26 July 2011


CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. My gratitude to Andrea Kuszewski for posting this link to a study on the effects of corporal punishment in school (and by implication, at home). Aptly titled "Spare the Rod and Develop the Child", the study compares the effects of a harshly punitive environment (where routine discipline includes public beating with a stick, slapping of the head, and pinching) with the effects of a non-punitive environment (where routine discipline includes time-outs and verbal reprimands). Children in the punitive schools "performed significantly worse in tasks involving 'executive functioning' -- psychological processes such as planning, abstract thinking, and delaying gratification .... The findings suggest that a harshly punitive environment may have long-term detrimental effects on children's verbal intelligence and their executive-function ability .... These results are consistent with research findings that punitive discipline may make children immediately compliant, but may reduce the likelihood that they will internalize rules and standards. That, in turn, may result in lower self-control as children get older.

"This study demonstrates that corporal punishment does not teach children how to behave or improve their learning."

I find it unutterably sad that so many otherwise well-meaning adults cling to the notion that striking a child (beating, spanking, slapping, or worse) is constructive. I've long felt that the only lasting effect is to teach the child that violence is an acceptable solution to a problem. How many bullies must we encounter, how much domestic abuse must we endure, before we learn at long last to communicate? A strong case can be made that those who suffer violence as children, go on to inflict violence as adults. In the U.S. 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools (see map below ~ the 19 states are in red). With evidence that we are actually crippling our children's development, that number should plummet to zero ~ no violence in schools, no violence at home. Period.

DEBT CEILING. I know, this subject has become crushingly dull through repetition in the media. I bring it up because unless the U.S. raised its debt ceiling, it will go into default on its loans from other nations. The blindingly stubborn Republicans in Congress must disenthrall themselves from Tea Party ideology and actually negotiate in good faith with their Democratic counterparts and with the Obama administration. Last night Barack Obama addressed the nation on television, clarifying the issue in clear and forceful terms. He and the Democrats in Congress have bent over backward, making concession after concession, and each time they do, Republicans still refuse to give an inch. Conservatives' hypocrisy is reflected in Speaker John Boehner's response to the presidential address ~ trotting out tired old platitudes that are irrelevant to the current crisis. Small wonder that a NYTimes editorial summarizing the situation is entitled The Republican Wreckage. The U.S. has become a laughing stock among nations, our global credit rating is about to take a nosedive, and all Republicans can come up with is to cut benefits to the poor and elderly, while protecting tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations. Lewis Carroll would feel right at home.

Make your voice heard ~ to contact the White House and your senators and representatives, click here and follow the appropriate links. Anyone who fails to vote or take part in the democratic process, has no room to complain about the results.

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