by Jeff Charles, (1997)
Paddling has been banned in 27 states and is used hardly at all in many of the others. Thus, almost all U.S. paddling is now performed in a relative handful of states, e.g., almost one third of all public school paddling in the United States is performed in one state--Texas. A comparison of the "top 10" paddling states might shed some light on the question: 'What good is school paddling?'

Statistics, of course, can be tricky to properly understand and use, and I would not suggest that any one of these should be taken to prove that paddling is bad. But if paddling does good, then we should expect to see superior results in behavior and knowledge in those few states that use it most. Lets see what we find:

The answer is "no." Seven out of the top ten paddling states have below average graduation rates, and the ranking of the states from 1 to 53, including Washington DC and a few other areas, with 1 being the best, has seven of the high paddling states "in the basement" with rankings of 42 Tennessee, 45 Mississippi, 46 Alabama, 47 Georgia, 49 Texas, 50 South Carolina, and 51 Louisiana.

There is no significant improvement of SAT scores in paddling states. The SAT scores are higher in the 7 high paddling states where only a tiny minority of elite students takes the test and below average in the 3 high-paddling states where a high percentage takes the test. This is the same as we see nationally and is more the result of the fact that when a high percentage of students take the tests, that group will include a greater proportion of mediocre students--"B" and even "C" students--thus, lowering the score average. But when the elite few take the test, the average score will be higher. Nationally, 41% took the test with a composite score of 910, and in Mississippi only 4% took the test and achieved a composite score of 1038, while in Georgia 65% took the test and achieved a composite score of 854. Georgia's 854, with 65% taking the test, may well show a better result than Mississippi's 1038, with only 4% taking the test--so results are very hard to compare. In any case, the paddling states are not unusual, and their standardized test scores are not higher than the average. Paddling does not lead to superior academic performance when measured by these scores.

No. There is no significant difference between the crime stats of high paddling states and the national average. Violent crime is higher in 7 of the top 10 paddling states, but overall crime is higher in only 4 of the top 10 paddling states. Thus, high paddling rates do not seem to have much influence on crime.

No. In fact, out of the top-ten paddling states, the pregnancy rates are higher in 5 states, identical to the national average in one state, and below the national average in only 4 states. Interestingly the four lowest teen pregnancy rates within the top-ten paddling states also happen to be the states with the lowest paddling rates within the top-ten, i.e., LA, OK, SC, and KY. School paddling does not have any positive effect on teen pregnancy rates. (Pregnancy stats from "Teen Pregnancy, state by state", USA Today, July 14, 1997, 3A)

The National average for Gonorrhea is 149.5 per 100,000 population. The average in 9 out of 10 of the top paddling states is, however, higher--and in the highest paddling states the average is very much higher indeed. Mississippi has the highest percentage of kids paddled of any state and also has the highest rate of Gonorrhea of any state at 352.6 per 100,000--more than double the national average. It also has the highest rate of syphilis of any state at 72.4 per 100,000 population--more than 11 times the national average of 6.3 per 100,000 population! The other high paddling states are similarly very much higher in "sexually transmitted disease rates" (STDs) than the nation--with the exception of Kentucky, which is lower on both diseases, and Oklahoma which has higher gonorrhea and lower syphilis. The STD rates in the high paddling states are very high compared with the Nation, and thus paddling does not appear to reduce illicit sexual behavior as it is purported to.

No. All of the "top 10" paddling states are below average for the number of women in office. Once again, with 1 being the highest percentage of women in office and 50 the worst, the high paddling states are very low with 8 in the bottom 10 states of women in office: 42 Arkansas, 43 South Carolina, 46 Mississippi, 47 Oklahoma, 48 Louisiana, 49 Kentucky, and the worst state for percentage of women in office, number 50, is Alabama with only 3.6% of officeholders being women.

Few people, even among proponents, who have looked at this issue would argue against the fact that paddling can be physically and psychologically harmful, is very often humiliating, and, in some cases, may even be sexually exploitive. The argument for paddling is that, in spite of problems, it is "necessary" to keep kids in school and to raise test scores, maintain order, promote morality and teach respect for authority. The facts, however, prove otherwise. Paddling does not achieve any of these objectives and may even be detrimental. A comparison between the heavy hitters and the non-hitters convincingly demonstrates that it is neither necessary nor helpful to any educational or societal goals to have educators beating children's buttocks with wood boards.

Profile of the Top-Ten School-Paddling States

       PADDLED  RATE/100,000      RATE             /100,000

 MS     9.4%       352.6          63.5%              433.9
 AR     7.8%       226.7          78.4%              593.3
 AL     6.9%       345.2          61.7%              780.4
 TN     6.5%       264.3          67.4%              765.8
 TX     3.9%       164.5          59.4%              762.1
 GA     3.6%       292.0          61.6%              723.1
 LA     2.8%       214.0          56.3%            1,061.7
 OK     2.6%       154.9          75.9%              634.8
 SC     2.2%       329.9          59.27%           1,023.4
 KY     1.7%       123.1          72.7%              765.8 
       *1.2%       149.5          71.1%              746.1

* Note: 28 states do not paddle at all. In 1990 about 500,000 paddlings were reported in public schools with about 40,000,000 students in the entire US.

Sources: Paddling STATS from 1990 US census, STD infection rates from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, STD surveillance, 1995, HS graduation rates, crime and SAT results from the 1996 World Almanac and are from the most recent years available (1995 for SAT, 1993 for crime, etc.), and the percentage of women in office from Time Magazine, 8/28/95.

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