Nov 07 2011
This article appeared in today’s edition of The New York Times. In class today when we were talking about who is responsible for deciding how and what children learn, I couldn’t stop thinking about this article. However, I felt that as it did not specifically pertain to education I should put it on the blog instead.
The article describes Michael and Debi Pearl, who say that physical discipline of children is necessary. The couple published a book on their teachings, which advocate “systemic use of ‘the rod’ to teach toddlers to submit to authority.” More than 670,000 copies of the Pearls’ book, To Train Up a Child, are in circulation, and their teachings have lead to the deaths of three children by parents who used the book as a guide. Included in the book are “instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, ‘can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.’” The children that have died as a result have been found with severe damage and bodily harm. The basis of the Pearls’ teaching stems from Catholic roots; Mr. Pearl is the pastor of an evangelical church in Tennessee. The article ends with a quote from Mr. Pearl: “To give up the use of the rod is to give up our views of human nature, God, eternity.”
Right off the bat, this article disgusted me. Encouraging corporal punishment of children as young as 6 months of age is, to me, really sickening. Just to show the other side of the article, members of Mr. Pearl’s church are confused by the controversy that the book has caused because they all use his book as a manual and have never had trouble or hurt their children. Still, I believe that it is the responsibility of parents to protect their children from any type of harm. Inflicting harm willingly on one’s child is unthinkable to me.
Additionally, the article notes that the book is particularly popular and used among Catholic parents that home-school their children. In this case, children are being taught completely by their parents – who are using religion as a basis for their children’s education. If the children learn that physical punishment is acceptable and completely defensible through religion, how will they fit into the world? How will they treat others, and how will they treat their own children? This poses a huge problem for me. The children are being engrained with something that is not socially acceptable and dangerous if put into the wrong hands.
It’s easy for me to project my beliefs onto this situation. I’d be interested to see what everyone else thinks.
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