America: Land Of The Free, Home Of The Spank

Illustration for article titled America: Land Of The Free, Home Of The Spank

"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.


Spare The Rod, Say Some [Economist]

Such, Such Were The Joys [George Orwell]

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Up until I was in the 4th or 5th grade teachers could paddle kids for whatever. Forgot your library book? Some teachers would wollop you. Talk in class? Look out. Give the teacher a funny look? You get the idea.

My third grade teacher had a huge thick horrendous paddle named "George". Her husband had drilled holes in it to give it extra speed and swing and she hung it on the wall behind her desk. She was reportedly crazy with it (I never felt George's wrath, although she used the thing several times a week.). One day she came back in from the hall with a crying boy in tow, taped George back together with duct tape (she's BROKEN the thing paddling the kid) and proceeded to go back out in the hall to finish the punishment.

In about fifth grade teachers were no longer allowed to paddle on their own and kids had to be sent to principals office for the deed, so from then on little stuff didn't get beatings (and that is what they were) as I imagine it would hard for a teacher to say to the principal "paddle the kid, they looked at me funny".

I turned 30 last week, so I'm not THAT old. This stuff was still going on in elementary schools where I am from in the late 80's...

People in the UK can't believe it. My husband (a year older than me) never had any hitting, slapping, paddling etc allowed in his Scottish school as a child.