Dear Board Members
Re: corporal punishment
I understand the Dallas School Board meets today at 6:00 pm and will be discussing the sanctioning of children by physical means. The points I present here against such interventions occur to me as more practical than moral, per se. They are based on my wish to promote emotional health in the world and my experience as a parent, teacher and now as an educational psychologist in the county of Suffolk, England.
The use of both external punishments and rewards is based on a theory of external control - i.e. that it is possible to make people do things they do not want to do. The theory is so pervasive, so obvious, that most of us, to date, have applied it to ourselves and to all our relationships without even questioning it for one moment. We are led, in our attempts to control others, to employ what we hope will serve as rewards and punishments in order to steer people in the direction that we want them to go. People such as psychiatrist William Glasser have argued that this theory-of-the-world is responsible for the breakdown of families, failure in schools and the resulting load placed upon major institutions like the prison and health services, etc. I believe this to be the case.
External control of all sorts has been found to be counterproductive. It 'appears' to work when you don't really need it, but then fails abysmally when you really would want something to work. Actually it never works but always creates resentment, disrupting otherwise healthy relationships, feelings of self-worth and the intrinsic or internal motivation of people. Rewarding people can lower the quality of performance, a fact observed in world studies of the effects of performance related pay. Studies show that externally rewarded groups nearly always produce poorer quality work than control groups that were not promised rewards.
In the United States I believe some schools are now showing the world an alternative to external control when applied at the cutting edge of educational developments. For information locally visit: acrtqss.home.texas.net/index.html?GQSC.html~mainFrame
For an example of the criteria used in such schools see: acrtqss.home.texas.net/forms/Rubric.pdf
An example of an exemplary elementary school near to you is Aikman Elementary School, 900 Ave K, Hereford, TX 79045, Phone: (806) 363-7640. Under the leadership of Charles Lyles it has moved up through state league tables to demonstrate continuous improvement through the power of changing our thinking from external control to helping students develop internal control through self-evaluation and other factors. The payback for all our futures must be immeasurable.
So the abolition of physical abuse of small human beings only represents 'first base' when we are looking to promote emotional health in the world at large. The arguments against physical assault are becoming incontrovertible as the evidence from psychology shows the physical growth of the brain is determined by the quality of emotional relationships experienced in childhood. We are beginning to understand the origins of violence and abuse through the work of people such as Alice Miller.
By way of illustration of the power of the ideas we are discussing I take the following comments from the website: www.psychohistory.com
Extracts from 'The History of Child Abuse' by Lloyd deMause The Journal of Psychohistory 25 (3) Winter 1998
"In good parenting, the child uses the caretaker as a poison container, much as it earlier used the mother's placenta as a poison container for cleansing its polluted blood. A good mother reacts with calming actions to the cries of a baby and helps it "detoxify˛ its dangerous emotions. But when an immature mother's baby cries, she cannot stand the screaming, and strikes out at the child. As one battering mother put it, "I have never felt loved all my life. When the baby was born, I thought he would love me. When he cried, it meant he didn't love me. So I hit him. " Rather than the child being able to use the parent to detoxify its fears and anger, the parent instead injects his or her bad feelings into the child and uses it to cleanse his or herself of depression and anger."
"Changing childhood is a communal task. And it works. In 1979, Sweden passed a law saying that hitting children was as unlawful as hitting adults! Parents who hit their children weren't put into jail--that would just deprive the children of their caretakers. But the parents were taught how to bring up children without hitting them. And at the same time, high school students were taught how to bring up children without violence. By now, 20 years later, these high school students have their own children, and...they don't hit them! To those who object to the cost of communities helping all parents, we can only reply: Can we afford not to teach parenting? What more important task can we devote our resources to? Do we really want to have massive armies and jails and emotionally crippled adults forever? Must each generation continue to torture and neglect its children so they repeat the violence and economic exploitation of previous generations? Why not achieve meaningful political and social revolution by first achieving a parenting revolution? If war, social violence, class domination and economic destruction of wealth are really revenge rituals for childhood trauma, how else can we remove the source of these rituals? How else end child abuse and neglect? How else increase the real wealth of nations, our next generation? How else achieve a world of love and laughter of which we are truly capable?"
Neil Davies, MSc. Educational Psychologist
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