encourager les autres". And thus there were no riots and we all learned to read write and count. A good trade-off? Not according to most of the comments I read here - but it seemed fair to us at the time.
And did I routinely thrash my kids?
Not really - as my son says "My father never hit us - he usually found that simply waving the gun was sufficient..."
posted by speug at 3:01 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The question of whether corporal punishment helps schools must come after the question of whether schools, in general, help children. Since there's strong evidence that for many or most Americans the answer to the more serious second question is a firm 'No' - regardless of how much money is spent in the schools - the first question needn't be asked. That hitting kids to teach them lessons is creepy and awful is just sugar on top of the education-reform cake.
posted by waxbanks at 3:02 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


he's not exactly getting off on whipping babies.

So, first off, I agree with you. I don't think he's happy with it and is, at best, pragamatic about it and, at worst, forced to use it by overzealous parents.

However, if you wanted to be a cynic, one might think that he's has learned to show the same false remorse he's teaching his kids to get away with breaking the rules that bind him. It's easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Although he's been given explicit permission by the parents of every kid he paddles. Let me reiterate how bizarre I find that.

At my kids' old school we had a parent demand an apology to her kid after the vice-principal told a gym full of kids to stop talking - it wasn't even directed at her child in specific. "Special snowflake" doesn't begin to describe how most parents view their kids so I really cannot understand who these parents are.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on April 28, 2009


Right there with BeReasonable. It's not that I don't think it might not have a place, it's that I don't trust the school systems to adequately prevent it being abused.

I mean, I watched principles taking bribes from parents, band teachers stealing the band's fundraising money, security guards sleeping with the kids, and my own counselor strongly advised me against higher education.

If the schools can't not abuse people already, I really don't trust them to be wiser with a stick.
posted by yeloson at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The calculated infliction of physical suffering on someone at your mercy is sometimes referred to as "torture". And civilized human beings do not dignify its proponents by arguing over whether it "works".
posted by Joe Beese at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I remember being in gym class in first grade, standing in some hula hoops for some reason, and giggling with my friend. My gym teacher came up behind me and whacked my butt really hard with a ping pong paddle because I wasn't paying attention. That unexpected fear and pain - it fucking hurt - and realization that I actually hated another human being is my only clear memory of elementary school.*

I would like to return the favor some day, Mr. Gym Teacher at Hardin Park Elementary School, circa 1976. I'll bring my own paddle.

*Well, that and our kindergarten teacher exasperatedly explaining to all the boys who were chasing us around the playground and trying to grab our asses that those were not our "boobies." No one spanked them.
posted by bibliowench at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by GuyZero forced to use it by overzealous parents.

The parents are not forcing him to beat the children. The parents have given him permission to beat the children.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2009


The calculated infliction of physical suffering on someone at your mercy is sometimes referred to as "torture

Do you have children?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2009


[sarcasm] I love discussions about education. Everyone was a child, and everyone went to school, so everyone is an expert! [/sarcasm]

Absolutely great post, Jeeves. Thank you. I'll try to add a comment commensurate with the quality of the post when I've done some reading...
posted by alasdair at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2009


they should just promote him to toughest, gang-iest high school they have, right now.

I think I saw that movie.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:15 PM on April 28, 2009


Brandon Blatcher: "Do you have children?"

Do you have "suspected Al-Qaeda members" in custody?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:18 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I would never let somebody else spank my kid. But I'd let them shake the little bastard if he started acting up, that's for sure.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:20 PM on April 28, 2009


Funnily enough, I'm reading Stephen Fry's memoir, Moab is my Washpot, and he discusses with ambivalence corporal punishment, which he was often on the receiving end of in primary school. He argues that the worst abuse is mentally inflicted, not via cane or paddle.

I probably did get a spanking every once in awhile, but if so I cannot remember it. Disappointing my parents was a much more serious punishment.
posted by maxwelton at 3:25 PM on April 28, 2009


He's not being forced to beat the children

I did say "at worst". And he did have a parent basically demand that his kid get spanked if he broke the rules which is, in my limited experience, pretty far out there.
posted by GuyZero at 3:25 PM on April 28, 2009


I'll try to add a comment commensurate with the quality of the post when I've done some reading...

You could do worse than to start with Pestalozzi.
posted by No Robots at 3:27 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, look at those eyes.
posted by desjardins at 3:30 PM on April 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


The calculated infliction of physical suffering on someone at your mercy is sometimes referred to as "torture".

If you substitute "physical" with "mental", I completely agree with you. And my kids do it to me every day.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by GuyZero I did say "at worst". And he did have a parent basically demand that his kid get spanked if he broke the rules which is, in my limited experience, pretty far out there.

But Nixon isn't being forced to beat the children. In fact, as the school principal, he has the authority to reject the use of corporal punishment. So he's beating them of his own volition, because he thinks doing so is acceptable, and he's created a convenient, rational-sounding list of excuses--in addition to parental consent--so he can beat children when he deems it appropriate.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:37 PM on April 28, 2009


But if parents want corporal punishment used on their kids, why should he seek to defy community standards? It's not illegal. You may not like it, but the parents of the kids do.

Obviously the guy has his list of "Good German" talking points, but really, if this is the community norm why are you blaming it all on this guy? Why not argue that the parents are immoral for granting the permission?
posted by GuyZero at 3:43 PM on April 28, 2009


Do you have "suspected Al-Qaeda members" in custody?

Yes, but they won't leave no matter what I do!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:45 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're about to have our first child, and are having the spanking debate. It's not yet resolved.

I was spanked as a young child. It was rare, it was terrifying, and it occurred only when I did something that made my father genuinely angry. And, thinking back, they were things that would make me incredibly pissed off too. Not little things like cursing or stealing pocket change or lying to stay home from school. Big things, things that betrayed a willful moral ignorance that needed immediate correction. Things like pushing a friend off the swing because I wanted a ride, or kicking the mailman because he didn't bring me a present I knew was coming from my grandmother.

Young children need boundaries. They need to understand that actions can have positive or negative consequences. Sometimes those negative consequences need to immediate. It can be hard for little kids to understand the connection between abstract misdeeds and their punishment; at that age, we learn by getting burned.

I definitely believe that the effectiveness of corporal punishment significantly diminishes as a kid gets older; as we begin to see the flaws in our parents, we stop associating a spanking with some sort of universal morality and start thinking of it as the sadistic whim of an individual.

All of that said, there's no way in hell I'd ever trust an institution to spank my kid. This kind of punishment is a very fine line to walk, and it needs to be done with a level of understanding and love that I can't expect of even the best teacher.
posted by xthlc at 3:49 PM on April 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


posted by GuyZero But if parents want corporal punishment used on their kids, why should he seek to defy community standards? It's not illegal. You may not like it, but the parents of the kids do. Obviously the guy has his list of "Good German" talking points, but really, if this is the community norm why are you blaming it all on this guy?

Because he's in a position to tell the parent(s), "No, I will not beat your child for you." Instead, he chooses to beat the children.

posted by GuyZero Why not argue that the parents are immoral for granting the permission?

I never said they weren't.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:52 PM on April 28, 2009


Incredible post. Very well written and well thought out. I don't have kids, but I don't think I'd take kindly to someone else spanking 'em if I did.
posted by Bageena at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2009


If he was a young-earth creationist would you support his decision to not teach evolution and geology and to tell parents that they're wrong for wanting it taught?

It's convenient to tell the principal to take a stand when you agree with him but what happens when you disagree? School principals are fundamentally public servants; they enact and embody community standards but they don't set them.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2009


If parents have the right to opt out of school-administered corporal punishment--as mine did when I was a kid, though I did get spanked at home occasionally--I don't see what the issue is.

Suspension as punishment simply doesn't work: the kid gets a vacation from school, it interferes with the parents' work schedule, and, worst of all, the kid misses valuable learning time.

If corporal punishment, strictly regulated and with parental permission, is part--not ALL--of a disciplinary system (that includes positive reinforcement) that facilitates classroom order, raises test scores, and improves working conditions for teachers, I am all for it.
posted by duvatney at 4:07 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a good post. I will try not to sully it by calling members of this site who are also proponents of child abuse any names.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:08 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: "School principals are fundamentally public servants; they enact and embody community standards but they don't set them."

Point taken.

