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School CP - August 1992

Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 15 August 1992

Utah Rules Out Spanking in Public Schools

By John J. Jordan
The Salt Lake Tribune

The spanking of children in Utah's public schools was banned by the state Board of Education on Friday, nearly five months after the Legislature backed away from a similar proposal.

Press cuttingThe board, without discussion, unanimously made Utah the 23rd state to prohibit corporal punishment by educators in public schools. The state Office of Education sought legislative action earlier this year to eliminate corporal punishment in schools, but that effort failed when legislators watered down the bill.

The measure would have stopped corporal punishment in all schools -- public and private. However, fierce opposition by religious groups convinced legislators to leave the decision to parents. The Legislature did pass a bill banning corporal punishment, but it allowed parents to sign a waiver giving educators permission to spank their children for disciplinary reasons.

"Parents cannot legally give someone permission to injure their children," said Doug Bates, attorney for the state office. "If a parent wants to come into the school and give punishment, they can. But schools are not going to be a party to that."

Mr. Bates said the state law also was unworkable because it created two groups of children, those who could be hit and those who couldn't. He said children have rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantee equal protection under the law.

The board rule was supported by a diverse group or educational organizations, including the PTA and the Superintendents' Association. However, the San Juan County Board of Education unanimously opposed the rule.

San Juan Superintendent Hal Jensen said some district principals believe corporal punishment is a necessary threat.

But there are alternatives to corporal punishment, said Joyce Muhlenstein, president of the Utah PTA. "Children are not for hitting. Corporal punishment only teaches aggression."

The Wall Street Journal, New York, 24 August 1992

The Bottom Line on Spanking Kids

By Arn Tibbetts

Family values received a lot of play at the political conventions this summer. But what, exactly, does the term "family values" mean? For our family, at least, one answer comes to mind -- and it doesn't involve public speeches, but rather a paddle or a switch.

My wife recalls that when she misbehaved as a child, her mother cut a switch from a tree in the backyard and whaled her with it then and there. Any mother so thwacking a child today would be condemned. The American Academy of Pediatrics repudiates it. School officials warn against the once-ubiquitous classroom paddle. Joan Beck, a nationally syndicated columnist, equates corporal punishment in schools with child abuse. Thus has political correctness befogged one of civilization's most useful ways to raise the young.

In my own boyhood in the Great Depression, the thwack-'em philosophy still prevailed. Because my parents moved around America, I got a broad view of thwack'em. From 1933 to 1944, we lived in 50 places, from Maine to California. In 11 years, I attended 35 schools in 12 states. And was thwacked in every state. (Good thing -- without fear to control me, I would have been an impossible child.) Of course, my father used the rod, and I was afraid of the man -- and of most of my teachers and principals, too.

You can't raise or teach children without fear -- although moderns term it respect, a distinction no child perceives. What is perceived is the certainty that if one commits an evil, one will get thwacked, and so evil-doing is approached with the wariness of a cat. Thwacking works because it's a natural, quick and humane way to say to a child, behave yourself. A newsmagazine columnist described a bedtime ritual with his two-year-old son, whom he called "a chunky kid with a strong allergy to authority. He refuses to undress ... He kicks, grabs my glasses and screams ... The undressing usually takes 20 minutes and leaves me exhausted."

This columnist is describing a spoiled, unhappy child common in America: the screaming urchin in the supermarket, the child lout banging on a computer in a public library, the three-year-old monster throwing a fit in a restaurant. These children are miserable; their parents are even more miserable.

Each of my four children was once two years old. At that age, they undressed themselves. Or they would have had a taste of the hairbrush. They went to bed happily because they knew they had no choice. (You give very few choices to small children, and not very many to big ones.)

Modern liberals say commonsense notions are ideologically unacceptable and that thwacking in schools "defies sound teaching practices." Yet the 35 schools I attended were full of sound teaching. Fifty years ago, most school officials were confident in the knowledge that you can't teach youthful barbarians anything unless you can keep them quiet and focus their attention.

Thirty years ago, my wife taught in a high school in the worst section of a large city. The principal, in his office, displayed a paddle and a stack of expulsion slips to keep order. That school was quiet as a grave. Any child who wanted to learn could do so.

Liberals also say that thwacking children "does lasting harm." Yes, you can hurt your hand on a child's bottom -- that's why I always preferred a hairbrush. As a boy, I knew hundreds of children who were spanked in school or home. None expressed lasting resentment, rather they boasted that they got more thwacks than Joe or Tom did "and didn't cry at all."

To plant genuine resentment in a child, do what today's liberated parent does. Yell at the kid. Tell him he's rotten, you hate him, you'll never take him anywhere again, that he's embarrassed you to death. Work him over verbally, the cruelest thing a parent can do. Take away his feeling of worth. That's how you abuse a child, how you hurt him permanently.

Liberals mistakenly believe that thwacking children creates an atmosphere of violence in which children themselves grow up to be violent. Yet my generation, which was thwacked by its parents -- enjoyed a gentler world. As a child living in many poor sections in America, and as a young adult experiencing life on my own in the big city, I saw that violence was not the order of the day.

I do not recommend beating children. Beating is one thing - thwacking is another. And I recommend thwacking only when necessary. In an Ohio study of 619 doctors, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 70% of the family physicians and 59% of the pediatricians polled supported the idea of spanking.

Some children need thwacking often, some almost never. Spanking a child is but a single act-among many-that supports civilized behavior against the natural barbarism of the American brat.

Mr. Tibbetts is professor emeritus of English, University of Illinois, Urbana.

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