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Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Corporal punishment needs to end now


Corporal punishment is an archaic way of teaching children. It is regressive and cruel, and it must be outlawed immediately. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/user: Kaldari

Traditionally, corporal punishment has been used on children in different settings as a means of punishing misbehavior. In the home setting, this has manifested as spanking, slapping, belting or virtually any other physical punishment that parents think up.

In the school setting, however, corporal punishment is mostly reserved to paddling, a form of punishment wherein students are spanked with a wooden board by a teacher or administrator.

Either way, corporal punishment is ineffective as a tool for punishment, is discriminatory in application and may leave lasting negative consequences on children who are being punished. For these reasons, corporal punishment should be abandoned as a parenting strategy at home and be banned in schools nationwide.

What may come as a surprise to many is the fact that public schools in the United States practice corporal punishment at all. Concentrated mainly in the south, 19 states, including Texas, currently allow for physical punishment in K-12 schools to be used as a form of disciplining students who misbehave.

The idea behind such punishment is that it demarcates clear boundaries for children and uses negative punishment to prevent the child from repeating the punishable offense.

While in theory this idea seems sound, research has repeatedly shown otherwise.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that corporal punishment is not effective at increasing short-term compliance, and another study found the same for long-term compliance and moral behavior. Furthermore, other studies also found that children who are subjected to such physical punishment are more likely to be even more aggressive and misbehaving than they initially were.

Not only does there seem to be no upside to the use of such punishment, but there are many downsides associated with such treatment.

One of the most severe downsides to using corporal punishment is the serious injuries that have resulted from doing so. According to the Society for Adolescent Medicine, approximately 10,000 to 20,000 children will require medical attention each year as a result of damage done by the use of objects used to punish, like paddles. Among the injuries children experience are bruises, cuts, nerve damage and even broken bones.

While it’s important to note that many schools that utilize corporal punishment do so only with the permission of parents on a case-by-case basis, this does not change the fact that it simply does not work regardless of the setting. Parents who utilize such punishment at home or permit for it to happen at school are typically victim to a flawed mindset that’s been passed down.

Many adults themselves were subject to physical punishment by their parents, and because of this they were falsely led to believe in its value.

Another, perhaps larger, problem with corporal punishment in schools is the manner in which it is practiced. Studies have repeatedly shown that regardless of the demographic composition of a school, Black children are much more likely to receive corporal punishment even though white children are more likely to attend schools who use such punishment.

Furthermore, another equally atrocious disparity is that students with disabilities are more likely to receive corporal punishment than their peers. These students, whose behavior is often linked to a disability like autism, Tourettes or obsessive compulsive disorder, are being punished for their condition instead of being properly accommodated by an understanding school system.

While, fortunately, the use of corporal punishment does seem to be declining, with approximately 166,807 students punished during the 2011-2012 school year, this fact alone is not enough.

Corporal punishment of adults has long been banned in prison and in U.S. military training facilities. Additionally, domestic violence has rightfully become taboo in our society, so why is it that battering the most vulnerable and defenseless population at a time of critical development is seen as necessary and instilling discipline? 

If that’s not enough, the greatest telltale sign of wrongdoing by keeping corporal punishment around is clear in states like Indiana. In Indiana, corporal punishment and injury of vertebrate animals is prohibited under an anti-animal cruelty statute. Meanwhile, the corporal punishment of children in school with objects is lawfully permitted. Think about that.

In states like Indiana, children are not given the same respect and dignity that animals are.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that corporal punishment and other forms of punishment committed against children are acts of violence and should be banned by all parties of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. This fact, however, has not resonated well with the United States, which is quite literally the only country on the face of the planet that is not a member of the CRC.

Not only is the United States severely out of step with the international community on this issue, but so are teachers, administrators, politicians and parents who condone such punishment in the name of “straightening out” their children.

The children of the United States deserve better and the solution is simple: Protect our children and end corporal punishment at home and in school.

Opinion columnist Ryan Nowrouzi is a biomedical sciences junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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