However, if the community standard is the physical brutalization of children young enough to sleep with nightlights on, he can find himself a less disgraceful way of earning a living. Say, selling methamphetamine.

Unless of course the physical brutalization of young children is the kind of thing that gives him professional satisfaction.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:09 PM on April 28, 2009


If he was a young-earth creationist would you support his decision to not teach evolution and geology and to tell parents that they're wrong for wanting it taught?

I would. I'd also expect him to find another job shortly thereafter, if he would be required to teach those subjects.

Does he think this type of corporal punishment is ethical and should be done? If so, then I think he's part of the problem. If not, then he shouldn't do it, and should quit if it's a required part of his job. I don't think a person should quit over just any job requirement they disagree with, but in the case of beating kids, I do.

As I was reading the first article in the post, it was pretty clear there was a problem at this school, and this corporal punishment approach seems to have improved the situation greatly. But I kept coming back to the fact that the solution involved beating children.

That "works" so hey, how about after a third infraction, he just shoots them instead? I bet that would be even more effective at solving problems. Obviously that's way on the other side of the line, but so is paddling them, in my opinion.

I guess that's the core of the debate though, what is an appropriate response to bad behavior and what's inappropriate?
posted by FishBike at 4:13 PM on April 28, 2009


Nobody going to point out that it's a white principle in a largely black school in south carolina?
posted by empath at 4:19 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I was a child, my mother would send me out to get a "switch." A switch was a thin, whippy branch. This selection process was horrifying: did you pick one that was short, so that it didn't "whip around?" did you pick one that was flexible, so it didn't hurt as much (but at the trade off that it would whip around)? Invariably she would take it and give me two or three "switchings," inflicting no wounds but a bit of pain.

I got this three times in my life. I deserved it each time—and when I observe children behaving willfully with no regard for the people around them, I often think one of these token switchings would do them a world of good. Should schools be the administrators of such discipline? I don't think so, because institutions too often err on the side of excess. Should mild physical discipline be a parent's option? Absolutely.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:21 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


empath: "Nobody going to point out that it's a white principle in a largely black school in south carolina?"

Why would that matter?

minority children... are physically disciplined in schools disproportionately more often than other children, as noted by Human Rights Watch


Oh, right.

Well, the cops are going to disproportionately beat them too, yeah? Might as well get them used to it early.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:25 PM on April 28, 2009


Unless of course the physical brutalization of young children is the kind of thing that gives him professional satisfaction.

He claims that it does not - unless you're going to call him a liar or claim you understand his inner life better than he does.

if the community standard is the physical brutalization of children young enough to sleep with nightlights on

By all means, taker your protest campaign down to Calhoun Hills, S.C and tell those people how to raise their children.

I feel compelled to state that I don't advocate corporal punishment, especially in a school. It's unnecessary. But this guy has dealt himself a pretty weird hand and now he has to play it. I personally blame the parents - anyone writing a note stating that they want the principal to use corporal punishment on their kid would get a visit from Family Services anywhere I've ever lived. That these people willing do so makes them sufficiently culturally different from me that I'm incapable of rendering moral judgment on them. They might as well be space aliens or 12th century Aztecs. I have no way to judge how they should wield their ovipositors.

I will try not to sully it by calling members of this site who are also proponents of child abuse any names.

See, this is why I feel compelled. You can't simply state that you disagree with someone without calling them a name? I'm actually pretty sure you can. I never can figure whether I'm in or out when people make comments like this. I don't like it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:33 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]



I am going to try this on my uppity wife!
posted by srboisvert at 4:35 PM on April 28, 2009


If we're having an honest debate about physically punishing our children in their place of education, then really, who is surprised that we're torturing people in the name of freedom?
posted by Chuffy at 4:36 PM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]



he chooses to beat the children.

I've seen an undisciplined kid or two spiral out of control until they're keeping their 24 classmates from learning. Then Momma comes to school and whoops them with a belt. We teachers shudder, imagining this could've been nipped in the bud with smaller earlier disciplinary procedures.

It doesn't sound like David Nixon is beating kids at all. If you read the whole article his discipline procedure, is itself disciplined. Kids are spanked as little as possible, as a last resort. They're told why. They get three strikes and go back to class. They're praised for good behavior.

If the occasional gentle spanking creates order, thereby allowing the educational process to continue, it sounds more like some appropriate tough love. Of course as Nixon's boss said "One has to be extremely careful with this," he says. "If it's not administered properly, it could be abusive."
posted by debbie_ann at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Beating children is cheaper, faster, and easier than using time-outs, reasoning, and critical thinking to teach behavioral skills, so I'm not surprised when lazy sadists are hired as school principals. Fuck you, David Nixon."

Lazy sadists? Beating children?

Bullshit. Bullshit lazy thinking.

Three paddles is a beating? You have never been beaten. Reluctant application of force is sadism? You've never seen a sadist.

This is bringing out the most simplistic, distorting and flat-out stupid comments from Metafilter that I've seen in a long time, and both you and Joe Beese should know better.
posted by klangklangston at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2009 [39 favorites]


My mom gave the school principal permission to give me a spanking before I was even enrolled in the school, and he took her up on it. Granted, this was after my four year old self pulled the fire alarm on a visit to campus.

Anyway, back to shopping for abusive retirement homes.
posted by mullingitover at 4:46 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chuffy: "If we're having an honest debate about physically punishing our children in their place of education, then really, who is surprised that we're torturing people in the name of freedom?"

I regret that I have but one favorite to give this.

Many people have claimed to be appalled by the acts of perversion committed by American soldiers on ADULT people, Iraqi prisoners. Amazingly, I have never heard of any such reaction in response to the occasional attempts to expose similar practices committed towards CHILDREN as for instance in British and American schools. There, these practices come under the heading of "education." But the cruelty is the same. The world appears to be surprized that such brutality should rear its head among the American forces. ...

Where does this suppressed rage come from, this need to torment, humiliate, mock, and abuse helpless human beings (prisoners and children as well)? What are these outwardly tough soldiers avenging themselves for? And where have they learnt such behavior? First as little children taught obedience by means of physical "correction," then in school, where they served as the defenseless objects of the sadism of some of their teachers, and finally in their time as recruits, treated like dirt by their superiors so that they could finally acquire the highly dubious ability to take anything meted out to them and qualify as "tough."

The thirst for vengeance does not come from nowhere. It has a clearly identifiable cause. The thirst for vengeance has its origins in infancy, when children are forced to suffer in silence and put up with the cruelty inflicted on them in the name of upbringing. They learn how to torment others from their parents, and later from their teachers and superiors. It is nothing other than systematic instruction by example on how to destroy others. Yet many people believe that it has no evil consequences. As if a child were a container that can be emptied from time to time. But the human brain is not a container. The things we learn at an early stage stay with us in later life.
- Alice Miller

Also, Arthur Silber has written powerfully on this subject.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:50 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you read the whole article his discipline procedure, is itself disciplined.

This is the whole key.

I had one parent who used physical discipline extremely sparingly, and only with consistent, clear reasoning.

My other parent would slap me, hold me under ice cold water, throw things at me, and chase me with a knife, for the slightest of slights (like forgetting to put on a new roll of toilet paper).

Guess which parent I listened to? Guess which one I respected? I'd prefer the measured approach of Nixon to some possibly chaotic and abusive parent.
posted by desjardins at 4:54 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is bringing out the most simplistic, distorting and flat-out stupid comments from Metafilter that I've seen in a long time, and both you and Joe Beese should know better.

Eh... I actually think there's a lot of that on MeFi, but I'm glad you're finally noticing.
posted by jock@law at 4:54 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any stories out there of similarly dysfunctional elementary schools where a better solution had dramatic Newsweek worthy results? I ask in all seriousness, not as a snark.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2009


This is bringing out the most simplistic, distorting and flat-out stupid comments from Metafilter that I've seen in a long time, and both you and Joe Beese should know better.
Eh... I actually think there's a lot of that on MeFi, but I'm glad you're finally noticing.

I, for one, am willing to bow to jock@law's expertise in the matter of simplistic, distorting and flat-out stupid comments.
posted by dersins at 5:11 PM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


You can't simply state that you disagree with someone without calling them a name? I'm actually pretty sure you can. I never can figure whether I'm in or out when people make comments like this. I don't like it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:33 PM on April 28


This isn't about are-you-a-Mets-guy-or-Yankees-guy thing. This is about beating the shit out of kids.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:25 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any stories out there of similarly dysfunctional elementary schools where a better solution had dramatic Newsweek worthy results? I ask in all seriousness, not as a snark.

