I would like to expound on a recent op-ed with some data that show the utter inanity of corporal punishment in schools.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that still allows it. Only 69 nations still allow corporal punishment; most of those are in Africa and Asia. No nation in Europe allows it in schools. Nineteen American states currently permit corporal punishment, defined as deliberately causing pain by inflicting physical harm to students in response to some violation of acceptable rules of conduct.
Remembering the caveat that correlation is not the same as causation, let’s examine some characteristics and correlations of those 19 states. These facts are from a study by John Guthrow in 2002: Correlation Between High Rates of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools and Social Pathologies. Of those 19 states, only one, New Hampshire, is a blue state.
The other 18 red states are mostly in the South. In the 10 states with the highest murder rates, eight allow paddling in schools. Among the 10 states with the lowest murder rates, only one allows paddling in schools. In the 10 states with the lowest percentage of the population in prison, paddling in school is not allowed in any of them.
Educators paddle students in all of the 10 states deemed the worst places to raise children as defined by the condition of children index. Of the10 best states to raise children as defined by that same standard, none of them allow educators to paddle students. The detrimental effects of corporal punishment are reflecting in academic indices as well.
Educators are allowed to paddle students in all of the states that comprise the bottom 10 percent in math proficiency. Seven of the 10 states with the highest dropout rates allow corporal punishment. None of the top 10 states with the highest high-school completion rates permit paddling in schools. Among the 10 states with the worst educational expenditures, seven allow paddling in schools.
If we look at the worst percentage of the population over 25 with a high school diploma, seven permit paddling. Seven of the top 10 most impoverished states allow corporal punishment. Of the top 10 states with the highest percentage of children in poverty, eight allow paddling. Nine of the top 10 states with the highest rate of unwed mothers allow paddling. Eight of the top 10 states with worst state health ratings use corporal punishment. Nine of the top 10 states with earliest age-corrected death rates allow paddling in schools.
From these data, we can deduce that high rates of corporal punishment are associated with poverty and poorly educated people in conservative states that believe in authoritative governing structures.
What are the long-term effects of corporal punishment on students’ psyches and emotional states? According to an article in The Week, students with disabilities are five times more likely to be paddled than those without disabilities and black students are subjected to it significantly more than white students.
Corporal punishment is correlated with a wide range of emotional and mental problems in children and adults including depression, anxiety, hopelessness and susceptibility to drug and alcohol addiction. Students who are paddled typically are more prone to seeing violence as a way to solve problems.
Like most Kentuckians, I received some fanny dustings as a child, but I was lucky because my parents knew the difference between a spanking and a beating. Sadly, some parents do not.
In my years of teaching in Fayette County Public Schools, I personally saw a student bleeding through his shirt from welts inflicted by his dad and a high-school senior with two black eyes her mother gave her as discipline.
But this brings up a good question: If corporal punishment is such an effective way to change misbehavior, why don’t employers use it on their adult workers? Can you imagine the outrage if a company paddled employees for minor infractions such as talking out of turn or swearing in public?
Roger Guffey of Lexington is a math professor. Reach him at email@example.com.