Monday, October 02, 2006

Well bend me over and paddle me senseless

If you have a lot of vacant space in your head, you might recall that I subscribe to the Weekend New York Times. I usually let a couple of issues pile up, especially if I have been out of town, and then plow through them all at once, thereby robbing them of their actually "newsworthiness" but that's how I roll, m'kay? Every so often, a story stops me dead in my tracks. Sadly, in the world we live in, I share the same desensitization to brutal civil war and campaigns of genocide. However I have not yet been desensitized to school principals using a thick wooden paddle, sometimes with holes "cut in the paddle to make the beating more painful" as a way to discipline students. This was the story I came across in the Saturday edition of the Times.

Corporal punishment in public schools, something that I in my Northeast naivete had just assumed was outlawed, illegal, or for Chrissakes, just not done, is, it turns out, alive and well, "particularly in rural parts of the South and the lower Midwest, where it is not only legal, but also widely practiced. " According to federal statistics for the 2002-2003 school year 300,000 school children were on the receiving end of this practice, most often facing down a paddle. " Of those students, 70 percent were in five Southern states: Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas." Anyone who is surprised by that last statistic, please report to the Principal's office and unbutton your jeans.

In some districts, parents must give consent for their children to be paddled. In some districts, parents don't have this option. One mother in North Carolina gave consent but changed her mind when her son came home from school after a beating with bruises the Times colorfully describes as "a backside that was a florid kaleidoscope of plums and lemons and blood oranges." [bloggers note: wtf NYT?] The mother "complained that [the punishment] was too severe, but district officials ruled that the paddling had been justified." So, what was the boy's offense? According to the article, he was beaten for "taking part in a punching game called flinching".

I'll pause here so you can all run laps around your computers and scream. Now, I'm no expert, but I believe that "Flinching" is similar to a game we playing growing up in my house called "Trading Punches." Now when I say we played this game in my house I mean that Pop, Little Brother and I played it. Mom never got in on the action and I seem to recall she disapproved. That is just so Mom! Anyway, the point of the game is that you punch someone in the arm, and then he punches you back and so on and so on until it is time for dinner. Now, you can punch your brother in the arm as hard as you can, but you know that he has a turn to punch you, so he will probably punch you as hard as he can. Or you can punch moderately and hope that he will punch moderately. Or you can punch moderately and he might still punch you as hard as he can. Needless to say, I believe there are many valuable life lessons to be learned from this game. However, the most important lesson is do not live in North Carolina because in my imagination, this is how the scene went down:

A boy who is 11 years old at the time is being beat with a wooden paddle by the Middle School principal, a grown man.

Principal: In this school whack we do not whack hit others whack. Is that understood? Whack-thwacka-whack-pop-pop


MCMCMCLY said...


Emma said...

oh nanc...I wish you could update your blog every 3 minutes with a new story like this one...

NancyPearlWannabe said...

Isn't the American education system great? I'm sure the threat of a paddling would make the kids perform so much better... maybe we should adopt this policy here in Massachusetts.

Cupcake said...

PatriotDave, the comment section of my blog is not a place for you to write your wishlist of Congressmen you dream will send you dirty IMs.

Emma, I'm sure there is something stupid happening in Texas every three minutes but if I tried to cover it all here I'd lose all my real life prodoctivity and sanity.

NPW, the day they start paddling kids in Massachusetts is the day I'm on the first thing smokin' to join Emma in Europe. I've heard of schools acting in loco parentis, but I didn't think the parental role they would be trying to fullfil would be that of the drunken abusive stepfather. Christ alive.

AJWP said...

I went to a couple of elementary schools that used corporal punishment. Gotta love Louisiana! The principal had the model with holes, she'd spank kids in the middle of the open plan classrooms so everyone could see. My brother got paddled at school when he was in kindergarten for screaming in the bathroom, and then you know he got spanked again at home. How effed up is that?