Regardless of your stance on corporal punishment, it is difficult to argue that as corporal punishment has been pushed out of schools that violence and misbehavior of all sorts has made its way in. I understand that in a litigious society such as the one we live in now, it’s not very prudent to cause physical discomfort to a misbehaving child or teenager. With so many two-bit attorneys scanning the headlines looking for a situation where they can make a cheap buck at the expense of some municipality or large corporation that would rather settle than go through all the negative publicity of a trial, I can understand why schools are simply afraid to administer corporal punishment in most situations(that was a long sentence).
Parents are also to blame for the sad state of affairs in so many school systems in our country. Too many parents don’t teach their children about personal responsibility. They don’t teach their children that there are definite consequences for breaking the rules, regardless of how unfair they may think those rules are. “I’ll handle the punishment for my kid. That’s not the business of any teacher or principal or school.” Well handle it, then! I’m all for grounding and taking away privileges but nothing gets a kid’s attention more than a good, old-fashioned spanking. I remember feeling like I got off easy if all I came away with for a bad report card was being on “restriction” for six weeks. At least I didn’t get a whippin’!
There are lots of people, I am married to one, who were able to navigate through twelve years of school without ever having the “board of education” meet their buttocks. I was not one of them. Allow me to share some anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of corporal punishment.
Difficult as it may be to believe, when I was a teenager, I loved to talk. Not necessarily a bad thing but not something that should be freely practiced during class. My English teacher, Mrs. Ward, had warned me on more than one occasion on this particular day that I should cease and desist from conversing with my neighbors. When the last of those warnings had been issued and I still had not stopped talking, Mrs. Ward invited me out into the hall so that we could reason together about my lack of obedience to her request. This reasoning consisted of three whacks across my bum with a long, flat, maybe inch-and-a-half thick piece of wood. Guess what? It hurt. Bad. It was supposed to. I got over it. Guess how many more warnings had to be given to me that day for talking when I shouldn’t be. Zero. If the pain of the paddling didn’t do the trick, the pain of the paddling coupled with the humiliation of having to walk back to my desk, in front of all my classmates, especially the girls, fighting back tears while trying to look cool certainly accomplished Mrs. Ward’s objective. I’m sure I talked out of turn again at some future time in her class but it no doubt took a while.
Parents, you aren’t off the hook just yet! Here is the creed that my parents lived by when I was in school. If you get in trouble at school, you are in even more trouble when you get home. This meant if there was a paddling incident involving me at school that there would be a belt incident involving me at home. Didn’t matter if the teacher didn’t like me. Didn’t matter if it wasn’t fair. What did matter is that regardless of the circumstances, I was to always respect the authority of the teacher and his/her position in relation to me, a student. She was in charge. It was a dictatorship. I was to do what I was told, when I was told to do it and I was to do so with a smile. Allow me one more narrative to illustrate my point.
In all my years of school, I had only one teacher that my parents might have been tempted to take my side on in any sort of disagreement I might have had with her. There was one kid in my class who struggled considerably with making and keeping friends(if you read about my boxing career in an earlier post, it’s the same kid). One day this kid had gotten into trouble for something and our teacher asked him to go out into the hall and wait on her. As he made his way out, he had to walk by my desk at which point I attempted to trip him. Boy, was I cool! So cool that I was asked to join him in the hall. When our teacher came into the hall, she kicked me in my ankle. Not hard enough to really hurt but hard enough to make a point. She thought that I had kicked the other student and she was showing me how it felt.
There was no paddling that day, but that night our old 1980 phone rang. I answered, this was before the days of caller ID when I might have been able to somehow avoid the call, and immediately recognized the voice of my teacher. I figured her call was related to the events earlier in the day and my blood ran cold. My father said “uh-huh” several times, thanked her for calling, and hung up. He said that it was my teacher and that she had called to apologize for kicking me. After much deliberation throughout the day, I had determined that it was not necessary for me to share this incident with my parents and figured that was the end of it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. My father asked for details, I shared them, and he whipped me. He punished me because what I did was uncalled for and even though the teacher had called to say she was sorry for what she had done to me, I’m the one who ended up in trouble.
I’d like to say I learned my lesson on both the occasions I’ve shared here. I suppose I didn’t, at least long-term, since there were countless more paddlings during my time in school. But I never took a gun to school with the intent of hurting someone. We carried pocket knives in our pockets and my friend Ricky had enough weaponry in the trunk of his car to defeat the army of a small, third-world country. We talked too much and would occasionally have a smart comment for a teacher. But we never once considered trying to hurt or kill a fellow student or a teacher for any reason at all. Imagine that.
School was fun for me. I got in trouble for many things in the twelve years I was in school. Especially during the seven years I went to Holtville. Corporal punishment was used on a regular basis and whether you like it or not, it worked. There aren’t many people who experienced it personally more than I did. Just ask my parents. It didn’t damage me physically or emotionally. I don’t have to go to counseling because of unresolved anger. I don’t resent a single teacher I ever had for doing the right thing in paddling me nor do I know anyone who does. Many of the teachers who paddled me when I was a child are now among the people who have had the most profound, positive impact on my life. I respect them and cherish the time I got to spend with them.
Corporal punishment can be used inappropriately. It has been and will be again. But so can legal, over the counter drugs, cars, guns, and just about anything else. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. I honestly believe that if corporal punishment were administered more often by teachers and administrators and even parents, that we’d see a positive change in our schools and in society as a whole.
As always, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.