Posted: Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Since joining the staff of Education.com as an editorial assistant and staff writer, I’ve found out a lot about the wide world of education in this country. I’ve written about what kids are and aren’t learning in Sex Ed class, whether standardized testing is hurting our students, and the debate over extending the school day. (To be fair, I’ve also extolled the virtues of roller coasters and outlined how to throw a medieval birthday party: the stuff of journalistic dreams). But in my most recent article, I found something out that I would never, ever have guessed: remember how misbehaving children used to get paddled by school administrators, oh, mid-century or so? It’s still legal in over twenty states.
Yep, that’s right. Somewhere in our great nation an assistant principal is rolling up his sleeves and preparing to take aim at some child’s rear end with a wooden paddle or the deceptively soft palm of his bare hand. Does the image surprise you, disgust you, or give you the vague satisfaction of knowing that justice is being done?
I must admit to being shocked, puzzled, and not a little hungry for details. I mean, where do people find these paddles? (Hint: fetish websites have a wide selection.) What do these paddles look like? (Hint: a hardwood such as ash or hickory is preferred, and a paddle with holes, like swiss cheese, cuts down on wind resistance. Think wiffle ball.) And above all, why do people think that inflicting physical punishment on children in a place of learning is acceptable? (Think about it: children are the only subset of society whose members can be legally hit. Cats and dogs? Not so much).
But the fact remains that for a large percentage of the nation’s parents, corporal punishment seems to do the trick. I was spanked (infrequently) as a child. Weren’t you? And we turned out okay, right? So the argument goes …
However, the transition from at-home spanking to in-school spanking is one I find it hard to justify. Sure, sometimes kids misbehave in school. They’re insolent, they start fights, they lie and they just don’t seem to care. But adults are supposed to take the higher ground. If we all started swatting one another on the bum every time things didn’t go our way, can you imagine the interpersonal chaos that would ensue?
But enough about me. I want to hear from you: the people who’ve been paddled at school, the parents who’ve seen their kids disciplined this way, the teachers and administrators that like it and hate it. And no, I’d prefer not to hear from those adults who spank other adults. That’s a whole different story.