A Real Education
Chapter 3: Independence and Corporal Punishment
January 10, 2002
January 28, 2002
The phenomenon of giving students rights, or at least a few rights, is quite new. They may be given the right of passive speech and the right to a fair hearing before a suspension, but they do lack the right to Free Speech in school newspapers when granted Free Speech by such schools and they lack the right not to be searched for the slightest school offense. Yes, these may be the rights of students in today's world. However, the writ of a barbaric past still is alive among us. Corporal Punishment is still existent in schools today. Of what value is the right of Free Speech or the right of equality, when the United States legislatures grant teachers the right to beat their own students? This is the most brutal and cruel of practices. Students may take away the rights of students by refusing to let them talk about certain political, philosophical, or religious objectives, or refusing them to express their opinions, but the moment that a teacher strikes a student, it is then a state of savagery, cruelty, and brutality. Any school administration who uses physical force and violence to accomplish their objective may be legitimately called a BRUTALITARIAN! To use such an unsophisticated method of meeting a goal, and to do so in an environment where individuals are learning for the first time their aspirations, desires, hopes, and values, is to destroy the entire principle of education. Students need not worry about their right to expression when their right to life is in critical jeopardy. D.L. Cuddy is a journalist who believes in this Corporal Punishment, but even he disagrees with the laws...
"ON March 13 the U.S. Supreme Court kept intact a Texas law allowing corporal punishment, short of deadly force, in public schools. This is disturbing because an earlier court ruling had held that students' rights do not end at the schoolhouse gate, and I do not believe anyone has the right to assault students just short of killing them." [*1]
Even though we do not have the luxury of an effective school today, imagine that we did have one. Imagine that the students of this great school learned and studied, that their creativity was promoted and their critical thought was developed. In this system of learning, who can - with adequate ability - imply that we ought to use abuse as a method for teaching? If just one student is beaten for the sake that they did something unacceptable, it is no longer about being educated. School then becomes a place of tortures for students, not a place of learning. Hatred is fostered, anger is nurtured, and all the vices that could inhibit themselves in humans will be seen. These learning institutions, if their behavior may merit that name, are cruel and inhumane. Only a vicious and weak teacher could beat their students. The fist that destroys education does not belong to a Humanitarian. Beating students is a product of hate. It is a sign that mankind has not improved at all. All the technological, literary, artistic, and political works of past will be wiped off the books. Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man to Percival Bysshe Shelley's Queen Mab - these works which celebrate freedom and compassion - will mean nothing. When a disgruntled, careless teacher smites a student, he may as well be a brute barbarian living in a cave hundreds of thousands of years ago. He is not a civilized person, nor an educated person. He is a malicious, heartless monster, unworthy of walking on school property even. Robert Green Ingersoll has said of Corporal Punishment...
The Dean of St. Paul protests against the kindness of parents, guardians and teachers toward children, wards and pupils. He believes in the gospel of ferule and whips, and has perfect faith in the efficacy of flogging in homes and schools. He longs for the return of the good old days when fathers were severe, and children affectionate and obedient.
In America, for many years, even wife-beating has been somewhat unpopular, and the flogging of children has been considered cruel and unmanly. Wives with bruised and swollen faces, and children with lacerated backs, have excited pity for themselves rather than admiration for savage husbands and brutal fathers. It is also true that the church has far less power here than in England, and it may be that those who wander from the orthodox fold grow mindful and respect the rights even of the weakest.
But whatever the cause may be, the fact is that we, citizens of the Republic, feel that certain domestic brutalities are the children of monarchies and despotisms, that they were produced by superstition, ignorance, and savagery; and that they are not in accord with the free and superb spirit that founded and preserves the Great Republic.
Of late years, confidence in the power of kindness has greatly increased, and there is a wide-spread suspicion that cruelty and violence are not the instrumentalities of civilization.
Physicians no longer regard corporal punishment as a sure cure even for insanity -- and it is generally admitted that the lash irritates rather than soothes the victim of melancholia.
Civilized men now insist that criminals cannot always be reformed even by the most ingenious instruments of torture. It is known that some convicts repay the smallest acts of kindness with the sincerest gratitude. Some of the best people go so far as to say that kindness is the sunshine in which the virtues grow. We know that for many ages governments tried to make men virtuous with dungeon and fagot and scaffold; that they tried to cure even disease of the mind with brandings and maimings and lashes on the naked flesh of men and women -- and that kings endeavored to sow the seeds of patriotism -- to plant and nurture them in the hearts of their subjects -- with whip and chain.
