I'm of the spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child generation.
Desperate Housewives are spanking and I'm remembering ...
If you're older than 45, you too probably remember the days when educators were allowed -- even encouraged -- to paddle kids. I guess it was considered different than a beating because the piece of wood was shaped and they were beating you on the butt, rather than just indiscriminant pummeling.
Mrs. Wormley was my seventh-grade science teacher. A strikingly beautiful African-American woman. Long, lean, well-muscled. A fine teacher who expected excellence. And meted out paddle justice.
One day, three of my buddies and I didn't do the designated work for her class. We were promptly sentenced to licks. One each for them, and for reasons that now escape me, two for me. Call me king of the slackers.
We accepted her verdict with proper arrogance and seventh grade faux manliness. Chuckles. Rolled eyes. Sneers.
She was a GIRL. How hard could a girl hit? And with that thin paddle? Bring it on.
After class ended, we all lined up. One by one, ankles were grabbed and The Target offered up to Mrs. Wormley.
The sound of the first hit was almost as impressive as the sick look on our friend's face.
Gulp. Grab ankles.
Looong backswing ... Schwaaackkk.
Backswing ... Schwaaackkk.
Backswing ... Schwaaackkk.
There was no chuckling, rolling eyes or little comments after that. We shuffled out with our tails figuratively and literally between our legs.
She smoked our behinds.
Just as we got to the door, my three friends -- my buddies, my partners, allies, confidantes -- suddenly stopped.
"Wasn't Ralph supposed to get two licks?"
Mrs. Wormley's smile caused my stomach to sink and my rear end to burn with dread.
"Get back in here, De La Cruz," she said, her bludgeon pointed at me.
Gulp, gulp, gulp.
I don't know if it was that I had tried to sneak out, or if she was just enjoying one last crack at a nice big target. But let me tell you, she popped me so hard I was launched into the air and pushed forward a foot.
I received one other lick in middle school after that, for being in the hall during class.
Don't remember the name of the assistant principal who administered the punishment. But he was no Mrs. Wormley.
The other designated disciplinarian at our school was the football coach. A well-muscled man not much taller than us. Kind of looked like that Little Hercules kid. Except the coach had a broken nose, a foul mouth and an entire collection of paddles. Each made of thick heavy wood, with large daunting holes drilled throughout it.
We spent hours scaring ourselves with thoughts of facing his paddles.
"I heard he hits so hard, skin comes up through the holes," someone would say.
"Ooooohhh," we'd answer.
And then it was outlawed completely. We went from being paddled for not doing our homework to not being touched at all.
All in two years. A remarkable reversal of public policy.
A needed reversal. Not only because it sent a message that violence was an acceptable way to motivate and punish. But because it didn't work.
Because if it had, there wouldn't have been another paddling after Mrs. Wormley.
And if we hadn't had corporal punishment, maybe I'd remember her as much for teaching me about conditioned response as for beating my butt.
Mrs. Wormley ...
Ralph De La Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4727.
Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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