Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Where are the Grown Ups?

When my kids fight or call each other names, I confess that I rarely ask them to sit down and discuss their feelings. I may try to get down to the bottom of the problem by going on a "fact-finding mission" to discover who the guilty party is but usually, they are both just told to go to their rooms and not come out until they are capable of acting like human beings. Sometimes they need more encouragement--in the form of a firm hand on the posterior region of their anatomy.

Apparently, I’ve been encouraging bullying. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame) has put together a program that is now implemented in over 12,000 schools called Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me. Michelle Malkin has described it brilliantly here.

Just a question: What happened to all the adults in our schools? When I was a youngster in school there was nothing so vulnerable as a teacher or administrator who took our childish behavior seriously. We could not express it, but we sensed the problem with that. We knew we could not trust an adult who trusted children. Children should only be taken as seriously as they deserve to be taken. They have to earn respect. Children have to be taught how to act like adults. They have to be made to do it. They will resist. If they are naughty, they must be punished. If they are mean, they must be punished more vigorously. They must be taught to act nobly and defend the weak. They have to be taught about justice. How odd to have to say these things that should be clear to all parents. But we’ve tried to re-invent the wheel. Kids will not respond to hand-holding and coddling. Sure, you need to kiss their boo-boos when they fall down, but you can over-do that. You have to make them get up again. These lessons are hard. Folk-songs cannot supplant the school of hard knocks.

If teachers and administrators (not to mention parents) were empowered with the powers that teachers of old enjoyed, (e.g., paddling, prayer, discussion of morality in absolute terms) we probably would not have as many of these problems as we seem to have today. Doesn’t anyone see that these kind of programs spawn precisely the behavior they seek to prevent?

Discussions - 43 Comments

This is a funny review of Malkin’s rant; this blogger does a humorous rundown of the latest bilge at

(scroll down for the dissection of Malkin)

Here in Louisville a young man was arrested in connection with a burglery and returned to his parents. When Mom came to the door and the police explained their presence she slapped her boy across the face. Mom was arrested for child abuse and harrasement and the boy was left in the custody of his father.

Moral of this story? The police blotter is the best entertainment in the nespaper (next to the editorial section).

I sense a very tough road ahead of this youngster.

Yep, others see it. Interestingly, when I have actually engaged liberals on the topic, and explained the point of view, I HAVE gotton traction.

Currently, I’m getting huge traction on Kelo. It a great opportunity to explain Enumerated Powers, the Bill of Rights, and federalism.

Grab the opportunity.

Many liberals already understand enumerated powers, the Bill of Rights, and federalism. Getting traction on Kelo shouldn’t be very hard. It seems to have enraged many clear across the political spectrum, including some socialists.

The nice thing about corporatist trash like Kelo is that it outrages and brings together the people on both sides of the spectrum who actually have principles. One of my best pals is a Naderite, and he is apoplectic.

A kid who says "yea but my dad can beat up your dad" grows up to say, "My lawyer can beat your lawyer!"

Julie: "Children should only be taken as seriously as they deserve to be taken. They have to earn respect. Children have to be taught how to act like adults. They have to be made to do it. They will resist. If they are naughty, they must be punished. If they are mean, they must be punished more vigorously. They must be taught to act nobly and defend the weak."

Let’s analyze this one brilliant component of the larger lamentable piece. (1) Until they deserve it, kids whould not be taken seriously? How do they deserve it, and and what age are they capable of manifesting and therefore earning their deservedness? Two months? 3 months? 8 months?(2) They must be taught to act like the adults. I assume that includes the adults who are actively spanking them in order to change their behavior? If they learn well, then they will, in fact, learn to hit others in order to get what they want.

3) If they are naughty, they must be punished, and if they are mean, they must be punished more vigorously. What fountain of wisdom did you dip into for this anachronistic pile of common sense?

Punishment, when conducted correctly, will indeed suppress the punished behavior, but it will not in itself teach a more appropriate behavior in its place. For that, we need to model and reinforce the appropriate behavior, and if our modeling includes physical coercion, then we may well wonder why our kids don’t seem to "learn."

