Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Corporal Punishment: Necessity or Abuse of Power

Written for an Art and Science of Teaching Class

"Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

The Bible, Proverbs 23:14.

"I disapprove of flogging, although it is the regular custom... because in the first place it is a disgraceful form of punishment and fit only for slaves, and is in any case an insult, as you will realize if you imagine its infliction at a later age. Secondly if a boy is so insensible to instruction that reproof is useless, he will, like the worst type of slave, merely become hardened to blows... And though you may compel a child with blows, what are you to do with him when he is a young man no longer amenable to such threats and confronted with tasks of far greater difficulty? Moreover when children are beaten, pain or fear frequently have results of which it is not pleasant to speak and which are likely subsequently to be a source of shame, a shame which unnerves and depresses the mind and leads the child to shun and loathe the light....I will not linger on this subject; it is more than enough if I have made my meaning clear. I will content myself with saying that children are helpless and easily victimized, and that therefore no one should be given unlimited power over them."

Quintilian (circa 35 - 95 CE) from his "Institutes of Oratory."

Corporal punishment has been a topic of debate most likely since the beginning of recorded time. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (2009) defines corporal punishment as “physical chastisement of an offender.” Twenty-one states allow the use of corporal punishment on students. Proponents of this disciplinary action in schools are not in the majority of public and specialized opinion. The history of corporal punishment lingers in the past of slavery, acceptance of intimate partner violence, and pushes into the future of reliance on force to win power over others.

Corporal punishment treads a thin line between abuse and effective disciplinary action. According to Kauchak and Eggen (2005), in 1977 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporal punishment in schools does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. “The Court further ruled that states may authorize corporal punishment without prior hearing and without the prior permission of parents (Ingraham v. Wright, 1977).” The punishment should be used to correct behavior, not leave lasting injury, or be done out of anger, and may not be cruel or excessive. Each state has specific guidelines to what can be used to hit the child and how often a child may be hit in one session at school. One thing is clear about corporal punishment, if used, it should be used as a last resort.

Many people are against the corporal punishment of children in schools. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released statistics for the 2006-07 breaking down data for corporal punishment by race and sex. The OCR found that 78% of the 223,190 students who received corporal punishment were male (Darden, 2009). After the OCR released these statistics, the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union did a study finding that minority and disabled students are disproportionately physically punished in schools (American School Board Journal, 2008). The states that allow corporal punishment are mostly in the south. Yet, excessive punishment can be seen anywhere in which violence is allowed. The following case exhibits just one instance of the line being overstepped.

“In one Pennsylvania elementary school, a 36 year-old, 6-foot-tall, 210-pound school principal paddled a 45-pound first-grade boy four different times during a school day for a total of 60 to 70 swats. After the incident the boy needed psychological counseling, cried frequently, and had nightmares and trouble sleeping. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Douglass, 1991)” (Kauchak & Eggen, 2005, p. 335).

Many in the United States want to see an end to this form of disciplinary action. It is too easy to overstep the boundaries of cruel and excessive punishment, especially if the local government and school district do not clearly define what is acceptable. It is also unclear if there is anything positive that results from corporal punishment, besides an immediate halt of specific behavior.

Corporal Punishment is an outdated form of disciplinary action that should be eliminated from the educational system. As a person who grew up in California, which banned corporal punishment in the 80s, I was shocked to find that children were still being paddled in school. I heard rumors while growing up of children in catholic school being hit on the knuckles with a ruler and was relieved that I was in public school protected from such horrifying events. It was bad enough I had to survive home life, adolescence, and societal pressures. What is even more shocking is that while we lived in North Carolina, I was completely unaware of the school's ability to administer corporal punishment on my own child. None of the student parent handbooks I read ever mentioned this. Corporal punishment has a lingering sentiment of religion to me. It reeks of God's ancient vengeance, and in doing so, reminds me of how Religion and State are meant to be separate in the United States. I completely understand that many Christians have a more peaceful stance on modern day society, yet for some reason the controlling and demeaning aspects of the Christian religion continue to affect our children. In addition, states continue to allow a form of disciplinary action that has no proven positive effect on our children. As a teacher, I would not use corporal punishment on my students, even if it were allowed or encouraged. I would not be able to make a clear differentiation between anger and violence and hitting for punishment. I choose not to perpetuate violence on our children.

Until we ban corporal punishment from all schools, whether or not one is for or against corporal punishment, we need to be clearly define boundaries for teachers and administrators to adhere to. Teachers nationwide are held accountable for their teaching methods. It may be reasonable to include students' emotional and physical well being into the whole picture of student success and teacher accountability. If we did so, we may see that corporal punishment causes more harm than good and move more quickly away from using it in the classroom. We all deserve to be treated equally under the law and as human beings with the ability to learn lessons and practice compassion.


