The wooden paddle on principal David Nixon's desk is two feet long, with a handle wrapped in duct tape that has been worn down by age and use. He found it in a dusty cabinet in his predecessor's office at John C. Calhoun Elementary in Calhoun Hills, S.C., where Nixon has been the principal since 2006. He has no idea if the old principal ever used it, but now it sits in plain view for all visitors to see, including children who have been dismissed to his office. As punishment for a "major offense," such as fighting or stealing, students are told to place both hands on the seat of a leather chair and brace for what Nixon calls "a whippin'." Before he begins, though, he sits the child down for a quiet talk about why he, or she, is in trouble. He tries to determine if a deeper issue, such as a problem at home, might warrant a meeting with a counselor. If the child shows remorse, Nixon will often send him or her back to class without a spanking. Otherwise, he makes sure he is calm, and he makes sure his elbow is still. Then he delivers "three licks" to the child's rear end. If the child is a girl, then a female administrator does it. Some of the kids cry. Some are silent. Some want a hug. And after the child is sent back to class, still stinging, Nixon sits alone in his office and thinks about what the child has done, and what he has done. "If I could burn that paddle in my stove," Nixon says, "I would. This is the worst part of my job."
But whaddaya know, this approach really is yielding lasting results:
They're no longer seeing much of it anymore at John C. According to Nixon, the last time he paddled a student was more than a month ago: March 16, after a fourth-grader swore in the cafeteria. Corporal punishment, it would seem, has worked so well at John C that perhaps the need for it no longer exists. Given Nixon's ambivalence toward the practice—indeed, he would not even allow NEWSWEEK to photograph the paddle—could it be that he's already delivered his last whipping? "I hope so," he says. But he quickly adds that there will always be "new kids who need to learn the limits at school." And one way or another, Nixon will make sure they get the message.
Of course, liberal educators and psychologists are going to claim that this principal (as well as a parent who uses corporal punishment) is only keeping the kids in line out of fear. They ignore the possibility that while any normal child would be afraid of being paddled, he or she is also building good habits and self-discipline during the time he's actively trying to avoid a spanking, proving to himself and others that he is capable of controlling himself. This is one of the reasons that the need for corporal punishment decreases as the certainty of its application increases--children are learning good habits while they are still in fear of punishment, and this self-discipline extends way beyond the time they're afraid of the principal's office. Some kids never find out that they really are capable of self-control because there's never a good reason to be IN control of themselves.
Perhaps some parents will read this and decide to follow the example of a public school principal.
The Principal And The Paddle
hat tip: Joanna