The cynic in me tends to think the reason this story was considered newsworthy was the combination of the results with the method by which they were achieved. Neither "corporal punishment fails to improve academic results" nor "academic results improved through universally accepted methods" make for much of a headline.

In fact I kind of hope that's the reason we don't see many such stories (the latter kind, not the former!) Because I also wonder if many of the better solutions may be beyond the ability of one or a few people to implement. When the whole system has to be set up differently to work better, that's going to happen much less frequently than something that can be done effectively on a very localized basis.
posted by FishBike at 5:27 PM on April 28, 2009


South Carolina? Now there's a state which needs someone to fix its little red wagon.
posted by Kikkoman at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2009


I don't feel that spanking or paddling is so black-and-white as many comments are making it out to be. I also think maybe we need to define spanking or paddling better, because I somehow suspect our experiences or perceptions are very different from one-another. I have no children and don't really intend to, but I think I could see some scenarios where spanking or paddling would be, while not ideal, acceptable.

Of course, I am not the best case to make an argument with because even though spanking did not hurt me in any way it didn't do a damn thing to improve my behavior, because I was an obstinate jerk child. My mother had to make my father do it because she got so angry by the commentary I would offer while I was being spanked that she thought she might get mad enough to really hit me.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2009


Within the household, corporal punishment is associated with lower incomes and/or religious conservatism. Typically, parents rear children within the norms of their working environment, with behavior limits set by those parents, and each negative "choice" or failure having a measured consequence. They see it as a moral duty. What some data has shown is that people don't remember it well, often blaming it for later problems.

However, I don't know if anyone has addressed the question about whether behavior at school is made better or worse when there is punishment at home and no punishment at school. Clearly these parents condone it, or practice it, and the fact that the school reports success might be the result of synching up with the parents. I personally don't want parents whacking values into their kids, but to avoid being trapped in denial and dysfunction, I'd rather argue that most of these little brats should not be bred as a moral duty in the first place.
posted by Brian B. at 5:31 PM on April 28, 2009


Paddling loomed over our heads in elementary school, but it was seldom it was ever meted out.

In fact, the only time I can recall anyone being paddled in my entire public education was when I was in tenth grade. One of our senior snare players in marching band had skipped his morning detention, which would have put him in In School Suspension. He made an appeal to the principal, that day of ISS being the day of our big marching competition, and our principal allowed him to take a paddling instead. or maybe a paddling and extra days of detention, i really don't recall.

But our director told us and asked us to thank him for sacrificing his dignity for the sake of the band, and we gave him a hearty round of applause.
posted by rubah at 5:33 PM on April 28, 2009


"This isn't about are-you-a-Mets-guy-or-Yankees-guy thing. This is about beating the shit out of kids."

Bullshit. Bullshit Bullshit. Bullshit.

Are you stupid or are you a liar?
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


This isn't about are-you-a-Mets-guy-or-Yankees-guy thing. This is about beating the shit out of kids.

Light spanking in a controlled setting ≠ "beating the shit out of kids" ≠ torture.

Or can the absolutists here honestly not see the difference?
posted by designbot at 5:37 PM on April 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


duvatney If parents have the right to opt out of school-administered corporal punishment--as mine did when I was a kid, though I did get spanked at home occasionally--I don't see what the issue is.

I have some problems with the idea of corporal punishment generally, but I have more problems with this two-tier arrangement of treatment based on the arbitrary beliefs and circumstances of parents. A child at school should be treated the same as the other children, except where the personal qualities of the child him/herself differ from those of others. Equality before the rules of school is as important for children at the school, as equality before the law of a nation is for residents of the nation.

Obviously parental interest in, provision for, and discipline of children will vary wildly, but that's a much larger problem that has more to do with social security and parent welfare than schools. Many people who are parents have never been trained to be, the idea that such training might be necessary or beneficial has never been seriously suggested to them, and/or they do not have the time or money or personal maturity to be parents, but nevertheless parents they are.

State schooling has one major function (beyond socialization of children into submission to appointed authority, timetables, and testing): to alleviate the problems of the previous generation. In whatever manner their parents were screwed up, school is the only way that has a hope of systematically and universally preventing children from suffering the same screw-ups. But sometimes people like their screwups - arguably advocacy for corporal punishment is an example of this.

If the school practices corporal punishment, and you don't want your child punished in that way, you have two ethical options: (1) advocate to the school and the legislature for no child to be punished in that way (because surely whatever reasoning you apply to your child, applies equally to others); (2) change the child's school. Since #2 is only an option between private schools, and either a majority or a substantial minority of parents, teachers and the general public are firmly against corporal punishment of children, this is a good reason for state schools not to use corporal punishment.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2009


spare the rod, spoil the child

*ducks
posted by caddis at 5:45 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, I am not the best case to make an argument with because even though spanking did not hurt me in any way it didn't do a damn thing to improve my behavior, because I was an obstinate jerk child. My mother had to make my father do it because she got so angry by the commentary I would offer while I was being spanked that she thought she might get mad enough to really hit me.

I had pretty much the same experience as you, six-or-six-thirty, though my mom was always in charge of licken admin. I got hand-spanked, wooden spoon, plastic spatula, and the metal end of the flyswatter. The latter three are probably comparable or more painful than the paddle but I wouldn't define then as 'beatings' (I would bet the beltings given by the kids' parents are far more damaging, physically and emotionally.)

That said, I'm not comfortable with or endorsing corporal punishment in schools - but I would definitely dispute the characterization that the kids are being beaten.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:47 PM on April 28, 2009


I've spent an evening in the tank, if you gave me the choice between 10 days in US jail and 10 strokes from the cane. Its no choice I perfer the cane. the guy with the cane isn't going to try to stab me or worse.

A blow job takes ten minutes, whereas ten days in a US jail takes ten days.

The next time you get stopped by a cop, rather than wasting time, spending a fortune on lawyers with the possibility that you'll end up in prison, the cops should just give you the opportunity to deal with the issue there and then by having you administer a short, sharp blow job.

Reluctant application of force is sadism? You've never seen a sadist.

I have. I was beaten throughout the whole of my school life. From the age of 9 or 10, it generally took the form of having you bend over and touch your toes, while a large adult male took a bamboo cane and administered it with significant force across your arse.

While it rarely broke the skin, it almost always left bruises and weals where the blows had been struck. But the pain probably wasn't as offensive as the ritualized humiliation -- the idea of a child presenting his buttocks to an adult to administer pain. And by the time you're 15 or 16 and they're still doing it, it's hard to imagine that there isn't a sexual gratification component in there.

Once I was past the age of five or six and was old enough to be reasoned with, I can't think of the teachers who beat me as anything other than sadists. It was never done for my own good, but almost always because it was regarded as an effective tool of child management.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:47 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The next time you get stopped by a cop, rather than wasting time, spending a fortune on lawyers with the possibility that you'll end up in prison, the cops should just give you the opportunity to deal with the issue there and then by having you administer a short, sharp blow job.

sharp is right, bite that little stub right off
posted by caddis at 5:49 PM on April 28, 2009


Are you stupid or are you a liar?
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on April 28


I guess no one ever beat any manners into you. :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:51 PM on April 28, 2009


i just have never received a compelling answer to why it's any more ok for a principal to hit kids at when they fuck up at school than it would be for my boss to hit me when I fuck up at work.
posted by naoko at 5:51 PM on April 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


"If the school practices corporal punishment, and you don't want your child punished in that way, you have two ethical options: (1) advocate to the school and the legislature for no child to be punished in that way (because surely whatever reasoning you apply to your child, applies equally to others);"

This isn't necessarily true—it's entirely possible to think that other parents have the right to make that decision for themselves.
posted by klangklangston at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2009


The hallways are hushed as kids move wordlessly between classes, lined up single-file on the right side of each hallway

Apparently the line between elementary school and basic training is finer than I thought.
posted by tighttrousers at 5:57 PM on April 28, 2009


"i just have never received a compelling answer to why it's any more ok for a principal to hit kids at when they fuck up at school than it would be for my boss to hit me when I fuck up at work."

