Zero Tolerance = Zero Results
A recently published research brief by Child Trends, Multiple Responses, Promising Results: Evidence-Based, Nonpunitive Alternatives To Zero Tolerance, suggests that zero tolerance school discipline policies have not been proven effective by research and may have negative effects, making students more likely to drop out and less likely to graduate on time. Instead, the brief recommends the use of nonpunitive disciplinary action, such as behavior interventions, social skills classes, and character education.
Unfortunately, no one told law student Jason Fuller who just wrote a law review article in the Akron Law Review entitled Corporal Punishment and Child Development which argues that “lawmakers and child welfare workers should pay more attention to the research suggesting that physical discipline can be helpful.”
Fuller links everything from the “rise in juvenile assaults and youth homicides” and the oft bemoaned “problems and inadequacies in today’s kids” to the “tremendous decrease of spanking during the past fifty years.”
Fuller’s article is apparently what passes for “scholarship” at an institution which was recently ranked 127 out of 143 law schools. (As a University of Michigan alum I also note that he’s an Ohio State grad which more than anything probably explains most of this article).
Fuller goes on to posit that although “spanking is a primitive discipline method. . . a child’s mind is also primitive. . . . kids learn from the tangible to the intangible—from the concrete to the abstract. It is during the tangible, concrete stages when physical discipline seems to be the most helpful.”
In this light, perhaps it makes sense why youth dysfunction is increasing at the same time that corporal punishment is decreasing. To function in society, people must learn to control themselves enough to not break the law or harm other people. While not every child learns this the same way, a number of them seem to learn it through at least some corporal discipline—a tangible tool that can complement their primitive learning stages.
Fuller’s polemic takes on everyone from the Swedes (who banned corporeal punishment in 1928) to the “so-called treaty” known as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the American Academy of Pediatrics warning ominously that “it’s happening in America too.”
That “it” is the apparently permissive attitude which has led to the outlawing of corporal discipline in “schools, foster homes, public institutions and daycare facilities through the country.” Worst of all, “social workers are even being trained to condemn it when on private home visits.”!!
Bemoaning the fact that America looks more like Sweden than Singapore where “schoolteachers corporally punish
unruly students, parents cane their children, and the government whips adults as criminal punishment,” Fuller explains “it is not a question of whether a parent spanks, but how she spanks. Families with the worst outcomes tend to spank inconsistently or in frustration.Families with the best outcomes (Authoritative families) tend to spank constructively, when necessary to enforce their high demands.”
All children have a right to learn in a way they can understand. But if we ban spanking, we risk robbing some of them of the fundamental human right to learn and mature normally.
Given the dearth of law jobs out there, Mr. Fuller is perhaps best suited for employment in a public school system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Either that or District Attorney of Wyoming County or a judge in Luzerne County.
In other words, Go East Young Man and Grow Up with the Country.
Read the full ChildTrends report here.
Fuller’s screed can be found here.