Friday, April 10, 2009

Results hazardous for the paddler?

Just a few swats and it's over? Take your paddle to a local bowling alley, Mr. Principal, and sneak up behind a big bowler and give him the kind of really hard swat you dish out to school kids over and over -- you know the kind where everybody can hear the loud whack 50 yards away.

At the moment we hear the smack we will hit the start button on our stop watch -- we want to record exactly how many seconds you remain conscious.

Paddling is a violent assault -- which current law recognizes as such for all mammals (not sure about reptiles) with the exception of some school children who break "little kid" rules (e.g., smoking on campus!).

Online depictions tell of almost hysterical hatred on the part of a boy being paddled -- wouldn't our adult bowler feel that way if he had to take shot after shot -- and of girls who jump up and beg for a suspension instead because they cannot stand one more shot. Teens are often going through private hells of their own already and the last many need is to be subjected to is an environment where normal human foibles are punished by (often repeated) beatings. When you pick up a paddle you may be picking up psychological dynamite.

[Note: I thought the bowler argument would carry the whole "severe beating" weight all by itself -- but now I realize it must be combined with something like the slave whipping equivalent to be effective: same slave weight paddle = same physics sending = same biology receiving. For more musings see below.]

Family exception necessary, first, to keep government out of the family and, second, because kids in the emotionally dependent stage (all the way up to 18 1/2 for boys, earlier for girls) who are simply out of control of parents or guardians develop strong feelings that nobody cares for them -- every bit as much as the worst really neglected kids; leading them to
not care about themselves which leaves them open to every street temptation: now we are talking robbery and burglary -- not talking back and missing homework assignment.

[Readers of my blog may think I am obsessing on school corporal punishment lately -- may wonder if I getting a bit "funny." What I am obsessing over is the mid-brain puzzle -- that is what I do: mid-brain stuff -- with the combination of my mother's actor's empathy and my fathers flood of mechanical associations (e.g., if you don't have to salute the flag, you shouldn't have to rise when the judge walks in). Took me 28 years to realize we don't respect a fetus because we cannot even imagine it having a personal identity of its own -- our mid-brains (A.K.A. limbic system, A.K.A. pea sized seat of human social instinct) are not pre-wired for that -- or we couldn't kill them.

[Big paddling question, once you get past the severe beating realization is how to get people to see kids as fully equal to adults in their right not to be severely beaten. Latest mid-brain concoction, from this afternoon: would a principal (say a humane one -- wants to be anyway -- like Halter) be capable of paddling an ADULT slave for the same infractions: smoking, repeated lateness or missed homework? I am very sure not -- but I can picture such a principal answering that somehow children are just different -- and indeed they must seem to be to our mid-brains or we wouldn't beat them. "Adult slave" example: one more emotional equivalent-step toward resolving this mid-brain puzzle.]


Under my notion of constitutional equal protection, before legislatures are free to exempt school discipline from conventional assault prohibitions -- to allow corporal punishment -- they ought, first, to be able to identify a compelling state interest in deterring certain misbehaviors and, second, attest to an absence of workable alternatives -- the institutional equivalent of rules of engagement.

Practical example: if Oliver were leading a charge of kids on the lunch counter day after day and no other punishment restrained him -- the institutional equivalent of self-defense.

How much offense can be caused the great commonweal – as opposed to the likes and dislikes of deans of discipline -- if, for a practical example, occasionally disorganized students arrive a few minutes late for class every couple of weeks (20 times a year! -- as I did in high school; not in my shorter stay in college)? Many colleges do even not require students to show up for classes, so long as they master course materiel. Employers of the New York City of my youth would have been happy if employees only showed up a couple of minutes late for work only every couple of weeks given the state of rush hour commuting there.

The excuse most offered for exempting schools from normal assault prosecutions – in carrying out the equivalent of everyday office management – is that school teachers act “in loco parentis”, in place of parents. And everyone knows that parents may – as long as state law does not proscribe it – legally paddle children for even minor infractions.

However, so called “parental sovereignty” itself is less a natural verity and more a legal device to insulating sacrosanct family life from potentially crackpot state interference (parents may not legally strike children for no reason)...
…which compelling family privacy interest has absolutely zero application to school administration and in no way should exempt schools from conventional criminal prohibitions. Acting “in loco parentis” may constitutionally require student obedience; it does not confer any “parental sacrament” to disobey criminal law.

Whatever about instinctive human nature teaches us – sensibly -- to treat minor children as subordinates – may less sensibly – magnify their transgressions in our (bureaucratic?) eyes, especially repeated transgressions and -- even less sensibly -- put us on the (bureaucratic?) path to discipline for its own sake: the war on the student!

Legislatures should not feel free to suspend constitutional equal protection -- against assault with an instrument designed to deliver to slaves maximum pain but with minimum injury (same physics still delivers; same biology receives) -- in carrying out our sometimes too thoughtlessly applied genetic code of child deference.

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