Monday, March 07, 2005

Controlling People Through Violence

People like this, who claim that all would be right with the world if only we let parents and teachers beat children, sicken me. Because that kind of thinking comes from a really dark, angry, dysfunctional place that children don't need to be exposed to. And because corporal punishment not only doesn't work, but also teaches kids a terrible life lesson.

For some reason, these kinds of people think there is a bright line dividing controlling kids through violence and controlling adults through violence. Totalitarian states that control adults through violence? Wrong. Free societies that control kids through violence? Okay. And one never, never, ever spills over to the other.

But what lesson does using violence to control children teach? That they'd better behave, or that it is appropriate to exercise control over others through violence? Conservatives think that these kids are all going to understand when they grow up that it is only okay to commit violence on your own kids (or on the kids in your class, if they become teachers), and not on anyone you want to control. But this bright line isn't so bright for those on the business end of it. Once you teach someone that it is okay in one circumstance to use violence to control others, it isn't a big step to think it is okay to use violence to control others in other situations.

But people like Bill Cunningham want to go back to the good old days, when "the board of education would have met my derriere, and Ma Cunningham would have beat me about the face and head if I had done similar things," and when husbands beat their wives with impunity, beat their kids to within an inch of their lives, and used violence not to control others 'for their own good,' as Cunningham proposes, but to control others because they've been taught that it is okay.

I mean, sure, you can tell a kid who you've just beaten for mouthing off that violence isn't the way to solve disuptes or take out your frustrations. But the kid is going to see that when you are angry, you beat him or her, and drawing the conclusion that it is appropriate to express anger and frustration through violence is easy.

ALAN COLMES (co-host): Look, is it OK? Do you have a First Amendment right
not to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance or "The Star Spangled

CUNNINGHAM: Alan Colmes, I think if you're a 16- or 17-year-old miscreant,
and you don't know the sacrifices of American soldiers from Iwo Jima through
Fallujah, if you have no idea what the red, the white and the blue stands for, I
think to have the chair pulled out from under you is the least of what should

Yeah, 'cause that kid is really going to respect the sacrifices of American soldiers after his teacher beats up on him. Or maybe the kid is going to become more withdrawn and sullen, as studies have shown, and maybe he or she will stand up at the Pledge of Allegiance afterwards, but he or she is more likely to do so with rage and mocking in his or her heart than respect or love of country.

I mean, what sense does it make to tell a kid, "This is America. The land of freedom. You'd better love it," then hit him or her for not standing during the Pledge? First, the kids is learning that America isn't free, that America is a country in which it is okay to hit people to coerce their loyalty, and to associate the flag and the Pledge with violence and pain. Yeah, that'll learn 'em. I'm sure that after that kid had his chair pulled out from under him in New Jersey that he went outside and shed a tear for the soldiers of Iwo Jima. Or maybe he decided that he hated school and didn't want to learn anything. Which is more likely?

For the record, no matter what Mr. Cunningham thinks, kids do have a constitutional right not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. Because one of the reasons having rights is important and the Bill of Rights is a great document is that everyone gets them, whether Bill Cunningham thinks they deserve them or not.

CUNNINGHAM: ...we need more teachers beating people about the face and head,
especially on the derriere. If we had more of that, believe me, we'd have less
people thinking like you [Colmes].

Well, first off, Mr. Education, it's fewer people, not less. Wow, I know that and my teachers didn't even beat me!

And, I'm no doctor, but I think beating kids, whose skulls and brains are still developing and particularly vulnerable, "about the face and head" seems medically inadvisable to me. Of course, Cunningham would say, "Beating kids about the face and head in school never killed anyone." But, actually, Bill, it did. They just hid it from you and the other kids so you wouldn't think you were stuck six hours a day with homocidal maniacs.

And here we go again with the control through violence. Cunningham apparently believes that the ends justify the means here, that making sure other people believe as he does through violence is acceptable. So much for the so-called "marketplace of ideas" we hear from the conservatives so much, where ideas can compete on a level playing ground and the best emerge. No, Cunningham wants to shut down the marketplace in favor of government-funded coercing of kids into conservatism through violence. Cunningham is admitted, in essense, that his views cannot stand on their own and win out through merit, and therefore government coercion and violence are necessary to support them.