Please be advised that roughly half of the states in this country allow corporal punishment in their schools. Among those states that allow corporal punishment in schools, there is a robust and positive correlation between the amount of punishment in a state, and the level of undereducated youth in that state. That is, the available correlational evidence indicates that punishment ultimately leads to the opposite of its intended goals. These figures are supported by decades of laboratory results suggesting the same.

By your reasoning, prisons should be full of adults who were pampered in their youth. Instead, a visit to most prisons, and analysis of the backgrounds of the incarcerated reveal histories of abuse, neglect, and various unsuccessful attempts by teachers and judges to punish.

What punishment CAN accomplish is fearful behavior that parents love to interpret as "respectful," and an increasing ability to distinguish cues that signal the absence of potential punishers; that is, more creative and sneaky individuals, who engage in the punishable behavior when it appears safe.

Finally, for people who feel insecure and powerless, punishing the weak gives them a sense of power and importance. People who would never think about kicking their computer, or their television, rely on their own experience with authoritarian parents to justify hitting the only persons that it is legal to hit: their own children. What a bully you are.

Where are the grownups indeed.

Fung- well said. You can get respect from your children without beating them. My parents never laid a hand on me, but I respected them nonetheless. I stayed out of trouble not because I didn’t want to get hit, but because I didn’t want to disappoint them. I realize that this is anecdotal, but many of my peers report the same thing. It’s also obvious that respecting your parents is not the same thing as fearing them.

As for Garrett’s ain’t-that-a-shame tale of a mother slapping her son for his involvement in a "burglery," shouldn’t she have raised him so that he would not commit crimes instead of slapping him after the fact?

Nice point, Phil. One of the arguments I often hear in the support of hitting children is the "what about crossing the road?" argument. That is, for the really important stuff, like running out in traffic, you have to hit them, etc...

My response is similar to your point, by the time they’ve run out into traffic, its a little too late. Punishment as a strategy depends on the problem behavior occurring. Better, I think, to prevent the behavior in the first place, or to make sure that a child knows how TO cross the road, like holding an adult’s hand.

I don’t have kids myself, but as an observer, I suppose I’d say that I’d strongly suspect parents who seem to hit their kids a lot of being poor practitioners of the art of child-rearing.

But I think I’d suspect the same thing of parents who would never or almost never lay a hand on their kids, no matter what. I guess I’d seem those parents as also not-so-great child rearers, albeit defective for a different set of reasons than the first group.

And I should add that my random observational sample has been one where "corporal punishment" means something rather mild, such as a single, not very hard swat on the bottom, applied with a bare hand immediately prefatory to a "time out."

I’m curious: What’s the thinking of the no-spank crowd about things like "time outs"? When I’ve seen them applied to my nephews, etc., they’ve seemed surprisingly effective (especially w/ little kids) because of the shame and stigma involved. I wonder if the logic used against CP (roughly, "if you hit your kids to make them comply, you’re teaching them to use violence to get their way") could not be applied, mutatis mutandis, against ANY form of punishment or negative reinforcement (e.g., why could someone not say "if you use shame to influence your kids, you’re teaching them to oppress and manipulate people psychologically in order to make them comply.").

Or to turn that inside out, while parenting is about more than punishing, in reality the latter is always going to be intertwined in the former. All punishment is a form of dominating and being dominated--we hope a form tempered and guided by justice, reason, and even love, but the experience of domination is there nonetheless. Is there something uniquely bad about even mild corporal punishment that other forms of noncorporal parent-over-child domination somehow escape?

My, Fung, but you really ARE a hypocrite! Who was just lecturing me about the difference between correlation and causation in another thread? Southern states still allow corporal punishment in schools. Now, what could be correlated with both corporal punishment and under-education? How about RACE and INCOME. In short, Fung, there is a high degree of likelihood that this is a SPURIOUS relationship (I think you know what that means, don’t you?).

