Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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Corporal Punishment – Does it Add Value to Education?

March 31, 2010

Corporal punishment, as a means of discipline in public schools, is currently employed in twenty states.[1] In 2006, over 223,000 students received some form of corporal punishment.[2] Using a national average of 180 school days, that works out to be over 1,200 spankings each day.  Even if you believe in the “spare the rod” statement from the Bible,[3] it does not say you get to delegate that authority to the public school system.

Proponents of spanking point to the need for discipline in our school systems as justification for the practice, while opponents see it as child abuse.  To avoid the argument, it helps to look at the effectiveness of  the practice as it relates to discipline in educational settings.  First, there can be no question for the need of discipline as it promotes a healthy learning environment.  Second, rules must have consequences when they are broken or they effectively do not exist.

Much debate takes place over what constitutes a healthy learning environment and just how to enforce rules to promote education.  Again, avoiding entanglement in the argument and looking at results sheds some light on the effectiveness of corporal punishment.  Figure 1 shows the states allowing corporal punishment.

Figure 1 – States Allowing Corporal Punishment
(click for larger view)

In looking at the states involved, several stereotypical “theories” are often put forward as to why these particular states allow it:

  • Only “Biblebelt” states can justify corporal punishment, it is part of their evangelical teachings
  • States that employ it are run by backward thinking people
  • States with right-wing agendas use corporal punishment to control the young population
  • Only states with large minority populations use it

The list goes on and on.  There is little use in addressing the veracity of the points as doing so does not address the problem of discipline in education.  Truthfully, the one thing the points have in common, they are all irrelevant.  The reason for the use of corporal punishment has little, if any, bearing on its effectiveness.

In the end, looking at the results of systems that use corporal punishment against those the do not puts its effectiveness into perspective.  Using data from U.S. Department of Education’s  2009 National Report Card[4], on the performance of eight-graders, one of two grades tested, state results can be averaged and ranked.  Figure 2 shows the states shaded with regard to that performance.

Figure 2 – States Ranked by Performance Percentage
(Click for larger view)

The states are shaded yellow to red with yellow representing the top 20% and red the bottom 20% and the others scaled between.  No state that allows corporal punishment scored in the top 20%.  In fact, 60% of states that allow the practice scored below average or worse.  In fact, 12% scored in the bottom 20% of all states.  Figure 3 shows the same data only for states allowing corporal punishment.

Figure 3 – Only States Allowing Corporal Punishment
(Click for larger view)

While there is no direct correlation between the use of corporal punishment and poor performance (as densely populated states that do not allow for it, like New York and California also scored poorly), there is correlation that corporal punishment does not enhance the educational performance of students – no state that allows corporal punishment scored in the top 20%.  Of course, many other factors come into play, but if corporal punishment does not add to education, just what purpose does it serve?

While it is hard to object to a parent giving a little hand a quick “pop” as its reaching for the hot stove, applying the practice to the normal disciplinary actions of our public school system seems extreme.  The use of such practices well illustrates the duality within conservative groups that argue for individual rights and responsibility while promoting a state sanctioned punishment that should not exist beyond the realm of parenthood, if at all.   Of course the other side is just as guilty of duality by not acknowledging a lack of parental control feeds the problems of discipline but screaming to high hell when a child is punished.  Both sides are wrong and prove that dealing in extremes is never the preferred course of action.

Our system of education needs improvement.  A reasonable path involves looking at that top 20% , the states in yellow, and see what they do differently than the bottom 20%, the ones bleeding red.  Only then will we begin to understand how to improve.  Even the top 20% need improvement, but until we reach a level of parity,  it seems the best actions are to follow their lead.


[1] “U.S.: Corporal Punishment and Paddling.” The Center for Effective Discipline. Ed. Nadine A. Block and Robert Fathman. The Center for Effective Discipline. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
<http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=statesbanning>.

[2] “2006 National and State Projections.” Civil Rights Data Collection. U.S. Department of Education. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
<http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx>.

[3] Proverbs 13:24. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print.

[4] “Reading 2009 Report Viewer.” NAEP – Nation’s Report Card Home. Ed. Richard Struense. United Stated Department of Education, 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
<http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2009/reading_2009_report/>.

