Stop Beating Kids: Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools

  • Spanking
  • Slapping
  • Smacking
  • Pulling ears
  • Pinching
  • Shaking
  • Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles
  • Forcing a child to stand for a long time
  • Forcing a child to stay in an uncomfortable position
  • Forcing a child to stand motionless
  • Forcing a child to kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones
  • Forcing a child to retain body wastes
  • Forcing a child to perform strenuous exersize
  • Forcing a child to ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice

THIS IS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. All corporal punishment is child abuse, and child abuse teaches students nothing. 19 states in the U.S. still allow corporal punishment in their schools, and this must stop now.

“Bullying is enough of a problem among students; the teachers shouldn’t be doing it, too. There’s nothing positive or productive about corporal punishment and it should be discouraged everywhere.” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)

Anytime a young person is treated this way they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive. While including both, corporal punishment goes beyond adultism, beyond adultcentrism, and straight to child abuse. 
The most basic right of any person today is the right to live in peace. 

While that may sound simplistic or naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. Physical violencewar, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence; mental abuseparental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs— and child neglect surround young people. These are all forms of violence. The institutions that are purportedly supposed to support our children and youth, places like schools, hospitals, and governments, abuse young people. In their homes young people face violence through popular media, like television shows, movies, pop music, and video games. And violence surrounds young people in many ways that we don’t see, seeping into everyone’s hearts and minds without us being aware of it: another bombing overseas, another vicious attack on public funding, another slander against youth in the news.
This abuse adds up. According to a United Nations study,

“Corporal punishment of adults is prohibited in well over half the world’s countries, yet only 15 of the 190-plus nations have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the family.”


It’s a statistic like this that leaves little wonder in my mind about why young people appear “apathetic” and “disenchanted” with a world so intent on numbing them to pain, hatred, cynicism and violence.
Luckily, our North American eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people and violence today. We are beginning to stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and the situations our world faces. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) boldly declares that,

“Young people must be meaningfully involved in promoting and strategizing action on violence against children… Children… need to be well informed about their rights, and fully involved in the life of the [community and] school…”

This call situates corporal punishment as a fully-authorized premise for social action in 198 countries around the worldminus the US and Somalia, who are the only non-signatory countries. Canada and Mexico have signed on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted than the CRC. So the vast majority of global governments agree that corporal punishment is a significant premise for social change, and we agree that young people should help lead anti-abuse efforts.

I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood, corporal punishment is made worse through dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… Corporal punishment is at the heart of all this.

Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act
In 2010, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill called “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” in the US House of Representatives. The bill would impose a ban on all public and private schools with students that receive federal services. Learn more about the bill, and support it. I do. 

Stop beating kids.

Resources on the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

A Moral and Ethical Responsibility (for Jackie)

Today I received another spectacular question from Jackie, an executive director of a nonprofit focused on youth involvement in the Northeast. Reflecting on the Freechild Project Measure of Social Change Led By and With Young People, Jackie made an important point about this work:

…[I]f our goal is “all community members equally make decisions, take action” can it come from an effort initiated by an adult, like what I’m trying to do? I like the quote from Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” I’m afraid maybe what I’ve organized is trying to “help” youth. Do you have time to share any thoughts?

I had to mull this over all afternoon, and honestly I’m not fully satisfied with my resolution – I think there’s more here. But here’s how I replied:

All adults have a moral and ethical responsibility to engage young people throughout the communities we co-occupy. It is true that we mostly fail to live up to that standard; however, that does not make it okay or right. We live in an adultcentric society that is reliant on the ideas, knowledge, and actions of adults to make the world turn; by deliberately setting about engaging children and youth in equitable and sustainable roles we can begin to rectify the disengagement we so regularly thrust upon them.

In consideration to Lilla’s quote, we must measure our responses in a responsible fashion. When I first read it a long time ago I internalized it, thinking that my inability to bring actual students into the state education agency I worked in was a failure to students and myself. However, I have come to understand that systemic change requires that adult allies assume responsibility for advocacy in the absence of youth themselves. I learned to talk with students directly by traveling around the state and going to schools and having safe and supported conversations with them about school improvement. I then took their words – directly, without my interpretation – back to the agency in their absence. When space was created within the agency for young people I had students I could go directly to, who I knew were informed and engaged in the lives of their schools as well as the language of school improvement. This led to their self-representation being a sophisticated contribution to these opportunities rather than bringing under-informed, under-prepared and frankly, disingenuous student voice into the room.

