"In those days," George Orwell writes of his bleak boarding school experience in the early 20th century, "[bed wetting] was looked on as a disgusting crime which the child committed on purpose and for which the proper cure was a beating." But according to the Economist, even the brutal Brits of Orwell's youth might be going slack, as corporal punishment by parents and school teachers against children has been widely banned in Europe and parts of South America. But in the good old U.S. of A, spanking is still A-Ok, as parents and teachers are still allowed to give unruly children a swift swat on the rear. Didja know that it's up to each state to decide whether or not to allow teachers to physically punish schoolchildren, and that, in the 22 states that allow it, nearly 300,000 children were beaten last year?
Even ol' Orwell's boarding school has likely banned beatings, as "smacking has nearly vanished from schools," in Europe, explains the Economist. But this little detail makes the U.S. look even worse: America is the only country, "along with Somalia, which has failed to ratify a United Nations convention on children's rights, which since 1990 has protected children from "all forms of physical or mental violence."
As the magazine points out, there is a world of difference between a light pat on the butt to prove a point and true child abuse, "and in a world where children face such horrors as forced labour, sex trafficking and military conscription, devoting energy to outlawing parental smacks may strike some people as the wrong emphasis." But still, it's pretty embarrassing for the U.S. to so wholeheartedly support the public humiliation of their children by potential strangers in school. Then again, the beatings did stop wee George Orwell from wetting the bed. "So perhaps this barbarous remedy does work," he noted, "though at a heavy price, I have no doubt." Such, Such Were The Joys, indeed.