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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Number Eleven of Seth Godin's Manifesto: My Fear of Corporal Punishment

 My friend showed me an article by Seth Godin that blew me away. It's a manifesto on changing the public school system and the different ways the current system is beyond messed up.

 Seth's manifesto is broken down into numbered points. I will be writing about number eleven today.

11. To efficiently run a school, amplify fear (and destroy passion)
School’s industrial, scaled-up, measurable structure means that fear must be used to keep the masses in line. There’s no other way to get hundreds or thousands of kids to comply, to process that many bodies, en masse, without simultaneous coordination.
And the flip side of this fear and conformity must be that passion will be destroyed. There’s no room for someone who wants to go faster, or someone who wants to do something else, or someone who cares about a particular issue. Move on. Write it in your notes; there will be a test later. A multiple-choice test.
Do we need more fear?
Less passion?

This is for all of the children who were, and in some places still are,  subject to swats, whips, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental punishment. All of which destroy passion to instill the obedient type of fear listed above.

In my youth I had my fair share of hits. My now non-existent backside was first broken by a first grade teacher. We'll call her Ms. Growler. She would use a ping pong paddle on anyone that 'bothered' her. She saw me as an easy mark, due to my meek and sensitive nature. 

 One day, I recall that her voice had a break in it when she shouted my name to come to her desk. I froze in shock. I was trembling for the whole two minutes that I took in going up to her desk. When I arrived, with head lowered, she pierced my soul when she yelled,

"Be Quiet!".

Oh the hot tears ran to the edge of my chin, only to dive to their deaths onto the speckled tile floor, under Ms. Growlers desk. 

 "Why did she just yell at me?" I couldn't understand the logic behind someone yelling to silence someone else. Someone who was not talking, but spacing out in serene silence.

 "I can't handle this!". I broke down and sobbed, right in the middle of my walk back to the desk. That's when she got the upper hand.

 "Shock, in the hall, now! I will not have this kind of disruption!"

 I sobbed all the way into the hall. She came to meet me thirty seconds after I had leaned on the wall. 

 "Bend and touch your ankles", she said as she rubbed the red rubber texture on the paddle.

 I had no choice but to do what she said. I had been looking for the only adult that I could think of that would stop this madness, but even the sweet old lady principal was not going to save me from the first of a huge series of unwarranted swats. 

 She hit me once, and in doing so sent a rage through me that has never left my body. A blind, ignorant hatred that has skewed my perception on all educators. As a sign from the gods, her paddle broke over my tiny body. I felt like I had been spared by a divine power, but she had a back up.

 I got three more that day, and about a hundred that year. I never had another teacher who had swat me that many times, but those early experiences with corporal punishment started a fight against the fear that I still cling to today. Instead of instilling an obedience, they turned away someone passionate to learn. The direction that my career as a student took was one fueled by rebelliousness and subversion.  

 I recommend reading Seth's Manifesto to anyone who has any interest at all in the future of the public school system. If we all believe in change, we can work toward a better future for our eventual leaders!

Read the manifesto here


  1. woooooooo. Cruel. And how come no one sacked her? I totally agree, these kind of acts instead of encouraging passion to learn creates fear and run far away from the very thing we should love.

  2. Hmmm I was half way through my feedback and it disappeared. You may get two of these.

    This post was heartbreaking to read. I can't understand how someone could lift their hand to strike a child - especially such a small one who is in tears. Makes my heart ache! It's total madness and I'm amazed that people ever did - and some still do - support this.

    Sweden has a law against corporal punishment which I think is pretty neat. And that law isn't just for schools either. No one, not even parents, can strike a child. I don't know much about it, but the little I've heard sounds like the results are good. Here's a link about it if you're interested

  3. I am so sorry you had that experience and the others that followed, you did not deserve to be treated that way. Please remember that you are so much more than the faults that others see in you, a whole world more. I think we would have been besties at school!

    I remember being beaten on the hands with a ruler at school, with my step father's belt and with various kitchen implements by my bitch mother, all of which I could handle, but the metal, verbal and emotional abuse she inflicted upon me left the wounds that would never heal. Stupid/lazy/fat/ugly/worthless/undeserving of love/unwanted. I had one teacher who was just as bad as she was, she picked on me ALL THE TIME because I was different and because my mother was a difficult woman, I suffered for it. Needless to say, my mother told me that if the teachers called me out, I probably deserved it and should suck it up and stop being a baby.

    I NEVER want kids! I won't have them suffer the same abuse at the hands of asshole educators with unresolved emotional, menopausal and psychological issues! No thank you!

    I meant to tell you, the new header looks AWESOME and thank you SO much for the wonderful mention on your "Cool Blogs Tab". Love you, big guy! ♥

    1. The new header was designed by Ben from

      He does great work.

      And I have had discussions about never having kids as well, for the same reasons. Kindred spirits, we are.

  4. They are trying to bring in a law to ban smacking children here in Wales...certainly corporal punishment is wrong, but I'm not convinced about reasonable chastisement is entirely wrong

    1. I don't even know if I wouldn't draw a line at any chastisement. Who's to make the standard of what's reasonable?

      I believe that some verbal abuse damages students as much as spankings ever could.

      I told this story to an acquaintance and he told me that it made him turn out fine. So I guess it does have it's proponents.

  5. you are such a great writer

  6. Since you wrote on the same topic as me, I had to come check it out fast. It sounds like you experience may have been similar to mine. Series of undeserved paddlings.

