It's the 21st century. Gone are the days of teachers wielding rulers and wooden paddles in order to discipline misbehaving students. Or are they? A man in Dallas is pushing the local school district to bring back corporal punishment. A former tutor in the Dallas Independent School District, Gilbert Leal argues that the threat of corporal punishment — along with better classroom management and training teachers how to defuse situations — have "helped decrease disciplinary problems," according to a story published by Dallas' WFAA-TV. What do you think? Is corporal punishment on its way in again? And does it really work? Or are we taking a step backward in the discipline of our children? In what situations is corporal punishment appropriate, if at all?
The practice of spanking or paddling disruptive students in the classrooms was discontinued because educators found that "discipline by humiliation and pain" was not a productive method of dealing with these children. Let's not go backward with Gilbert Leal's argument of the "threat of corporal punishment."
What is the solution? Are there methods that lead to a better way of handling this situation? Yes, the teachers need order in their classrooms, in which the present student/teacher ratio is overwhelming.
From all that I have been told by colleagues who are educators and from what the media has reported, creative steps such as smaller classrooms with teaching assistants available in the classroom to assist the main instructor have helped. Also, isolating the "troublesome" students who exhibit disruptive behavior has helped. By "isolating," I mean that they receive one-on-one attention. There is an effort to get at the root of their emotional outbursts.
It seems to me that this is a team, parental and a community effort. The team model is within the school system; the parental effort is to become involved with the child and help take responsibility for their behavior in school; community effort involves volunteers who will help with tutoring and offer to be part of the support system in spending time with the student (maybe in a sport or social activity).
The spiritual support is to affirm that everyone will hold an open mind and a "listening mind" in being receptive to divine wisdom, love, justice and peace. To quote one of my favorite authors, Wayne Dyer: "There is always a spiritual solution to every problem."
The REV. JERI LINN is pastor of Unity Church of the Valley in Montrose. Reach her at (818) 249-4396.
On the night before he died, Jesus said: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you." The peace of Christ is tranquillity — within and without ourselves. It is tranquillity among nations, peoples, communities and families. It is tranquillity that must be shared, appreciated, experienced and often taught.
Peace is not founded on strength, weaponry or power. It is founded on love, the love Jesus taught us when he said: "Love one another as I have loved you."
Physical discipline is based — and this is not an exaggeration — on strength, power and, to an extent, weaponry. It is an experience that subtly teaches a child that he or she can get what she wants by violence. Physical discipline is, at its roots, violent. It is the antithesis of peace.
Discipline is important, particularly for the young who are being formed as members of society. They need to be aware of the proper way to act and they need to be aware of the difference between right and wrong. However, awareness comes through the intellect. We need to train our children intellectually, and not physically, that certain actions have definite consequences.
And so, how do we discipline our children? We need to do three things: love them, set an example for them, and sit down and discuss with them their actions and the consequences of those actions. Parents have a powerful influence on their children long before they ever reach the age of reason. Even toddlers know when Mommy and Daddy are not happy with them — and don't want it to happen again. As they grow and mature, it's time to sit down and talk things over.
Should there be consequences to wrong choices and bad behavior? Of course, especially in the early years. But the choice of physical discipline should never be one of them.
The REV. RICHARD ALBARANO is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 504-4400.
Not a good idea, and I'm glad that Gilbert Leal got fired in Texas.
The problem is that we are a very permissive society, and the blame needs to start with the parents, not the schools. I have no children of my own, so perhaps whatever I say here should be disregarded. But what I feel is that our schools are in such poor shape as far as discipline is concerned, because parents haven't been good disciplinarians. So it's easy to blame the American Civil Liberties Union or some other group that lobbies against violence in schools (and that's what it is: When you hit somebody with a paddle, you are engaging in violence).
The attempt to restore paddling and other corporal punishment in our public schools like we had "in the good old days" (which weren't all that good, by the way) is a big step backward, in my view, and misguided. It's also simplistic to believe that a few whacks on the buttocks with a wooden stick will solve everything.
Now if we could only paddle the parents!
The REV. CLIFFORD L. "SKIP" LINDEMAN is permanent pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church. Reach him at (818) 790-1185.