In England, only a few years ago, there were hundreds of brave soldiers and daring sailors whose breasts were covered with honorable scars -- witnesses of wounds received at Trafalgar and Balaklava -- while on the backs of these same soldiers and sailors were the marks of English whips. These shameless cruelties were committed in the name of discipline, and were upheld by officers, statesmen and clergymen. The same is true of nearly all civilized nations. These crimes have been excused for the reason that our ancestors were, at that time, in fact, barbarians -- that they had no idea of justice, no comprehension of liberty, no conception of the rights of men, women and children.
At that time the church was, in most countries, equal to, or superior to, the state, and was a firm believer in the civilizing influences of cruelty and torture. [*2]
There are only ten states in the nation of the United States where "paddling" - American term for school-instituted cruelty - is common: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. There are thirteen states where half of the schools have banned paddling: Idaho, Delaware, Wyoming, Kansas, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. The rest of the twenty-seven states of the U. S. have banned Corporal Punishment in schools entirely. [*3] Institutions of hate will beat those who attend. Institutions of education will teach those who attend. Every state which proclaims that the life of its students are worth no more than lashes on their is a state of barbaric and brute ethics. The screams and cries of the tortured do not have an appeal to minds of these cruel teachers, these vindictive beasts. Their actions are not born of kindness, nor of care. They are inhumane, barbaric, and unrelenting in their pursuit of suffering. One individual witnessing the paddling explains what he saw...
"Gentlemen, I'm going to be nice to you," said assistant principal J.V. McFadden, otherwise known as "Big Mac" to students at Adamson High School in north Oak Cliff. "Because I'm in a good mood, you've got a choice of either three licks for cutting school, or else you can go home and get your parents and bring them in here for a meeting."
Luis and Richard stared at the office walls, where Mr McFadden has taped cheery expressions and pictures of kittens alongside newspaper articles about Adamson students getting arrested.
"I'll take the licks," said Richard, 15, so casual he might have been ordering French fries.
"The same," answered Luis, also 15.
"Oh, very good choice," Mr McFadden said, as he rubbed his hands together and grinned.
Mr McFadden is a tall, beefy fellow with a wry sense of humor and a compact, left-handed swing.
He told Luis to place both hands on the office desk. Luis, familiar with the routine, spread his palms in front of the placard that read "McFadden".
The assistant principal walked behind the skinny student and, for balance, stuck the index finger of his right hand through one of Luis' belt loops. Then he picked up his paddle - the same one he has used for 20 years.
"The Board of Education," as Mr McFadden calls it, is about 2 feet long and wrapped in several layers of masking tape. [*4]
What was the crime of these two students? They had skipped school. They decided that they did not want to be in a place that did not foster education. If they had been there, as their will was about as much as it was, they would not have learned anything. Mandatory classes -- the mere concept of it is absurd. And in this case, it resulted in unnecessary suffering and brutality. Were these boys reformed? Had they learned anything? They learned nothing but the cruelty of their principal, a monster who laughs as the students writhe in pain. Nothing can be said of such a monster, be it his ignorance or cruelty which one must outweigh the other. He lives by the paddle, the "Board of Education." He is quicker to show brutality to his students than affection. Nothing can be justifiably said of such a cruel being, so immeasurable that children would dare question his own existence, cataloging him with the goblins and the orcs of ancient Tolkien! If paddled, the hatred and scorn for the real world in students will grow by leaps and bounds. They will not learn to value affection or compassion. They will be the slaves of vengeance and vice -- taught by an accurate paddle and not a gentle touch. One student decided that it was not at all a system of justice...
A 13-year-old Idabel junior high student hit Principal James Marshall over the head with a paddle early today, sending the principal to the McCurtain Memorial Hospital for emergency treatment.
Four stitches were required to close the wound on Marshall's upper left forehead.
A school spokesman said the seventh grader hit Marshall so hard that it broke the paddle, a "dressed down" 1 by 4 board.
The youth, whose name was withheld because he is a juvenile, was quickly subdued by Marshall and men teachers at Gray Junior High.
He was turned over to police and taken from the school.
After returning from the hospital and giving a report to Woodrow Holman, superintendent of schools, Marshall went to the courthouse to file a complaint against the boy.
Juvenile authorities will investigate, and a hearing probably will be held by Associate District Judge Tony Benson.
Holman said the youth "is through" as far as the Idabel school system is concerned. He said the school will not tolerate students who attack teachers or administrators.