I’m with PJC, children do require constant correction...moral instruction and love backed up with physical correction when all else fails (and occasionally it does for most personality types). Again we see the Leftist refusal to understand that people ARE NOT BORN "GOOD." Read some biology, will you?

I would agree that anyone who uses spanking as their primary method of correction is likely to fail, but I think it is silly to characterize everyone who uses an occasional spank as a part of their parenting method as a "bully." A light smack on the bottom of a child is a perfectly reasonable means of correcting behavior and to suggest that a pat on the butt is equivalent to "beating" them or child abuse is absurd.

Get real.

Fung: Do people who freak out over spanking really think that parents who use it don’t love and respect their kids? I agree that it can be over-done. What can’t be over-done? I agree that it is not always the most effective method of discipline. Again, what method IS ALWAYS the most effective at anything? If there were simple answers to these questions, we would not need judgment or prudence. We could just consult a book written by the latest greatest progressive-minded child psychologist and all would be well. Liberals would love that kind of world. They try mightily to create that world no matter how much evidence speaks against them.

Stubbornly, I still think that if an adult person cannot distinguish between occasional, corrective, and necessary spanking and child abuse, then that person is deserving of even less intellectual respect than a child. I am beginning to wonder if those who fret so over common sense in regard to child rearing do it because they themselves have not grown up and perhaps they deserve more than a few spankings.

Further, I think if you look carefully at the statistics you discuss about the correlation between childhood punishment and prison time, you will find that the most common demoninator among prisoners is NOT the fact that they got a few spankings but the fact that they were not loved, were not cherished, and were not directed toward anything positive in life. In short, they were ignored except for when they were beaten. And they were beaten for the purpose of making them go away. No one is arguing that spanking in and of itself creates happy, well-adjusted, productive adults. I am saying that there is a time and a place. Adults in schools and elsewhere have to take their authority seriously and punish bullies when they perpetrate injustice. It need not always be with a spanking (after a certain age, that would be ridiculous anyway!) but why do we handcuff those responsible for maintaining order and justice?

You’re right, you won’t find too many of the pampered kids I talked about among the ranks of the common criminals. They’re far too ambitious and "special" for that. But John Walker Lynd (the American Taliban) who had some very progressive and on the vanguard parents, IS serving a fair amount of time from what I understand. And I’m sure there are plenty of his spoiled and ungrateful co-horts out consorting with the seedier elements of the radical left to create more stupid programs like the one I discussed in this blog to be implemented in a school near you.

PJC -Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. You asked about time-outs. When I teach behavior modification, we distinguish between time-out from reinforcement and punishment, though not all in the field agree. Basically, the distinction goes like this:

Punishment falls into two categories: Positive, or Type I, and Negative, or Type II. Positive punishment is so called because it involves a positive contingency between a problem behavior and the occurrence of an aversive stimulus. For instance, looking at the sun is followed by the occurrence of pain. Negative punishment is when a problem behavior is followed by the withdrawal of a stimulus. For instance, when interrupting is followed by the withdrawal of talking privileges.

Time Out is a much more complex sequence of actions that begin with the problem behavior. Usually, the person is removed from a reinforcing situation, but sometimes, the person stays, and is otherwise separated from reinforcers. The length of time-out varies with age, but is roughly one minute per year of age. Return to the reinforcing situation is contengent on X amount of time without any episodes of the problem behavior, followed by some indication (usually verbal, if the person is able) that the person understands what behavior started the process, and what behavior should have occurred instead. For instance, Fred might be prompted to say: " I kept interrupting, making it hard for people to talk. When I want to talk, I should instead wait my turn until people have finished what they are saying."

The point is this: Time out combines simple type II punishment with a dignified, educational, sequence of events that are NOT meant to be shaming or humiliating.

I agree with you about the use of shame induction, and would add guilt induction to that, as well. Studies have shown, in fact (Ron Johnson, from the U of Hawaii, I believe) that parental shame, guilt induction, and physical coercion all have paradoxical effects on the later experience of guilt, empathy, and shame avoidance in adults.