Because your boss can fire you? Perhaps you've never received a compelling answer because it's kind of a dumb question.
posted by klangklangston at 5:57 PM on April 28, 2009


i just have never received a compelling answer to why it's any more ok for a principal to hit kids at when they fuck up at school than it would be for my boss to hit me when I fuck up at work.

If you punch your co-workers and literally spit on them, maybe your boss should.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:00 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, that's a paddling, 'klangston.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:00 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


On another thread recently, I was asking some people who lived in Korea whether the teachers really beat the kids like they do in the movies, using big poles and stress positions.

Apparently some still do.

Check out the related videos for more.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:01 PM on April 28, 2009


klangklangston: ""This isn't about are-you-a-Mets-guy-or-Yankees-guy thing. This is about beating the shit out of kids."

Bullshit. Bullshit Bullshit. Bullshit.

Are you stupid or are you a liar?
"

Oh, dear. Did that touch a nerve?

To be clear, I'm referring to a nerve of emotional sensitivity. Not a physical nerve delivering a sensation of pain to a crying child's brain.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:02 PM on April 28, 2009


This is about beating the shit out of kids.

No, it is not. Spanking =/= [beatings, torture, etc.]
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:02 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"AMERICA: It's okay if it's not torture*!"

*Note: definition of torture subject to change
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:06 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Oh, dear. Did that touch a nerve?"

Joe, if that's the best you've got, vague ad hominem dismissals to bolster your repeated mischaracterization of the specific case we're talking about here, you should probably shuffle off to watch Matlock, where it doesn't matter how stupid or inept the arguments are.
posted by klangklangston at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


""AMERICA: It's okay if it's not torture*!"

*Note: definition of torture subject to change
"

Oh, man, why don't I hold that straw man for you to wallop! Hey, if you don't think that three swats with a paddle is torture or "beating the shit out of kids," you're probably a Nazi and a pedophile! That's how you argue, right?
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on April 28, 2009


"...if the community standard is the physical brutalization of children young enough to sleep with nightlights on, he can find himself a less disgraceful way of earning a living. Say, selling methamphetamine..."

Oh. for fuck's sake. The hyperbole in here is getting way too fucking deep.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:14 PM on April 28, 2009


Getting?
posted by klangklangston at 6:15 PM on April 28, 2009


designbot: "Light spanking in a controlled setting ≠ "beating the shit out of kids" ≠ torture.

Or can the absolutists here honestly not see the difference?
"

If, to my great surprise, I find myself after death standing before God's all-seeing judgment, I ask Her to please take note that, whatever my many other sins, at least upon being advertised the deliberate infliction of pain upon children's bodies, I did not weigh the claim on the basis of how much pain.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:19 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pompous sanctimony doesn't work on God, Joe.
posted by klangklangston at 6:27 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry for starting all my comments like this, but...

As a teacher - I can't comprehend this. I mean, we're taught basic psychology of development when we go through the credentialing process, and one thing we learn is that negative reinforcement is not as effective as positive reinforcement. And the thought of hitting one of my students - most of whom are big enough to hit me right back - just icky. I mean, I'm not necessarily a big guy, but I would still be an adult who ostensibly knows better hitting a child.

To put it another way, I worked one summer at Sea World as an educator. They use strictly positive reinforcement there for the training/conditioning of the animals. Teach the animal a trick, if they do the trick correctly, they get a fish. If they don't they don't get a fish.

Most of the time, "fish" for my problem students is attention. They act out, and I remove them from the room, from their attention. We talk about what went wrong and why. Once they're back in the classroom, I find a way to give them positive attention (genuine though, kids smell bullshit better than any polygraph). I don't think I've ever been in a situation where the campus discipline would be improved by striking a student.

The question of whether corporal punishment helps schools must come after the question of whether schools, in general, help children.
Sweet! I'm not helping kids! My life is useless! Thanks, random drive-by internet guy!

[sarcasm] I love discussions about education. Everyone was a child, and everyone went to school, so everyone is an expert! [/sarcasm]
THIS.

posted by mdaugherty82 at 6:29 PM on April 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


When I got switched it was because of prolonged, willful misbehavior against the repeated warnings of my mother. At no point did I ever feel abused or damaged because of it.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2009


Also, mdaugherty82, have you ever read John Taylor Gatto?
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:36 PM on April 28, 2009


I find it frustrating the way so many commenters on Metafilter seem unable to cope with, or perhaps are just largely unfamiliar with, the real world. I could tell you about this area of South Carolina. About the schools, the kids and their parents. About the poverty and the lack of opportunity and the just fucking disgusting conditions that kids in this state go to school in. I've volunteered in schools in this area and have worked with some of the kids. Smart. Kind. Bright. Funny. Just spending time with them was a blessing. I don't want to see any of these kids beaten, and it sounds like this principal doesn't either. "If I could burn that paddle in my stove," Nixon says, "I would. This is the worst part of my job." But what do you do when you are a 31 year old Clemson graduate made the head of a school where the teachers are describing it as chaos and pulling their own children out of it and 12 parents show up for a parent's night when the school has 236 kids? Does it help these children to go to school in those conditions? Is it worse to spank a few kids that won't respond to any other punishment or to allow the school to become useless to all of the students? What would you do to help these children other than not spank them? You don't know and you don't care and you don't want to know. You want to glance at an article and make some off the cuff knee-jerk pronouncement about how what this guy is doing is wrong. You want to reduce this situation down to the simplest possible terms to avoid thinking about it. "Fuck this guy" "South Carolina needs its little red wagon fixed" "Spanking kids is just like torturing prisoners". Did you read that article and get the impression that this guy wants to beat these kids? I know it is easier to draw a line and say this is good and this is evil and end your thought process there. But in the real world that is just not possible. But you don't care about that. You want to get mad at the bad guys and pull for the good guys and enjoy your self-righteousness. I hope that you don't spend the rest of your lives skimming along the surface of things. I hope that you are one day able to handle a world where things are more complicated than you would like and choices have to be made along a continuum that is 99% gray with exceedingly small areas of black and white. Because until you do you are not really much help to anyone.
posted by ND¢ at 6:41 PM on April 28, 2009 [35 favorites]


Hearing someone say they deserved their own corporal punishment as a child is just about the saddest thing ever. I would say it's worse than hearing a battered spouse make excuses for their abusive partner, but it can't be worse since it's exactly the same thing.
posted by facetious at 6:59 PM on April 28, 2009


"What would you do to help these children other than not spank them?"

You cannot be serious. There is no way on earth you are serious.
posted by facetious at 7:02 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I got the Spankhome Syndrome something fierce.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:16 PM on April 28, 2009


I, for one, am willing to bow to jock@law's expertise in the matter of simplistic, distorting and flat-out stupid comments.

You mean... like the oh-so-clever snarky ad hominem you just posted?

Keep diggin in that hole you're in, man. Keep diggin.
posted by jock@law at 7:20 PM on April 28, 2009


'Hearing someone say they deserved their own corporal punishment as a child is just about the saddest thing ever.'

No, that would be hearing someone say they enjoyed their own corporal punishment as a child.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:22 PM on April 28, 2009


This isn't about are-you-a-Mets-guy-or-Yankees-guy thing. This is about beating the shit out of kids.

Either you've never had the shit beat out of you, or you weren't spanked, or both. You have no clue what you're talking about.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:23 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"At least some of them are learning either actual remorse or the ability to fake it."

Don't underestimate the value of fake remorse. That kid could grow up to be a politician one day!

Always be sincere... whether you mean it or not.
posted by markkraft at 7:23 PM on April 28, 2009



It is not skimming along to surface to simply oppose all corporal punishment in schools. While hitting kids is not always abuse, the potential for abuse is always there in a way that it isn't when using many other disciplinary strategies. This is especially true when the person doing the hitting is not the child's parent and it is being done in a situation where there is little or no oversight.

Situations in which people have unchecked power over vulnerable people are always prone to abuse-- there's no reason to enhance this potential by allowing the use of physical force.

And if only 12 parents show up for a PTA meeting, how many of them are going to be paying attention and speaking out if the school *does* abuse a kid?

There are success stories in inner city and other chaotic schools that do not involve corporal punishment-- we don't seem to find it necessary in the North. The professional organizations oppose corporal punishment for many of the reasons mentioned above and most developed countries outlawed it years ago.

