November 17, 2010

The Paddle And The Damage Done

I was surfing some of the sites I read daily - news, tech and music sites, mostly - and stumbled on something that caught my eye. Not in a good way. It was a story of a mother and her son who were forced to file a police report against their local school district as retaliation for corporal punishment which was not authorized by the parents. Check it out and prepare to be horrified.

I totally identify with this story based on very personal experience.

I grew up in Texas. While Texas is known for it's heavy use of corporal punishment (a.k.a., the death penalty to which I am unabashedly opposed), most don't know that the state's schools are big proponents of similar yet milder punishment. They used paddles. They wielded them when rules, even minor ones, weren't followed.

The paddles were about a foot and a half long, six or eight inches wide and an inch thick. The more sadistic coaches would drill holes in the paddle to cut down the wind resistance. The truly inspired ones would wrap the grip with grip tape. The coaches who had totally tricked out paddles were the ones to watch out for. The coaches who had more than one - or those who had a variety hanging from hooks on office walls - were the ones to be avoided and legitimately frightened of.

Coach Cain (real name) was the sick bastard that inhabited my world.

Coach Cain seemed to really like his job. Especially the parts where he got to yell at kids, humiliate them and, occasionally, beat them. He managed to get me more than once. In spite of that fact that I was on that "do not paddle" list.

There's been a lot of talk lately about bullying. I think I even called the American political system the perfect example of institutional bullying. But this is so much worse. Teachers and coaches are, by necessity, in positions of trust and authority. To allow them to break that trust by granting them the powers of physical abuse is abhorrent. And to tolerate - and employ - a teacher who would willingly raise their hand to their students is criminal.

Is there anyone out there who still thinks corporal punishment in schools is a good idea?

Posted by Chris at November 17, 2010 7:31 AM

Good lord, I read the article, and you are correct. It IS disturbing. I am from the Northeast, have lived here all my life, and the idea of something like this happening is, just, unimaginable! I am seriously appalled to learn that this goes on anywhere in our country.

The fact that parents tolerate it, and hell, many probably think it's great, is a stark reminder of how screwed our country really is. As the ideological gap between Democrats and Republicans widens, as does the gap between rich and poor (the groupings of which are totally unrelated to the latter, which is fascinating in itself), it makes me wonder whether we can ever reach peace. We are a nation of two VERY different groups of people, and I'm not sure we will be able to share much longer. Or that we should try. It's kind of like a failing some point, when things are just too fucked up, it seems both parties should acknowledge that walking away is the most civil solution. (Fantastical? Yes. Conceivable? No. But it's a fun mental exercise.)

Posted by: Sabrina at November 17, 2010 8:14 AM

I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that if I'd been paddled by a teacher -- especially when I was on a "do not paddle" list -- my mother would have been up there the next day beating that teacher's ass. And I have to say I'd probably do the same for my own (hypothetical) kid, consequences be damned.

I think that sort of thing was on the way on in school when I was a kid, but I do remember one horribly behaved student whose parents had given teachers express permission to paddle him if necessary. Totally awkward for EVERYBODY.

Posted by: Fraulein N at November 17, 2010 8:20 AM

Gah. On the way OUT, I meant to say.

Posted by: Fraulein N at November 17, 2010 8:21 AM

I just have toddlers now, but spanking is not a form of discipline I use at home, so it would absolutely be out of the question by a teacher. I would not send my children to a school that had any kind of paddling policy. If the whole county had it, I would either move, send my children to private school or home school them. There is no way any school official would paddle my children for any reason; academic, behavioral or otherwise. It is completely unacceptable. I am sending my children to school for an education, not to be parented. There are plenty of ways to modify behavior that do not involve physical force.
The two things that stuck out to me from the linked piece were when the child interviewed said the teacher was abused as a child, so now the students will know what it was like. I am not sure how true that statement is, but if it is accurate, that person needs serious counseling before he should be put back into a teaching position. It is absurd he is still there after this has come out. The other is when the mother states the teacher is a completely different person now without the paddle. It goes to show the paddle somehow gave the teacher a false sense of power and he was abusing it. With both these scenarios, it is obvious that person should not be in charge of a classroom full of students. I cannot believe he is still teaching. Disgusting.