We teach, and I practice, that the task of the parent is to teach, which means to inform, and to give kids behavioral tools that help them negotiate a complex, changing world. Punishment suppresses behavior, while education and teaching increase their bag of tools.

I would like to ask you why you would think that a parent who never hit a child should be suspected of less-than-optimal parenting?

In re-reading Fung’s comments, it strikes me again that he thinks parents who punish their children are doing it "to get what they want." Yeah, sure. It’s totally arbitrary. I just want what I want and if my kids don’t like it, too bad. I exert violence and power upon them and I get it.

Fung seems to fail to acknowledge that there is a right and a wrong toward which all people should be directed. He fails to admit the possibility of love in punishment. If I correct my children in any way--physical or otherwise--it is to direct them toward the right. It is to show them the error of their ways and help them to become a better person. It is to help them be a happier person. And yes, it hurts me far worse than it hurts them.

Dain- In your zealous frenzy to disagree with me and to point out my hypocrisy regarding correlations, you must have missed my next sentence after I acknowledged the correlational nature of the states’ data:

"These figures are supported by decades of laboratory results suggesting the same."

Second, although I know you love to suggest that whiteness is next to godliness, your suggestion that race is behind that correlation needs some help. First of all, the corporal punishment states are not all in the south, though most of them are. They ARE mostly in "Bible Belt" states. But the correlation between CP and undereducated youth exists AMONG those states, not between them and the northern states. I’m not sure about the overall differences in ethnic and SES distributions between Louisiana and, say, Arkansas or Mississipi, but I don’t think that will explain much.

It is the case, however, that more boys than girls are hit (often with boards) and that of those boys, more Black and Hispanics are hit than Whites. Strangely, however, it is often the same boys who are hit repeatedly, which is curious, if punishment is so effective; we might wonder why anyone would "need" it more than once!

As for reading biology, I think that your tired view of "race" needs some refreshing. From what I have read recently, there is likely to be more genetic separation between you and me than there is between the average "White" person and the average "Black" person. The notion of genetically separate "races" pretty much died out a long time ago.

As for being born "good," by your reasoning, it must be that girls are born more good than boys, since they seem to "deserve" less punishment.

Dominick- I only called Julie a bully. Many parents spank their kids because they believe it is the right thing to do, or becaue they are not aware that there are much better methods available, and many of them raise healthy, happy children. Julie just seemed to enjoy the dominance a bit too much for my taste. Especially that "children need to be taught to act like adults" business. What does that mean? Why in the world should a child act like an adult? Especially one who looks at the world today, and laments the apparent passing of corporal punishemt?

Julie- I don’t "freak out" about punishment, in and of itself. What I do get angry about is people who pretend to know that swatting, paddling, spanking, "getting their licks" actually does any good for anyone other than the dominant one.

Certainly, it may be the fastest way to achieve behavior change, but it is not lasting, and it is not dignified.

Let’s try an activity: the kind that liberals love! Scroll back in time to the period before women enjoyed the rights they have today. They were not allowed to vote, and their property legally belonged to their husbands. Now, insert the word "wife" every place that "child" occurs in your arguments. I’m sure you know men who still think like this. A little back-of-the-hand gives’er an attitude adjustment. Let her know who’s boss. Stuff like that. Do the arguments still work? What if the husband smacks his wife out of love, just to protect her? what if it’s not a very hard smack? What if it hurts him more than it hurts her?

Now, I expect that you are going to tell me that women and children are different, but in what important way, in this context? Do children deserve less dignity, or respect, or safety when in the company of their loved ones?

What do you suppose your counterparts said back then to the silly liberals who worked for women’s rights?

Back in Texas, I watched more than one parent get carted away by police because they acted out against a principal who had paddled their child until his raised flesh was the color of blood. Never once did the principal admit that he had gone too far. Never once would the principal listen to or read about a better way to "discipline" students. Why would people argue against a better way, if they thought that there might be one, unless they like the way things are?

