The danger of not using the belt at home, paddle in the classroom

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Vera Dyer, delivered corporal punishment to us when we were out of order. Her method of correction was her paddle, which she named “Woebeun”. She said that if we got out of line, woe be unto us, for we would receive our pats. Many of us were just as hyper as some kids are today, and to discipline us, the paddle was common. In the mid-1980s, nearly every teacher had a paddle in their classroom and could administer a paddling in the classroom at will. Times have changed, but kids haven’t. Today, the classroom teacher and the school as a whole face a difficulty of maintaining order. A school with hundreds of students has hundreds of “I want it my way” and hundreds of “My child doesn’t learn like that” and hundreds of “I don’t discipline my child like that.” It’s chaos and the standards are lowered as public schools tend to cater to ever whim and wish of a public that demands they get preferential treatment for their free school education.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signed House Bill 69 (Act 266) which was authored by Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge. This bill makes it impossible for students who are hyperactive (labeled as students with disabilities) to receive corporal punishment at school. Foil said that children with disabilities are our most vulnerable students and need to be protected. Likewise, Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton said that students go to school to receive an education and not be be whupped and disciplined.

When I took psychology classes in college, one of the tasks was to examine ways in which to reinforce a desired behavior, either through positive or negative reinforcements, or ways in which to decrease undesirable behavior through positive or negative punishments.  The goal is to modify a student’s behavior to meet classroom expectations.  Some students just require a threat of calling home to mom. Some need classroom privileges taken from them. Some teachers have even used positive reinforcements (i.e. calling students Mr. and Ms. to get a level of respect). The difference between positive/negative reinforcement and positive/negative punishment is that with reinforcement, you want a behavior to increase and with punishment, you want a behavior to decrease. Corporal punishment is a form of positive punishment. You have a behavior (student curses at teacher, kicks fellow student) then you have an aversive stimulus (pain felt from the paddle). The kicking of a fellow student or cursing a teacher is undesired behavior that must be met with an aversive consequence.

Dr. Daphne Singleton was my 4th grade teacher at Sallie Humble. I had a lot of respect for her as she was my favorite teacher that year. I got out of line one good time and she had to use the paddle on me. I don’t know if I was more hurt that she paddled me or that I had forced her to administer the paddling. Either way, the hits hurt more with a combination of the two factors.

Jimmy Jones was my principal at Carroll Junior High. I was only tightened up once by him. That’s all it took. He really hit hard and I felt it in my bones.  I took PE classes under Coach Moses Farris there. We were required to dress out every day in a white t-shirt and gold gym shorts. Coach would always hark “White T-Shirt, Gold Gym Shorts, or I’mma get my board.” Naturally, we did not want to get hit with Farris’s paddle (because he hit harder than Jones), so we obeyed and even when it was cold, we dressed out for PE. The fear of the sting of that board was a reinforcement for a desired behavior.

In my day as a youth, if we got into trouble at school, we’d expect to get another round of discipline when dad arrived at home, for embarrassing him before other adults was a sign that he was not properly training his kids how to act in public….and I received a number of whippings at home with the Reverend. At home, our biggest fear was not even  the belt, the positive punishment we received to decrease undesired behavior…it was our father. He could give us an eye and we would get ourselves together. Naturally that look reminded us of the pain we felt from the belt. In a way, the previous punishment evolved into a form of reinforcement, for just the thought of the punishment was enough to decrease undesired behavior. However, the sting, and the memory of the sting, had to at first be felt.

There are many parents, lawmakers, and sociologists that miss this point. Using a belt on a buttocks or a paddle in a classroom may seem barbaric and antiquated…but it works….if used properly, consistently, and early. You can’t start whipping on a 14-year-old child who has never been hit before. You’re likely to get a returned blow. This has to start early in life and it has to be administered by a parent who is consistently rearing them to be well-behaved citizens in a civilized society. If students have no fear of mom, pastor, or teacher, they are not going to have any fear of lashing out at law enforcement, ultimately getting locked up or getting shot. Then we start looking for solutions to control the police, when most of our problems begin at home. We talk a lot about the school-to-prison pipeline. In many cases, its the home-school-prison pipeline. Ultimately, there will be control in prison, but our sons and daughters will be locked away. If only we’d taken control at home and at school, they would have never made it behind bars. Interestingly, students can magically get GEDs and diplomas in prison, but they can’t get it in school. The difference is in the presence or lack or discipline. Woe be unto us all for not seeing the positive reinforcement gained through corporal punishment.

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