Posted by: Tess at November 17, 2010 8:30 AM

It is unbelievable to me that this still occurs. My Dad went to Catholic school as a child and was smacked with a ruler. Which is why he sent all of us to public school. I love how one commenter on the link points out that hitting an adult in this manner would get you arrested, but it's allowed on children. It boggles the mind. If someone paddled my son at school, I'd be hiring a lawyer for my husband who would undoubtly be kicking someone's ass before the paddle even got cold.

Posted by: Annie at November 17, 2010 8:35 AM

Sabrina, I am as conservative politically as they come, but there is no way anyone would come within 10 feet of my children holding a paddle. I know many other conservatives who feel the same as I do regarding corporal punishment. This has nothing to do with politics, it is about a broken system full of people to lazy or consumed by it to change. If anything, it is the teacher's unions (mostly leftists) who employ and protect these monsters. Why is this teacher still there? Ask his union rep.

Posted by: Tess at November 17, 2010 8:38 AM

We had the choice of writing a 500 word essay, or getting paddled. It was a point of honor among the boys that we always chose the swats.

However, that was in the deep south, 30 years ago. I am categorically opposed to paddling at school, and generally opposed to spanking at home.

Posted by: COD at November 17, 2010 8:46 AM

Horrible. :(

There are many benefits to homeschooling my children and I think I'm going to add this one to the list!

Posted by: Jen R. ( at November 17, 2010 8:53 AM

I grew up in 1970s Britain and always attended private schools. In most, corporal punishment was a technical possibility (though from age 9 onwards, in two different schools, it was never actually used - more traditional punishments were the norm: writing out lines, detention, being given dull tasks to perform, etc.). But when I was 6, I was sent to a boys' school (I was the only girl - it was hell) in southern Scotland. The school was like something from Dickens: no heating (to "toughen us up"), regular punishments, etc. I was horribly well-behaved (and scared out of my wits most of the time in that school - I was only sent there because it had a "good reputation") but on one occasion there was a "class punishment" which meant that even I had to get the palm of my hand whacked with a metal ruler... My mother, who wasn't one to complain about much, or make a scene, actually complained about that, and the whole thing left me traumatised for a long while... So, yeah, I'm against corporal punishment in schools, though I think things (at least here in France) are too much the other way: the really badly behaved kids can do more or less what they like, but if the teacher ever reacts (and, having worked in a secondary school here, I can tell you some of these kids really push you to the very, very limit), he or she can lose his or her job... I was almost stabbed by one pupil, but still had to explain to the kid's parents why I'd "pushed" their son, never mind that he came to school with a penknife and tried to stab me in the back as I was writing on the board...
I don't think corporal punishment is the solution, but some kind of authority needs to be restored; teachers are scapegoats, targets and regularly humiliated, and that's not right, either. Of course, I don't have the solution, so maybe I should just shut up...!!!

Posted by: Kirsty at November 17, 2010 8:56 AM

"...granting them the powers of physical abuse..."

I agree that spanking should not exist in schools. Heartily agree. That said, I do not consider spanking a form of physical abuse. Parents may chose or not choose to spank, and as long as they are loving parents (which I believe most to be) we shouldn't consider it a form of abuse.

I do believe that spanking 'back in the old days' was completely natural and normal, and kids were much more respectful of adults. There has to be a balance....I personally think we've tilted too far to the other side.

I have spanked my kids, but it is on the very rare ocassion. I wouldn't allow a teacher or school official to do so.

Posted by: Tera at November 17, 2010 9:43 AM

They still do that in schools? Today? I find that absolutely horrifying, because that is SO not the type of punishment a teacher or coach or administrator should be dishing out.

