Monday, April 13, 2009

Today's motivational (moral) equivalent argument against school corporal punishment

For a more comprehensive treatment click on: Corporal Punishment in Schools: Economic, Liable, Practical, Ethical, Constitutional?

Would our imaginary “humane” principal (see posts below) consider paddling to be a brutal beating* if a kid were paddled for nothing -- for instance, if a kid were paddled for being late for school because her car ran out of gas (instance reported on line of all 5 kids in a car being paddled for being late after they pushed the car the rest of the way).

If paddling is a brutal beating if done for no reason – guess what – it is a brutal beating for any reason. It is a brutal (if arguably needed) if done for absolute necessity with no alternative: if nothing else will stop a kid from seriously vandalizing school property, breaking into lockers, committing cold blooded assault. It is brutal if done for minor offenses: repeatedly tardy, missing homework assignments, talking back. Brutal is brutal.

See page after long page of prescribed paddling for what the schools themselves define as “minor offenses” at: (click on “Edit”, click on “Find”, type in “minor offense” and hit down arrows for a quicker but still very long review).

No child deserves to be beaten brutally for minor offenses, no matter how many – like the otherwise normally behaving boy in the Booneville video getting flighty for one day and being tardy for five classes dallying, a minute over long with a girlfriend, or the girl (class president!) being repeatedly tardy because she takes too long making herself up in the morning: trading the inconsequential mis-steps of human nature for a brutal beating.

Fourteenth Amendment equal protection should require a compelling state interest and no alternative remedy before the legislature may override the law’s otherwise blanket protection against violent assault (paddle invented to get slaves back to work in a hurry, same physics delivering, same biology receiving – or a reasonable facsimile).

One online comment (13th) from a teacher related that only 3% of paddled girls (out of 411!) received office referrals again versus 25% of detained girls: 100 brutal beatings accomplishes as much as 125 Saturday detentions: doesn’t sound like a very compelling need there -- hardly can imagine the 411 committing intolerable offenses either.
* Talk about brutal: I just read online today why many schools prescribe the seemingly peculiar practice of the student to be paddled being told to spread their feet wide apart when they bend over: it is to prevent them bunching their butt cheek muscles together in middle in reflexive defense against the incoming missile; IOW so the shock wave can reach into the crack of their behinds and even reach their genital areas -- that's what I read. This fits with drilling holes to make paddles go faster, IOW to make blow more violent. But paddling does no equate with a brutal beating -- no; not much.

(This topic is upsetting to research and write on -- nasty.)


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.


Even closer to the final “anti” argument against corporal punishment in school – the big jump (not yet the final) comes at the very end.

First, I can now delineate between the slipper (more like a size 12 sneaker), the cane and the paddle.

Getting the slipper turns out to be a painful spanking (never sounded like much to me). It starts out stinging badly and by the time you get hit on the same spot for the sixth time it is unbearable.

But English students who got the slipper were so happy not to be getting the cane. IOW, the slipper meant a spanking, the cane meant real torture.

OTH, an African slave in America would never be lucky enough to get the cane. Even a small woman can give you max pain with a cane – it is light enough. It takes a strong man (or, for example, a female phys ed coach) to deliver all a paddle can deliver.

I once found a paddle lying around a place I worked and since nobody was around I gave myself a weak, clumsy, back-handed shot on the butt with it – I thought I would hardly feel it, the shot was so weak. It took the hair off my head for ten years (so don’t let women loose with a paddle – everything is a matter of degree).

I once got the equivalent of the cane, thirteen shots with a 36 inch pointer in the seventh grade (he lined up half the class – we had been falling behind doing assignments) and can remember every shot like 1956 was yesterday.

I would probably brave the slipper rather than spend all day in school (even I who “suffered” through every second of school). I would do a dozen Saturdays before braving the cane or the paddle.

To me this means that the usual “anti” arguments about permanent trauma are more appropriate to spanking – the slipper. When you are dealing with true torture (the slave paddle) the only “anti” argument you need is the torture itself.

Now we are ready for the big “anti” finale: I find the adult paddler to be the one who is behaving immaturely – the definition of immature being not keeping things in the right proportion – in the case of the adult paddler just to give in to his or her bureaucratic impulses.

We covered the light weight of the student infractions elsewhere (we don’t tell students that) – student rules equate to adult office management. We now know how unacceptably (criminally!) painful being paddled or caned is. The adult paddler ignores – really inverts – the true proportion of both: the personification of immaturity.

[*Further "physics" insights: the reason students victims may be told to spread their feet wide for a paddling is prevent them from instinctively puckering their butt cheeks together to absorb the power of the incoming missile (making the pain penetrate deeper). Nothing like that happens with a cane which doesn't have anything resembling the impact force of paddle.

[Students relate living if fear of the paddle or the cane through their school years. Nobody reports living in terror the whole time of every getting the slipper -- which is very painful punishment but not full-fledged torture.

[A caning is a trip through hell. Every single shot with a paddle is a trip through hell -- making a paddle totally inappropriate for "spanking" children; should be outlawed even for parents.]

Another possible approach is that you cannot hit a school child if they have not done anything morally offensive: e.g., spitting on passersby from the school bus, cheating on exams, etc.

We cannot legally strike adults with a stick for lateness (no "option" to getting fired allowed) under criminal law. Children are no different from adults under the constitution -- equal protection (parental exemption for practical keep-state-out-of-family rationale -- not a "sacrament" to be conferred on schools which usually are government). Tardies, doing homework, smoking in the parking lot are all everyday office management issues -- not moral issues.

And if you do hit a school child it is not with the slave-paddler ("er" is more active) or the cane (ownership of which should be outlawed -- perhaps even from parents -- like they were switch-blade knives). The "slipper" or gym shoe (the lower level of old time British corporal punishment) should be the limit -- and it had better be a standard approved by whatever body with what we are talking about in mind; can't let the "hold drillers" lose or they will come up with a near fatal shoe sole. Not unknown in this country -- saw it in a National Geographic story of all places, 25-35 years ago.

[More creepy comparisons (cannot help it; I am gifted with this flood of mechanical associations): I am sure most would agree that the strap or the hairbrush are a lot worse than the sneaker (I saw four Brit soldiers in an online video (this research takes you where it takes you) drawing straws to see who would take a sneaker shot from the other three -- the loser jumped around with the shots but I don't think they would play that way with the strap or the hairbrush.

[And think about it: the paddle is like 5 or 10 hairbrushes. And if you look at the one used in the famous Principal's Office episode it looked like 10 times the area and 20 times the weight -- swung by a beefy ex-welder of course (who seemed to be humanely intended in general -- may have no idea what he delivers).

[To combine with the last (unbracketed) point above: you don't give someone -- least of all a child -- that kind of pain if they have not done something morally offensive (e.g., cheating on a test). You don't train human children to be a little more efficient (reduce tardies) by using what amounts to a cattle prod. Some don't object to a parent hairbrushing a kid for being out late? The parent is not talking about 5 minutes late for dinner -- the parent is worried about being out all night and getting in a car crash with a drunken driver.]

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