Fung: I based my remark on occasions when I ’ve seen kids running wild, doing obviously antisocial stuff, while their parents did nothing but stand by and offer purely verbal admonitions which the kids totally ignored, I assume b/c the kids already knew that there would be no consequences to doing so.

Moreover, I did not mean to suggest that I think shame and guilt induction are always bad: Far from it; I think there is a healthy role for both. Whatever the elaborate theory, according to my practical sense of situations, a "time out" nearly always involves an element of shaming--but again, I don’t see that as a problem, as long as the shaming is not pushed to excess.

I’m certainly glad to you always strive to teach your kids: I think even when punishment is being visited upon a kid, there should be a strong discursive element, so that the kid knows exactly what they did wrong, etc., and doesn’t experience the situation simply as an arbitrary explosion of adult exasperation and anger.

But the manner in which one "teaches" small and often unruly children is not the same as the manner in which one "teaches," say, a graduate seminar. In the former kind of teaching there is far more likely to be a frequently occurring element of compulsion (whether actual or implied) than in the latter, and I think we should be clear about how equivocal the verb "to teach" can be.

One way to think about it might be arrange all the dyadic human relationships in which the note of hierarchy inevitably appears on a continuum. At one end would be dyads where physical coercion or its threat looms very large and rational discourse plays a relatively small role. Examples of those dyads would be a master/slave or guard/prisoner relationship. At the other end of the continuum would be, let us say, the dyad of professor/college student, where there is a hierarchy (the professor is assumed to know more about the subject, and therefore possesses a certain dominance) but where physical dominance plays no role and rational discourse overwhelmingly characterizes the relationship.

Parenting, in my estimation, is neither despotic (pure force) nor philosophic (pure ratiocination), but what Aristotle would call "royal or political"--that is to say, somewhere in between. Ideally, parenting’s place on the continuum should be as far toward the rational-discourse end as one can make it, but in reality I think parenting will remain an activity where reason is mixed with coercion (albeit the latter should be more often implied than actually exercised).

I’ve seen my sister and her husband, for instance, in situations where we’re driving somewhere, and their two boys (both quite active and willful) will begin suggesting or even demanding that we stop to get Slurpees or ice cream or what have you. My sis and her hubby will begin by using appeals to reason ("we’re going to eat when we get to grandma’s, so ice cream now would spoil your appetite") but often the boys, driven by their unruly passions, will keep insisting in a bid to wear down resistance and get their way. At a certain point, my brother-in-law will say, "No, because I said so and I’m your father." The boys are way smaller than him physically, of course, and do not know how to drive a car. So at the end of the day, he as the parent has more power, in part for physical reasons that imply the possibility of coercion, even though in fact he hasn’t hit anyone and relies as much as he can on arguments. But if argument were ALL he had--if he had no physical/technical superiority to backstop his arguments--the fact that his arguments are in principle more reasonable than the boys’ passionate impulses would not necessarily be enough to ensure the he (i.e., reason) would prevail.

If we think through this and other common parenting situations, it seems to me that there is indeed an undercurrent of at least implied potential coercion in them (adults are generally a lot bigger and stronger than preadolescent children, I’ve noticed), and there may be times, it seems to me, when judiciously actualizing that undercurrent may be proper, especially when other means of exerting authority have failed.

In parenting as in civic life, the resort to coercion (e.g., the enforced time out, or the police having to go arrest somebody) may be a sign of a certain failure (far better that no one should "act out inappropriately" or turn to crime in the first place), but it may also at times be necessary when matters have gone beyond the point where rational discourse alone can rectify things.

You know, I was beginning to feel guilty about all the time I spend on this blog, but you folks NEVER SLEEP...apparently. Radical.

Fung, I disagree with you because you have the bad habit of "lording" your status as "social scientist" over people. These folks are just using commonsense, but you stride in 20 feet tall (in your mind) and lay some heavy psychobabble on them about parenting, punishment, and social problems. In short, professor, you’re a bully...not my fault, but something that needs a counterbalance (like me!).

How on Earth could a macrosocial correlation between corporal punishment and "under-education" being confirmed in the laboratory? What nonsense. Please cite the most up-to-date and comprehensive study that demonstrates this.