Posted by: Dwn at November 17, 2010 9:52 AM

I think it's fucking horrible. My school didn't believe in that, my mom didn't, and I don't.

Posted by: Brad at November 17, 2010 9:54 AM

Ah yes I remember those days here in Texas. Coach Swan had a paddle that you had to sign after it was used on you. I was never the recipient, but I did manage to find my brother's name on it.

While I don't think that teachers and people at school shouldn't be capable of doling out spankings, that is occasionally used in our house.

I honestly believe that children today would be a little more respectful if there was a thought in their head of "am I going to get spanked for doing this?" I know that it only took one look from my dad (ok maybe two or three) before I took him seriously or I got spanked. I'm no worse because of that.

I think that we've gotten a little too soft, touchy feely, and PC over the last 20 years.

Posted by: Rex at November 17, 2010 10:05 AM

I admit I am torn on the spanking issue. I can count on one hand the number of times was spanked as a child and each time I deserved it heartily and it was never done out of anger. But I don't think the way to teach your kids is to hit them so...

The one point I would like to make is that the comments seem to imply some conflation between spanking and paddling. Paddling is not the same as spanking. Hitting anyone with a piece of wood is NEVER acceptable. What would have happened if it had been a baseball bat? And how is it different? A paddle is a cricket bat.

Posted by: Ashley at November 17, 2010 10:14 AM

I think it's barbaric. And ultimately all it teaches is that the person with the most power gets to be the most physically abusive.

Posted by: Mandy at November 17, 2010 10:34 AM

Australia hasn't had corporal punishment in schools for 15 years at least & when it was used, was only dealt out by the Headmaster [Principal.

I was really surprised to read it still happens in the US.

Posted by: antikva at November 17, 2010 10:46 AM

Not legal in the schools here in CA and many other states. I think a teacher should be able to defend him/herself, especially these days but not ever to hit a child.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at November 17, 2010 11:21 AM

I don't think I want to read that article. I spank my kids occasionally (well, actually, only the 2-year-old), but I wouldn't support the school doing it. Our schools don't, so that's nice.

Posted by: Brooke Habecker at November 17, 2010 12:51 PM

WTF? Not cool USA, not cool. I even swore I would never do it at home. My daughter will turn 2 in a couple weeks though, and she is a difficult child. I have done it on a couple of occasions, mostly to save her from herself (running in the street type of things). I felt horrible afterwards because I was afraid I had lost my head, went out of control to be able to do it. It is a personal struggle. But for a person who is not me to hit my kid?? No effing way. I would totally lose my head in that situation!

Posted by: Andrea at November 17, 2010 1:12 PM

30 yrs ago, when my son went to 2d grade we gave permission to spank him if he misbeaved. 3mo later we moved to a new school and he was diagonsed as ADD (bla bla on to many not real ADD. He still is and has lots of trouble with it.) I still wither in remorse thinking about punishing a child when that child did not know why. Growing up in the 50s, spanking was accepted. I got my share, but I learned not to do it again.

Posted by: jossisboss at November 17, 2010 2:31 PM

Grew up in 70s and 80s, where parents were different. A look, spanking and even getting slapped across the face was common.

Never understood the paddle in schools. Grew up in PA. Got it once, as someone lied and told a friend that I called her a bitch--she came after me after gym class. I fought back as I felt that I didn't have a choice if I didn't want to get beat up. We both got paddled despite my thinking that I didn't have it coming.

I feel it is never acceptable to hit someone's child and especially in school.

Checking my son's high school policy later as I don't know what the policy is.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at November 17, 2010 2:51 PM

Against! Fucking reprehensible. Does corporal punishment ever work?

Here's my take on it: in order to be a real deterrent, the spanking has to be painful and/or humiliating. Spanking advocates talk about it as if it's a loving thing to do, and it should be done in a calm, calculated way, without anger. How would that be any more effective than just talking sternly to the kid? In order to work, spanking has to be brutal, and I don't want any part of that. And anyone who raised a hand (much less a paddle) to my kids would get the beat-down of their life.

