Did Corporal Punishment Save This School?

Makalakumu

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http://www.newsweek.com/id/195119

The wooden paddle on principal David Nixon's desk is two feet long, with a handle wrapped in duct tape that has been worn down by age and use. He found it in a dusty cabinet in his predecessor's office at John C. Calhoun Elementary in Calhoun Hills, S.C., where Nixon has been the principal since 2006. He has no idea if the old principal ever used it, but now it sits in plain view for all visitors to see, including children who have been dismissed to his office. As punishment for a "major offense," such as fighting or stealing, students are told to place both hands on the seat of a leather chair and brace for what Nixon calls "a whippin'." Before he begins, though, he sits the child down for a quiet talk about why he, or she, is in trouble. He tries to determine if a deeper issue, such as a problem at home, might warrant a meeting with a counselor. If the child shows remorse, Nixon will often send him or her back to class without a spanking. Otherwise, he makes sure he is calm, and he makes sure his elbow is still. Then he delivers "three licks" to the child's rear end. If the child is a girl, then a female administrator does it. Some of the kids cry. Some are silent. Some want a hug. And after the child is sent back to class, still stinging, Nixon sits alone in his office and thinks about what the child has done, and what he has done. "If I could burn that paddle in my stove," Nixon says, "I would. This is the worst part of my job."


Before Nixon took over "John C," student behavior had gotten so bad that one teacher described it as "chaos." She eventually quit in disgust, pulled her own child from the school, and moved to a different one 45 minutes away. John C is located in a rural stretch of South Carolina near the Georgia border where all but one of the major textile plants have closed, and where the leading local employer is the school system. Nearly 90 percent of the kids at John C live below the poverty line. When Nixon went to his first PTO meeting, only about a dozen parents showed up at a school with 226 students. He still has trouble reaching many families by phone because they can't afford to put down a deposit on a landline. And yet Nixon has managed to turn John C around. It recently earned three statewide Palmetto awards, one for academic performance and two for overall improvementthe school's first such honors in its 35-year history. Not everyone agrees with his methods, but most parents and teachers will tell you he couldn't have pulled off such a turnaround without his wooden paddle.


Thoughts?
 

Sukerkin

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I happen to agree entirely with the concept of corporal punishment.

If it is present both at home and in school then I believe it leads to benefits in behaviour in later life as well as immediately. I would say that I know that it does but I can only speak for my school during the time that I was there (hardly a universal sample).

I would indeed take the regimen of discpline in the OP a step further and have the punishment meted out 'in public' so to speak. In my old school, if a lad had not learned his lesson and visits to the headmasters office mounted, then there was the option of delivering the strokes of the cane during assembly.

Oddly enough, out of the thousand or so of 'teens that were in that school, only a handful ever ended up getting a caning in the office and levels of respect to the teachers were very high. I wonder what it's like now?

Regulations are meaningless without effective enforcement and knowing that the means of enforcement are in place and will be used tends to mean that extreme measures are seldom necessary.
 
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Makalakumu

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If we are going to force kids to be in school, is it necessary that we "force" some kids to be in school?

Thats a hard question. There are some children, like my own, who do what they are told and really try hard to do the right thing. And then there are some who consistently put the wrong foot forward if a firm hand isn't there to guide them. It all comes down to their nature.

The problem with the paddle used in schools is that it hasn't been applied fairly in the past. My dad, who is a retired teacher, remembers a principal explaining that black kids should be sent to his office at least once a week because "****** kids need it more."

Have times changed?
 

Omar B

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I'm all for it. I got the belt, cane and whatever else was available from parents and teachers (even a couple times from my first sensei) when I was acting up. Hell, even now my sister, cousins and I look back fondly on those days when we would get in get in trouble and get the belt for it. It didnt scar me for life like psychologists keep saying now, it corrected behaviour, instantly. If/when I have kids they are gonna get it just like I did.
 

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I wonder. I wonder if the problem was solved by the application of corporal punishment specifically, or rather, by the change in expectation and the sudden existence of consequences. I wonder what kind of disaster the previous principal was, and what his general policies were.

A little discipline goes a long way. Sometimes, a beating can be an effective way to impart it. Sometimes, other methods are more appropriate. But, in general, our schools are not well set up to impart discipline on the students.
 
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Makalakumu

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I wonder. I wonder if the problem was solved by the application of corporal punishment specifically, or rather, by the change in expectation and the sudden existence of consequences. I wonder what kind of disaster the previous principal was, and what his general policies were.

A little discipline goes a long way. Sometimes, a beating can be an effective way to impart it. Sometimes, other methods are more appropriate. But, in general, our schools are not well set up to impart discipline on the students.

This is also true. Discipline in our schools is very difficult to mete out because the level of consequence is so easily brushed aside. I've seen kids laugh at suspension or detention, knowing that it wasn't a real consequence.