Marshall said the boy grabbed up the board and hit him after being given a paddling. [*5]
There are those who may classify this 13 year old student as a young, misguided ruffian, but he was a true individual. He did what any rational person would do: he fought back. He did not accept the blows of a tyrant without caprice. He was not a mindless zombie, under the rule of a haughty monarch. He was, in one sense, a hero. They may have beaten his body, but they did not destroy his heart. In his school, he is a soul that stands out among the rest: resisting savagery, detesting malevolence, and giving no regard for inhumanity. The administrators who run this school, men and women of brutality, persecution, and intolerance are relentless butchers. The great Humanitarians and Rationalists have never befriended these ogres of torment. Thomas Paine has once said...
Hath your house been burnt? Hath you property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant. [*6]
Given the nature of Paine's strong words and strong emotions, it can only be said that he would refuse to shake the hands of these cutthroats who call themselves principals and teachers. He would look at them with little more than repugnance and disgust. The nature of these beasts who beat the bloody backs of their students can be explained in one word: heartless. If a man wishes to conquer the spirit of others, that he may destroy it, it takes nothing else than a heartless individual; one who cares not how much others suffer, as long as their own objectives are met. To this destructive nature of corporal punishment, Robert Green Ingersoll has said...
IN my judgment, no human being was ever made better, nobler, by being whipped or clubbed.
Mr. Brockway, according to his own testimony, is simply a savage. He belongs to the Dark Ages -- to the Inquisition, to the torture-chamber, and he needs reforming more than any prisoner under his control. To put any man within his power is in itself a crime. Mr. Brockway is a believer in cruelty -- an apostle of brutality. He beats and bruises flesh to satisfy his conscience -- his sense of duty. He wields the club himself because he enjoys the agony he inflicts.
When a poor wretch, having reached the limit of endurance, submits or becomes unconscious, he is regarded as reformed. During the remainder of his term he trembles and obeys. But he is not reformed. In his heart is the flame of hatred, the desire for revenge; and he returns to society far worse than when he entered the prison.
Mr. Brockway should either be removed or locked up, and the Elmira Reformatory should be superintended by some civilized man -- some man with brain enough to know, and heart enough to feel.
I do not believe that one brute, by whipping, beating and lacerating the flesh of another, can reform him. The lash will neither develop the brain nor cultivate the heart. There should be no bruising, no scarring of the body in families, in schools, in reformatories, or prisons. A civilized man does not believe in the methods of savagery. Brutality has been tried for thousands of years and through all these years it has been a failure.
Criminals have been flogged, mutilated and maimed, tortured in a thousand ways, and the only effect was to demoralize, harden and degrade society and increase the number of crimes. In the army and navy, soldiers and sailors were flogged to death, and everywhere by church and state the torture of the helpless was practiced and upheld. [*7]
This is no way to raise a student, especially a fledgling child. He will view all authorities as inhumane daemons if beaten for the slightest offense. The idea that children can be civilized in this repulsive environment is horrendous -- absolutely absurd, born of the cowardice and ignorance of legislatives and their failure to recognize any sort of humanity. The children of our schools are treated not as the future generation, but as a generation that are undeserving of affection. Robert Green Ingersoll sums up their situation...
...what shall I say of children; of the little children in alleys and sub-cellars; the little children who turn pale when they hear their father's footsteps; little children who run away when they only hear their names called by the lips of a mother; little children -- the children of poverty, the children of crime, the children of brutality, wherever they are -- flotsam and jetsam upon the wild, mad sea of life -- my heart goes out to them, one and all. [*8]
Those who beat children are colder than any icicle bred by the world's winter. They are the unseen monsters belonging to the darkness of a night that is terror. So brutal and unforgiving that they are more likely to promote hate than love. They are the salt covered thorn, piercing the flesh of education. Among civilization, with all of our inventors and scientists composing thousands of inventions, these brutal men who beat students are the least productive of all. They spread fear into the eyes of students. Children sent to school with aspiration to learn will come home with tears to show what they have learned: absolute obedience. They will not become productive individuals, nor will they be happy at all. The school is a prison, a place of torments and tortures. The hallways are not adorned with bright faces, eager to learn. They are not full of happy, star-lit eyes, desiring to be educated. They are full of dim and dreary faces, tired and exhausted, unwilling to learn and unwilling to produce a smile. These children have been transformed from baskets wishing to be filled with the fruits of knowledge to uncaring, apathetic forms that wander aimlessly. Their life has been one of toil and abuse, their weak and shriveled hearts telling the tale. The principal will raise his paddle in defiance of all that is humane and ethical, but there will always be a Humanitarian who knows better. The principal shows brutality, but the Humanitarian shows affection. Robert Green Ingersoll has said...
