Blogiversary: 10/2/2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Corporal Punishment

As a young child, teachers spanked naughty students.  Today, that's unacceptable form of punishment in schools, at least in California.

My father was raised in Catholic schools in Michigan, and he had his share of spankings.  He told me that he knew at a young age that he did not like other people disciplining kids that were not theirs.  So, when he grew up, he would not tolerate someone else trying to discipline his children.

I wouldn't necessarily say I was naughty in Mrs. Hopkins' 3rd grade classroom at Jane Addams Elementary School.  I was just a talker.  Because I talked so much in class, Mrs. Hopkins would send me home with "Standards" as an assignment.  My standards would say, "I will not talk in class" one hundred times.  I didn't like her, and I told my dad after a month of being in Mrs. Hopkins' classroom.  He told me I needed to keep my mouth shut when the teacher was talking.  My dad would never make me do the standards, but instead, would send a letter back to her saying, "She's not doing these.  I have disciplined her at home."

I remember, she was at her chalkboard, and teaching us how to write in cursive.  She heard me talking, and placed her chalk on her desk and walked over to mine.  She bent down to eye-level with me, where I could feel her breath on my face, grabbed my chin and said, "Shut up when I am talking."  My eyes watered.  Nobody outside of my family ever put their hands on me, and my teacher did.

I swore to myself I would go right home and tell my father.  I couldn't wait for him to get home from work.  I was telling.  We were always told that we should tell our parents if a grown up inappropriately put their hands on us.  I knew he would be mad.  He said, "Kids are kids.  They talk.  She has no right to put her hands on you.  I'm going to your school tomorrow."  I was so satisfied.  I couldn't wait to see my father the next day.

At lunch time the next day, Mrs. Hopkins was passing out lunch tickets to the students who would be getting their free lunch in the cafeteria.  My dad popped his head into my classroom and my teacher looked over at him.  He said, "I'm Mimi's father.  I need to talk to you."  She said, "Just a moment sir.  I have just a couple more lunch tickets to pass out and then the kids will be on their way to the cafeteria."

When the kids all left, Mrs. Hopkins stepped outside in the hall with me and my dad.  There was no one else there.  She was standing with her back to the wall and he grabbed her by the face and pushed her against the wall and said, "Don't you ever put your goddamn hands on my daughter again.  I don't care if she was talking.  You don't put your hands on her."  She said, "I am so sorry.  I promise it will never happen again."

It never did.

In 1996, in fourth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Jones.  Today, children who don't listen to what's going on or don't have long attention spans are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  When I was a kid, you got spanked for being bad.  A boy named Julian had that problem.  If he wasn't constantly isolated from the children at recess or in class, he was sent to the office.  One day, right before recess, Mrs. Jones told us to get in a single-file line.  Julian would not listen.

She got so angry with him, she grabbed him by the arm, to the coat rack at the back of the classroom, pulled a belt off the wall and said, "Your mom gave me this belt to whip you with when you don't listen and that's exactly what you'll be getting right now."  She hit him 3 times, and he cried out.  The students just stood there watching in shock.

That year, corporal punishment was banned in California.  My children never had to experience anything like that and I am grateful.

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