With regard to discipline, the United States is in a league of its own. Of every 100 Americans, one is behind bars. And there is a common thread that runs through the personal histories of the incarcerated that I believe warrants attention. With very rare exceptions, they had been victims of parental violence, better known as "spanking." Typically, the mistreatment they experienced began earlier than they could remember and didn't end until they were either too big to get spanked or they left home. When I worked as a teacher at California State Prison Folsom, I invited the men in my classes to participate in an informal survey. I asked them to listen very closely to a description of home life I was about to give and compare it to what they remember of their own childhoods. I asked them to raise their hand if the picture I described matched their own experience. This is what I said:
"If you grew up in a family environment where you knew that you were absolutely safe, where you knew without a doubt that your body was your own personal property, that nobody had the right to put a hand on you in a way that hurt or frightened you: not parents, not older siblings, not baby sitters, not grandparents, not neighbors, NOBODY.... if that's a true picture of your early experience, or comes reasonably close, please raise your hand."I studied the men's faces as they thought about what I had said, and they studied mine. There was a long, heavy silence in the room. Everyone waited patiently for a hand to go up. I repeated this experiment monthly with each new group of about 30 men. The results never varied.
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