When one of your children tells a lie, be honest with him; tell him that you have told hundreds of them yourself. Tell him it is not the best way; that you have tried it. Tell him as the man did in Maine when his boy left home: "John, honesty is the best policy; I have tried both." Be honest with him. Suppose a man as much larger than you as you are larger than a child five years old, should come at you with a liberty pole in his hand, and in a voice of thunder shout, "Who broke that plate?" There is not a solitary one of you who would not swear you never saw it, or that it was cracked when you got it. Why not be honest with these children? Just imagine a man who deals in stocks whipping his boy for putting false rumors afloat! Think of a lawyer beating his own flesh and blood for evading the truth when he makes half of his own living that way! Think of a minister punishing his child for not telling all he thinks! Just think of it!
When your child commits a wrong, take it in your arms; let it feel your heart beat against its heart; let the child know that you really and truly and sincerely love it. Yet some Christians, good Christians, when a child commits a fault, drive it from the door and say: "Never do you darken this house again." Think of that! And then these same people will get down on their knees and ask God to take care of the child they have driven from home. I will never ask God to take care of my children unless I am doing my level best in that same direction.
But I will tell you what I say to my children: "Go where you will, commit what crime you may; fall to what depth of degradation you may; you can never commit any crime that will shut my door, my arms, or my heart to you. As long as I live you shall have one sincere friend."
Do you know that I have seen some people who acted as though they thought that when the Savior said "Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," he had a raw-hide under his mantle, and made that remark simply to get the children within striking distance?
I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. Have the picture taken. If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth -- and sit down upon the grave and look at that photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children! Make your home happy. Be honest with them. Divide fairly with them in everything.
Give them a little liberty and love, and you can not drive them out of your house. They will want to stay there....
Let us have liberty -- Just a little. Call me infidel, call me atheist, call me what you will, I intend so to treat my children, that they can come to my grave and truthfully say: "He who sleeps here never gave us a moment of pain. From his lips, now dust, never came to us an unkind word."
People justify all kinds of tyranny toward children upon the ground that they are totally depraved. At the bottom of ages of cruelty lies this infamous doctrine of total depravity. Religion contemplates a child as a living crime -- heir to an infinite curse -- doomed to eternal fire.
In the olden time, they thought some days were too good for a child to enjoy himself. When I was a boy Sunday was considered altogether too holy to be happy in. Sunday used to commence then when the sun went down on Saturday night. We commenced at that time for the purpose of getting a good ready, and when the sun fell below the horizon on Saturday evening, there was a darkness fell upon the house ten thousand times deeper than that of night. Nobody said a pleasant word; nobody laughed; nobody smiled; the child that looked the sickest was regarded as the most pious. That night you could not even crack hickory nuts. If you were caught chewing gum it was only another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. It was an exceedingly solemn night. Dyspepsia was in the very air you breathed. Everybody looked sad and mournful. I have noticed all my life that many people think they have religion when they are troubled with dyspepsia. If there could be found an absolute specific for that disease, it would be the hardest blow the church has ever received.
Sabbaths used to be prisons. Every Sunday was a Bastille. Every Christian was a kind of turnkey, and every child was a prisoner, -- a convict. In that dungeon, a smile was a crime.
Do not treat your children like orthodox posts to be set in a row. Treat them like trees that need light and sun and air. Be fair and honest with them; give them a chance. Recollect that their rights are equal to yours. Do not have it in your mind that you must govern them; that they must obey. Throw away forever the idea of master and slave.
In old times they used to make the children go to bed when they were not sleepy, and get up when they were. I say let them go to bed when they are sleepy, and get up when they are not sleepy.
But you say, this doctrine will do for the rich but not for the poor. Well, if the poor have to waken their children early in the morning it is as easy to wake them with a kiss as with a blow. Give your children freedom; let them preserve their individuality. Let your children eat what they desire, and commence at the end of a dinner they like. That is their business and not yours. They know what they wish to eat. [*9]
It does not take a genius psychologist to know how a child should be raised. Rather, it only takes humane and empathetic knowledge. If an individual can understand a child, which is just another conscious being with different circumstances, and if this individual acts humane and kindly, then they are fully capable of raising a child. If an individual is brutal, uncaring, and unthoughtful, they are likely to choose the method of Corporal Punishment. Once the method of Corporal Punishment is in use, it is not for the benefit of the child. A student does not become educated through means of brutality. They may learn the cruelty of vice and the terror of fear - yes, they will learn - but no knowledge will be imparted onto their minds which will prove fruitful. Education is the navigation of an individual. If it is founded on the unspeakable brutality of school teachers, then the individual will be forever lost. Surveys show that paddling is ineffective and destructive of the nature of students. A student goes to a school so that they may learn, develop, and so that their education may flourish. They do not go to school to worry about their life or their own body -- or at least they should not. One survey noted...
