Let’s Beat Them into Submission
It is astonishing to know that our public schools are still paddling, swatting or otherwise physically punishing children. In fact, 21 states still allow the practice. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma are the states most likely to use physical punishment in schools. Now granted, none of these states is known for a quality education system but this practice still seems a bit archaic. According to federal civil rights data, some children are being paddled in states that do not allow the behavior. Advocates of corporal punishment advance it as a great alternative to suspension. Not surprisingly more lower income students are physically punished than wealthier students. In Mississippi roughly half of all students attend schools where paddling is common practice. Even in states that allow corporal punishment it is most likely to happen in schools that serve lower income kids.
Something else that is interesting is that there are no training criteria for the person doing the paddling. At a time when there is special certification for just about everything, corporal punishment stands out for its lack of training or detailed procedures regarding to whom and how the punishment will be delivered. It is also not surprising to note that black students are disproportionate recipients. Black students make up 22% of the schools allowing corporal punishment; but 38% of the children experiencing this form of discipline. On the other hand, white students make up 60% of the enrollment of students in schools that allow paddling but just 50% of them were disciplined in this way.
Black children are not the only minority group targeted. Disproportionate use of corporal punishment is also seen in schools with a significant representation of Native American kids.
What none of these policies seems to address is “what is the point?”. Exactly what behavioral change is physical abuse expected to create? So if a child hits another child, we paddle the aggressor so he will learn not to aggress. And we do this by being aggressive towards him? Do children learn that aggression from an adult authority figure is ok but aggression by a child is not? Isn’t that just the reverse of good sense?
The fact is aggression may beat me into submission but it will never change the attitudes that made behave that way in the first place. What I am learning is that bigger bullies get away with aggression and smaller bullies don’t. Beating people has never changed behavior for the future, it just creates better plans to get even. We can’t beat people into submission for long.