(2009). Child Development. Work-Life Newsbrief & Trend Report, 5-6. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

(2009). Corporal punishment. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

(2008). Corporal punishment still popular in many schools. American School Board Journal, 195(10), 7. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Darden, E. (2009). The Paddle Problem. American School Board Journal, 196(1), 39-40. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Kauchak, D., & Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional, 2e. Retrieved from University of Phoenix.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Curiosity in Action: My Teaching Philosophy

This was recently written for a class....

Becoming an elementary school teacher requires evaluating ones own educational philosophies constantly over the course of ones career. Being a teacher is a huge responsibility to the children we have in our class and to the communities we let the children fly free in. Our task as teachers should be to inspire creativity and encourage children to take an active interest in the world around them. We must remember that these children will grow up to be our future leaders. Teachers should help students learn the tools they will need to be successful in society.

Teaching is about inspiring others and learning about oneself in the process. To inspire learning in children it is important to offer opportunities for the students to lead their learning. These opportunities should include creative and hands-on activities in which students can explore real-world knowledge and put them into action. Fostering community involvement and civic duty in early years will support students in developing a sense of themselves in their community and help them to be more responsible in their actions. As teachers, we can learn from our students what is important to them and guide them in positive directions.

Students have an innate curiosity that we as teachers should embrace. Students want to have fun during learning, many students would rather be working on projects, experiments, and other activities than listen to a teacher stand in front of the class and lecture. Students are more interested in their learning if they can be allowed to participate in the subject matter they are studying. Students are more productive if they are fed, rested, and relaxed. Students believe they are successful when they can see that their work is appreciated and are given opportunities to share what they enjoy about their work. Students can help teach others by exhibiting their knowledge.

Knowledge changes with time. We gain knowledge from others and from trial and error. People who are given opportunities to explore other world views will have a better understanding of their own perspective and learn to respect other views. Community, religion, ethnicity, and the resources available influence ones knowledge. Knowledge is not best put to use to control others but to guide ones way of life and ones own interaction with the world around oneself.

Exposing our minds to many ideas and different ways of thinking is important. When this is done, students have a better chance of utilizing critical thinking skills. Students can explore the various aspects of environmental and social justice issues. These concepts can be integrated into science, math, social studies, english, music, and art. Students will be better able to understand the world around them and the people in this world. It would also do our students good to explore back to basics, like identifying local edible plants, land navigation, simple recipes, homeopathic natural remedies, creating by hand, and survival techniques.

The future of the planet is of immense concern to me. I learned as an undergraduate that one is more effective in making change if one can dedicate themselves to a cause and can see more positive change if they work locally. My educational philosophy stems from the core of act locally and think globally. I want students to explore the beauty of community through student-based action. It is never too early to introduce ideas of compassion, action, and responsibility. Projects the children could get involved with are a community garden, reading programs with elders and peers, the local food bank, murals, organizations that help the house-less, coastal cleanups, and park beautification days. I believe that even with structure given by the federal, state, and local government on what curriculum should be taught, there are many roads to reaching the same foundations. As a teacher the ideas of my students should be integrated into lessons. In doing this, I will keep on learning and also encourage the children to care more about school and the world around them. Round table discussions and constant feedback are better at assessing my students success than standardized testing. Even so, I think that students should be able to perform on standardized testing. Equipping children with the tools on how to comply with the requirements set forth by the government is also very important. The educational philosophies that I most relate to are Progressivism and Postmodernism. Labaree (2005) states about pedagogical Progressivism or constructivism:

“It means basing instruction on the needs, interests and developmental stage of the child; it means teaching students the skills they need in order to learn any subject, instead of focusing on transmitting a particular subject; it means promoting discovery and self-directed learning by the student through active engagement; it means having students work on projects that express student purposes and that integrate the disciplines around socially relevant themes; and it means promoting values of community, cooperation, tolerance, justice and democratic equality.”

In addition to being active in one's community it is important to examine how our society has come to have certain issues. When discussing these topics teachers can take into account age appropriateness as well as to the depth in which the students are interested. In the text Introduction to Teaching the authors define, on page 221, Postmodernism as “an educational philosophy that contends that many of the institutions in our society, including schools, are used by those in power to control and marginalize those who lack power.” (Kauchak and Eggen 2005) In honor of the people of our past and present I think it is important to have resources available to the students which let them learn about the struggles of such people as Emma Goldman, Martin Luther King Jr, Frida Kahlo, Mahatma Gandhi, Julia Butterfly, Cesar Chavez, and many more.