One of the things I like about private schools is that there is one REAL consequence that matters in the end. They can give kids the boot if they won't toe the line. That works because it really tests the kid's resolve about whether they want to be at a school or not.
 

Thesemindz

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Part of the problem here is an insistence that all children submit to educational systems.

School isn't for everyone.

Some kids won't benefit from an extensive study of history or poetry or mathematics. Notice I said some. They should still be taught the basics of education, because that allows them to gain further knowledge at a later date if they choose. For some kids, technical education is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. It doesn't make them less important, or less valuable. I use the services of mechanics, and trash collectors, and cosmetologists, and carpenters, and appliance repair men. And you know what, they get payed pretty damn well for those services.

When those children become adults, if they choose to continue their education they certainly can. But if they are violent, or disruptive, then forcing them to participate in the school environment does them little good, and can do a great deal of harm to the kids who actually want to be there.

Parents have some limited right to use violence to correct their children's behavior. As a society, we have always recognized that right, but we have always limited it as well. Even before the creation of Child Protective Services, parents who mercilessly beat their children over minor infractions faced social censure or isolation. Individuals have widely, though not universally, accepted parent's applying corporal punishment within limited parameters, but the right of those parents to delegate that responsibility to others is more questionable.

What right do parents possess to give someone else the right to beat their children? What right do children possess not to be beaten? What level of violence is acceptable for what level of infraction? Those children may be wards, but they are also human beings. At what point does violence become acceptable, and at what point unacceptable?

I don't think it's necessary. I don't think it's right. If a child is too young to understand reason, then limited use of violence can be a useful deterrent. For instance, if a toddler is tugging on electrical cords, taking the childs hand and slapping it lightly may deter that behavior. But once a child can reason, even in a limited sense, the necessity for violence dissapates.

If a ten year old is acting up, beating him might correct his behavior. But the correction is short term, and it is not the result of discipline, but rather fear. He will learn to behave while you are there. He will learn not to get caught. But he won't learn self discipline. He won't learn why he should behave. And it reinforces in the child's mind that you aren't actually able to rationally support your position, because if you could, you wouldn't need violence to enforce it.

I'm not against disciplining people who do wrong. Children or adults. But violence is not a form of discipline. It is a form of punishment. It is a form of conditioning. Violence doesn't instill discipline, it instills fear and resentment.

Ultimately, all these behaviors carry their own repercussions. If a ten year old plays with fire, he gets burned. If a twelve year old misbehaves in english class, she doesn't learn how to read and is left behind by those who do. Do we have a responsibility to protect children from the consequences of their actions that they might not be aware of? Sure. But beating them isn't the way to do that.

I have worked with children in a variety of educational aspects. I have been a teacher's assistant in a public school, a private math and english tutor, a sunday school teacher, a summer camp counselor, a martial arts instructor, and a daycare attendant. I have never had to use violence to correct even the most disruptive behavior. I have, on occasion, had to restrain children in order to prevent them from misbehaving, but upon restraining them, I was able to discuss the issue with them and discuss the reasonable alternatives to their behavior. To be fair, physical restraint is a form of violence, but in this context, I am making a deliniation between holding and hitting. In my experience, and the experience of my wife who has even more extensive experience working with children, and in the experience of many other child care professionals, the best approach to correcting behavior is to point out what the child is doing specifically that needs to be addressed, emphasize that the problem is not with the child but with the behavior, point out why that behavior is wrong by explaining the rationale for the rules and the consequences of the proscribed behavior, and give the child an opportunity to correct their behavior and express their understanding of the situation.

Will that always work. Nope. Some kids, like some adults, will continue to misbehave. But by approaching the situation in a rational, non-violent manner, you are able to get the best behavior out of the greatest number of students, without contaminating the relationship, be it parental, educational, or inspirational, with fear and resentment.

Many people yearn for discipline in their lives. But I come from the teach a man to fish school. You won't always be there to swing the paddle. We are all better served by instilling in our children a sense of self-discipline, instead of a fear of the lash.

-Rob
 
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Makalakumu

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Brilliant post, Rob. I get the heebie jeebies when I think about the state not only forcing children to go to school, but then being allowed to beat them if they don't conform to a certain "agreed upon" standard. Back in the day, there were a lot of ways to misbehave and get smacked for it. Many of these ways had nothing to do with disrupting learning and were more about conformity then anything else.
 

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This is also true. Discipline in our schools is very difficult to mete out because the level of consequence is so easily brushed aside. I've seen kids laugh at suspension or detention, knowing that it wasn't a real consequence.

One of the things I like about private schools is that there is one REAL consequence that matters in the end. They can give kids the boot if they won't toe the line. That works because it really tests the kid's resolve about whether they want to be at a school or not.
One "punishment" I never really got the point of was suspension for truancy...