HANNITY: ...No wonder why kids aren't learning anymore, Bill?
Yeah, that's it! Kids only learn in an atmosphere of fear and violent reprisal! That's how you teach 'em that learning is fun. What kid isn't going to love learning after being beaten around the face and head for a while and then trying to do some math with his or her head still ringing? A scholar in the making, for sure!

Or maybe it's the underfunding of public schools. The unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind. The deterioration of urban schools. The lack of resources and computers. The lack of qualified teachers due to the poor pay and working conditions they suffer, as well as their low status in society. No, none of that has anything to do with it. Nope. It's beating the kids. That's what's doing it.

Boy, it's amazing that I learned a damned thing, since my parents and teachers didn't beat me. But what the hell do I know? Oh yeah... Science, physics, electrical engineering, astronomy, history, philosophy, religion, writing, politics, psychology... Actually, I would love to put my violence-less education up against Bill Cunningham's any day. Do you even doubt who would win?

CUNNINGHAM: ...But the Alan Colmes and the Michael Moores
would jump on the side of this miscreant [the student who did not stand during
the Pledge] and act as if he has rights and no responsibility.
What responsibility, exactly? To stand during the Pledge? Perhaps, instead of pulling the chair out from under this kid, he should have been taught about the sacrifices people have made for this country. Do we know that happened? No. But, even if it did, guess what? The failure of responsibility is not the kid's. It is the teacher's, the school's, the educational system's, and the Washington politician's. Minors are deemed, by law, not to be capable of taking responsibility for themselves or their actions. Either the kid is responsible for himself, in which case he doesn't have to stand because that's his right, or the kid is not yet able to be responsible for himself, in which case it is wrong to commit violence upon him for something he is not responsible for.

Further, Mr. Cunningham, Americans do indeed have "rights and no responsibility." That's how our government was set up and that's how the Constitution was written. There is no clause in the Constitution that mandates "responsibility" or "honoring the symbols of the nation" or anything like that in order for the Bill of Rights to apply. That's what a "right" is. It's something you get simply from virtue of being an American. You may not like it, Mr. Cunningham, but there's a reason for it: Not everyone would agree on what "responsibilities" others must uphold in order to keep their rights. Who would get to decide that, Mr. Cunningham? What if it wasn't you? I can only guess at the stink you would make at having to uphold some of the "responsibilities" I would levy upon you, including helping the poor ("oh my god, how can the government make me give my hard-earned money to the poor? Foul, I say!")

HANNITY: ...parents are saying, "Good, good for this teacher. Finally, somebody
is fighting back."

Against lazy teenagers? You're making it sound like storming Omaha Beach or something. We already have the amazingly unsuccessful "war on drugs" and "war on terror." Is the "war on lazy teenagers" next?

CUNNINGHAM: And I hope the students in New Jersey, the former home of
Governor [James] McGreevey, who had his own difficulties -- I might add that
Jersey, of course, is a blue state. We don't have these kind of problems in Ohio

HANNITY: In Cincinnati, my friend.

CUNNINGHAM: -- Kentucky or Indiana.

COLMES: All right.

CUNNINGHAM: We don't have those problems in Cincinnati.

Oh, Christ. Are they just trying to make me disavow my home state? Listen, I am from southwest Ohio, a bit north of Cincinnati. And I can tell you a few things. First off, my high school is in the top 1% of the nation's schools. Secondly, there was no corporal punishment of any kind in any school I attended, other than that administered upon me by other students. Thirdly, there were, indeed, slackers and what Cunningham would call "miscreants" in our school. And yet, somehow, we still managed to learn something and survive to graduation without getting the shit beat out of us by our teachers. Amazing, huh?


At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Did anyone else catch in the link to the story from Media Matters to, that the superintendent of Schools proposed
"After the meeting, Seidenberger discussed the incident with members of the media, saying he believes the board may need to consider enacting a policy banning the use of electronic recording devices in the district's schools."
Let's see, instead of reviewing the teachers conduct, provoked or not, change the rules to not allow recording devices so that their can be no proof in the future of any questionable activities. Great way to solve the problem. Maybe we should ban video cameras in the streets so that no one catches a police officer beating a suspect, or cameras in foreign prisons so we don't see abuse.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger mooglar said...

I think the idea of banning recording devices in schools is especially ironic since conservatives are all about putting video cameras in public places so the government can keep track of us at all times. So, why does the "if you're not doing anything wrong why do you care if the government is watching you" defense not work when we're talking about teachers, eh?


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