Teachers out of their element
By Jordan Riak
April 19, 2009

I'd like to invite readers who've been following debate that has been raging over corporal punishment in a suburban Tennessee public school to join me for a few moments in a flight of fantasy.

Remember Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz? Remember the tornado? Well, let's imagine that the very same tornado is about to pay a return visit - this time not to a Kansas farm house, but to a Tennessee public school -- perhaps the same school that we've been reading about. But make no mistake, it could be any one of many schools, not only in Tennessee, but anywhere in the 21 paddling states.

It's morning, just a little while before the first period bell rings. The teaching staff have all arrived and are preparing for the day. And then it happens. The tornado descends on the school, and magically lifts it into the sky and transports it across the country to a new location. Nobody notices that anything has happened. The main difference between the school's original home and the new one is that residents of the latter are well-informed and highly educated. Many have advanced degrees. Some are professionals.

Taking it all in stride, students arrive at their new school, the first period bell rings and the day begins. The teachers swing into their usual routine.

Then, almost immediately, the calm begins to disintegrate. At first, some angry shouts can be heard coming from a classroom. And more from another. It gets worse by the minute. Confrontations between students and teachers erupt. People are running in the halls. A girl in a state of panic races toward the restroom, frantically trying to dial her cell phone. A teacher chases her and grabs the phone. Chaos reigns. Within the hour, the school looks more like a crime scene than a school zone. Police cars and ambulances arrive with lights flashing. The school parking lot becomes congested as parents converge on the site. Mothers charge into the front office demanding to be united with their children. A few angry, grim-faced fathers can be seen, cell phones in hand, trying to reach their lawyers.

The teachers, meanwhile - bewildered by events that have spiraled out of their control and beyond their understanding - are rounded up by the police for questioning. One mutters to a colleague, "What the hell is wrong with these people anyway? Haven't they ever seen a kid get paddled before?"