As Sen. Webb said about our insanely high incarceration rates, either we're the most evil people in the world or we're doing something wrong-- I think it's the latter and that it's not a coincidence that a harsh, violent society thinks you need to use violence to solve problems and then can't figure out how to deal with the results without more harsh punishment.

Promoting the use of force by institutions like schools from childhood is generally a bad idea-- and it is downright dangerous when we allow it (and we do) in lockdown institutions like boot camps and boarding schools where there is no way for the kids to make complaints.
posted by Maias at 7:25 PM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Because your boss can fire you?
And a student can be expelled.

If you punch your co-workers and literally spit on them, maybe your boss should.
Sure, I would deserve it. But I could probably press charges. And two wrongs don't make a right.

The way I phrased it, yeah, it's kind of a dumb question. But the fact is that apparently it is more acceptable to use violence on children than on adults.
posted by naoko at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What would you do to help these children other than not spank them?

There are lots of ways to address the problems of troubled and unruly children that don't involve hitting. As the grandson, son, and brother of educators who have never, ever struck a child in anger, it's sad that the first, best solution you can think of is hitting kids whose primary need is genuine, positive attention from people who care about them. We have laws against hitting strangers, husbands, wives, animals, and even prisoners when they don't pose an immediate physical threat to you. Why do those rules not apply to children? Why are you so eager to make kids - emotionally and physically vulnerable kids - an exception to that?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:27 PM on April 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


But the fact is that apparently it is more acceptable to use violence on children than on adults.

It is. Other things you can't do to an adult:

Force them to stay in their bedrooms.

Take away their television sets.

Refuse to let them leave a table until they've eaten their vegetables.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


When I got switched it was because of prolonged, willful misbehavior against the repeated warnings of my mother. At no point did I ever feel abused or damaged because of it.

Same here. And in my hometown Sarajevo, the idea that "the belt is a gift from heaven" remains widespread. The difference is, we were taught very strictly by our parents (as well as aunts, uncles, grandparents, the neighbors and anyone else!) the difference between right and wrong. If we were "bad" - and believe me, I was frequently "bad" - we knew the consequences. I can only speak for myself, but it kept my behavior within generally tolerable limits. I didn't feel abused or damaged either. It was easy to avoid if I wanted to avoid it enough.

But I feel sorry for many kids in America. They're never told "no" by anyone. They really aren't taught right and wrong. Not like I was, anyway. So corporal punishment must be a real shocker.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:41 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


ND¢: " I hope that you are one day able to handle a world where things are more complicated than you would like and choices have to be made along a continuum that is 99% gray with exceedingly small areas of black and white."

I hope that you are one day able to recognize that these exact words could be used - and with equal sincerity - by defenders of the Bush torture memos.

Let us say you are confronted by this dirsuptive kid who won't stop drawing rocketships on his school desk - no matter how many times he gets disciplined for it. In the dreaded last resort, you must use pain. But you are no sadist. You will inflict the absolute minimum amount of pain necessary to achieve obedience.

But how to determine this minimum amount? After all, different children have different amounts of fat on their buttocks, different thresholds of pain... The beginning of tears, perhaps.

But wouldn't that incentivize fake crying? Mmm, yes, it would be too easy to game the system that way. A more reliable indicator is needed. Perhaps begging for the pain to stop?

Everyone will break sooner or later, of course. No shame in that. But as a thought experiment, imagine that this boy silently endured his torment until he began to reach that level of organ failure that pre-occupied the Bush administration. Would you be clear-sighted enough to carry through with the program? Or would squeamishness betray your resolve?

Whether it's because you're out of ideas or out of resources for dealing with these desperate children, please don't beat them. OK? If you can do no better, lock them in a padded room first.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:41 PM on April 28, 2009


Dee, I'm surpised to see that you're a fan of the philosophy "compliance through pain is moral, desirable, and should be more widespread." That is all.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:49 PM on April 28, 2009


Papa didn't cuss, Papa didn't raise a whole lot of fuss. When we did wrong, what did papa do?
posted by caddis at 7:50 PM on April 28, 2009


sonic meat machine - will I be beaten if I say 'no?' ; )

Ok, I just looked him up and read his "I Quit, I Think." Interesting that he would apply a religious analogy to the way schooling is approached, then frame his argument in polarizing extremes like "If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work." Isn't that kind of absolutism (YOU'RE gifted, YOU'RE not) what he's claiming drove him from the profession?
And I realize I used just as polar language when I said "Sweet! I'm not helping kids! My life is useless! Thanks, random drive-by internet guy!" Damn it.

I guess as hard as I work to help my students succeed, I can't help but resent his implication that I'm actively hurting kids.
posted by mdaugherty82 at 7:51 PM on April 28, 2009


it's sad that the first, best solution you can think of is hitting kids

I am not sure how you got there. I don't support corporal punishment and believe it is too open to abuse to be allowed in schools, for many of the reasons Maias described. But I am not the principal of a school in Calhoun Hill, South Carolina and I have never turned around a failing rural school where 90% of the kids live below the poverty line, so I am not going to rush to call someone who is and who did a lazy abusive sadist. It is not a considered opinion against corporal punishment that I object to. It is the contents of this thread.
posted by ND¢ at 7:51 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I hope that you are one day able to recognize that these exact words could be used - and with equal sincerity - by defenders of the Bush torture memos."

I hope that one day you realize what ad hominem reasoning is, and why it is fallacious.
posted by klangklangston at 8:04 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


mdaugherty82, it's not as simple as that. Gatto talks about the system, not the individual teachers. I recommend you read his book (it's all available online).
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2009


And a student can be expelled

I'm curious how true this is. I doubt this is a real option at troubled schools.

In middle school, I was beaten up by kids who saw very few reprimands, once the same guy did it three times he was suspended for a week. It was a violent place; I was small and had a smart mouth. The kids weren't expelled even after the police were involved. They were old enough that they realized the school couldn't really hurt them in any way they would care, but young enough that the police weren't going to be involved in most fights.

I am really wary of giving anyone the power of corporal punishment. But in my experience, the kids can be sadists and bullies every bit as much as the adults. And they have fewer repercussions.
posted by FuManchu at 8:11 PM on April 28, 2009


klangklangston: ""I hope that one day you realize what ad hominem reasoning is, and why it is fallacious."

This from Mr. "Are you stupid or are you a liar?"

Really?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:21 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


> But how to determine this minimum amount?

You handle corporal punishment in the same way every school that I have ever seen handles it:
The appropriate school board enacts policies regarding administration of corporal punishment.
* Physical implements used to mete punishments. (Often a solid wooden paddle.)
* Severity of punishment. (In the case of the paddle, no more than N strokes, Y times per day.)
* Indicators to determine when corporal punishment is ineffective. (Is it being administered every day? It's not effective.)
* Alternate non-corporal methods to be used when corporal punishment has failed. (Often expulsion.)
Upon enrolment into the school -or when said policies change- the parents are fully informed of the policies and given the chance to opt-out. Additionally, if a parent wishes to opt-in or opt-out at a later date, they may do so.

Those of you who are equating paddling with getting beaten up and/or being tortured have obviously never been "blessed" with any one of those three experiences. ♪...None of these things are much like the others...♪


This FPP is fantastic. 'Tis a pity that some commenters had to descend into hysterics.
posted by simoncion at 8:27 PM on April 28, 2009


License Plate Jesus would be in favor of corporal punishment.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:54 PM on April 28, 2009


Beese's sentence, ""I hope that you are one day able to recognize that these exact words could be used - and with equal sincerity - by defenders of the Bush torture memos." is not an ad hominem. At all. "You're wrong about corporal punishment because you like to whack off to goat porn on Sundays" is an ad hominem.

And I'll just go back to watching people discuss yet another kind of outsourcing of parenting.
posted by adipocere at 8:55 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the difference between spanking and beating?

What's the difference between beating and torture?

How is your reasoning any different than the reasoning used in the recently-released torture memos?
posted by dirigibleman at 9:03 PM on April 28, 2009


Speaking as a teacher, let's be very clear: teachers are not parents. In fact, that's one of the big problems in education these days, i.e., parents thinking that a school is simply an extension of the home. Schools are institutions with (what should be) a clearly defined goal: to educate and instruct.

