I wrote this blog post in response to the following argument against corporal punishment in schools:
Being in a position of authority does not give anyone the right to physically assault me at any time in my life. If you were to physically attack me in any manner you’d be arrested, put in jail and subsequently sued. Battery is a criminal offense and no position of authority puts anyone above the law.
So why would you think that it would be okay to do that to me as a child?
My response follows… it’s long, but if you have the notion the statement above is right, try to wade through my reply (below). I have this suspicion people are too damned willing to accept “a good argument” that agrees with what they feel despite the simple fact that it isn’t born out by results. At some point we really need to notice the facts on the ground don’t support the reason current rules are in place… and many children now feel entitled to act out without repercussion.
Yeah I know… this proves “I’m old”. Sue me. There was a time when we valued experience.
“Rights” are a legal concept. “Assualt” is a legally defined term.
Our rights in this country are set forth on paper explicitly. Unless something violates those, while you may object, it is not a violation of your “rights”.
Not every form of physical contact of which you disapprove is automatically against the law or constitutes criminally actionable “assualt”. For the first 200 years of our countries existence there was never any suggestion that corporal punishment violated any “rights” or constituted “assault”. It was just the way children were taught not to do things.
Meet Texas in the barbarous ’60s and 70’s
As recently as my own childhood (born in ’57) it was standard for principals, coaches and most teachers to use a paddle to enforce rules. Female teachers generally brought in a male teacher with a strong arm, tho some administered their own “licks”. Paddle dimensions were typically 3-4″ across and length typically about 2 1/2 ft.
Preference of wood varied. Shop teachers often crafted the beauties hanging in various teachers offices. Mr Murphy (Science teacher) went high tech, his was 3/8″ plexiglass with holes drilled in it. You could tell who’d been crosswise with Murphy when we dressed in athletics… the distinctive pattern lasted about a week.
“Thank you sir”
Nobody got dragged around by the arm, we knew the standard drill. If we violated the rules we got busted. The coach/principal/dean was judge, jury, and executioner of sentence. Right then, right there, no chance of appeal. If he deemed it necessary, we grabbed our ankles and lick(s) were administered. After which we turned and shook his hand and said “Thank you SIR”. Failure to follow the procedure meant additional licks. Failure to accept the punishment meant expulsion. Girls almost never got licks, they generally got detention instead, but they seldom pushed the limits like teenage boys are prone to.
Things you could get busted for were numerous
It wasnt a litigious group, basically if you did something that was against the rules and got caught, you might get busted. Some teachers/coaches were more prone to that action, and we all knew who would nail us if we did something in their class and planned accordingly. It could be as innocuous as failing to meet the dress code. I was busted for not shaving once in 8th grade, busted for gambling (pitching pennies) during woodshop, various other infractions. You could of course also get it for fighting, mouthing off to a teacher, entering class after the bell, or other breaches.
Yes… it was an evil era, and the violence caused lifelong trauma
Skinner (my best friend) and I got caught fighting. Hey, he shot me in the face with a high pressure hose, as in “you could put an eye out with that thing”. We were given a choice between licks or “putting on the gloves” to finish it. As licks sucked, and the alternative allowed us to finish what was started, we chose the gloves. FTR, he won when a well placed shot to the solar plexus paralyzed my ability to breathe… can’t swing if you cant breathe. Note to self: Avoid fights with the captain of the football team, especially if he has Golden Gloves experience. A few years later we were “Best Man” at each others weddings. Yeah… violence causes lifelong trauma. Suure.
More “violence for fun and games”
At one point Mr Bledsoe (a shop teacher) noticed a minor fracture in his paddle. The guys in shop were a macho crew, so he declared a contest. The guys that wanted a shot at owning the instrument of torture that was his beautifully crafted pecan paddle could line up and take a lick each until it broke to the point of requiring replacement. It would be awarded to the guy he broke it on. Nearly everyone in there had been hit with that thing a few times, and we wanted the trophy. Last time I looked it was still in a closet at my mom’s house.
Bottom line, we simply understood that society has rules…
We followed them if we wished to remain in our society. These were NOT love taps, they were “lift your rear in the air and leave a magnificent bruise” hard. I got a boatload of them, as did my friends. It wasnt something we went to mommy and daddy about and asked them to call a lawyer… it was understood that if we didnt follow the rules we’d accept the punishment for that action. Our parents would have thought us daft for whining.
We had MUCH greater access to weapons in that era
We all owned firearms and were familiar with their use.
- – There were NO 5 day waiting periods for purchase,
- – You could buy firearms by mail,
- – There were no bans on “assault rifles” or high capacity mags,
- – The concept of a “gun free school zone” had never been discussed, much less implemented
- – Every male I knew carried a pocket knife
Also… every male I knew owned one or all of the following… a BB/pellet gun, a .22 rifle, a shotgun (either pump or semi-auto), and a deer rifle… usually in 30-30 or 30-06. You could have held off a regiment with the firearms accessible to the kids in my junior high, and most of us were excellent marksmen.
We occasionally brought them to school and store them in our lockers on days we planned to go hunting after school. Nobody cared. Nobody feared. We were responsible gun owners from childhood and we were accustomed to following the rules of our society. We KNEW there were consequences if we didnt. We were raised that way.
By the reasoning common today…
It is widely accepted as “fact” that
- (A) kids treated to corporal punishment are prone to violent misbehavior AND
- (B) access to guns causes misuse of guns.
Problem is… we had MUCH greater access and virtually zero formal rules about guns, and we were treated with what is in todays terms “violence”. BUT… there were no school shootings in the time I was raised in high schools or under. The only one at University level was at the University of Texas in the 60s. Half of Austin returned fire with deer rifles retrieved from the racks in pickups and then a few armed citizens plus an off-duty cop went up after him and shot him dead.
We had the means and supposedly the motive, why didnt we have school shootings? Why are todays kids that are largely raised without the “violence” the ones who introduced us to “school shootings”?
“Results” trump “a good argument”
In our era there were NO instances like Columbine. In the current “we dont beat kids” society there have been MANY shootings from grade schools thru grad school, despite (if not because of) less corporal punishment and a plethora of gun laws. My generation, clearly raised by means you consider violent… was remarkably LESS prone to react to negative stimulus with extra-judicial lethal force than kids growing up now.
We had far more access to the tools to exercise “a little street justice”…
…But the concept that we were little princes entitled to break rules and not have a finger laid on us was absolutely foreign. Many kids today are, to be blunt, coddled wimps who think anyone (including parents) that administers physical punishment should be placed behind bars. God help them if they join the military with the expectation mommy and daddy’s lawyer will be of service if they get break rules.
Trust me, kids raised under today’s standards are in for a major education if they enlist in the USMC. I was an officer candidate in the Marine Corps at Quantico VA in the mid 70s… and the stuff everyone is claiming is “torture” in the Brad Manning case is actually far less stringent than the treatment of guys that were upcoming officers living in my squadbay.
Earlier generations were raised with realistic expectations of how life works. But now…
- Children can’t play dodgeball because it’s just too violent,
- Can’t be punished without a court order and two lawyers present,
- Discipline by a parent or teacher could result in the adult being imprisoned,
- Every child on a sports team gets a trophy regardless of performance,
- Soccer and t-ball games are played without keeping score to protect their supposedly fragile self-esteem.
If this crap really worked, explain why school shootings came with this principle and was noticeably absent before it. If the “logic” supporting the current ideas were sound, it’d be the other way around. People that believe the current methods work need to quit telling us about the labor pains if they can’t show us the damned baby.