Tough on tough love
The practice of beating students in order to discipline them is ineffective and should be completely eradicated
Recently in the news there has been much discussion of Texas’ in-school corporal punishment scandal which resulted in a vote by a school district to change its corporal punishment policy. This was a shock to many who were unaware that corporal punishment was even still in place in certain schools. Nineteen states currently allow corporal punishment in their schools with little to no regulation. This lack of regulation is what led to the scandal in Texas where a teenage girl was beaten by her male vice principal for cheating on a homework assignment. Incidents like this one are far too common in today’s society, and yet remain under the radar. Schools are still paddling and ruler-slapping students for minor infractions and will continue to do so under negligible regulations until someone puts a stop to it.
Corporal punishment, specifically paddling, is a punishment where the student bends over, often with feet spread apart, and the teacher slaps his or her backside with a wooden paddle. This form of discipline has been around for many years, and it is surprising that it is still practiced. This traditional method of punishment is not only demeaning, with regard to the position the student must assume, but it has other negative connotations as well. The complaint that was made in the Texas case was that a male staff forcing a female student into that position and then hitting her bottom seems wildly inappropriate and has almost sexual connotations. Many speculate that corporal punishment against females by male teachers is too much and should be prohibited, but that would lead to other problems such as complaints about gender inequality and upset among the male students.
In addition to it being problematic on the basis of gender, recent studies have shown that corporal punishment on a whole, regardless of gender, is ineffective on children in solving the deeply rooted problem of misbehavior. Superficially it conditions the students into behaving out of fear, but in the long run it leads to further problems, such as increased aggression, and in extreme cases it can cause severe psychological issues. Research shows that rewards work better than punishment for long-term discipline, and so teachers should praise the students who follow directions to show the benefits of good behavior. This, in turn, will promote good behavior among the “bad” students.
One study from The Center for Effective Discipline said that schools that practice corporal punishment have higher rates of student-on-teacher violence, lower standardized test scores and a higher incarceration rate of those who graduate from the school than from those who graduate from schools without corporal punishment. These statistics show the drastic effects of corporal punishment and are evidence as to why corporal punishment should be fully eradicated from our school systems. Paddling students directly leads to increased violent tendencies which can result in student-on-teacher violence. The intention to define authority through fear actually has the opposite effect, as students lose respect for those who beat them and instead build up anger toward them. Also, corporal punishment can lead to depression and a total withdrawal from participation and learning. So while teachers think they are teaching their students discipline and helping them to focus by hitting them, they are actually deterring their students from learning. Finally, being beaten at such a young age for misbehavior instills in a student’s mind that violence is the answer to problems with other people. This leads to increased aggression which can unfortunately lead to a life of crime for that student, hence the higher incarceration rates.
These are just a few of the problems that are caused by corporal punishment and are reason enough to eliminate physical punishment from schools and instead practice alternative efforts to discipline, such as rewarding students who behave and teaching students about the importance of following directions through incentives and other means. The concept of rewarding students is a more accurate lesson because when students graduate school and go off into the real world, they will discover that behaving and listening to the instructions of authority does in fact result in rewards, such as a raise, a promotion or an accolade. Violence, on the other hand, is an unrealistic evaluation of what the real world will be like and gives children the wrong idea about how they will be treated by others once they graduate.
While the nineteen states that allow for corporal punishment may believe it promotes good behavior and discipline among the student body, studies debunk that myth and prove that beating students is not only ineffective, but in the long run will hurt students more than it helps them.
Meredith Berger is a Viewpoint writer.