That said, corporal punishment in schools is a terrible idea if only because it doesn't work. I know native English teachers who work in Korean public schools, and indeed lots of Korean teachers beat the kids (a foreign teacher would never, ever be given the opportunity to do this for various cultural reasons). The funny thing is, lots of Korean public schools are noisy, rowdy, loud, don't-give-a-fuck-all students, where once in a while a teacher hits a kid with a stick to shut him or her up. Then five minutes later they go back to pure chaos.

But parents spanking kids? That's their call. Is it done to instill good behavior? Or just out of pure malice? If it's the former, then good for them. My parents spanked me and even at a young age I knew it wasn't about the physical pain, it was about a ritual I wanted to avoid at all costs. And I grew up to be awesome, so there.
posted by bardic at 9:08 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beese's sentence, ""I hope that you are one day able to recognize that these exact words could be used - and with equal sincerity - by defenders of the Bush torture memos." is not an ad hominem.

no, it's a ad stupidem

i really have to wonder if this is the only way the principal can find to solve his problem, but comparing him to cia torturers is just plain fucking stupid

bush is GONE people and self-righteous cant isn't enough to get someone over when they have nothing intelligent to say, as it's 2009 and those times are gone

unless they want to be the leftist equivalent of those republicans who spent the previous 8 years blaming everything on bill clinton

one could always try taking people and their decisions in the context of where they are and what they have to deal with instead of mouthing off all the cliches one uses to get laid at the protest rallies - one could even try thinking
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 PM on April 28, 2009


According to school statistics, referrals to the principal's office have dropped 80 percent since 2006.

I see that this is one of their success metrics, but I can't help wondering how much of that drop is due to teachers who disagree with corporal punishment not wanting to send their kids to the principal's office. I suppose there's no way for us to tell, but I would be very surprised if such reluctance wasn't a major factor in the decrease. I've met lots of teachers -- I'm married to a former grade school teacher; we're friends with several educators; and I've done subbing/volunteer work at a number of schools in Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas -- and damn near 100% of the educators I've met have been horrified at the idea and practice of corporal punishment.

That's not to say all the teachers I've met have been paragons. Many were jaded, some had some pretty deep emotional issues of their own, and a large percentage of them would admit to saying things like "I wanted to smack that kid" or "I wanted to shake that boy until his teeth rattled loose." But none of them had hit or condoned hitting children -- their own or other people's.

I can't understand those of you who come from completely different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds than the kids in that story trying to pull the old "I was beat as a kid and I turned out okay" line. You really think that a beating meant the same thing to you as it does it to brutally poor black kids being spanked by an authority figure in South Carolina? I knew plenty of poor black kids who got spanked when I was growing up, and I never saw that whippings did much to change the fact that the vast majority of the kids would go on to occupy more or less the same socioeconomic rung as their parents, just like most of you did, I'd wager.

With all that said, I actually do believe Nixon when he expresses reluctance concerning the paddling, and I wish the article had gone into more detail about the other reforms he's instituted. I find it hard to believe that what he appears to have accomplished at that school couldn't have been done without the paddling.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:09 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Beese's sentence, ""I hope that you are one day able to recognize that these exact words could be used - and with equal sincerity - by defenders of the Bush torture memos." is not an ad hominem. At all. "You're wrong about corporal punishment because you like to whack off to goat porn on Sundays" is an ad hominem.

And I'll just go back to watching people discuss yet another kind of outsourcing of parenting.
"

No, actually. The ad hominem fallacy of Beese's assertion is that because BAD PEOPLE give a reason for BAD THINGS they do, therefore that reason is illegitimate as a premise in support of something else, and you are like BAD PEOPLE for asserting it. It's discounting the argument put forth by folks who are not even asserting that corporal punishment is a blanket good, but merely not as bad as Beese posits, because other BAD PEOPLE did BAD THINGS with that argument. It's the same as arguing that because Josef Mengele thought he was advancing science and working for the betterment of mankind that anyone else who thinks they're advancing science and working for the benefit of mankind is alike to Josef Mengele.

Contrast that with the pointed question I asked of Optymus Chime—whether he was a liar or stupid—which was based on his misrepresentations of the article's text. If you want to ding me for fallacy, it's the plurium interrogationum, but just because I called (or implied) someone is a liar or an idiot doesn't mean it's an ad hominem attack. That OC was stupid or lying was the conclusion, not the premise.
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 PM on April 28, 2009


It's obvious that the principal here doesn't know about the most effective, advanced system for child discipline. In short, it is time now to talk about The Wheel.
posted by zachlipton at 9:33 PM on April 28, 2009


Wow, that this thread is still moving is absolute proof that Godwin's Law is wrong.

We made an important scientific discovery here today, and I'm proud of you all.
posted by genghis at 9:33 PM on April 28, 2009


one thing we learn is that negative reinforcement is not as effective as positive reinforcement

I'd be very curious to know what studies determined that; what the circumstances were. My weak attempts to Google the question come up with confounding factors ranging from dopamine levels to the specific kinds of behavioral change desired.

It seems to me that the effectiveness of positive vs. negative reinforcement on human behavior would be a difficult question to test fairly, since correlations based on observation instead of experimentation would always be biased to the point of uselessness. For instance, I'd expect kids who are punished to behave worse than kids who are rewarded for the same reason that I'd expect kids who are in chemotherapy to have more cancer than kids who aren't.

It also seems like positive reinforcement is harder to use for reducing misbehavior as opposed to increasing exceptional behavior. Kids aren't stupid - if they see that the misbehaving kids get rewarded for setting a bad example and then exceeding it, that's not going to reinforce the desired result of setting a good example to begin with.

Of course, this is all orthogonal to the main questions at hand: whether corporal punishment is ever moral, effective, reasonably outsourced to schools, and if so then to what extent and in what circumstances. I hope my wife would kill me before I ever took a belt to a child, yet I can hardly fault my mother for pinching my amoral toddler self out of the habit of pulling a cat's tail. Of course, that just means there's a grey area in between, which I'd rather not touch with a ten foot pole. (well, okay, I definitely disapprove of any punishment involving large poles)
posted by roystgnr at 9:39 PM on April 28, 2009


Dee, I'm surpised to see that you're a fan of the philosophy "compliance through pain is moral, desirable, and should be more widespread." That is all.

I never said I was a fan of it at all. That's part of the problem with this argument (from what I see) - the perception by some that corporal punishment could / does work is subsequently - and often wrongly - by nearly everyone else as acceptance.

Hysterical misrepresentation of someone's words (with added misperception of intent) is a pretty ridiculous way to discuss anything. I wasn't really crazy about my mother spanking me when she caught me doing something I knew was wrong. But when I did something really terrible and didn't get spanked - just a very, very disappointed-in-you stare, the feeling was worse. Having lived through many tortures in war, both physical and mental, I can only tell you that the mental ones were invariably worse, so this is a basic truism to me. Frankly, being spanked never really hurt much at all; in the course of a day's play with other kids, I probably hurt myself worse on a dozen occasions. So those who compare it to torture are overdoing it a bit - the physical pain in these situations is actually pretty minimal, if you'd really even call it pain.

I was not a child genius, but I was well aware of the fact that it was *I* who controlled the spanking - that's one big difference from "torture." I wasn't ever spanked unless I did something really obviously worthy of it. I was never taken by surprise when it happened - nor do I feel it was ever meted out "in anger." You can call it "compliance through pain," but to me it's no different from why I don't walk down the street naked or drive 120 miles per hour through school zones or walk into the homes of strangers and grab what looks good to me - it's simply a matter of judging the consequences to be grave enough to make the action not worth doing. I'm only being slightly facetious when I say that, given a choice between a spanking and having to spend five hours at the Texas DMV because I was caught speeding, I'll happily take the spanking. That's close to how I felt as a kid too, just substitute the Texas DMV for a five-hour "time out" or that kind of thing.

I'm with ND¢ - I don't support corporal punishment in schools because it is open to abuse . . . but it would be far more productive if those here are so black-and-white opposed to it actually asked themselves why so many people *do* support the idea. It's not because they're all secretly sadists.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:40 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


klangklangston: "I hope that one day you realize what ad hominem reasoning is, and why it is fallacious."

