It's tough for America's schoolkids these days. With soccer practice and band camp and mandatory achievement testing and no time for gym class. And now, it sounds like American students need to watch their ass. Literally.
According to a new study by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, 223,190 students received corporal punishment in the last year, the majority being either spanked or paddled. Twenty-one states still allow corporal punishment in the United States, and just 13 (all below the Mason-Dixon line) use it regularly. According to Alice Farmer, the author of the report, it's popular because "it doesn't take much time to administer corporal punishment, and you don't have to hire someone to run a detention or an after-school program."
Of course, you'd expect The Common Man to come out in favor of tough love for these youngsters. To say that light corporal punishment is something students should have to endure for their misadventures, and that the embarrassment they face is 95% of the punishment anyway (especially if they cry, wusses). And it's not as though there is any long-term physical injury involved these days. No one is being flogged.
But there are serious concerns that corporal punishment brings up. First and foremost is that it takes away a parent's responsibility to punish their child. According to one parent, her son's school district told her that "most parents like this because it takes care of the punishment. It gets the kids back in class. It doesn't disrupt instruction. It's like the quick and dirty way of dealing with discipline problems." Quick and dirty. Over and done with. It "takes care of the punishment." Shouldn't that be a parent's job. Now, clearly there need to be disciplinary consequences for schools to run properly, but shouldn't the decision to render this "final straw" punishment be up to a responsible parent?
And again, The Common Man believes this is the problem. That many parents do not want that responsibility. They don't want to have to come in for a parent/teacher conference or to hand down meaningful discipline on their progeny. The Common Man says that if anyone is going to lay a hand on The Boy, it's going to be him or The Uncommon Wife (and even then, never in anger or to hurt him). And they promise that their punishments (corporal or not) will cure The Boy of whatever problems he's having. The Common Man (not that he's the be-all and end-all of child-rearing, mind you) just wishes more parents kept track of their kids, what they were doing and were willing to lay down the law when the time came. Then corporal punishment in schools wouldn't even be an issue to discuss.
Anyway, there are other troubling problems with corporal punishment, according to the study. African-American students make up 17.1% of the student population, but 35% of those spanked, paddled, or struck. Black girls are twice as likely to be paddled than their white counterparts. This has troubling implications that suggest that the vestiges of racism have not been eliminated from the educational system, be those vestiges institutional or incidental. Also, students with mental or physical disabilities were more likely to receive corporal punishment than their classmates.
So, in all, it seems like a bad system. It's not that kids shouldn't be disciplined (or even disciplined harshly). It's that the people meting out this discipline are the wrong ones for the job. Real men would step up and take responsibility for their children, both their accomplishments and their shortcomings, and would be proactive in addressing them.