Monthly Archives: August 2009

Corporal punishment in schools

A recent New York Times piece brought it to my attention that corporal punishment is still used in schools, stating that, “More than 200,000 schoolchildren are paddled, spanked or subjected to other physical punishment each year.”

I have to say that I was shocked to realize that it’s still allowed anywhere within the US public school system! In fact, 20 states do not prohibit physical punishment, with some places using it much more often than others.

While the piece focused on how disabled students are subjected to this type of punishment more frequently, I find it a travesty that children are subjected to it all, and worse yet that it is condoned by the state. By allowing this in schools, it gives the subtle message that this is an OK behavior for those in authority.

Many comments, including those within the article and attached to the article, argued basically that “It happened to me and I’m fine, so why not?” I find this cowardly and certainly no excuse or argument for something so abhorrent. Perpetuating the cycle of physical and emotional abuse will not bring about positive change.

Again from the article – “Corporal punishment is just not an effective method of punishment, especially for disabled children, who may not even understand why they’re being hit,” said Alice Farmer, who wrote the report.

I’d argue that it’s not effective for ANY child, and that many don’t know why it’s happening to them, disabled or otherwise. It’s not a logical or natural consequence for their misbehavior.

Punitive discipline may make the behavior issues disappear, at least initially. Kids that are hit learn to do what they can to avoid being hit! They don’t learn what exactly they did that was wrong, how to avoid or fix it. It stops them from developing their own inner conscience that tells them right from wrong. All that’s remembered is the punishment and the upset with the person that inflicted it.

What they do see instead is that the more powerful person should feel free to take the upper hand and that if you don’t know what else to do to gain control, hit! This can be very damaging to the relationship with the authority figure, and set the children up to themselves use violence in the future.

As The Natural Child Project web site says, children reflect the treatment they receive. No child should be mistreated this way, NONE.  Children, like all beings, should be treated with dignity, understanding, respect and compassion.

Hitting children for misbehaving does not bring out the best in the children, or humanity.