As for calling me a "racist," well...all I was saying was that blacks and poor folks tend to drop out more often than affluent kids, and they are found disproportionately in the South (and in inner cities). So, the cultural practice of corporal punishment happens to coincide with concentrations of under-educated people, but that doesn’t mean that one causes the other. You know this, but like a good little liberal, you goal is to "morally exterminate" me with charges of racism rather than meet my argument head-on. For shame, Fung!

Are we raising a generation(s) of spineless, soft "H.G.Wellsian Eloi"?

How will these softies faced our 21st century Morlocks?

"Therapism tends to regard people as essentially weak, dependent, and never altogether responsible for what they do. Alan Wolfe, a Boston College sociologist and expert on national mores and attitudes, reports that for many Americans non-judgmentalism has become a cardinal virtue. Concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, are often regarded as anachronistic and intolerant. ’Thou shalt be nice’ is the new categorical imperative."

Read the article. Thank you.

I hasten to insert that there are strong racial differences between childhood predispositions. Developmental research shows that asian children are easier to train to responsible behaviours. Caucasian children are more difficult to train. African children are more difficult yet. Even full siblings have strong behavioural variation, although the between group behaviour differences are significant.

A parent must often get a child’s attention before the child is capable of listening. The difficulty of doing this will depend upon the genetic predisposition of the child. Parents who go overboard in punishing children often cite bible verses in support. In reality, simply getting the child’s attention and diverting the state of mind is usually sufficient.

Physical contact is often craved by quite young children. If the parent is neglectful a child will "act up" in order to receive a pat on the bottom. Neglectful parents quite often cite statistics that seem to show that any spankings whatsoever will do irreparable harm to a child.

PJC- If we refer to the work of Diana Baumrind, and also the more theoretical work of Adler and his students (Rudolph Dreikurs, in particular), we find that the difference I refer to is relevant to your use of the continuum of coercion. In fact, we find that parenting (and other teaching contexts) are NOT bound by a single continuum, but that there is another, which Baumrind and her colleagues refer to as "centeredness" or sometimes "responsiveness." The result, therefore is a 2 X 2 matrix, (though it should be 2 orthogonal continua). One dimension is structure (hi vs low) and the other dimension is responsiveness (hi vs lo) or centeredness (child-centered vs parent-centered). Now, instead of hi vs low coercion (structure) we add the dimension of centeredness. The hi-structure/parent-centered cell is referred to as the authoritarian cell. This is where children get lots of direction, and also lots of "Because I told you so."

The high structure/child-centered cell is the authoritative cell, where children receive BOTH a great deal of structure and guidance, and ALSO a great deal of information regarding the reasons for, and child-centered benefits for rules.

Another distinction comes from Adler, himself, who suggested that there are two kinds of authorities: the first strives to keep their charges in their place, while the second strives to prepare the student/child to join them, when they are ready. The second kind corresponds to Baumrind’s authoritative type.

Dain- I want to respond to your request for scholarly research, but I don’t want to come off as a bully. I know how you get threatened by liberal social scientists carrying information.

Google B.F. Skinner and punishment, or google escape/avoidance conditioning, or Murray Sidman, and you will find more than you need to keep you busy for a while. Basically, the support from the laboratory goes like this:

Any organism that is faced with two (or more)environments, discriminative stimuli that signal the punishment level in each environment, and a choice, will select the environment with the history of less punishment.

Allow a laboratory rat to enter three doors A, B, and C. Each door gives access to identical environments, with one exception: Room A offers the lowest level of aversive stimuli, Room B offers the medium level, and Room C the highest. Given a choice, the rat’s behavior can be predicted to conform to the level of aversion: the least time in Room C, and the most time in Room A.

So, extrapolate this VERY robust phenomenon into the human world, and you can explain many escape and avoidance behaviors, such as drug-taking, lying, skapegoating, truancy, and quitting school altogether. Those schools with the highest levels of punishment will have the highest levels of avoidance and escape behaviors. Ironically, those behavioral products of punishment also serve as reasons for MORE punishment!