The kid doesn't go to school, doesn't want to be there... so suspend him?

But... the simple issue is that many parents don't parent. Then they wonder why their kids are problems... Let me pick on my sister-in-law. For a long time, my niece wouldn't sit at the table during meals, even when she's at a restaurant or at my parent's houses. The little girl is doing better -- after my stepfather pretty much pitched a fit over it one holiday dinner. Maybe if she'd been taught to sit at the table at home, there wouldn't have been a problem.
 

Thesemindz

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One "punishment" I never really got the point of was suspension for truancy...

The kid doesn't go to school, doesn't want to be there... so suspend him?

But... the simple issue is that many parents don't parent. Then they wonder why their kids are problems... Let me pick on my sister-in-law. For a long time, my niece wouldn't sit at the table during meals, even when she's at a restaurant or at my parent's houses. The little girl is doing better -- after my stepfather pretty much pitched a fit over it one holiday dinner. Maybe if she'd been taught to sit at the table at home, there wouldn't have been a problem.

Here, you and I are in complete agreement. I get very angry when I am in a restaraunt with my wife, and some moron is letting their four year old run around the entire place screaming and playing. I don't blame the child, he doesn't know any better. I blame the parents.

The worst is when the parent follows the kid around about five feet behind him. Because she doesn't think what her kid is doing is wrong, she just wants to make sure he doesn't get hurt while he's playing. No! Put the kid in a seat and eat your meal. This is not a playground, and other people are trying to enjoy their dinner. It isn't cute. It isn't funny. And it damn sure isn't ok.

Upon further reflection, there are some people for whom I would consider corporal punishment.


-Rob
 

CuongNhuka

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Doing the right thing because you're afraid of the punishment, doesn't make you morally right. It also doesn't mean that the lesson has been learned after the kid never does it again. If you were about to kill someone, but stopped because you didn't want to go to jail, but would still kill the person if you knew you could get away with it, you are still morally wrong. If you have been to jail for theft before, and stopped yourself from stealing out of fear of being inprisoned again doesn't mean you're reformed.
 

Thesemindz

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Besides which, multiple studies have found that our punitively based justice system is a poor detterant to criminal action. Criminals don't obey the law out of fear of punishment, they just work harder to disguise their activities.

Children don't quit lying because you hit them when you find out. They just try to lie more convincingly in order to avoid getting caught.


-Rob
 

terryl965

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I say a good paddle is better than anyu therapy you can buy, it teaches that everything one does has some type of consicous no matter what it is. Believe me growing up I knew if I did this what was going to happen and the thought of it made me stop for fear of my *** getting kick in.
 

Thesemindz

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I say a good paddle is better than anyu therapy you can buy, it teaches that everything one does has some type of consicous no matter what it is. Believe me growing up I knew if I did this what was going to happen and the thought of it made me stop for fear of my *** getting kick in.

Which is precisely my point.

You stopped, not because your actions were immoral or unjust, but simply for fear of violent retribution. While this may have some value when attempting to curb the behavior of the most dangerous members of society, it is simply unnecessary for dealing with the vast majority of people, who can, if properly instructed, discern by dint of ration and reason the comparative morality of their actions.


-Rob
 

CuongNhuka

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I say a good paddle is better than anyu therapy you can buy, it teaches that everything one does has some type of consicous no matter what it is. Believe me growing up I knew if I did this what was going to happen and the thought of it made me stop for fear of my *** getting kick in.

I say otherwise. I know proof otherwise. I have a freind who used to cut herself alot, and was booted out of school for having a razor blade in her locker. The only thing that helped, therapy. I know she doens't cut herself anymore because I check her wrists everytime I see her.
 

Sukerkin

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If a ten year old is acting up, beating him might correct his behavior. But the correction is short term, and it is not the result of discipline, but rather fear. He will learn to behave while you are there. He will learn not to get caught. But he won't learn self discipline. He won't learn why he should behave. And it reinforces in the child's mind that you aren't actually able to rationally support your position, because if you could, you wouldn't need violence to enforce it.

I've snipped out an awful lot of the quoted post because I pretty much agree with most of it.

However, I thought this part needed amplification. Meting out a violent response to an infraction without explaining why and how to avoid similar in the future is meaningless discipline.

That is not what I, for one, was talking about. Nor was I suggesting that physical punishment is the first 'port of call' for those attempting to ensure disciplined behaviour.

The whole purpose of discipline is to enforce the idea that actions not within the accepted rules of 'society' have unpleasant consequences. The best, simplest and most meaningful of these consequences is pain and/or humilation.

If a child is amenable to reason and is naturally inclined to cooperate with the social rules then physical discipline will hardly ever (if ever) be necessary.