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The Center of Truth’s Universe

February 1, 2010

From the beginning of time, history has indexed our universe.  Some history we know, some we will never know.  Moreover, some things we thought we knew, we learn were something else all together.  The truth we know today is in how we believe it to be, more than the fact of it – seems everyone knew the earth was the center of the universe until Galileo proved otherwise.  What belief of today will change tomorrow?

Galileo was not alone in his belief, of course.  He built on the works of another great from history – Nicolaus Copernicus.  The realization that the earth was not the center of the universe was a process that took over two-hundred years to understand.  Telling the truth can prove dangerous too.  In Galileo’s case, it cost him his freedom and nearly his life.  The Catholic Church was less than pleased with his proposals as it opposed the teachings of the day.  In 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Galileo held to his belief.  While he did recant, it was under threat of death.  Regardless of the Catholic Church’s efforts, his work remained in circulation and people quietly accepted the truth of it.  The truth of his work was undeniable.  Institutions, like the Catholic Church, are slow to correct mistakes; in Galileo’s case, they did not officially change their position until 1992 when Pope John Paul II expressed regret.  Now, there are plans to erect a statue of Galileo within the Vatican walls.

The lesson of Galileo is truth may be suppressed for a time but in the end it will prevail.  There is something indefinable that happens to a person when they learn a truth.  It changes everything they do from that moment forward.  Accepting one truth leads to other truths; the process of learning repeats itself with a perpetual motion of sorts.  It is the engine that drives humanity along our journey of discovery.

Looking back, the Church’s position may seem silly, but we cannot judge through hindsight; we have the advantage of knowing how events unfolded.  That is the point to keep in mind, when the world presents you with an idea that goes against a deeply held belief, the belief may need to change.  The fault did not sit with the Church as a whole, but with a belief system that did not allow for change.  The more we understand the universe, the more we will shed outdated beliefs.  There was a time when traveling faster than the speed of sound was thought impossible; today we routinely fly much faster.  Now, the speed of light presents the same dilemma.  Will we one day dismiss it as a barrier too?

Truth may seem dynamic; it is not.  While two plus two does equal four, other truths are not so easily defined.  In the end, it is our understanding that changes, not truth.  No evil comes from knowing the truth even if it breaks with tradition.  The evil comes in suppressing truth.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Galileo.

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Pat Robertson’s Version of the Big Lie Theory

January 15, 2010

To make sure I understood exactly what Pat Robertson said regarding Haiti, I watched video of the 700 Club broadcast in question.  I sat in stunned silence at what I viewed.  Stunned not at the revelation of some unknown truth but by the boldness of Robertson to use folklore as if it were a truth whispered to him by God.  I really did not intend to write about it, as one is bound to get dirty playing in the mud but sometimes that is a lesser evil than remaining silent.

Televangelists, like Robertson, employ a political tactic that is the Big Lie theory, modified to take advantage of the viral nature of outlandish claims in today’s connected world.  It is the same tactic used by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Never allow the public to cool off
  2. Disseminate the lie as widely and quickly as possible
  3. Always be vague and use innuendo
  4. Never admit a fault
  5. Never concede that there may be some good in your target
  6. Never leave room for alternative possibilities
  7. Never accept blame for anything and concentrate that blame on your enemy and blame him for everything that goes wrong

The theory assumes people will believe a big lie because it is easier to accept smaller ones as lies.  The boldness of the statement gives it an air of truth and if repeated frequently enough people will eventually believe it.  For example, you hear a report on something outrageous and say to yourself, “that can’t be true,” and forget it.  Then someone you know, who heard the same lie, repeats it to you as a point of interest.  You recall, “I heard that before,” never mind it came from the same source.  You now have the same lie from two sources, then three, then four, and so on.  The more you hear it, the more ingrained it becomes as true.

In the end, Robertson’s use of this tactic simply betrays the Christian values he clams to support.  Rather than having love and compassion for our neighbors in Haiti, he claims it is God smiting them for a deal one man made, two-hundred years ago, with the devil, according to the folklore.  If you ask me, it seems the deal the devil made is with a televangelist that lives in Virginia.

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