I want nothing more than to influence positive change in this world. My philosophies as a teacher will evolve over time. One of my goals is to continue to grow and change with the needs of the students and society. Children deserve the chance to learn in an environment that fosters their natural curiosity and gives them a voice when, in fact, they may not have much of one anywhere else. What we do does matter and the future leaders need to know that they can be a part of positive change in their communities.
Karen L Anderson, Dean M Martin, & Ellen E Faszewski. (2006). Unlocking the Power of Observation. Science and Children, 44(1), 32-35. Retrieved January 18, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1124970581).

Labaree, D. (2005). Progressivism, schools and schools of education: An American romance. Paedagogica Historica, 41(1/2), 275-288. doi:10.1080/0030923042000335583.

EBOOK COLLECTION: Kauchak, P. & Eggen, P. (2005). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keep Your Baby Close to Your Heart

I am a big supporter of wearing your baby. We love Ergo Baby Carrier Products, especially their organic line which shows their dedication to environmental stewardship. Until January 22nd Midnight (CST) Le Petit Owlet is giving away an Ergo Baby Carrier. Check out the product review and giveaway at: http://www.lepetitowlet.com/2010/01/ergobaby-organics-review-giveaway.html

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth...

DD2 (Dear Daughter Age 2) had her first dentist visit today.

Before I continue, let me just say that I tried to have her see a dentist in Oregon, but the office in town did not see children until they are 3 years old. When we moved back to Southern California I decided to see if a local pediatric dentist would see her. DD2 has chips on her two front teeth due to falling at around 11 months when she was learning to toddle. I noticed a few months ago that there was some browning behind them. I tried to focus our teeth brushing in that area, so I did not think it was that bad. In addition, I already had a bad feeling about the dentist since they disliked that I was still breastfeeding when I made the appointment.

When we arrived at the office, which was hard to find even with their printed out directions, the receptionist used the high pitch baby talk voice with me. I laughed under my breath due to the rediculous nature of being spoken to that way, especially when I was annoyed with their choice of location. When we were called back, a nice hygenist lead us back. She took a picture of DD2 for their records, let DD2 pick out a toothbrush, and a toothbrush cover. She asked DD2 to sit in the chair. So far, so good. Once she put the bib around her neck, DD2 started crying. I got to lay underneath DD2 while the woman looked at her teeth, cleaned them, and rubbed flouride on them. The hygenist said she needed to take xrays of the 2 front teeth since they were decaying. I held DD2 with the cover over both of us and the woman stuck something in DD2's mouth and took the xray. It popped up on the screen and a dentist came in and quickly looked at it. We went back to the chair and waited for the dentist to come look at DD2's teeth. We again had to lay down and DD2 was fed up with all the items being stuck in her mouth. I guess the dentist was able to get a good enough look. He said that they would have to make another appointment to clean out the teeth and cap them. That if they did not do this then there was a chance they could get infected and need to be pulled out. He said the decay was in the living part deep in the teeth. The dentist also said they would have to sedate her to do the procedure and she could not eat or drink for 6 hours prior. I immediately thought, he can not mean breastfeeding, so I asked. No breastfeeding either, DD2 could throw up and get it in her lungs which could be fatal. Then we had to weigh DD2 to see how much sedative my little one could handle.

When we were done DD2 picked out a toy and we walked to the front counter. The receptionist went over the billing and information for the procedure. In addition to the costly procedure and sedative, they want to use a restraining device on DD2 and I cannot even be in the room with her. I got seriously pissed. "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" I wanted to scream at the woman. My tone changed completely with her and I was ready to go. She asked me if they had done anything wrong. I told her it was not her, it was that I had never drugged my child nor restrained her. I then asked her if this is what other dentists would do? She said that this was a pediatric dentist office and this is what they do. I told her that it seemed like it would be traumatizing to DD2. She said the sedative was to help it not be traumatizing. I let her know I understood what they wanted to do with DD2, sedate, restrain, scrape, and cap. I walked to the door and said goodbye.

I immediately wanted to get a second opinion when hitting the fresh air of Southern California. I came home talked to DH (Dear Husband), he wanted me to wait until he was able to be there with us. I also went to my twitter support, who also said to get a second opinion.

I called the insurance company, so, now all I have to do is find another pediatric dentist and see what they say.

In addition, to all of the trauma DD2 may be facing, I feel so guilty. I know I should not hold myself fully responsible for her teeth. But I am responsible and my heart aches out of an overwhelming guilt I cannot seem to shake.