Joe Beese: "This from Mr. 'Are you stupid or are you a liar?' Really?"
Please learn to understand the distinction between "Your argument is wrong because you are a dumb fool!" and "Your reasoning is so flawed that I am forced to conclude that you either can't think straight, or are set out to deceive people." They are entirely different statements, and only the former is a form of argument. klangklangston's actual argument -- and he has one, unlike you -- is set out in detail beforehand. Calling someone names isn't necessarily nice, but it's also insufficient for a determination of ad hominem fallacy.
posted by jock@law at 9:53 PM on April 28, 2009


I think corporal punishment needs to be added to the MeFi "no fly list", along with circumcision, declawing, and whether people who choose to live somewhere other than New York City are truly sub-human or simply wastes of marrow and plasma.

As a child, I was whipped often with belts and "switches", and sometimes received open-hand slaps across the face. My mother was also very young, divorced when I was just a toddler, and uneducated. We were also very poor.

I waited till much later in life to have a child, after I had received my education, had a stable career, and a stable marriage of many years. I would never slap my child or hit him with a belt or other object.

I have on three occasions in 5 years of his life dealt a single swat to his clothed bottom, always during full melt-down tantrums, as a means to "get his attention" or to snap him out of a feedback loop of escalating frustration. I define a "swat" to mean the force delivered from a flick of the wrist, with no arm movement. Something no more forceful than what I deliver to my wife when she wears my favorite jeans. Yes I'm a cretin.

The last time I swatted his bottom I couldn't go to sleep for about 5 hours after it happened, as I questioned my parenting ability, and regretted not having more patience. I can imagine plenty of circumstances where I might apply mild physical correction to him in the future, but I certainly would not feel better afterwards, and I now most assuredly understand the phrase "this will hurt me more than it does you".

I would not grant my son's school permission to paddle him.

I was paddled pretty regularly in school, and I think the vast majority of the time it was justified. I think it was an effective deterrent towards some kinds of bad behavior. I do not hold any grudges or bear any physicial or emotional scars from my school-based corporal punishment, but I still would not allow it for my son.

This is a complicated issue. And I'm disappointed, although not surprised, that there are such ludicrous and juvenile responses on here.

Comparing getting 3 "licks" from the principal with being waterboarded is so preposterous that you simply cannot take the person's viewpoint seriously. Such absurd distortions of reality, calling mild spankings torture and child abuse, completely invalidate anything of merit the person might have to say.

There are very few things in this world that are completely black and white. Even something as seemingly straightforward as "thou shall not kill", in my opinion, comes with a whole host of caveats.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:56 PM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who are confusing a formal corporal punishment with being "beaten in anger" have clearly not experienced either one.

We got spanked as little kids on occasion, never once was it a surprise or something I couldn't have avoided. A lot of little kids do stuff so incredibly uncouth, so very outside the bounds of acceptable behavior that there is no parallel with disciplining older kids or other adults. Unless of course you guys still bite your siblings, have public meltdowns over candy bars and throw stones at cats.
posted by fshgrl at 10:18 PM on April 28, 2009


I only have a small personal contribution to this discussion: my father didn't hit me when I did something really bad. He just hit me when he was really angry. Corporal punishment as a method of easing the frustration for the punisher as opposed to for the discipline of the punishee seems like a pretty sound argument to me.
posted by tehloki at 10:28 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That sounded weird. I'm not in favour of corporal punishment; rather I think that it doesn't really work in favour of the one on the receiving end so much as the one holding the paddle.
posted by tehloki at 10:29 PM on April 28, 2009


roystgnr wrote "It seems to me that the effectiveness of positive vs. negative reinforcement on human behavior would be a difficult question to test fairly . . . For instance, I'd expect kids who are punished to behave worse than kids who are rewarded for the same reason that I'd expect kids who are in chemotherapy to have more cancer than kids who aren't."

Bingo. It's the chicken-and-egg problem. The chief complaints that researchers like Robert Larzelere had with the "corporal punishment is uniformly bad" school are as follows:
  1. Previous studies weren't controlling for the "severity" of the child's offense.
  2. The studies weren't controlling for the frequency of offenses necessitating punishment.
  3. The studies weren't distinguishing between types and intensities of corporal punishment: "optimally" administered (the best, or least worst, use of physical punishment), "customarily" administered (the way most caretakers actually use physical punishment), too predominantly administered (as opposed to administration as a second line or last resort measure), too frequently administered, severely/abusively administered, ...
Larzelere and more than a couple of other researchers have claimed that when you do adjust for all of these things, and other confounders like socioeconomic status, race, etc., you find that children who receive "optimally" or "customarily" administered corporal punishment have equal or better long-term outcomes.

I wish I knew the answer. Corporal punishment interests me because it's one of those issues where someone can hold a passionate opinion (on either side) that seems intuitively utterly right, and yet when it comes to the best interests of the individual child, they could be utterly wrong. Passion is rarely a substitute for truth.
posted by jeeves at 11:04 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


student behavior had gotten so bad that one teacher described it as "chaos."

It recently earned three statewide Palmetto awards, one for academic performance and two for overall improvement—the school's first such honors in its 35-year history


One could argue that the previous education environment that the students were in was nothing less than torture and a waste of time.

I'm against spanking in schools, and you can certainly argue that there are better ways to achieve the same thing, but this school didn't look like it was being offered any of these better ways. So what is worse for the students, the school as it was or the school as it is now? In which environment do you think the students would better excel? No fair adding other choices that this school did not have.
posted by eye of newt at 11:21 PM on April 28, 2009


Joe Beese: If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven. - George Bernard Shaw

A wonderfully witty quotation (witty quotations are really Shaw's specialty) but the aphorism benefits from the rest of the passage as well, which occurs on page 257 of his Man and Superman:

HOW TO BEAT CHILDREN
If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven.

If you beat children for pleasure, avow your object frankly, and play the game according to the rules, as a foxhunter does; and you will do comparatively little harm. No foxhunter is such a cad as to pretend that he hunts that he hunts the fox to teach it not to steal chickens, or that he suffers more acutely than the fox at the death. Remember that even in childbeating there is the sportsman's way and the cad's way.

posted by koeselitz at 11:27 PM on April 28, 2009


No mention of Jasper?
posted by Ritchie at 11:33 PM on April 28, 2009


Hearing someone say they deserved their own corporal punishment as a child is just about the saddest thing ever. I would say it's worse than hearing a battered spouse make excuses for their abusive partner, but it can't be worse since it's exactly the same thing.
posted by facetious at 12:59 PM on April 29 [+] [!]
See kids, now that's how you do eponysterical...

(What's that? He was being serious? My God, how do you black-and-white absolutists manage to function in a shades-of-grey world, let alone one with millions of different colours?)
posted by Pinback at 5:45 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pinback:

99.999% of the moral and practical decisions in life are shades-of-grey. But for a man to raise his hand to a child? That's black-and-white. Oh, and yeah - beating your spouse is black and white too. It's not hard making the distinction, and I don't need to consult any textbooks or opinion surveys.

I am not offended that you seem to think I'm black-and-white about everything - how could you know otherwise?
posted by facetious at 6:24 AM on April 29, 2009


Long thread already, but what the hell.

Before we had kids, my wife and I discussed spanking and corporal punishment in general, and neither of was willing to reject it out of hand. Four years and two kids later, and its clear that it will never happen in my house. If for no other reason than that it's really obvious that kids mirror the behavior they see from their parents, especially the worst of it. I cringe when my daughter does something that I can see is a replica of the worst of me. I can't imagine trying to recover from showing her that hitting her is my solution to a problem.

If some school administrator hit my children, I'd be there pretty fucking fast requesting that he try it out on me, if he thought he could.
posted by rusty at 6:57 AM on April 29, 2009


I don't think the main reason this school turned around is the corporal nature of the punishment but rather that it was strictly enforced. The kids know that if they step out of line they will be punished. The same results could be achieved with a different form of punishment just as strictly enforced.
posted by caddis at 7:03 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


facetious, you cannot possibly be serious. It's nowhere near the same thing. The financial, emotional, physical, familial dependence on an abusive partner is the core of what makes it an abusive relationship, rather than merely a short one. A full-grown adult is not subject to anything remotely resembling that kind of control by his or her parents in most cases. Your comparison belittles the hard work prosecutors and social workers put into those kinds of cases, and shows a callous insensitivity to the anguish of abused partners and the heroism of those that testify.