Coincidentally, I just hit "publish" on a post on my blog about losing my temper with the kids. And the dog.

Posted by: beta dad at November 17, 2010 2:55 PM

I was shocked when I found out that my parents had signed a corporal punishment acknowledgment when they put me in private school in the 90's. Thank God I was never paddled, but there were quite a few of my friends that were. As if school isn't already difficult enough, but to have that hanging over your head is ridiculous!

Posted by: Angela at November 17, 2010 3:14 PM

Back in '97-'98, I taught English in a public middle school for boys in a "small" town(population 30,000) in the Far East. I was the only teacher in that school who did NOT carry a stick. Students were caned for getting caught sitting in a coffee shop.

Until then, I had believed in the judicious use of spanking. But when I saw how these boys had come to understand NO OTHER FORM of discipline than corporal punishment, my opinion changed on a dime. I realize spanking and caning might seem different, but really I don't think they are. The truth is that if someone is motivated by fear they will never do what's right for the right reasons. And there are no words for what a loss that is.

I wonder whatever happened to those bright, brutalized boys in that backwater town. I hope they did all right in spite of how they were treated at that school.

Posted by: Eclecta at November 17, 2010 9:39 PM

My husband and I both believe spanking is fine / acceptable(although I would like to stress that it would be as a last resort only). We both grew up with parents that spanked us if we stepped out of line and honestly, we feel we are better off for it. If used in the the corect manner (i.e. not in excess, with clear warning of the consequences of actions etc, and as a last resort after other disciplinary measures have failed) then is not abuse. I know that when I was growing up I was given ample warning before a spanking and if it came to that, I was always told why I was getting spanked etc so that I had a crystal clear understanding of my actions and why it led to what it did. I damn sure never did the same transgression twice. Neither then, nor looking back would I ever class it as abuse.

If I look around now, my generation as a whole seem more well-behaved and far more respectful to others as a result of growing up in a time when spanking was acceptable. The youth of today are downright disrespectful, rude and have seem to no concept of what is and is not acceptible behaviour.

All that being said, I do not believe it is the place of a school or any other form of institution outside of the parental home to discipline a child in that way. It is absolutely not ok. That kind of punishment should be dished out only by parents and only when absolutely necessary. If my child has trangessed in some way, fine, tell me about it and I, as the parent, will deal with it. It is not your place to discipline my child in that way. I understand that schools need to have some form of discipline in place, but I don't feel corporal punishent is the way to go.

Posted by: Delia at November 18, 2010 1:04 AM

I have enough mixed feelings about spanking one's own children for goodness sakes!!

Posted by: Heather at November 18, 2010 1:56 AM

When I was in kindergarten/1st grade, I attended a private Christian school, and numerous times I got in trouble for something minor, was sent to the principal's office, and paddled with a wooden paddle. One with holes in it so it whistled on the way down. It wasn't until years later my parents even knew about the paddling, and even later after that, I learned my old school had been shut down for child abuse. Kind of "funny" to learn that later.

I don't remember ever being bruised, and if I had been my parents would have had questions I am sure, but the parents should definitely have the right to say yes, paddle my kid if they are bad, or no, keep your hands off of my kid. I'll punish them at home. This is not the school's area of decision.

Posted by: Debra at November 18, 2010 3:01 AM

No way Jose! No one should lay a hand on your kid but you, if you're into that kind of thing. Thankfully that would never happen at my kids school.

What a disturbing story.

Posted by: Meemo at November 18, 2010 6:11 AM

I too got wacked with a ruler across the hands in Britain ( for being cheeky) and had a solid wood blackboard eraser thrown at my head (for talking in class)....dark and bitter...a little .... sadly we thought it was the norm back then. On the plus side, I developed reflexes like a cat : )

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