If you think we’ve moved beyond this practice as a society, think again. Corporal punishment in schools is alive and kicking—or rather, beating—in 19 states, many of them in the South, with its heavy influence of old-religion Bible beliefs.
It causes legal problems and creates inequities, but lawmakers are loath to change a practice that was good enough for them as kids. (Corporal punishment for state legislators is another issue … hmm.)
USA Today has published an article that highlights these problems: disproportionate beatings for boys and blacks, and therefore, obviously, black boys, as well as physical injury to students and resultant lawsuits.
In one cae, a child was paddled by a teacher for failing a test! Does that set off an alarm bell for you?
The newspaper reports:
The Tate County (Mississippi) School District recorded 455 instances of corporal punishment involving students without disabilities in 2009, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Education. During that same period, 1,220 discipline cases — 91% involving black students — resulted in the paddle being used in Caddo Parish School Board schools in the Shreveport, La., area. And, Dekalb County Schools in Alabama recorded 1,355 paddling cases, the data show.
That use of corporal punishment is rooted in a strong Bible Belt belief in the proverbial “spare the rod and spoil the child,” says George Holden, a Southern Methodist University psychology professor. It’s reinforced by Southern sensibilities that favor obedience and respect for authority, he says.
“Most people were spanked when they were kids, and they think that’s the proper way to discipline,” says Holden, chairman of the 2011 Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline. “They make the erroneous correlation that spanking equals good discipline and if a child isn’t behaving, he must not have been spanked enough — that’s fallacious.”