Some schools still paddle

By CHARLES DUNAGIN,

A current  proposal to allow spanking of unruly students in Greenville public schools brings to mind the old song, written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards.

The chorus goes:

School days, school days

Dear old Golden Rule days

'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick

You were my queen in calico

I was your bashful, barefoot beau

And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You, Joe"

When we were a couple o' kids

Well, this isn’t 1907 or  1957. Hickory sticks are no longer a part of the curriculum, and the closest thing to a slate in the classroom is a computer screen.

If Greenville officials decide to put in a corporal punishment policy, it won’t be the only school district in Mississippi to do so, but it could cause more problems than it cures.

I’m not sure how many school districts allow corporal punishment, but Mississippi is one of  19 states — mostly in the deep South — that does  permit it.

Corporal punishment isn’t like it was in olden times, and in today’s environment it is viewed by many as a relic of the past.

I’m still not opposed to corporal punishment, applied judiciously. I received a fair amount of it when I was a kid, both at home and at school, and I don’t think I’m any worse off for it.

I doled out to my own now adult children less of it than I received as a child, and I don’t see how it did them any long term harm.

But my daughter, like many of her generation, doesn’t believe in paddling, and, so far as I know, my grandchildren have never experienced it at home or at school. And they’re turning out okay.

Actually, I was a little surprised to read a report  on the internet that in  2014, some 94 percent of parents with children three to four years old reported that they had spanked their child within the past year, and 76 percent of men and 65 percent of women agreed with the statement, “a child sometimes needs a good spanking.”

I don’t know where they got those figures, but I suspect  that even if they are correct,  a far less percentage would agree to their child being paddled at school.

Lawsuits and even criminal charges have arisen from corporal punishment in schools and are always a possibility wherever it’s applied.

A big problem with corporal punishment is how much is too much. By my own experience, I know that some teachers, coaches and principals whip harder than others.

I suppose that problem can be somewhat alleviated by assigning one person to do the paddling and trying to set some parameters on the number of licks and how hard.

Aside from other issues about corporal punishment in today’s society, there’s always that proverbial elephant in the room —  race.

White teachers paddling black kids, and vice versa, can be a problem waiting to happen. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the reality of it.

I once served on a school board — in McComb — and I  was of the opinion that some of the district’s pupils needed some corporal punishment. But the superintendent at the time was against it on the grounds that they got whipped enough at home and it would  do more harm than  good at school.

I mildly disagreed then, but not enough to mount any effort to overrule him, even if I could have.

Discipline was a major  problem, and I recall attending numerous school board hearings on proposed suspensions and expulsion of disruptive students.

My guess is that maintaining discipline is the number one challenge in many public schools across the state, and I don’t know exactly how the problem is going to be solved.

But I am pretty sure  the ultimate solution won’t be bringing back the hickory stick, and education officials might as well be trying to figure out alternatives.

Probably the ultimate solution, if possible, would be more parents adhering to Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

Note that the biblical admonition is to parents, not school administrators.

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Rebekah Stewart and Ray Brinson are pleased to announce their upcoming marriage on May 12, 2018, at Pine Grove Baptist Church in Magee.

A reception will follow in the Fellowship Hall.