Furthermore, you're a terrible human being for talking about spousal abuse. Your implicit advocacy of domestic violence against gay people and unmarried teenagers is disgusting. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you posted without thinking or taking the matter very seriously.
posted by jock@law at 7:07 AM on April 29, 2009


jock@law:

yes, i'm quite serious, and the opinions you express here are not interesting to me. try arguing with someone else.
posted by facetious at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me start by saying I am against corporal punishment administered by schools. However in the home, I do not object to spanking as a form of punishment assuming it is not abusive. I’m probably going to talk a lot of flak for this, but I feel people are over reacting to spanking at home, calling it child abuse and equating it to torture. How do you punish your children at home if this is your stance? It would seem to me that sending children to their rooms or putting them in the corner causes mental anguish.

“If we're having an honest debate about physically punishing our children putting children in corners in their place of education, then really, who is surprised that we're torturing people confining people to coffin sized boxes in the name of freedom?”.

Sorry to single you out Chuffy, but I don't buy this line of reasoning. There are definitely connections between being abused as a child and violence in adult life. However, just because something can be harmful in the extreme does not mean that any and all forms are harmful in moderation.
posted by batou_ at 8:10 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has to be the dumbest discussion in the blue I've seen in a long time, which is disappointing because Metafilter is certainly the place to come for the best, most reasoned arguments on the web.

I'm glad batou_ FINALLY said it, because as I've read through this absurd discussion over whether spanking is torture, I kept waiting for someone to point out that sending a child to his room is child imprisonment, if we're going to go down that path.

I think perhaps the reason people are claiming that spanking = torture is because they're imagining some big principal slamming a wooden paddle as hard as he can against some little kid's bottom. I would imagine that there is probably a great deal of restraint on the part of the principal.

I was paddled in school exactly twice. Both times I definitely deserved some sort of punishment. The first time I was 10, the second 12. Prior to that, it was in part the fear of being paddled that kept me in line, and in fact, being called into the principal's office for that offense when I was ten and everything leading up to the actual paddling was much worse than the paddling itself.

The second time was a complete failure, as I pretty much laughed the whole thing off. It certainly didn't hurt any more than one of my friends punching me in the arm, as friends will sometimes do.

Does paddling work? Sometimes I would imagine it does. Should it be instituted in schools? Man, I don't know. I want to say no. But if the fear of paddling kept kids from causing situations where everybody had to suffer their bullshit, then I can't completely discount it. If a school is entirely chaotic, with so many kids fucking around that even the good kids are suffering (not being able to learn because the teachers are out in the hall giving the bad kids the stink-eye, or whatever alternative there is to paddling) then maybe you have to weigh in those gray areas...
posted by nushustu at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2009


What makes a physical punishment painful isn't the physical part, but the knowledge that the person who protects you can hurt you. If it has always been part of the relationship and is well-structured and fits into what you know, it wouldn't have to be really painful. It can just be "the way things are", a form of power that your parents have that only comes out, after all, when you have been bad. But if it is not incorporated into your world from the beginning, if it is not naturally understood as a power your parents have, then it would be very shocking, and thus, very painful. That's what matters - what the child expects or understands as normal. The actual slap on the bum is probably not very painful, and in many ways, there are psychological punishments which could be worse. But a kid needs an environment that makes sense to them - they need to know "how things go"...

Parents are supposed to provide the bedrock, safety, the foundation for the world. It's when these norms are not provided or are broken that kids feel abused. The reason some people think being spanked is like torture and some people think it's no big deal is entirely dependent on what they grew up expecting and what fits into their world view. It really isn't about the actual feeling of the nerve endings - as someone said above, kids hurt themselves more running around in the playground. What matters is how they interpret this relationship, and what it means about authority, parents, love, trust, and even the basic foundation of your reality.

I do think this means that if it's unusual where you are to be spanked, it's going to be a lot more painful to be spanked - if other kids will look at you with confusion, or if you know you have to be quiet about it, that's a whole different thing than if you can tell your friends, oh man, did i get a whippin' last night after we played that prank! So the fact that social norms are trending away from spanking is kind of self-perpetuating...
posted by mdn at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I always used to confuse corporal punishment with capital punishment.

Eek!
posted by Eideteker at 11:29 AM on April 29, 2009


I wonder if what's benefited the school isn't so much the spanking qua spanking as the ritual that surrounds it. The child speaks with the principal one-on-one, discusses the behavior, and is given the opportunity for remorse. It sounds to me like it's this individual attention that's turned kids around, rather than OMG BEATINGZZZ!!!

The question then is whether this level of individual attention without paddling would accomplish the same goal.
posted by cereselle at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


facetious: "I am not offended that you seem to think I'm black-and-white about everything - how could you know otherwise?"

Frankly, statements like that don't help your case at all. I don't recall saying, or even intimating, that you're black-and-white about everything. Saying that you're absolutist on one issue ≠ saying you're absolutist on every issue, and only a total absolutist would suggest otherwise...

"99.999% of the moral and practical decisions in life are shades-of-grey. But for a man to raise his hand to a child? That's black-and-white."

Why?

No, honestly - why does this issue fall into the 0.001%? What makes it special that it crosses that particular boundary? Is it because it involves "The Children", which we're always supposed to think of?

Look, I'm not saying I'm a total non-absolutist, although my opinion on the dividing line obviously lies further along the spectrum than yours does. I will concede that there are probably some issues in this universe which fall quite solidly into a black-and-white camp. But, while I admit they do probably exist, I'd argue that the reason they would cross that line has nothing to do with the act itself, and everything to do with the method and motivations behind them.Your viewpoint treats them as all the same, equally heinous. Mine doesn't.

To illustrate the history of my point of view: I was caned 3 times at primary school, and spanked innumerable times at home. Almost every time, although I would never have admitted it at the time, I knew it was deserved. Only once - the last time I was spanked by my parents, when I was about 15 or 16 - did I believe it was undeserved.
posted by Pinback at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2009


A lot of people have shown their intolerant colors in this thread and it speaks ill for them. Corporal punishment is child abuse, the same as torture at Gitmo? Wow. Is this the way to discipline? No, there are much better ways. Is it torture? That is the sort of wacked out PETA type viewpoint that will make rational people completely call into question any other viewpoint you put forth here. It's interesting that many of these folks opining here obviously also never have taken care of children. It's the ivory tower with no practical experience opining from on high. Let me repeat, I am not advocating corporal punishment. I am just saying that it is not torture, not child abuse, it is even acceptable in many circles. There are better ways to go, but to scream torture over this is sort of in the same category as calling people against the Iraq war unAmerican or calling Democrats socialists.
posted by caddis at 6:22 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone is arguing that corporal punishment of kids *is* torture. But I think a lot of opponents do oppose it for similar reasons and those involve the fact that if you give people unchecked power, they tend to abuse it and the power to inflict pain on small vulnerable people who are not your children is especially likely to be abused.

You can try to put checks on it by requiring the presence of another adult in the room (of course, that increases the child's humiliation) and limiting number of hits allowed, but this doesn't completely eliminate the threat of abuse or of simply oversensitive, but immature kids who genuinely can't control their behavior being harmed.

What we also learn from torture that is relevant is that it's not "bad" people that do it necessarily-- but that good motivation can easily make you believe you are doing the right thing when you are not and it's hard to see this at the time.

I read an interesting study recently on parenting children with "callous/unemotional traits"-- AKA the traits most likely to make you into a sociopath. Unlike normal kids, these kids did better with strict authoritarian-- not more flexible authoritative-- parents. But corporal punishment was bad for *all* the kids, including the callous/unemotional group.

Given that there is a risk of harm and that there are other tactics known to work better, I just don't see the point.
posted by Maias at 7:13 PM on April 29, 2009


Maias, can you link that study? I would be interested in seeing what level of corporal punishment was used.
posted by batou_ at 8:32 AM on April 30, 2009


Well at least he said "my kid's" and not leave it at "my"
posted by dasheekeejones at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2009


Batou, I can't recall but I think the author was P Frick-- or he might have cited it. From what I can recall, it wasn't considered abuse-- but it might have been a yes/no without looking at level.
posted by Maias at 3:53 PM on April 30, 2009


« Older "Jesus is to be mass-produced, imprinted on metal,...  |  Man fell from the garden of Ed... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments