Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Progress With The Board of Education

Never have I been paddled, which is the method of corporal punishment still legal in nineteen states. I have, however, been slapped many times — by several teachers and by one principal. Those who have gotten the paddle, the "board of education," the method most common in those states, claim paddles with holes in them hurt more. I wouldn’t know, but I’ll take their word for it.
I think it was in fifth grade at St. William’s School in Tewksbury, Massachusetts that a spring storm delivered three inches of snow perfect for snowballs — and just before recess. Our principal, Mother Edward Mary, anticipated trouble. Prior to the bell for outdoor recess to begin, she announced over the intercom that there will be no throwing of snowballs. Then she stood at a 2nd floor window overlooking the playground with binoculars to identify violators. In twenty minutes, she’d written a long list, and my name was on it.
Allowing time for us to return to our classrooms and put our boots and jackets away, she got on the intercom again to say, “The following boys will report to the cafeteria immediately: “Albert Brackett, Joseph Hedstrom, Thomas McLaughlin…” and about twenty others. All the classroom doors opened into the hallways and two dozen grim-faced boys filed silently down the stairs to the basement cafeteria where Mother Edward Mary told us to line up against the wall. “I told you not to throw snowballs,” she said. She approached the first boy, put the curled index finger of her left hand under his chin to lift his face to her, then slapped it — a stinging blow — with her right. She did the same to the second boy, and so on down the line. I was near the end.
When she was done, I tried hard not to look at Al Brackett because if our eyes met, I knew we would both start laughing. It wasn’t that the slap didn’t hurt, because it did. It was the exhilaration of perpetrating a shared bit of mischief and enduring the consequence collectively. It’s what we did back then, when boys would still be boys. It’s one way we bonded. Mother Superior — that was her other title — did what principals did. She was the school’s leader and insisted that rules be taken seriously. We all got that — no hard feelings. Our parents treated us the same way and none of it diminished our self-esteem. The adults were in charge, and there was security in that.
From St. William’s School, some of us went on to Keith Academy in nearby Lowell where we had Xaverian Brothers as teachers. Strong as Mother Edward Mary was, most of them were stronger. I can attest that they hit considerably harder and only once can I say that I didn’t deserve it. Every other time, more than a dozen, I had it coming. Brother Dennis hit hardest, but we all liked him. He was fair, and he liked us too. He never said it, but we knew. I think he saw himself in us.
Most of my friends went to public school and corporal punishment was common there too. One of the most respected men at Tewksbury High School was Joe Crotty. He was assistant principal in charge of discipline and my friends were frequent visitors to his office. If he closed the door, they’d get a thrashing, but they didn’t take it personally either. They all liked Joe. He had a job to do and he was fair. He liked them too and they knew it.
I suspect it’s much the same way in those nineteen states still allowing people like Mother Edward Mary, Brother Dennis, and Joe Crotty to do their jobs without threat of lawsuits. According to people calling in to a recent Laura Ingraham Show, students who misbehave were offered a choice: suspension or paddling. Most callers chose paddling because they could “get it over with quickly.” Others said they misbehaved because they wanted a few days off under suspension.
My first teaching job was a two-year stint at a private school for juvenile delinquents in Lowell They had been re-diagnosed under the new special ed law as “emotionally disturbed.” I never hit any of them, but I did have to forcibly remove some from my classroom when they refused to leave on their own. The age range was 14-18 and some were my size or bigger. If the big ones resisted there was a ruckus, but I always managed to deliver them to Dr. Herrmann’s office down the hall. He was a former running back at Kansas State. He would take them inside and close the door, just like Joe Crotty did.
That was in the mid 1970s and most states have “progressed” since then, banning corporal punishment. Schools are much better now, don’t you think?


Anonymous said...

we had a shop teacher in Germantown High School, Philadelphia, who had a particular grievance against putting your foot on the cafeteria stools. It was forbidden, and he could slap your butt extremely hard. Again, he was fair and we knew the consequences of our actions. None of us were harmed other than a stinging sensation that went away in a few minutes/

Uber_Fritz said...

I attended schools in Mansfield, MA, and corporal punishment was not on the agenda. However, there were times when I wish it was part of the curriculum.

For example, in grade seven I had a former "brother" who was an outstanding history teacher. He required being addressed as "yes sir" and no sir." Do not forget! But, on occasion, we did forget. The punishment was a writing assignment consisting of the phrase "yes sir" or "no sir" five hundred times. Think I'd rather take the hit and be done with it.

My grandfather, Emmons, was born in 1902 and did NOT have a penchant for school; he'd rather ride the milk wagon. Thus, he often feigned illness and was released from school. One day, he had a verbal altercation with a teacher.

