Let's extend the paddle to other venues
By Nancy Yarbrough
The Birmingham News, March 7, 2004

Let's extend the paddle to other venues "Alabama ranks third in nation when it comes to corporal punishment," read the headline on the front page of the Feb. 29 edition of The Birmingham News.

The story provided an overview on the use of paddling in schools to enforce discipline, particularly pointing out that Alabama ranked only behind Mississippi and Arkansas in the percentage of students paddled per year.

The two News reporters who had bylines on the story did an admirable job of attempting to objectively point out the pros and cons of paddling children in school. But the story, like so many that rank Alabama at the bottom of one national survey or another, had that inadvertent tone that here was yet another area of life in the heart of Dixie that was depressing, embarrassing and, frankly, downright backwards.

To quote the check-out girl at my local Piggly-Wiggly, being humiliated about our superior paddling rating shows we have a "stinker in our thinker."

Instead of being ashamed of our long tradition of paddling our children in schools, we should celebrate it. When we hear about where our great state ranks on paddling, instead of muttering under our collective breath that "At least we're not Mississippi," we should proudly proclaim: "Yes! We paddle children, and more!"

And that's what I'd like to talk about today - the "more."

There's a business theory that instead of focusing on fixing problems to succeed, you should concentrate more on what is going right in an organization. You should promote, market and use those positives to differentiate your company from the rest of the pack.

Paddling is one of those issues that can set Alabama apart from other states, if we really take advantage of the momentum we already have regarding this issue and expand paddling throughout all parts of our state.

The first area we can start with is the business environment. Let's let bosses paddle.

We should start with the bosses of the parents who were quoted in The Birmingham News story saying that "without paddling, the students know that they can get away with anything" and "if they're pushing your buttons, you've got to let them know that the buck stops here."

Absolutely! Couldn't be better said. And here is how that same thinking can be applied to those pro-paddling parents' workplaces:

Say, for instance, you work in an office that begins the workday at 8 a.m., like mine. I take my two children to school every morning (at two of those liberal, left-leaning Birmingham area schools that ban paddling, believing violence leads to more violence and that there are more effective, progressive ways of disciplining). Because I drop off two kids at two different schools, I rarely make it to work at 8. More likely I arrive at 8:15. Now I make up the time on shorter lunches and later hours, but I think you could reasonably say that I am habitually disobeying the rules.

Which in most paddling policies is a cause for a visit to the woodshed.

I will be honest: I am not sure that paddling would cure my lateness because I still would have to drop my kids off at school in the morning. But if you follow the paddling proponents' logic, a good swat or two should provide me with an epiphany of what is right and wrong and help put me on the road to future positive behavior.

Unfortunately, my own school did not paddle, so I cannot speak from experience on paddling's positive impact on my life. I once was rapped on the knuckles by a nun for talking during class recitation of the Hail Mary. I ended up being leery of all nuns and changing religions.

But I can't use that example as a bellwether for how paddling would affect me and other rule-breakers, because a rap on the hand is a far cry from a few sharply delivered swats on the behind with a wooden paddle.

So I say, as a proud Alabamian, let's expand paddling.

Besides the world of business, paddling could also be effective in government. When Birmingham City Council member Gwen Sykes failed to pay for thousands of dollars of flowers she bought using taxpayer money, instead of suing her, we should have paddled her. And, we could use paddling in law enforcement: Instead of crowding our jails with one-time drug offenders, let's just paddle them. When people run out on paying parking tickets, why hire lawyers to send tersely written letters? Let's just give the scofflaws a good paddling, and we'd have them lining up to pay their tickets.

Really, the opportunities are endless. Just pick up the newspaper. There are literally hundreds of people who probably could use a good paddling on a daily basis: Richard Scrushy, Roy Moore - the list is limitless.

Sure, plenty of readers right now are saying, "Hold up. I don't agree with who you say should be paddled."

Well, sorry. That is one of the inherent beauties of paddling. Who should be paddled is the decision of the paddler, no matter if that paddler is objective or fair. So what if your teacher got the story wrong and you really weren't to blame; it's her decision and you will be paddled. So what if your boss doesn't like you because he's never really liked people taller than him; it's his decision and you will be paddled.

And that is why Alabama could very quickly move up the paddling index and make our mark as a national leader on paddling. We aren't going to let due process or any other bureaucratic policies slow us down. If the person in charge - whoever that is at any given moment - thinks someone deserves a paddling, then he should go ahead and do the deed.

We have one year until the new statistics come out again, so let's start sanding those boards and get to work. It's time for Alabama to leverage our positives and show the nation what can be accomplished if you're holding a big paddle. In Alabama, "Thank you, sir. May I have another," can be more than just a funny line from "Animal House"; it can be our new state slogan.

Nancy Yarbrough is the proud mother of a 2- and 7-year-old and lives in Homewood. Her e-mail is nancyyarbrough@hotmail.com. She does not paddle.

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