Monday, April 18, 2016

Whacks and Wackadoos

Old school punishments are back in the news.  Last week a mom videotaped her son getting paddled by a principle in Covington, Georgia and I am sure you aren't surprised that the video went viral.  Yes, national news outlets, newspapers, Internet sites...all jumped on the bandwagon to state their position on the use of corporal punishment in schools.

I hadn't given much thought to "spanking" children for a number of years as my own children are grown BUT it did get me thinking about the evolution of "how we discipline"  children today.

I wasn't ever paddled at school but the sheer threat of the possibility kept me on the straight and narrow.  I did have a couple of near misses in my time of being a grade-schooler.  In fact, the VERY FIRST DAY of school, I took my seat and unloaded all my pretty, new supplies. Fat beginner crayons,  wide ruled paper, and useless right-handed safety scissors just begging me to master them with my predilection for using my left hand. With all my supplies safely stowed, there I sat.  NOW WHAT?  Even then, I had figured out that if you pay attention you will get clues on how things work.  How hard can school
be when parents let 6 year olds do it?

As luck would have it, I knew the  girl sitting next to me.  Faye and I had already met because we were in the same Brownie Troupe.  While it seems rather clear to me now that I shouldn't of put a lot of faith in Faye acting as my tutor to show me the ropes.  However,  in that moment it made perfect sense. Faye had "school" experience.   She was repeating 1st grade and clearly I didn't grasp the concept that failing a grade didn't make one wiser or more proficient.   At the time, I figured she knew what "one does" as a first grader and what one does is get out some paper and draw a picture.

NOT SO FAST...Mrs. Wolfe, who in time would be my all-time favorite teacher, noticed Faye's artwork. A clearly miffed Mrs. Wolfe came charging over to her, explaining that after a full year of already being in her class, Faye should be aware of waiting for directions.  At that point Faye got marched up to the
front of the room and received a swat with a paddle.

OMG, OMG...I, too, had managed to color a pretty little picture on my fat lined paper.  I flipped over the paper and cowered in fear. Please, please, don't let me get caught and get spanked in front of the class.

By lunch time, I was physically ill.  Having this huge burden of a hidden picture and still eluding being caught and punished was weighing heavy on me.  Over lunch I could hardly  bring myself to eat of my bologna sandwich and chicken noodle soup.  It would be the first time of many times that I threw up at the lunch table. (My classmates still discuss my "nervous" upchucking on a near daily basis.)

Assuming that I was ill, the school called my mom, to come and retrieve me. At home I was in tears and fearful of fessing up to my indiscretion. Not only was I fearful about the next school day bringing about total humiliation, but my parents were, also, believers in "spanking".  It might be that I was now going to be the recipient of a "double header".

As the day wore on, my mom finally wore me down to "what the problem was" and gave me a lecture about not copying the actions of Faye. Unfortunately, nowhere in that conversation did she reassure me that I would be spared the paddle.

The next morning when I arrived at school, Mrs. Wolfe called me up to her desk. I was as sure as I could be, that this was the moment that I would face public ridicule at the end of a paddle. BUT, Mrs. Wolfe told me she was aware of my indiscretion and that there was to be NO paddling.  My lack of school experience was a legitimate excuse for this ONE time, but in the future I was to wait for instructions.

So back to the modern day video of the little 5 year old getting a swat with a paddle, it bothered me and it bothered me A LOT.  Somewhere between being a product of a family that used spanking as a means of discipline and being a grandmother that wouldn't dream of using corporal punishment, I find myself lining up on the side of not wanting corporal punishment being used in schools. Somewhere between the time of my youth when spanking was the "norm" until now when corporal punishment is still being used but in lesser degrees,  I feel in my heart that there have to be better ways to discipline. I am bothered by the fact that someone would have the right to paddle either of my grandsons. Actually it  makes me  a tad crazy. 

There are 19 states that still allow corporal punishment. I was surprised to see my state on the list of still using it.  70% of the documented corporal punishments administered in schools is confined to 5 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas.  

In most developed countries around the world and 31 states along with the District of Columbia in in the U.S. corporal punishment has been banned in the public school systems. 

The other issue that I tend to find troubling is that out of the 220,000ish incidents of corporal punishment in 2012, 75 percent of those incidents involved boys. 
Even back in my youth, it seemed that boys were held to a different standard as far as punishments go.  It didn't escape my notice that I would of had a reduced risk of a spanking because I was a girl.  Even going back to the time in Mrs. Wolfe's class, I was a 32 pound, curly haired, shy girl, which greatly reduced my chances for being paddled.  While it didn't save Faye, every other incident of spanking that I was aware of involved a boy.

After reading a number of articles, including the Facebook page of the Mom of the little boy in Georgia....I am not entirely convinced that we know the whole story.  The mother said in a number of articles that she allowed the spanking instead of a suspension because she had just finished serving jail time for the little guy's truancy. She, also, said that he had a history of misbehaving.Those two items, might allude to the fact, that this family needs help in the way of family counseling.  While I am not privy to their situation, I can't see how spanking the child is going to correct his behavioral issues or shed light on the family dynamics.

What are your thoughts?  Did you receive spankings or use spankings "back when"?  Did your view change over time? Even if you think corporal punishment is a viable option, what do you think of the mom releasing the video?

No comments: