Teachers and the Question of Corporal Punishment

In recent years, great controversies have spanned across all news networks, with their focus being the extent of the teacher's control over children.  Central to these controversies is the question of whether a child should be disciplined by his parents or by his teachers, and whether the law should punish teachers who take action or refuse to take action against harmful student behavior.  Fortunately for Americans, the answer lies within the works of a man who greatly influenced our very declaration of independence: John Locke.

In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke explains that a child, not having full possession or full development of his mental faculties, cannot be considered to have full liberties and rights.  For the rights and liberties owned by a grown man are owned solely because he is capable of no longer being a danger to himself or others, knowing well the boundaries within which he may interact with his neighbors (sect 58-59).  But before such faculty is developed, he is held under the near-total authority of his parents in all matters not requiring the state's intervention.

It is the child's lack of maturity which grants his parents authority over him otherwise excluded to the rest of mankind.  This institution is so obvious that it is generally considered natural.  For without such an appreciation for the institution of parenthood, as well as the powers it must necessarily grant parents, not only is the child susceptible to harm and potential death, but so are those in his neighborhood.  And if a child is not properly raised, the likelihood of his harming society could very well continue into his adult years.

This authority, to all reasonable men, must necessarily include discipline through corporal punishment.  Were a child fully capable of reason, respecting the superior understanding of his parents and acting with wisdom, such correction would not be necessary.  But shy of such respect, all those under parental authority must have pain substituted in place of reason until reason is achievable, the more primitive regions of the mind being conditioned to follow law when higher portions cannot or will not.

There are those, of course, who claim that to inflict pain upon a child is an act of barbarism, something better left in the ash heap of history.  But a parent's duty is first the protection of his child, and nature is not kind.  The temporary sting of a swat may at first seem unloving, but a swat can cause a boy only to cry.  Running into a busy street may cause him to lose a limb.  He can learn where not to run by either method, but one is entirely preferable to the other.  Perhaps a spanking may cause a little girl embarrassment, but escaping through her bedroom window at night may result in her kidnapping.  These dangers being understood, corporal discipline is to be lovingly substituted for serious danger until a child will, through good sense and respect, act according to laws natural and parental.  And in defense of others, it must be used not only in the child's protection, but in his civilization.

In the acknowledgment of this natural institution of parenthood is found the right to transfer certain portions of this authority to others for certain periods of time when the child's parents are absent.  Supposing such an authority were not transferable and the child was left alone, the child would immediately have no other authority lording over his immediate well-being except the state.  In this scenario, no adults other than the child's parents would have a right to keep the child under confinement, or restrict his free travel, or to discipline him or use force when he behaves menacingly toward others.

But this scenario is clearly unacceptable.  Parents cannot be in the child's immediate surroundings for his entire youth, and at some point, certain parental authority must be transferable to prevent his temporary overseers from being charged with kidnapping or assault.  And perhaps nowhere is this transfer more necessary than in the school.

When a woman chooses to enter the workforce, leaving her children in the care of others, she temporarily abdicates her position of oversight, granting her parental authority to others.  For society cannot suppose that a teacher without the ability to physically subdue unruly children can be of much value in raising a child properly, nor can it be supposed that in an environment with more children, and thus a higher likelihood of misbehavior, such force would be without value.  Furthermore, to strip a teacher of the parental right of correction through force does not fully consider that the teacher may have to use that force in protection of another person's child.  Teachers must absolutely be allowed to defend the well-being of a child, forcefully and without hesitation.

Yet it is entirely common, in these days, for mothers to want the best of two opposite scenarios (and particularly mothers, since there exists no masculine trend of sheltering children from any sort of legitimate discipline).  Mothers want the role and subsequent authority of parents, but they do not want to supervise their children.  They want their children to be given a good education, but they do not want to grant teachers the right to discipline with the rod, oftentimes the only instructor a misbehaving child knows.  They want their children to be safe, but they will not allow the teacher to defend the honor and safety of other children with necessary force.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and it is not a pleasant one for many mothers.  The woman has been granted a wonderful and necessary instinct to protect and nurture her children, but when she chooses to let someone else take the role of mother (or father, for those male teachers), she must accept that her necessary role in that child's education and discipline during that specified period of time is temporarily transferred.  For the school is nothing other than an institution of discipline, whether in sciences, arts, or matters of behavior.  And if the teacher, typically the legitimate guardian of the child during school hours, cannot be granted the right to police and discipline (in other words, to teach) another's child, the teacher cannot be held responsible for whatever happens in the classroom, including the child's lack of a proper education.

If the mother's instincts to protect are leading her to transfer the child to another school or to select another teacher, then she should have a right to do so.  The cause of liberty demands that parents not be forced into any particular schools, particularly when those schools are run by the state.  But society must, in its respect for motherhood, never grant motherly instinct control over the authority granted to teachers and schools, simply under the premise that she alone has a right to discipline her children.  Rather, women must be forced to make decisions about whether they want to have total control over their child's well-being, or whether they want to grant some of those necessary controls to others in the interest of public and private education.  They cannot have both.

It cannot be considered progression to leave children without proper authority, to ensure that for a large portion of the day, no one can assume the duties of parenthood.  Society cannot benefit from the development of children unless those children are developed into adults.  And if society will not grant anyone authority to properly school children, then the world's most prominent republic will have nothing better than overgrown babies as its constituents.  For this not to be the case, it is imperative that laws be created to protect the rights of teachers to discipline students.

