Representative Harold Dutton, what’s your problem?
By Jordan Riak
March 10, 2003

This article was sent via snail mail to every member of both houses of the Texas state legislature.

A campaign to promote spanking in Texas seems as preposterous as trying to sell ice to Eskimos. But that’s what Rep. Harold Dutton is attempting to do with HB 374. He is calling for new legislation the sole purpose of which is to remind citizens of the existence of old legislation. Does he really think that people who hit their children consult the statutes books before indulging their favorite bad habit? And does he think they need formal permission to hit issued in duplicate? If the Texas legislature has nothing better to do with its time than to engage in redundant legislation, why stop at twice? Wouldn’t three times be better? Try road signs: SCHOOL ZONE - 15 MPH LIMIT - AND REMEMBER, IT’S LEGAL TO SMACK YOUR KID.

We have to ask ourselves, what motivates such bizarre behavior, and why now? Texans have been spanking since before the Alamo fell and never needed any reassurance from their legislature about it. Why the sudden concern? The answer is WWW.

Thanks to the internet, parents now have instant access to information. The internet probably is the most powerful antidote to ignorance since Gutenberg’s moveable type. With a few clicks of the mouse any literate person can learn the facts about, among other things, spanking. They learn that hitting children is a high-risk behavior and that there’s not a shred of evidence for its benefits. They learn that throughout the civilized world corporal punishment in schools has virtually disappeared. They learn that in 11 advanced democratic countries, parents as well as teachers are prohibited from hitting children. They learn that children who are raised by attentive, caring, non-spanking caretakers do better academically, are far less likely to smoke, drink, abuse drugs or run afoul of the law, that when they are grown they tend to have more stable marriages, hold higher paying jobs and enjoy better health. They learn that in societies where children’s human rights are respected, domestic violence is relatively rare and incarceration rates are relatively low.These facts have been known by experts and specialists for decades; but now, thanks to the internet, the information is available to everyone.

As this trend grows, committed spankers, in their dwindling numbers, feel isolated. Progress is not for everybody. Some are becoming desperate as they witness the soothing mythologies about “spanking with love” slip away into well-deserved oblivion. Perhaps they are jealous that coming generations will enjoy the reforms that came too late for them. Perhaps the notion that love and violence are mutually exclusive is just too bitter a pill for them to swallow. Rep. Dutton appears to be a member of this grim-lipped bunch.

Before any more valuable energy is wasted, a kindly colleague should take Rep. Dutton aside and diplomatically suggest that he stop trying to roll back social progress. Even if his HB 374 succeeds, it’s bound to be repealed before long and the memory of it will only cause embarrassment. As Chairman of the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee, he might consider setting aside a few minutes each workday to visit the Web where he can learn a few things about family issues he never learned at home. Maybe enroll in a parenting course. It’s never too late to learn something useful.

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