It seems unheard of for teenagers to ask for more rules in their lives. However according to a recent article in “People” magazine, students at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans asked for just that. In response to the recent abolition of corporal punishment from Catholic and public schools in the United States, some teenagers and their parents are requesting a reinstatement of paddling as a punishment to provide more “structure and discipline” into students lives.
Corporal punishment is problematic for a few reasons. It sends the message that violence is an acceptable response to anger, frustration or disagreement. Violence is never an answer to conflict. Corporal punishment, then, doesn’t model healthy conflict resolution skills; it merely espouses the “might is right” mentality. Even when kids act out, it is important to engage them in a dialogue about WHY their actions are unacceptable instead of scaring them into behaving with the threat of violence. Healthy, open conversation about inappropriate behavior is more likely to lead to long term behavioral changes.
Part of that conversation should include a mention of expectations. The students assurance that paddling helps discipline them is alarming. Why must discipline involve physical abuse? Paddling sends the message (whether intentional or not) that when expectations are not met or rules are broken, physical force is justified. And, if violence is the response from school administration to a student as a way to deal with conflict then why should it not be the answer in the future: for a work conflict when the student is an adult or as a parent struggling with a child? Students are not only learning Physics and Spanish in school, they are also learning how to think and act as adults.
Additionally, though some of the teens maintain that paddling provided them with structure, this “structure” was clearly short term in nature, as the desire to follow rules went away as soon as the school quit physically punishing the students. Sending the message that violence is the only way to add structure and / or to change a behavior can only lead to more violence in the future.
What are your thoughts on corporal punishment? Leave us a comment!