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.

In recent years, great controversies have spanned across all news networks, with their focus being the extent of the teacher's control over children.  Central to these controversies is the question of whether a child should be disciplined by his parents or by his teachers, and whether the law should punish teachers who take action or refuse to take action against harmful student behavior.  Fortunately for Americans, the answer lies within the works of a man who greatly influenced our very declaration of independence: John Locke.

In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke explains that a child, not having full possession or full development of his mental faculties, cannot be considered to have full liberties and rights.  For the rights and liberties owned by a grown man are owned solely because he is capable of no longer being a danger to himself or others, knowing well the boundaries within which he may interact with his neighbors (sect 58-59).  But before such faculty is developed, he is held under the near-total authority of his parents in all matters not requiring the state's intervention.

It is the child's lack of maturity which grants his parents authority over him otherwise excluded to the rest of mankind.  This institution is so obvious that it is generally considered natural.  For without such an appreciation for the institution of parenthood, as well as the powers it must necessarily grant parents, not only is the child susceptible to harm and potential death, but so are those in his neighborhood.  And if a child is not properly raised, the likelihood of his harming society could very well continue into his adult years.

This authority, to all reasonable men, must necessarily include discipline through corporal punishment.  Were a child fully capable of reason, respecting the superior understanding of his parents and acting with wisdom, such correction would not be necessary.  But shy of such respect, all those under parental authority must have pain substituted in place of reason until reason is achievable, the more primitive regions of the mind being conditioned to follow law when higher portions cannot or will not.

There are those, of course, who claim that to inflict pain upon a child is an act of barbarism, something better left in the ash heap of history.  But a parent's duty is first the protection of his child, and nature is not kind.  The temporary sting of a swat may at first seem unloving, but a swat can cause a boy only to cry.  Running into a busy street may cause him to lose a limb.  He can learn where not to run by either method, but one is entirely preferable to the other.  Perhaps a spanking may cause a little girl embarrassment, but escaping through her bedroom window at night may result in her kidnapping.  These dangers being understood, corporal discipline is to be lovingly substituted for serious danger until a child will, through good sense and respect, act according to laws natural and parental.  And in defense of others, it must be used not only in the child's protection, but in his civilization.

In the acknowledgment of this natural institution of parenthood is found the right to transfer certain portions of this authority to others for certain periods of time when the child's parents are absent.  Supposing such an authority were not transferable and the child was left alone, the child would immediately have no other authority lording over his immediate well-being except the state.  In this scenario, no adults other than the child's parents would have a right to keep the child under confinement, or restrict his free travel, or to discipline him or use force when he behaves menacingly toward others.

But this scenario is clearly unacceptable.  Parents cannot be in the child's immediate surroundings for his entire youth, and at some point, certain parental authority must be transferable to prevent his temporary overseers from being charged with kidnapping or assault.  And perhaps nowhere is this transfer more necessary than in the school.

When a woman chooses to enter the workforce, leaving her children in the care of others, she temporarily abdicates her position of oversight, granting her parental authority to others.  For society cannot suppose that a teacher without the ability to physically subdue unruly children can be of much value in raising a child properly, nor can it be supposed that in an environment with more children, and thus a higher likelihood of misbehavior, such force would be without value.  Furthermore, to strip a teacher of the parental right of correction through force does not fully consider that the teacher may have to use that force in protection of another person's child.  Teachers must absolutely be allowed to defend the well-being of a child, forcefully and without hesitation.

Yet it is entirely common, in these days, for mothers to want the best of two opposite scenarios (and particularly mothers, since there exists no masculine trend of sheltering children from any sort of legitimate discipline).  Mothers want the role and subsequent authority of parents, but they do not want to supervise their children.  They want their children to be given a good education, but they do not want to grant teachers the right to discipline with the rod, oftentimes the only instructor a misbehaving child knows.  They want their children to be safe, but they will not allow the teacher to defend the honor and safety of other children with necessary force.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and it is not a pleasant one for many mothers.  The woman has been granted a wonderful and necessary instinct to protect and nurture her children, but when she chooses to let someone else take the role of mother (or father, for those male teachers), she must accept that her necessary role in that child's education and discipline during that specified period of time is temporarily transferred.  For the school is nothing other than an institution of discipline, whether in sciences, arts, or matters of behavior.  And if the teacher, typically the legitimate guardian of the child during school hours, cannot be granted the right to police and discipline (in other words, to teach) another's child, the teacher cannot be held responsible for whatever happens in the classroom, including the child's lack of a proper education.

If the mother's instincts to protect are leading her to transfer the child to another school or to select another teacher, then she should have a right to do so.  The cause of liberty demands that parents not be forced into any particular schools, particularly when those schools are run by the state.  But society must, in its respect for motherhood, never grant motherly instinct control over the authority granted to teachers and schools, simply under the premise that she alone has a right to discipline her children.  Rather, women must be forced to make decisions about whether they want to have total control over their child's well-being, or whether they want to grant some of those necessary controls to others in the interest of public and private education.  They cannot have both.

It cannot be considered progression to leave children without proper authority, to ensure that for a large portion of the day, no one can assume the duties of parenthood.  Society cannot benefit from the development of children unless those children are developed into adults.  And if society will not grant anyone authority to properly school children, then the world's most prominent republic will have nothing better than overgrown babies as its constituents.  For this not to be the case, it is imperative that laws be created to protect the rights of teachers to discipline students.

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.

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