Corporal punishment needs to exist for those that do not fall into that readily socialised group.
 

Thesemindz

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If a child is amenable to reason and is naturally inclined to cooperate with the social rules then physical discipline will hardly ever (if ever) be necessary.

I tried to make this very point within that post. I agree that when a child is not amenable to reason, some limited use of controlled violence may be appropriate. I used the example of a toddler, but the same reasoning could apply to older individuals as well. However, once a child is capable of reason, I believe that corporal punishment no longer holds any educational or disciplinary value, and becomes purely punitive in nature.

Corporal punishment needs to exist for those that do not fall into that readily socialised group.

Which is exactly the argument which is made to justify the punitive nature of our justice system and its prisons. I don't believe punitive justice is the best or most moral approach. I believe in a reparative system of justice where the victim is granted satisfaction by the perpetrator rectifying the damage he has done to whatever degree is possible and compensating his victim for whatever injustices he has been forced to endure.

If the child is disruptive, then he should be made to recompense his classmates and teachers for their time in some way. If he is violent, he should be responsible for compensating his victims for their injuries. If he is disrespectful or untrustworthy, then he should not be trusted with even the slightest of responsibilities. Most children, and indeed most adults, will correct their behavior over time to correspond with what is generally expected of them by the larger portion of their fellows. If we expect them to be monsters, they will be. If we expect something better of them, we may get that instead.

I have found that treating people as though they are worthy of something better encourages them to seek that worthiness within themselves. Is this universal? No. Some children, and some adults, will never conform to polite behavior. Some will always choose to prey upon others. But punitive justice fails to address that issue either. As I posted earlier, punitive justice does not address, for instance, recidivism in criminals. They simply aren't concerned about the penalties of their behaviors, in some part because they are inured to those penalties. Instead of being punished, they should be made to compensate the victims of their actions. In that way, the victims get true justice, and the criminals are given a chance to reintroduce themselves to polite behavior.

When that fails there are no easy answers. With children, I rarely if ever see a need for violence arising. With adults, that may be more likely. But I believe that the vast overwhelming majority of children and adults both can be successfully socialized without resorting to violence.

After all, what message are you reinforcing when you use violence to compel socialization, other than that violence is an acceptable means of communication?


-Rob
 

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This principle sounds like he went about administering punishment in the right way. A cool head, calm emotions, deliberation, instruction, and justice. How many could be like him though if punishment were more widespread? The stories my Dad alone told about his youth in a corporal punishment school showed that those administering the punishments had none of the qualities of this principal. Even in my own school, where there was no corporal punishment after the first few years of elementary, there were teachers that would completely lose it when they got upset. I'm not so sure that most people have what it takes to punish like this principle does.

I would also be loathe to attribute such a startling turn around simply to taking up the paddle. Complex problems usually aren't solved from simple solutions. The fact that this educator cares so much and knows how to impart education about discipline may make more difference than the discipline itself.
 

Ken Morgan

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I dont believe in the strap at school, ever.

I believe a well placed whack on a kids *** wont do them any long term harm and will in fact help them see the error of their ways.

Back to the school part
I have seen, with myself and my kids way too many wacko teachers. I question how the hell they got the qualifications to teach in the first place. Some are just plain rude, mean and self centred. Ive seen teachers target kids for little or no reason. I have seen my fair share of exceptionable teachers too, people I will remember and respect the rest of my days, but there are just too many nuts to allow them any possibility of physical discipline on my kids. I will deal with my kids when they get home
 

shesulsa

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Just an observation: I've noticed that the discussion seems to still tack towards the use of beating to induce fear-based compliance rather than value- or moral-based compliance and I can't help but notice the lack of an important factor that Nixon is using, that my old teachers used, that my parents never did use and that is the discussion of the matter beforehand and after the actual incident of spanking itself.

The verbal admonition and encouragement for betterment, counseling if you will, are quite important as these are the message we want the paddle to drive home. Children associate pain responses to wrong or dangerous behaviors all the time - touch a hot stove, you get burned ... duh. Steal money from a classmate, you'll have to discuss the matter, be given other options to try, the opportunity to work it out with your parents and ... a painful experience so that you hopefully don't want to experience again.

Bash the paddle if the paddle is used alone. If it is part and parcel of a larger package including counsel, behavior analysis and encouragement, then it may well instill or encourage a value of moral behavior as opposed to the thrill of undesirable behavior.

Nevertheless, corporal punishment in it's whole package (when given) must be meted out carefully and not by just anybody and a quick smack, slap on the wrist or swat on the butt without appropriate discussion of the matter never really did anything productive for me.

Problem is corporal punishment has always been used as a power-over vehicle by many because most people don't do it right and won't bother with the time and personal investment the proper administration requires.
 

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