After I read professor Judith Kleinfeld’s report last week, exposing the feminist hoax of the early ’90s that purported to show girls as disadvantaged in American schools, I discussed the matter with a friend who teaches “problem” children in a suburban Alberta system.
The Kleinfeld report shows that the disadvantaged kids in American schools, as indisputably evidenced by dropout rates, university registrations and chronic behavioral problems, are not girls. They are boys.
“How many of your ‘problem’ children are boys?” I asked my friend. Nearly all of them, he said. “How many of the problems are discipline problems?” Nearly all of them, he said. “How many of these discipline problems could be solved if teachers and parents were to routinely swat these kids across their bottoms for misbehavior?” Nearly all of them, he said.
“Then why don’t they do it?” I asked.
He looked at me amazed. “Because, of course, society doesn’t approve of that anymore,” he said.
“Then tell me this,” I said. “As far back as written human records go – about 5,500 years – parents and teachers have spanked misbehaving children. So what has 20th century society discovered about children that all these earlier societies didn’t know?”
He pondered briefly. “I don’t know that they discovered anything,” he said.
“Then on what basis,” I wondered, “did we conclude that 20th century society was right, and all the previous societies wrong?”
He had no idea, my friend replied, but he suspected there was no basis whatever. I agreed. I was a journalist while this transition from spanking to no-spanking was transpiring, and observed that it seemed to be based not on evidence at all, but on an assumption about human nature, sometimes summarized in the aphorism that “violence begets violence.” The idea was that any child taught by methods that involve “violence” is altogether likely to become a violent adult.
On the other hand, if instead of hitting a child we approached him rationally – “Think how you’ve hurt So-and-So by doing that,” or “How would you like it if someone did that to you?” or “What kind of a world would we have if everybody did that?” – then the child would respond benignly, would never repeat the misdeed and no “violence” whatever would be involved.
On the contrary, said my friend, far more typically the child does the same thing again and again and again. The only real lesson he learns is how to close his ears and mind to the lecture.
“And in the meantime,” I added, “the parent becomes more and more exasperated and eventually frantic. Eventually beside himself (or herself), the parent takes a baseball bat to the kid and half kills him.” So it was non-violence observably begot violence, and very serious violence indeed.
Something else is worth noting in this connection. We have now had a generation of children, even two generations, raised on the dictum that “violence begets violence.” We should therefore be seeing the statistics on juvenile crime and juvenile “violence” showing a steady and reassuring decline.
Instead, we see them steadily rising. Police patrol the schools. In some they inspect the students for concealed weapons, which the kids say they have to carry to protect themselves against other kids. And while we don’t spank boys in the classrooms anymore, we give them Ritalin to sedate them into a semi-comatose stupor so the teacher can get her job done. Better to drug them than to swat them. Such, apparently, is our thinking.
Needless to say, it is boys, far more than girls, who require physical discipline, so the decision to first stigmatize and then prohibit the use of the strap was also a decision to “disadvantage” boys in the schools.
It was also in a way a decision to rid the schools of male teachers. Not many men would be prepared, like my friend, to subject themselves every day to a horde of uncontrollable brats. Small wonder that the teachers, who are now nearly all women, tend to focus their attention on the girls.
How long will it be, I asked my friend, before we realize what a catastrophic societal error we have made and restore so-called “violence” to education? “Not in my lifetime,” he said dolefully.
He may be wrong. It seems the even in Canada we are now recognizing more and more the other follies of the ’60s. So far, the schools have largely escaped re-examination of this particular assumption. When it happens, change may be much swifter than my friend imagines.
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