I say this at the risk of sounding as if I’m trying to rationalize away the selective inclusion of youth; however, I think that there are appropriately varying responses that need to be considered according to particular circumstances. By “selective” I do not mean WHO; I mean HOW. We don’t give 16 year olds the keys to the car and expect them to teach themselves how to drive; we shouldn’t do that with Youth Voice. This is particularly true when we consider the implications of youth involvement: its about efficacy as much as rights. We know that children’s rights and youth rights conversations generally don’t carry a lot of water in organizations and agencies today; however, we also know that school improvement and program efficacy are important throughout our communities. So let’s qualify and quantify youth involvement, if that is what is going to get young people at the table. In order to deliver on that, though, we must be very intentional and deliberate.

It is alsincredibly important to acknowledge that the nature of the quote has to do with the difference between sympathy and empathy. By differentiating ourselves from the young people we serve by dissing our actions we are merely perpetuating the “otherness” of youth. Unfortunately, I am convinced this is the silent messaging of a lot of programs that promote the perception that young people have the program within them. Ironically, this further strengthens the segregation of youth, which in turn enforces the alienation a lot of young people feel from adults, effectively undoing any notion of civic engagement and community building we thought we were encouraging through that approach in the first place. Now, please don’t get me wrong – there is a place for young people to run their own activities. However, I think that is a compromised position, at best, particularly when the work is in context of improving our whole communities and not singularly the lives of children and youth. If we are to address community problems what is a more effective, equitable approach than engaging all members of that community as partners? That includes children, youth and adults.

I guess to sum it up Jackie, at the end of the day I am a proponent of a radical democracy that sees the youngest among us as the logical engines, advocates and allies – just the same as everyone else. Full support, full opportunity and full inclusion are the only outcomes that I will accept; however, I know that the road from here to there is bumpy, unscripted, and sometimes isn’t a road at all. That’s why your work is so important.

I would love to hear anyone else’s response to Jackie’s question or my response.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Not Adultism – Corporal Punishment

Spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking…

Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles…

Being forced to stand for a long period; hold an uncomfortable position; stand motionless; kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones; retain body wastes; perform strenuous exersize; or ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice…

This is not adultism – its corporal punishment. In my experience I have heard a lot of people misuse the term adultism, applying it to any instant where children or youth have been discriminated against because of their age. It is true that because children and youth are young they are routinely subjected to physical punishment – but in this case, adultism is a root among many, and the brutal weed that grows is child abuse in the form of corporal punishment. I think its important to call a dog a dog – and that is what physically, mentally, or emotionally abusing children in the name of discipline or punishment is. Not adultism – corporal punishment.

Read my review of Eliminating Corporal Punishment here.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Why I Love the CRC

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most popularly accepted legal instrument affecting youth voice and involvement in the world today. Two countries haven’t ratified it: Somalia and the United States. Great company. Of course, the Campaign for US Ratification‘s model of youth involvement is poor itself, so there is a ways to go…

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Article 12


  1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

  2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 13

  1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.

  2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

    1. For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

    2. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE, AND RELIGION
Article 14

  1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

  2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

  3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY


Article 15


  1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.

  2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Article 17

States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health. To this end, States Parties shall:

  1. Encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child and in accordance with the spirit ofarticle 29;

  2. Encourage international co-operation in the production, exchange and dissemination of such information and material from a diversity of cultural, national and international sources;

  3. Encourage the production and dissemination of children’s books;

  4. Encourage the mass media to have particular regard to the linguistic needs of the child who belongs to a minority group or who is indigenous;

  5. Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being, bearing in mind the provisions ofarticles 13 and 18.

SPECIAL SUPPORT FOR DISABLED CHILDREN
Article 23

  1. States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.

  2. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child’s condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.

