Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Taught to the Tune of a Hickory Stick.

Special note: Many people searching for “School Days” or “Taught to the tune of a hickory stick” or something similar end up on this page. Though the song itself and the lyrics are not the main point of this blog entry, I am adding that here at the beginning for those who are searching for those things.

"School days, school days.
Dear old golden rule days.
Reading and writing and 'rithmetic.
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick."

This very old song was at one time quite popular. A significant number of people will recognize it even today. The surprising thing is the nostalgia expressed for the days when corporal punishment was considered part of the school routine. My guess is that a kid could never write a song like this, and the adults who did write it have faulty memories.

It is truly astonishing that some think that the way to effect a positive change in a child's behavior is through inflicting pain. I thought I would be writing that last sentence in the past tense until I read recently that 21 states still allow corporal punishment in their public schools. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

I think that it is no coincidence that the states with the highest number of fundamentalist Christians retain corporal punishment of their children. They hold a literal interpretation of the Bible and the justification for corporal punishment is taken from its pages:

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

We know that corporal punishment is not effective in changing behavior. Yes, it may have an immediate, short-term result in curbing some inappropriate behavior, but the negative, long-term effects are well documented.

The Center for Effective Discipline lists Ten Things We Know about Corporal Punishment. Among them are

"Poor children, minorities, children with disabilities and boys are hit more frequently in schools, sometimes at 2-5 times the rate of other children.

Corporal punishment teaches children that violence is a way to solve problems. Research shows that this message is taught to those who inflict pain, those who receive it, and those who witness it.

Corporal punishment of children is related to decreased internalization of moral rules, increased aggression, more antisocial behavior, increased criminality, decreased mental health outcomes, increased adult abusive behaviors, and increased risk of being victimized by abusive relationships in adulthood.

Academic achievement is a risk factor in the use of corporal punishment of children." (See others at the Center for Effective Discipline website).

I conclude with this. In this year of 2008 in the 21st century it is time to stop all corporal punishment of our kids. The detrimental effects are clear and should put to rest any arguments that hitting is an effective deterrent to poor behavior whether that form of discipline occurs in the classroom or in the home.

Until we as a society resolve that tough love is not physical, some kids will continue being hit. For them, "the beat goes on."