Monday, July 24, 2006

"Some proponents of corporal punishment argue that those opposed to it simply do not understand the stresses of parenthood...

Opponents counter that this argument raises the question of whether corporal punishment is meant as a constructive lesson for the child, or as a form of stress-relief for angry parents."

(Quote from Wikipedia site on corporal punishment:

What is corporal punishment?

Corporal punishment, the "deliberate infliction of pain intended as correction or punishment" (, has been well-documented throughout history and all around the world. Although it is commonly associated with the spanking a child might receive from the principal in a school setting, it also includes dramatic ceremonies of public discipline whereby a criminal is stripped naked and beaten with an instrument such as a cane, a strap, or a whip. The aim of such punishment seems to be the same in many cases – obedience, humiliation of the offending party; however, the methods for inflicting corporal punishment and the laws regulating the practice differ widely from country to country.

Though it is intended to create submission and compliance, the actual effectiveness of corporal punishment is highly disputed and remains controversial, particularly when it comes to children. Proponents of corporal punishment range from those who consider it an effective and efficient discipline strategy to those who believe that the Bible encourages such practices. Its opponents point out that spanking is a form of abuse, not unlike other forms of abuse (i.e. domestic violence) that, until recently, went largely ignored by the laws of society. Carr (1984) effectively states what much of the research tends to illustrate: "...corporal punishment merely serves to legitimate bullying for the bully rather that teaching him the error of his ways" (as cited in Bull, 2005, page 5).

This site is dedicated to presenting online resources about corporal punishment. Because the current corporal punishment debate in the United States centers largely on CP in the schools, much of the information presented here will pertain to that aspect of the debate.

Caption: Releasing the above picture, the daily Iran of February 18, reported that the order to flog three youngsters was carried out in public on Thursday, February 15, in Tehran's Vanak Square. Mohammad Rahimi received 80 lashes for drinking alcoholic beverages. His brother Maiid and cousin Esmail received 180 lashes each on similar charges.

Official Position Statements on Corporal Punishment

American Academy of Pediatrics – Official Position;106/2/343

This link takes you to the official policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding corporal punishment in schools. In case you didn't know, the organization has recommended that "corporal punishment in schools be abolished in all states by law and that alternative forms of student behavior management be used" (taken from statement abstract).

National Association of School Psychologists – Official Position

Here is the link to the official position statement of the National Association of School Psychologists. The organization is "opposed to the use of corporal punishment in schools and will actively support removal of legal sanctions for its use."

American Psychological Association – Official Position

In 1975, the APA established this position on corporal punishment to which it still adheres today: "That the American Psychological Association opposes the use of corporal punishment in schools, juvenile facilities, child care nurseries, and all other institutions, public or private, where children are cared for or educated."

American School Counselor Association – Official Position

The American School Counselor Association's official position, succinctly stated, is as follows: "It is ASCA’s position that corporal punishment should be abolished in schools."

General Resources

"The neutrality of this article is disputed!"

As a testament to the controversy surrounding the issue of corporal punishment, a large banner at the top of this Wikipedia site explains that its content has been deemed "unobjective" and is currently under review. I personally found the site to be very informative, and it contains a wealth of information about the history and current practices of corporal punishment. You will also find links to other resources on the topic, some of which will be included here.

Did you know that "National Spank Out" day is April 30?

This site is dedicated, obviously, to the anti-spanking side of the debate. You will find information about states that have already banned corporal punishment in schools and a host of links to relevant data about the issue, including editorials, arguments against CP in schools, and current legislation. The site itself contains a plethora of information, but the design and layout is somewhat utilitarian and bland.

"Corporal punishment is abuse no matter what you call it."

This article by Robert Kennedy, a self-proclaimed passionate advocate for private education, presents an argument against the use of CP in schools. He also provides a list of professional associations that have taken official positions against CP, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

This site, put together by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, summarizes the various pro-spanking positions held by different religious groups. The site presents the information within the context of the Biblical passages often cited by these groups in arguing their positions. The site itself is interesting to explore; it contains information about many religious faiths, including Hinduism, Islam, Daoism, and even Wicca.