Happy Saturday!

I knew you’d come back with some theoretical studies on conditioning. But those laboratory "studies" don’t even begin to test your original proposition, which was this:

Please be advised that roughly half of the states in this country allow corporal punishment in their schools. Among those states that allow corporal punishment in schools, there is a robust and positive correlation between the amount of punishment in a state, and the level of undereducated youth in that state. That is, the available correlational evidence indicates that punishment ultimately leads to the opposite of its intended goals. These figures are supported by decades of laboratory results suggesting the same.

One easy was of testing this "from-the-hip" hypothesis is to look at graduate rates. Let’s even get more restrictive...let’s assume that those "redneck racist" school systems that still allow corporal punishment are pushing African-Americans out of the schools with their barbaric racist practices. So, what do we find when we examine graduation rates for African-Americans? NO PATTERN! Big time punishers like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas actually have HIGHER African-American graduate rates than many states that bar corporal punishment (e.g., California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa). In short, Fung, it’s not smart to extrapolate from highly theoretical (and artificial) laboratory situations to the real world.

Oh, and it isn’t ME who’s intimidated by "science." I understand it and therefore do not fear it. What I dislike is people (supposedly professionals) who misuse science for whatever reason. That would be you, sir.

Dain- Those laboratory studies are not theoretical. They are actual studies, and they demonstrate the effects of punishment in a highy controlled setting, one in which ethnicity and SES are not factors.

Additionally, the race issue is YOUR issue, and not mine. If you want to make a case for blacks causing their own problems in education, go ahead, but don’t lay it on me. I don’t know why you put quotes areound "redneck racist." I never said that, so who are you quoting? Again, Dain, you have a version of me in your little head that speaks louder than reality does. I think that your anger, and your hostility should be directed at that little liberal homunculus, and not at me. As a liberal, remember, I love all humanity, and that includes YOU, ya big cutie!

As for graduate rates, what do you think goes into the index on undereducated youth? It’s the proportion of school-age kids who are not enrolled in school!

Further, it is not a misuse of science to try to complete an incomplete picture with a combination of correlational (state-level) studies, and highly controlled lab studies. They represent different levels, different approaches, and together, they can, and often do, complete an otherwise undiscernalbe whole.

Here’s what Fung said in an earlier thread:

few years ago, I found myself working on Governor Bush’s "Access & Equity 2000" program at one of Texas’s finer institutions of higher education. We were sitting under portraits of Confederate generals, generating hypotheses about variables that might prevent ethnic minorities from attending college, and coming up empty.

Why the crack about "Confederate generals," Fung? Common on, race is uppermost on your mind, particularly when discussing school issues. And it probably should matters. Composition effects are important in discussing the failures of our school systems, including corporal punishment.

As for your "studies," they are indeed "theoretical" in that they are looking at an artificial situation, generally with random assignment but not random selection. Regardless, extrapolating from a tiny controlled situation divorced from real-world context leads to serious ERRORS. I think you understand this.

The graduation/completion rates I refer to are for the population 16 to 24 NOT CURRENT IN SCHOOL. Your "undereducated youth" are in there, my friend. correlation between corporal punishment and completion rates (for whites or blacks). You can’t worm out of it so easily.

Yes, Fung, I agree that parental authority should be what the political philosopher Yves Simon called "substitutional" (i.e., you are training the child to become a free, responsible adult and not just suppressing the child).

And I agree that parents should, provide information--within reason. E.g., when I take my nephews to the museums for the day, I do try to take their preferences into account and explain why I think we should visit certain exhibits rather than others, but in the end, I make the final decisions about contingent matters such as which museums we will see in which order, how much time we will spend in each, whether and more or less what we will eat at the museum cafes (the boys would want some kind of unholy junk food in each one if allowed!), and when we will go home.

There may be cases where I’ll patiently explain that a banana split or another ride in the spacecraft simulator is not what they need, but the whining and arguing continue. At that point, I shift from the "authoritative" to the "authoritarian" cell. Again, I’m just an uncle, but I suspect that a lot of parents employ similarly flexible strategies.

