Internet Meme Demolition Derby: That’s a Paddlin’ Edition

Before we get into the down and dirty Meme Demolition of this weeks horrible parenting advice as shared via social media, I would like to address the featured image of this edition of the IMDD. Because that’s not our normal Demolition Derby fare. No, that’s a Combine Derby!  That is people driving multi-ton agricultural implements at each other with malice aforethought, and it is a thing of beauty.  Click on this YouTube link if you want to see and hear for yourself the sublime spectacle that can only be achieved by the combination of idle hands and industrial farming practices. Bucket list updated.

Now on to this weeks show.

We’ve addressed spanking here at Grounded Parents before, myself in Spanking the National Football League and the IMDD: My Parents Spanked Me as a Child Edition,  Delagar addressed Good Reasons to Hit Your Kid and Against Punishment, and brionybrains took on a particularly pernicious internet myth in 1000 Spankings a Year, I Think Not.  I think there is sufficient evidence to state that the general editorial stance of Grounded Parents on the issue of corporal punishment is that we’re against it. It’s not good for kids or parents. Go back and re-read the stuff above, click on all the lovely links and I think our position will be clear.

Today’s meme takes the conflict between your child’s butt and the people who want to do it harm out of the household and into the classroom. Behold…

A pledge paddle "How Many got this in school and it made you a better person? Repost if you got this in school growing up.

Just in case you, dear reader, are lucky enough to live in one of the 31 US States (or just about anywhere else in the world) where the practice  has been banned, that there is what is often called a “pledge paddle”, of the style used by college fraternities in their (completely not sexual) initiation rituals, and the most popular instrument for administering corporal punishment in schools. The nineteen states that permit the practice are largely in the South, a fascinating coincidence when you consider that disciplinary paddle’s roots lie in the toolbox of the slavemaster.  But don’t get too cocky non-southerners, the most recent state to ban the practice was New Mexico in 2011. And my own home state of Ohio only got around to joining the ranks of non child battering states in the long forgotten year of 2009. And that’s just public schools. Only two states, New Jersey and Iowa, ban the practice in private schools as well. New Jersey was the first state to prohibit the practice in 1867, the second was Massachusetts one hundred and four years later.  On the world stage Poland was the first to ban school administered spankings back in 1783. And to think I spent my elementary school years perfecting Polish Jokes. Turns out the joke was on me!

Seriously, as it turns out the joke was on me. I was paddled twice, once in 5th grade and once in 8th. The first incident was for speaking out 0f turn in class, a not uncommon problem for undiagnosed ADHD children in the 1970’s. I remember the teacher, Mrs. Awfulteacher, scowling as she asked the class “Who talked”, and my classmates gleefully turning on me. I remember being dragged into the boiler room, already sobbing with fear as she gathered her witness, Mrs. Sadistic, to watch as she applied the paddle. It hurt a great deal. Did it make me a better person? I don’t know. It certainly convinced me to hate my 5th grade teacher, especially since actual bullies in our class were either ignored or encouraged as long as they didn’t disrupt class. Or they  correctly pointed out that they could expect much worse from home. The 8th grade incident was even sillier. I was three years older and had failed to get a progress report signed. There were fewer tears this time. I suppose I was more cynical as a teen. I wonder how that might have happened.

Thankfully, even in States where it is still legal, corporal punishment has been declining steadily as a disciplinary tool. Urban school districts are much less likely than rural districts to allow the practice. According to the Center for Effective Discipline, an extrapolation from federal studies estimated that 223,000 students were paddled in 2006 and we can probably assume that the number has shrunk since. Like all disciplinary tools, African American and Hispanic or Latino students are disproportionately affected by corporal punishment, because we’re still really racist… sorry about that. The other most likely victims of the paddle are those children in private Evangelical schools, where the same “spare the rod” mentality that is approved by parents is simply carried over into the school environment. In fact one of the basic legal frameworks behind the practice is the idea that the school is able to act In Loco Parentis 

Parents send their child to school to spend the day in the company of educators. This simple everyday act removes their children from the physical control of their parents. While parents do not relinquish their responsibility for their children when the children attend school, parents share some of that responsibility with teachers and administrators. Schools take on some of the responsibilities and exercise some of the prerogatives typically reserved for parents.

I was fascinated while researching this piece to still find “Pro” arguments in articles entitled Corporal Punishment in Schools- Pro’s and Con’s .  As expected however, most of them were facile appeals to nostalgia,  the same kind of conservative and authoritarian appeals to the corrective nature of corporal punishment in the home made by Evangelicals and other hard line Christians, and some rather odd references to the practices “efficiency”. You see, as opposed to detention or suspension, a good swat takes up minimal class time and has negligible monetary costs. Yay for fiscally responsible child abuse.

This meme resonates for the same reason our previous examples about spanking were shared. With rose colored glasses firmly in place, people look back at their childhood and see good times and good people.  Since today isn’t perfect they cast about for an explanation for the moral lapses of “kids these days” and latch on to the absence of corporal punishment as the cause, easily forgetting that a) correlation does not equal causation, and b) the kids who were severely damaged by their exposure to corporal punishment are probably not part of their adult social circle.

Or as we have concluded before, they might just be assholes… Don’t be friends with assholes.



If you’ve found a meme worthy of demolishing drop us a line through the Contact Form or tweet us a link @GroundedParents or @blotzphoto.

Featured Image Credit Russell Feldhausen on Flickr

Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at www.flickr.com/photos/blotz/

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