Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19: Corporal Punishment, Robert Hayden, "The Whipping"

I was lucky as a child.  My parents never used corporal punishment on me.  I'd like to say that it's because I never did anything wrong.  However, that would be a lie.  Truth is, I was the youngest of nine children.  I think my mother and father were simply too tired by the time they got to me.  They didn't have the energy to spank me or slap me or use a belt on me.

I heard a story last night on the radio about a public grade school where the principal believes in the benefits of corporal punishment.  The school district actually endorses it as a form of discipline.  The principal was interviewed, and when the interviewer cited studies showing the traumatically negative effects of corporal punishment on children (for example, it increases violent behavior), the principal said that he didn't believe the studies.

I'm not perfect.  I will admit that there have been times in my parenting life when I wanted to toss my son and daughter out of a window.  I understand the impulse to inflict that kind of punishment.  It's a very human reaction to tough situations.  I have learned to resort to another great parenting tool:  guilt.  My favorite weapon is this phrase:  "I'm not mad at you.  Just disappointed."

Saint Marty is glad that he could outrun his parents when he was young.

The Whipping

by:  Robert Hayden

The old woman across the way
    is whipping the boy again
and shouting to the neighborhood
    her goodness and his wrongs.

Wildly he crashes through elephant ears,
    pleads in dusty zinnias,
while she in spite of crippling fat
    pursues and corners him.

She strikes and strikes the shrilly circling
    boy till the stick breaks
in her hand.  His tears are rainy weather
    to woundlike memories:

My head gripped in bony vise
    of knees, the writhing struggle
to wrench free, the blows, the fear
    worse than blows that hateful

Words could bring, the face that I
    no longer knew or loved . . .
Well, it is over now, it is over,
    and the boy sobs in his room,

And the woman leans muttering against
    a tree, exhausted, purged—
avenged in part for lifelong hidings
    she has had to bear.

1 comment:

  1. I heard that NPR interview and yes, disturbing that an educator is willing to ignore the knowledge that doesn't support his actions of choice.