Poor practice persists
EDITORIAL, Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 14, 2009

The breakdown of discipline was under way in Memphis City Schools in 2005 when the Board of Education's corporal punishment ban went into effect.

Spanking wasn't working, and studies showed why: It stops bad behavior momentarily, but in the long run it does nothing to curtail the problem.

Anti-spanking activist Paula Flowe has been picketing Memphis Academy of Health Sciences to call for an extension of that policy to the charter school, where spankings are conducted and students' hands are struck with leather straps in assemblies reminiscent of public floggings.

Her arguments are strong. Charter schools are supposed to be innovative and experimental. They're supposed to develop new methods that will improve academic performance. There is nothing innovative about corporal punishment, a practice with roots in Colonial America that became ingrained in Southern culture during the antebellum era.

Many successful business leaders have testified that they were subjected to corporal punishment as children. So have violent inmates at San Quentin. It has been an easy way to avoid addressing the underlying reasons for bad behavior.

Physical punishment used to be an accepted way to discipline sailors, military trainees, prison inmates and spouses, too. Only in some public and private schools is it still accepted. Memphis charter schools should not be among them.


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