A PADDLE MAY be the oldest instrument of discipline in American public schools, but the big board is not considered the least bit old-fashioned in Indiana, a new survey shows.
At least 10,962 Indiana junior and senior high school students were physically punished for disciplinary offenses in 1976, according to research by an Indiana University professor.
Offenses ranged from chewing gum to assaulting teachers, and the most common form of punishment was the time-honored swat on the behind.
A PADDLE WAS used 92 per cent of the time, but hands, yardsticks, rulers, and at least one tennis shoe also were employed.
In some schools, corporal punishment was administered to as many as 10 per cent of the students.
Dr. William T. Elrod, the secondary education professor who conducted the survey, said researchers have not determined whether the use of corporal punishment is increasing or decreasing, but he thinks it is being used too much today.
"We are continuing to rely upon traditional methods of punishment where the problems are no longer traditional," he said.
A WHACK WITH a paddle -- while it might cause short-term discomfort -- is not the solution for youths with discipline problems stemming from broken homes, child abuse, or the use of alcohol and drugs, Elrod said.
Data for the study were taken from questionnaires sent to all of Indiana's junior and senior high school principals. Eighty per cent - - or about 400 -- replied.
Elrod found that corporal punishment was used in 83 per cent of the schools -- 97 per cent of rural schools where parents are more likely to approve, and 70 per cent of suburban schools. Urban schools fell in the middle.
Ninety-eight per cent of junior high schools used physical punishment, compared with 76 per cent of the high schools.
"THE THING THAT bothers me the most," Elrod said, "was that they're using that much [corporal punishment] at the high school level, where you are dealing with young adults.
"It's a degrading kind of experience for someone 16 or 17 years old. You're talking about a mature young lady or a strapping young man."
He said generally, however, that "girls get off easy". He estimated that less than 10 per cent of the paddlings are administered to females. Women's liberation notwithstanding, he said school administrators still feel girls may be physically harmed more easily than boys, particularly during menstrual periods.
The study also reveals that 45 law suits resulted from discipline or corporal punishment cases in 1976. Elrod said he did not know the verdict in those cases but the most common complaints were that punishment had been excessive or harmed the student in some way.
ONLY A FEW suits were filed on the philosophical grounds that corporal punishment itself was inappropriate.
The total number of corporal punishment cases recorded in the study -- 10,962 -- probably is much lower than the actual number, Elrod said. That figure represents only first offenders. Repeat offenders, which account for 50 to 75 per cent of all discipline cases, were counted only once. [Six to 10 per cent of all students received corporal punishment at least once.]
The 10,962 figure also includes only those spankings administered in the office of the principal or vice principal. While such punishment most often takes place there, many other paddlings are carried out by teachers in the hallways, Elrod said.
The study showed that a witness was required in 93 per cent of the junior high schools but in only 55 per cent of the high schools.
THE MOST COMMON causes of discipline problems, according to the study, were lack of interest in school work, lack of involvement in school activities, problems at home, and disaffection with community values.
Some schools reported using corporal punishment for all 19 offenses listed on the questionnaire. Among them were chewing gum, talking in class, tardiness, vandalism, using drugs, and assaulting a teacher. [*10]
The amelioration of the rights of students - their rights to freedom of conscience, expression, and the right to their own body - are most common in our schools today. Upon the breaking of a rule in the classroom, the student can be subjected to unlawful search and seizures as well as paddling and beating. There can be nothing so inhumane, so degrading, and so harmful than to send an aspiring student to one of these schools. Free investigation is arrested and curiosity is relinquished. Oh, what an abomination this school is! It beats, abuses, and destroys the students aspirations, dashing them to pieces and plundering any zest for learning!
*1. Orlando Sentinel, FL, 24 August 1989, "Corporal punishment should not be banned," By D.L. Cuddy, Special to the Sentinel.
*2. "Is Corporal Punishment Degrading?" by Robert Green Ingersoll, 1891.
*3. The Washington Post, 1999, September 14.
*4. Dallas Morning News, Texas, 6 October 1991, "2 students choose the paddle over parent conference," By Jonathan Eig, Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News.
*5. Daily Gazette, Idabel, Oklahoma, 15 February 1979, Student Hits Idabel Principal.
*6. Common Sense, by Thomas Paine.
*7. "Cruelty in the Elmira Reformatory," by Robert Green Ingersoll.
*8. The Liberty of All, by Robert Green Ingersoll, 1877.
*10. Chicago Tribune, 11 February 1979, "Paddle swats are common; Spare the rod? Not in Indiana," (extract), By Mary Elson.