    And you shaid this woman still works in the school system? Do you know if she has changed her ways?

    1. I could not face down that demon, once I knew of her new position of counselor.

      I learned this from a worker at the school. I caught the logo on her sweater when I had told her that I had graduated from that school, but did not like my first grade experience due to my experiences with a bad teacher.

      She asked me who. I told her Ms. Growler. After she had coveyed that the woman was now a counselor, I raised my voice with

      "And now they let her counsel children?!".

      Her reaction was one of humor. It brought me back to reality. The reality in which a law so strict exists that she will pay dearly for every beating that she has given even if she barely touches another kid.

  7. Don't know how they can justify such acts and still consider themselves an educator. They need a good whack upside the head with that paddle. I never had to deal with that in school, they banned that before I got there. But yeah I would have rebelled too. Ruling through fear is stupid you don't educate you depreciate.

    1. The last sentence you wrote sums it up perfectly.

  8. i went to a catholic school... never saw anyone get hit, but the fear was there. seemed enough

    1. I've had relatives that went to catholic schools. They didn't have any horror stories, but were very obedient.

  9. I think you should be able to amplify fear without resorting to corporeal punishment. There are also people who need a different kind of education. Some people aren't suited to academia. I never had corporeal punishment, my school didn't at all, but it can go just as bad as no corporeal punishment. Really different kids react in different ways to different things.

  10. I think anyone who would beat a child is practically a monster..especially if it is just to get some kicks like it seems to be for Ms. Growler. One change I would make in schooling is somehow separate the more sensitive children, from the bullying and agressive types, and put them with others like themselves so they have the opportunity to make friends and build their self esteem and learn without constantly being humiliated. Sure, a lot of people say you will have to deal with bullies in the real world...but it will be easier to deal with them if you have healthy self esteem, and self confidence, and that stuff is fostered at an early age. I suppose you can build self esteem once you are an adult, but I would say it is much more difficult.

  11. Interesting post and very time related. Countless countries and nations are going through uprisings. The public needs to be better educated. Or at least educated to a certain point where decisions aren't based on skin color.

  12. I must agree that the teacher might have gone full psycho on that kid for over punishing him, but I believe that physical punishment is a must for discipline. Like all things, overdoing it could cause the child to rebel but not doing it will cause the child to get cocky and spoiled. The moderate way is the right way.

  13. some children aren't mentally tough enough to handle punishment. It's hard to tell which need a firm hand and which just need a little chastisement to get their attention. Sorry for your experience.

  14. Hmmmm.

    I'm a firm believer in whuppin' dat ass. As a 'Murrican, I reckon it's kinda engrained within me that anyone has the freedom to raise their kids the way they see fit, and as you already know I'm a big gun when it comes to personal freedoms, individual expression and censorship versus self-censorship (which IS artistic, while the former is oppressive, tyrannical, and must be met with violent force).

    But whuppin' dat ass is what keeps kids in line. It's one thing to strike them - no child should be struck, that's for certain. Especially with fists. They're little monsters that need to be taught how to be human, not dogs needing to be kept in line.

    NOW. Should teachers be allowed to whup dat ass? Once, back in high school, I thought so.

    Nowadays, I'm more about letting the parents be the ones to whup dat ass. There should be more communication between parents, teachers, and students...with the students realizing that the teachers and parents are working together to ensure their school existence is a safe one.

    That also means if they act a fool, their parents are gonna whup 'em, even if they're not there at school they'll hear about it.

    Now I was raised on the threat of gettin' my ass whupped, which I escaped because I was a fairly good kid...though my sister caught the lion's share due to being a brat.

    Corners, military drills, yelling, the works...and it worked. I'd like to think I was a good kid, a model son and example. I had two jobs, did after-school wrestling, got straight-A's and a few B's with the occasional hard-won C+, and I did my chores.

    It truly depends on the individual, I reckon, and the parents.

    Now, Mrs. Growler...THAT is a teacher that needs to be brought to task. That's flat-out abuse, and serves no purpose except her getting her sadistic jollies off on ya.

    She's also the perfect example of why teachers should NOT allowed to be whuppin' dat ass...or flat-out applying corporal punishment. That was straight up mishandled, and indeed did nothing but reinforce negativity within you, yes?

    So yeah. Whuppin' dat ass SHOULD be an option for the parent, but certainly no one else. Besides, I wouldn't want anyone handling MY kid's ass anyway.` I'm just sayin'...

  15. Great post...I don't think we need to utilize corporal punishment.

  16. Corporal punishment, and a slap to the face of bullies and troublemakers are two totally different things. People just can't see it that way, unfortunately.

  17. I'm sure that somewhere I have something intelligent to say about this, but I can't get past thinking about that woman, and what I'd like to say to her, to tell it.

  18. I was taken out of the regular schooling system for these reasons. I wasn't even learning anything, much less anything I wanted to learn. Some teachers were decent, some were kinda cruel, but none of them would dare lay a finger on me because my parents were just paying that much.
    Ugh I'm still enraged that these people exist. Wtf.

  19. Omg that's so mean!

  20. I'm 23 so it was probably banned long before I hit kindergarten. I'm pretty glad, because there were some older teachers who wished they could grip the ol' yardstick and unleash their rage.

    I did have a 10th World History teacher that was blonde, early 20's, and a ex-cheerleader. Needless to say if they allowed it, I'm sure there be at least a few guys acting up on purpose.