"I've got your name, Turner!" exclaimed the teacher.

"Keep it!" was his reply.

This earned him a trip to the office where he was given a choice. He could elect either detention or the rubber hose. He took the hose so that he could ride the milk wagon.

Anonymous said...

Ah, finally a nice place to come and reminisce about the good 'ol days of beating other people's children! My buddy still has scars on his knuckles from getting them walked with a ruler by one of his Scottish teachers. He laughs about it now and says it did nothing to stop the behavior he was getting punished for. It must of been a real disappointment in Tom's teaching career that he wasn't able to leave some youngsters with a good lasting impression, and give them a sound wacking now and then. I wonder if he beats dogs as well...

Brian said...

As Tom admits in the column, such beatings did nothing to curb his future behavior. Some would look at that info and say "Well, then why beat a kid if it does nothing?". Others say "Well. why not, you still get to beat a misbehaving kid!"

Adrian Peterson must be Tom's favorite NFL player, a real old school disciplinarian!

Yes, the good old days before unnecessary regulation! Why you used to be able to beat your workers as well - and not even pay them! If your woman got out of line? What husband would have been charged with a little "maintenance" beating? It's even getting hard to beat on random gays and foreigners in the streets without the feds nosing in. We need to Make America Great Again!!!

Anonymous said...

Looking at the map of those clinging to child beatings, it seems it is pretty much the same states that clung to slavery. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Those sweet old days when men were men and children knew to watch out or else. Nowadays even in states where it is still legal to whoop on them a little, the PC crowd gets their panties all riled up if you draw a little blood. Even bruises are getting frowned upon. What's this world coming to?

Peter said...

As a teacher myself, I would feel like a total failure at my job if I couldn't figure out how to get the most out of my students without physically hurting them. To me that is just giving up. Non-physical discipline takes a little more thought and effort, but the results are well worth it.

Peter said...

Tom said in his column that "students who misbehave were offered a choice: suspension or paddling. Most callers chose paddling"

Uber Fritz said "I'd rather take the hit and be done with it."

Believe me, if it is the preferred method by students, then it is obviously not the best deterrent.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I have to agree with you, Peter, when you say: "Non-physical discipline takes a little more thought and effort, but the results are well worth it."

However, that thought and effort can only be exercised between a teacher and an individual student within a milieu of hierarchical order. If anarchy reigns, if there's chaos, if the dynamic within the school is that of "keeping the lid on," it's often impossible to even take the time necessary to conference with the student.

It's unfortunate, but that increasingly describes the culture of many, if not most inner-city schools. The adults are not in charge. Adults are responding to students, rather than the other way around. It's the nature of adolescents to probe adults individually and, to probe the hierarchical structure of an institution. If they find weakness, lack of resolve, in a teacher or in a group of adults unsure of themselves, without a core, they'll continue to push -- even when doing so works against their self-interest.

If, on the other hand, they encounter adults who are centered, who have confidence, who embrace the responsibility of authority, who believe in the mission of the school, and who enforce the rules impartially, they'll feel secure. They can then open their minds to probing the world intellectually and morally.

Peter said...

I will admit that I do not have the experience that you have, Tom, in working in a school of juvenile delinquents, but rather in typical public schools full of rambunctious youth. I will also admit that it is very tempting to grab an ear or bop a head of a rude student that is driving you crazy, but to what end? As we have all mentioned earlier, this physicalness seems to do little to nothing in preventing future mis-behaviors. I totally agree with what you said the students do need:

"adults who are centered, who have confidence, who embrace the responsibility of authority, who believe in the mission of the school, and who enforce the rules impartially"

I think this applies even when "enforcing the rules" does not mean hitting the students. I have found that there are many students that misbehave with most teachers, but not with a certain few. The few that they genuinely like and respect, that show the characteristics you mention above. I think along the lines of Mad Dog Mattis, who said 'I've never found torture to be useful. Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture."

Perhaps a pack of gum and a couple of conversations? I know I would change my behavior under these conditions much, much easier than for some teacher that just bopped be, impartially or not.

Anonymous said...

Rulers? and maybe the knots on the robe sashes?
It's gotten MUCH worse, NOW some "teachers" use bike locks to smah the heads of folk they deem to exhibit undesirable behavior!
But, you know, learning, diversity, and academic environment.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Good one, Captain.

I've read that some in the Antifa are paid. Do you suppose Professor Eric got a bonus for drawing blood?

Anonymous said...

I looked up the story from your photo about the 5th grade girl that got spanked in Texas. I am not sure which is more gross, the fact that she was left bruised and blistered, or the fact that some old dude was all over this young girl's behind.