Monday, May 16, 2011

No Parental Consent Needed To Spank Children in Texas Schools

corporal punishment paddles and whipsphoto © 2006 Thomas Carter | more info (via: Wylio)

Children exist without any social power.  They cannot vote, they cannot financially support themselves, and they have to develop the rationale to make decisions on their own. This makes them absolutely dependent upon the adults in their lives for protection. Unfortunately, this dependency is often abused by those placed in positions of trust.  The Texas house recently voted to end the policy of getting parental permission for corporal punishment. 
"One of the biggest problems teachers faced is discipline in the schools," said Bill Zedler, R-Arlington. He said "spit-wads and that sort of thing" were the biggest problems in classrooms 30 or 40 years ago and that teachers face much more serious discipline problems now. "The very parents who will allow schools to use corporal punishment are the ones that have good discipline at home," he said. "Then we expect the teacher to teach and then at the same time we're taking all the tools away."
"This is not abolishing corporal punishment," Allen reiterated. "This is a parental rights bill."

Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, said the schools should have a uniform set of rules so they don't have to keep track of which children can face which kind of punishment when they misbehave. Allen, a former teacher and school administrator, disagreed.

"Every child that has ever entered my building or my classroom was different and ought to be treated as an individual," she said.

Republicans were split, but they accounted for almost all of the opposition, with 71 of the 73 "no" votes coming from the GOP. Among the ayes, there were 24 Republicans and 45 Democrats. (source)
It is my belief that the parents that approve of corporal punishment suffer from a lack of imagination and a lack of respect for their children.  You don't violate the physical person of someone that you respect, simply because you have the ability. Though society dictates that children are categorized as a special class that are need of protection, we as adults often fail them.

This argument was couched in terms of parental rights; however, it really should have framed around the rights of the child, because that is exactly what is at stake. As an adult, if anyone where to hit me, let alone with a foreign object, it would be deemed abuse and I could press charges.  Why does age eradicate this basic right - the right to live free of violence? There are a number of countries that have outlawed spanking like Italy and Austria, and many who do allow spanking, limit the right to do so to parents. In Canada, a parent may spank a child using only the hand between the ages of 2-12.

Spanking is about retribution and anger; it has nothing to do with discipline. It teaches a child that a larger person my hit a smaller person, that violence is a legitimate solution to problems and encourages them to be violent.  It further plays a significant role in low self esteem.  Spanking a child even once, can lead to problems in adult life, and this is happening in institutions that are constructed specifically to prepare children to become functioning members of society.

Zedler is correct when he asserts that teachers are without the tools that the need to perform their jobs adequately, but spanking is not the answer. Currently there 1 teacher for every 22 students in Texas between kindergarten and grade 4, but even this was recently at risk to save money in the budget.  Smaller class sizes that emphasis various forms of learning are the best way to engage students.  A child that is interested and learning, is less likely to cause disturbance.  A smaller class and by that I mean smaller than 22, would allow teachers to focus on children that need extra attention.  Children that are most often subject to corporal punishment are poor, of colour or are living with a disability.  How does spanking address any of these issues?

Schools today enforce standardization and leave no room for children who are either slow to conform, or are unable to conform.  The number one lesson learned by students is to submit to authority and not the much vaunted three R's.  Spanking falls into this tradition, because it enforces hierarchy and stifles agency and individualism. This is only one of the ways that the current education system fails students.    

As a parent, I can say that I would pull my child out of school before allowing them to be spanked by anyone, but not every parent is in a position to do so.  This will prove an obstacle to many parents who are now dealing with this law. An education should never involve physical violence and if teachers are ill equipped to deal with the problems in today's classroom, then it is the states responsibility to provide them.  Children should not be subject to violence as a price for receiving an education.

Editors Note: Traditionally when I write about corporal punishment, someone shows up in the comment section remarking how they were spanked as a child and turned out just fine.  If you are fine, it is in spite of being spanked, not because of it.  This comment thread must be safe for survivors of abuse, and any negation of the pain that has resulted from corporal punishment will not be published. This thread is meant specifically to discuss the harmful effects of spankings and alternative methods of discipline.