This site claims to be a resource for critiques on anti-spanking research. The man behind the critiques, Dr. Robert E. Larzelere, is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The site provides links to various critiques that Dr. Larzelere has constructed about current anti-spanking studies. An interesting link on the site takes you to the Larzelere/Straus debate, in which the two academics argue their respective positions using empirical data: In another article (see link to the AP story about study results), Dr. Larzelere does express his concern over spanking that is too frequent or too harsh.

When I saw that this site represented the "World Corporal Punishment" organization, I anticipated finding a large accumulation of professional research and data on the arguments both for and against the use of corporal punishment. When I arrived at the site, though, I was distracted by the grizzly photos of corporal punishment being administered in various iterations in different countries. (There are videos, too, if you are so inclined. I did not want to download them to my computer.) The site does, however, serve as a portal to information on CP, providing an endless supply of links about CP, its history, CP practices in various countries, legislation, books, and even a "Topics A-Z" section. Overall, this link is a solid source of information about CP around the globe.

Although this site is entitled "Corporal Punishment Resources," it seems to focus on resources on the anti-spanking side of the debate. You will find a list of interesting articles that have appeared in the media recently, commentary and editorials, and organizations/agencies devoted to non spanking-oriented disciplinary practices.

Tennesseans for Nonviolent School Discipline

An interesting and action-oriented site aimed at reducing the incidence of CP in school systems and exploring effective, nonviolent alternatives. Check out the table about halfway down the home page entitled "10 worst states by percentage of students struck by educators;" Oklahoma comes in at number 5 (3% of students struck by educators).

Articles (some scholarly, some not) on Corporal Punishment

"Discipline or Abuse?"

In 2001, a minister in Georgia was sent to prison after ordering that young members of his congregation be beaten "because the Bible allows it." This Chicago Tribune article by Dahleen Glanton discusses the controversy and highlights the tightly-held support of CP in the schools by many southern states, often based on religious doctrine.

"Study Links Spanking to Aggression"

In this article by David Crary of the Associated Press, psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff presents the results of her findings that link spanking to long-term problems such as "aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems." (Pro-spank advocate Dr. Larzelere also weighs in with a critique of her study.)

"Every Smack is a Humiliation"

This succinct, well-articulated "manifesto" by Alice Miller suggests that figures such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all once victims of corporal punishment and simply lacked a caring person in their lives to listen to and love them. She goes on to illustrate (quite effectively, I might add) that those of us who are blind to the effects of CP on children are so because we, too, were once victims of CP. She advocates for breaking the cycle – the sooner the better.

"Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review"

This links you to the study mentioned above ("Study links spanking to aggression"), a meta-analysis conducted by Elizabeth T. Gershoff. Here's a summary from the abstract: "Although the merits of parents using corporal punishment to discipline children have been argued for decades, a thorough understanding of whether and how corporal punishment affects children has not been reached. Toward this end, the author first presents the results of meta-analyses of the association between parental corporal punishment and 11 child behaviors and experiences."

"Pro-paddling student wins court battle"

A student in a master's degree program in education at Le Moyne College (in New York) was expelled from the program after writing a paper that supported corporal punishment. This article documents the details of the case – an interesting issue of First Amendment rights.

"Back in class after expulsion over paper"

A much more in-depth, colorful account of the case between Scott McConnell (the "pro-paddling student" from the previous link) and the school that expelled him for his pro-spanking views, Le Moyne College. This article, written by Michelle York, ran in the New York Times.

"Spare the rod and spoil the country, a Kenyan warns"

This article, written by Marc Lacey and appearing in the New York Times, presents the story of a Kenyan man who is advocating for the reinstatement of caning in his local school. He suggests that Kenyan youth are engaging in unruly and dangerous behaviors (gambling, drugs, fighting, sex) and that restoring corporal punishment might bring some order to the problems the Kenyan schools are facing.

"Corporal Punishment" (A survey of men from Men's Health magazine)

Believe it or not, 82% of men surveyed approve of spanking as a form of discipline. This article (from this year's Jan/Feb. issue) provides some interesting statistics on men's views of corporal punishment.