  3. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development

  4. States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of international cooperation, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.

EDUCATION FOR PERSONAL FULFILLMENT AND RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP
Article 29

  1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

    1. The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

    2. The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

    3. The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

    4. The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

    5. The development of respect for the natural environment.

  2. No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

These sections were originally delineated in Roger Hart’s 1997 publication, Children’s Participation: The theory and practice of involving young citizens in community development and environmental care, published by UNICEF. Learn more about the CRC at the official UNICEF webpage.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

My Review of “Eliminating Corporal Punishment”

Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward To Constructive Child Discipline was edited by Joan Durrant. This is my review for The Freechild Project website.

Spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking… Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles… Forcing a child to stand for a long period; hold an uncomfortable position; stand motionless; kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones; retain body wastes; perform strenuous exersize; or ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice… THIS IS CORPOREAL PUNISHMENT. Anytime a young person is subjected to this treatment they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive.
I can hear Alex’s voice right now: “That’s sentimental crap! Those people just want to babysit kids without giving them a chance to run their own lives!” Alex is the head of a large national organization that proponents the rights of young people to, well, run their own lives. His is a noble cause that I fully support, and that I agree with most of the time – except now.

Earlier this year the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, released the seminal publication available for anyone interested in securing the most basic right of any person today: that is, the right to live in peace. While it sounds simplistic and naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. There is physical violence, like war, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence. There is mental abuse, like parental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs. But there is also the abuse of being neglected everyday by the institutions that purportedly are designed to empower children and youth, such as schools, hospitals, and governments. There is violence hurdled through popular media, like television shows, songs on the radio, and video games. And there is the violence that surrounds young people everyday, seeping into everyone’s hearts and minds without us being aware of it: another bombing overseas, another vicious attack on public funding, another slander against youth in the paper…

These abuses add up. As the book notes, “Corporal punishment of adults is prohibited in well over half the world’s countries, yet only 15 of the 190-plus nations have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the family.” There is little wonder in my mind about why young people appear “apathetic” and “disenchanted” with a world so intent on numbing them to pain, hatred, cynicism and violence.

That is why this book is so important. For the first time my Americanized eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the global imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people today. That is, we must stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and that our world faces. While I’ve always believed that, I’ve never been fully able to describe why – until now. Now I’m beginning to understand the larger picture.

By situating its premise in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the CRC, Eliminating Corporal Punishment serves as a powerful international wake-up call, shattering any formerly sentimentalist or naive perceptions about the need to fight with young people for their rights. The CRC boldly declares that,

“Young people must be meaningfully involved in promoting and strategizing action on violence against children… Children… need to be well informed about their rights, and fully involved in the life of the [community and] school…”

This call situates corporal punishment as a fully-authorized premise for social action in 198 countries around the world- minus the US and Somalia- and even they have signaled their intent to sign on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted.

So the majority of global society aggress that corporal punishment is a significant premise social change. I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Sure, its premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood… and its exacerbated by dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… but I wouldn’t have been able to confirm that for you without this book. Today I understand that corporal punishment is at the heart of all this, and more.

What this book essentially does is provides an astoundingly comprehensive, yet relatively simple summary and analysis of corporal punishment, its background, and the effects and outcomes on our society. Then it carefully proposes culturally-relevant, socially-progressive responses to developing holistic, caring, and supportive responses to discipline that all adults – parents, teachers, youth workers, and others – can stand to learn from. A variety of illustrative anecdotes and a massive research scan all confirm that this is the most powerful, positive change that can possibly affect young people in around the world today.

There is so much I can say about this book. My own copy is almost completely marked-up on many pages, and I have dog-eared dozens of pages to reference and return to in the future. I would strongly suggest this book to anyone who wants an introduction to corporal punishment; to anyone interested in understanding the larger societal influences, impacts, outcomes, and forces at work behind corporal punishment; to anyone who wants to discover the international affects of corporal punishment; and to anyone who wants to understand the relationships between corporal punishment and adultism, ageism, and discrimination of all sorts. In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares. I would even recommend it to Alex.

 

Order Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward To Constructive Child Discipline at http://amzn.to/UfX9E9