In the article [1/22/05] about the Gary basketball coach who "paddled" every boy on his team of 13-year-olds each time they missed a free throw, the use of certain words throughout the article says much about our attitudes towards children.
Fact: the coach picked up a board, wrapped in duct tape to keep it from fracturing, and repeatedly hit all the boys on his team.
If this was done to the elderly in a nursing home, it would have been described as an "assault." The words "hit" or "struck" would have been used. The board would have been called a "board" or a "piece of wood."
Instead, the article called the hits "swats" or a "spanking" and referred to it as "alleged" [even though the coach admitted doing it] and "corporal punishment." Only the prosecutor got it right. He called it "battery." If this had been done to pets or farm animals it would be called "cruelty."
We need to re-think how we define the act of hitting children with boards, and no longer give this act cutesy labels that minimize the real violence in the act. It's time to end the euphemisms, and call hitting just that, not soften the blows semantically because the victim is a child.
Robert E. Fathman, Ph.D., President
National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools
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