School bans on violence fuel debate on spanking (Nov. 17 news story)
Letters to the Editor from Michael S. Cummings and Robert E. Fathman
Denver Post, November 21, 2003

School Spankings Form of Assault

Former state legislator Al Meiklejohn thinks that "a swat is a great motivator for compliance and learning." Unfortunately, the best scientific evidence shows just the opposite. In Psychological Bulletin (issue 128:4 in 2002), six scholars review previous scientific studies on the links between spanking and the better behavior we all wish for. On average, spanked children become less obedient, more likely to get into trouble, and less successful in school than non-spanked children.

Spanking is a form of assault on a child which, if carried out against an adult, would be a crime. Refusing to spank does not mean refusing to discipline. Like many of our friends, my wife and I have never spanked our children, who are now 8 and 10. Like our friends' children, Eliza and Anthony are praised by teachers and other adults for their respectful behavior and accomplishments.

We have found that a combination of loving our children, reasoning with them about their actions, and imposing natural consequences for unacceptable behavior works well without spanking.


The Post writes that former state legislator Al Meiklejohn thinks "a little smack on the behind keeps order and concentration in the classroom." Would this same man favor a little smack of nursing home patients if it kept order there? Or a little smack of wives, or employees, to keep them in line? It is a myth to think that hitting is necessary to maintain order.

Do children in Colorado behave so much worse that teachers must hit them to teach them? Are teachers in Colorado so poorly trained and uneducated themselves that they know of no way to maintain order without striking children, some as young as kindergarten? Of course not. Teachers and kids in Colorado are the same as those everywhere. The Colorado legislature, and local school boards, are the ones who need more education. They need to learn that where corporal punishment has been banned there is less vandalism in schools, higher graduation rates, better national test scores, and school administrators report fewer discipline problems.

Dublin, Ohio
The writer is president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools.

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