Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Corporal Punisment in Georgia--I Wouldn't Treat My Dog Like This

Of course I love my dog, so I don't hit him, ever. If he doesn't come when I ask him, he won't get a treat. He's very fond of treats. I may say, "No," and ignore him for a while. He doesn't like that very much. While I work at training him, he's not a machine with an on/ off switch and he doesn't always listen to me.

For example, when I ordered him to come yesterday, he knew it meant another trip out in the rain with the red raincoat he abhors. He sat like a statue. I picked him up, put the raincoat on him, and dragged him out. I didn't hit him. Even if I'd wanted to hit him, I had to respect his position. Outside, it was just as terrible as he imagined it would be.

In Georgia, though, The Georgia School of Innovation and the Classics has decided to reinstate paddling, which I understand is legal in 20 states. I'm kind of surprised it's legal anywhere, but a country that has made Donald Trump president is constantly full of surprises. (Of course it's a charter school, but I can't be sure whether they consider beating children to be "innovation" or "classic.")

I always think any teacher that hit my kid would be one dead teacher. I would likely not go out and kill the person, but I would use every legal measure at my disposal to make that teacher regret doing that. As far as I know paddling is illegal in NY State, and I'd have no reservations about seeing teacher who hit children fired.

I always think teaching is about somehow persuading kids that we have something to offer that they can actually use. It's pretty clear to me that English, which I teach, is useful to everyone in the United States each and every day. I think I have things easy in that regard. I can honestly say I use everything I teach virtually all the time. It's tougher to sell kids on other things.

For example, I have an advanced class right now. I expect to have them read a few novels, and I expect some percentage of them never to have done so. I'm gonna have to come up with a better rationale than, "If you don't read this book, I will hit you." I'm gonna have to find ways that the books I choose relate to their lives. I'm therefore going to have to choose books carefully. I'm sure teachers of other disciplines have their own ways.

Hitting kids, though, means you've run out of ideas. It's just the last thing you can possibly do. If that's the only trick you have left, I'd suggest you have few tricks indeed. To their marginal credit, the school is offering parents opt-out letters. You can have your kid suspended for five days rather than brutalized by the lunatics who run the school.

Given that choice, I'd rather have my kid suspended. Of course, a better choice would be to remove lunatics from running schools. That's a widespread issue that fails to merit sufficient attention anywhere, Every New York City teacher I know can attest to seeing lunatics in charge of departments, if not entire schools. Thus, you get ideas like these.

We are teachers. It is our job to very quickly assess situations and very quickly seek solutions. Thankfully, they don't always have to work. But we always have to try, The thing about hitting kids is it's just like hitting dogs. It makes them fearful and angry and it spills out some other way. You teach a kid (or a dog) violence and you beget violence elsewhere.

I wouldn't hit my kid, so I wouldn't hit yours either. I would quit rather than hit a kid. When I get very angry at students, I don't scream or yell or hit. I become very quiet and think of the best thing I can do to make this behavior highly inconvenient. Sometimes that's a tough job, because students can be very smart. You have to think very carefully when dealing with students who are very smart. You have to think things through further than they do. It's not easy.

When you hit kids, you've run out of ideas. You've given up on reason. And if you've given up on reason, why on earth would you want to be a teacher? Do you want to foster cynicism and violence? If that's your goal, there are probably better jobs. I'm thinking reality TV, but I'm sure you can come up with something.
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