Punishment or Correction?

I visited was a friend who is 3 years younger then me and lives in East Alabama which is not too far from where we grew up in the far west part of the Florida panhandle.  She lives with her one of her granddaughters and great-granddaughters.  The great-granddaughter will be a senior this year.  She skipped 2nd and 5th grades due to her being a little higher IQ than most (128).

I was talking to my friend Suzie (names changed as I do not want to invade their privacy), and we were discussing our school days as well as the following generations and how each group is better or worse in various areas.  We both remembered the ruckus caused when schools here in the Florida panhandle were desegregated in the late 1960s and what a tormented decade that was.   We also talked about how different each generation was due to new technologies as well as new morals that came into play, i.e. shacking up and promiscuity.

At some point school, CP came up and I mentioned that many states and schools no longer use it when her 37-year-old granddaughter blurted “Well that may be true in some places, but here it’s not only used, it’s done more now than when I was in school.  She then called her 15-year-old daughter Megan to come into the room.   After she came in her mom asked “How often do you get paddled at school?”   She stated it was about once a month which shocked me a bit.  Her mom then jumped in and said “But it is voluntary.  You can choose other punishments if you do not want swats.”

I then turned to Megan and asked what did she do to get in so much trouble.  She replied that sometimes it was for bad words, but mostly due to being late to classes.  She stated that she is late to one class or another due to “the effects of being a girl” where she has to keep up with her make-up and hair and often loses track of time.  She said you can get 2 to 5 swats, but three is the most common unless you “advance.”

When I asked what did “advance” mean she said “Well when you get a demerit for being late it is put on your attendance card.  When you get 5, you can do Saturday school or take 3 swats.”   Then the next time you get 5 demerits it’s the same choice, but on the 3rd and 4th times, you get 4 swats.  Then after that it’s 5 until the school year is over.  She said that in 9th grade she got 24 swats, two sets each of the 3 , 4 and 5.

Then in the 10th grade she got 34 over the course of the year and said she was on track to beat that this current school year as she had received 34 by the time schools shut down in mid-March.    When I asked if the swats hurt and why they are not correcting the behavior, I was shocked at her answer.  She said almost in a scientific discussion mode “It’s not for correction, it’s a punishment.”  She continued “It does sting a lot for about an hour, but that’s way better than 4 hours of your Saturday being consumed by cleaning the school and straightening things out.

She told me that the principal, a male, doles out the swats and a female administrator will serve as a sonic witness.  When I asked what a “sonic witness” is, she said the lady sits at desk in front of the wall to the principal’s office and can hear it, but not actually see unless she stands up and stands in the door which she rarely does.  She said when she gets a note to come to the office after earning a 5th demerit, she goes to the office and they give her a choice of punishments.  She always chooses the swats and she comes to the office during the last period on Friday and receives them.  She is told to remove anything in the back pockets if she has them, and then is told to bend over a chair and place her hands on the edge of the seat.  She is told to look at the wall straight ahead and look at a printout of the logo for the Target stores and then its wham wham wham.

Her mom then tells me that once you get the swats the “sin” that earned you the swats is forgiven and deleted from the records. That is very strange to me.

So is punishment just a payment system and as long as you keep up the payments, your credit (school record) is in good standing?

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There is a great deal in your account that I find both fascinating and alien.  The fact that Megan, clearly highly intelligent to the point where she was jumping grades, was not unduly unhappy to get 30+ swats a year at age 15.  I’m around 3 years younger than you.  When I was Megan’s age here in England girls certainly did get caned or slippered on occasion.  But I doubt very much if many of them accrued 30+ strokes and the six or more instances of SCP per year that Megan was reporting to you.

Further, if any did they would probably have been deeply ashamed of the matter and not simply dismissed it as “It’s not for correction, it’s a punishment”.  In other words, nothing is seriously amiss here, it’s just that if you do certain things you get whacked.  A bit like a library fine if you keep books out too long.  The fine isn’t going to deter you from missing the date next time, it just marks the fact that you did miss the date that time.

If the student doesn’t want to get that tick by serving detention,  or Saturday school in Megan’s case, the school says well no problem, you can get this number of swats instead and get your tick that way.  We’re not in the least bit concerned about you being tardy (or whatever the ‘crime’ was) we just need to balance the books.  And what’s more, once the credits on a particular infraction match the debits, why, we can delete that infraction from the books anyway and it’s gone and forgotten?  Do the same thing as often as you like, provided you’re prepared to get that tick some way.

The administration sees it that way, the students see it that way, and everyone’s happy.  I have to say though that I admire the fortitude of modern young women in being willing to put up with the indignity of being whacked, often by a male administrator, and a stinging bottom for up to an hour as Megan reported, just for the sake of their social time.  But then social time is so very important to modern youngsters.  Everyone needs to spend as much time as possible with everyone else so that they can all monitor each other and be exactly like each other.

Now I don’t know about Megan’s school, but certainly, at most US schools not all ‘crimes’ are dealt with by the tick system.  Some things will get you ISS, ESS, transfer to a special school, or even into the justice system faster than you can say ‘Gotcha’!  There’s no doubt at all about the corrective element.  It’s right there alongside the punishment bit and it’s in your face.  The message is very clear indeed.  Do this again and very nasty things will happen, and they’ll keep getting nastier and nastier.  Your only sensible action is correct, i.e. stop doing it!

However, for things like tardies, it is just as though the administration in schools has decided that it’s a lost cause.  They assume that they can’t stop students from doing it but they can’t just ignore it, so they resort to book-keeping, debit and credit, and the tick system.  They could make being tardy as dangerous and damaging for students as bringing drugs to school, and if they did very few students would ever be tardy.  But they don’t.  Instead, they waste lots of administrative time operating a tick system the outcome of which is that lots of students get lots of whacks.

Whatever way you look at it, it cannot possibly be a good thing that girls (or indeed boys for that matter)  are beaten on the bottom on a routine basis (and quite often in the case of girls by an administrator of the opposite sex) rather than punished in a way which might stop them doing whatever it is that gets them whacked.  A medical institute in Siberia did allegedly claim a few years ago that being beaten on the bottom by a person of the opposite sex was good for serious depression, but they did specify bare bottoms and serious beatings.  And anyway how many students are seriously depressed?

Megan’s ‘sonic’ witness is a great description!  But if you’re operating tick system paddlings who really need a witness anyway.  It’s totally routine and predictable.  And the sonic witness method does at least salvage a bit of that wasted administrative time.

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It has always fascinated me how much store schools, especially in US, put on tardiness. I think it was Oscar Wilde (it usually was) who was once quoted as saying “punctuality is the thief of time.” I do tend to agree, time governs our life.

It sounds that in Megan’s school, swats are almost treated as a game. The question of whether a spanking is a punishment or correction has long been considered. Ideally, it is both. Unless it goes at least some way towards improving future behavior, it seems a waste of time. Maybe if her teachers refused to paddle her, but doled out other punishments, it would have more of an effect and may improve her behavior.  The principal comparing it to paying for a shopping trip is bizarre. What he’s saying is a bag of apples will always cost the same, however often you buy them. Being late will get you the same number of swats, however often it occurs.