Monday, February 29, 2016

Gone Are The Days of The Swat

There was a wooden paddle hanging in the corner of my grade school home room. In those days, that was the final method of discipline. Well, I guess the final method was to be sent to the principal’s office. There were tales of a paddle in that office that had holes in it designed to let the air flow through and deliver a swifter, sharper swat. One time, the rumor goes, a kid got swatted so hard you could see his butt coming through the holes, kinda like one of those Play-Doh gadgets that would make something like pretend French fries. I can’t confirm that rumor or even the paddle with the holes ‘cuz I never did anything so terrible as to warrant a swat (at school, anyway). But I can confirm that the really bad kids got swatted occasionally. I saw it happen. Well, I didn’t actually see it, but all the evidence was there. Whenever a kid was sentenced to a swat, class came to a halt as the closest paddle and the teacher most capable of administering a swat (a hundred ten pound woman won’t do) was obtained. Out to the hallway the bad boy (I don’t remember a girl ever getting swatted) and the assembled execution squad (a witness had to be present) would go as the door closed behind them . The rest of the class would sit in silent anticipation like inmates in a prison waiting for a surge in electricity. I suppose a few of us would flinch at the muffled sound of the swat heard through the door. Then the offending teary-eyed kid would come through the door followed by the teacher, return to his seat, and class resumed as we were instructed to open our books to page whatever.
Those days are gone. Not only are they gone, but in the short time span of only one generation, the notion of even a parent swatting or spanking a child has done a complete about face and is now at the very least frowned upon if not considered borderline criminal. I guess that makes sense, doesn’t seem right that someone should use their size to inflict pain upon a helpless child in order to make a point. But then, maybe that’s why God or Nature made the young smaller than the parents. He also made the young not as smart as the parents, so those defending the no spanking policy will point out that a parent should be able to coax a child into punishment as opposed to resorting to something as physical as a spanking. And the “coaxing” method seems to be effective enough for the most part, but for the sake of argument, let’s say the kid says, “Nah, I don’t think I’ll be going to time-out, Mom. You can go if you want, but not me. Not today.” I mean at some point, whether it be a spanking or dragging the kid to time out, doesn’t something “physical” have to come into play? And shouldn’t the child be taught as much because that’s the way it works in adulthood? If an adult doesn’t pay his speeding tickets, he can’t just say, “Nah, I don’t think I’ll be going to jail, Judge. You can go if you want, but not me. Not today.” The Judge ain’t coming back with, “Well, if you don’t go to jail or pay your tickets I’ll be very disappointed in you.” We all know that rules and regulations are backed by something physically stronger than we are. We know it to the point where physically resisting isn’t even considered and it’s best just to not do anything so terrible as to warrant a trip to jail.
I’m not taking one side or the other, and I think everyone can agree that a bullying father with a complex should be stifled - shouldn’t be any bruises or belt marks inflicted by an angry drunk. I just figure it’s a debatable and/or interesting topic given it wasn’t all that long ago when the paddle was considered an effective means of punishment and, probably more significant, an effective deterrent to misconduct. Heck, spanking children even played well in places as wholesome as Mayberry:

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