Information-sharing, explanations, and discussion are great and I support their ample use, but I continue to hold that they won’t always be enough. Thus there will always be a need for a degree of well-measured and prudently applied authoritarianism. As Camille Paglia puts it, civilization depends on the enlightened repression of children. I think my parents grasped this intuitively, as did a number of coaches, teachers, pastors, and scoutmasters whom I remember fondly as wise and beneficent influences on my youth, precisely because they seemed to know when to be stern and demanding, without much tolerance for guff and backtalk of the sort that even surprisingly young children ("natural-born sea lawyers," according to a father of four whom I know) can spew out.

Julie just seemed to enjoy the dominance a bit too much for my taste. Especially that "children need to be taught to act like adults" business. What does that mean? Why in the world should a child act like an adult?

Perhaps because at some point in the child’s life they will be expected to act like one? I mean, come on Fung, isn’t the basic purpose of parenting to turn children into happy and productive adults? I don’t think Julie was suggesting that five-year-olds should be forced to act like 40-year-olds, but the goal of every parent is to cultivate youth into adulthood. In order for this to occur, children will need to be taught to act like adults.

Now, I expect that you are going to tell me that women and children are different, but in what important way, in this context? Do children deserve less dignity, or respect, or safety when in the company of their loved ones?

Women and children are different in very important ways, primarily that children are not generally capable of being fully rational and making sound decisions for themselves. This is why we don’t let them drive, vote, drink alcohol, etc. (among other reasons). Certainly children deserve a degree of dignity and respect, but I do not believe they deserve it in the same amounts as adults do. I love my children dearly and value their thoughts and so forth, but I respect my wife far more than any of my kids because she is capable of greater thought that my kids are. My son may have opinions on some of what he sees in the world around him, but his views are incomplete because his mind is still incomplete. This is why spanking a child is different than smacking around one’s spouse. An adult is, assuming no diminished mental capacity, capable of being reasoned with. Children often are as well and, when possible, I agree that one should explain and reason with children rather than simply smacking them and asserting dominance ("Because I said so!", etc), but as someone else alluded to in an earlier note, this isn’t always going to work with children, particularly young ones. Their passions can be very strong and reason is often a very small voice in their minds. Sometimes the only way to correct their behavior is to demonstrate that they are not in control. Spanking is one means of demonstrating that.

As for your reference to "safety" I see that you continue to blur the lines between a mildly stinging smack on the behind and the sort of beating that would suggest that an individual’s "safety" is in danger. Whether this blurring is intentional or not, I do not know. However, the implication that any spanking is equivalent to child abuse makes me very unlikely to take any of your opinions on this matter very seriously.

PJC- I like Simon’s phrase, and was unfamiliar with it. As for the rest of your argument, I think that I agree with most of it. Physical force is almost undoubtedly going to be necessary, although it does not ever have to be in a punitive manner. That is, I may have to physicall guide my child away from a dangerous stimulus, or physically restrain a child who does not respond to verbal commands, or prompts. I may (and often did) have to physicall restrain a child in time out, to keep him in there for the alloted time. (This, by the way, was unnecessary with each of my boys by the time each one was 18 months old.)

So, I do NOT argue against the reasonable use of physical guidance, or force as a necessary tool of the parent. And I also do not argue against the ultimate use of punishment as a last resort, when other more positive and more productive methods have failed, which they may, sometimes.

What I DO argues against is the a priori assumption that punishment somehow "fits" the characteristics of the child. That is, that they "need" or "crave" it, somehow. I also argue against the use of physical coercion as anything but a lamentable last resort, since its effects can be long-last, humiliating, and sometimes painful (I’ll get to that one with Dominick, I guess).

In short, it sounds to me like I would trust YOU with my own children. Given Julie’s tone during her original post, and her latest comment, I would NOT trust her with my kids.

Finally, I would like to think that I can turn even a last resort punishment into a learning experience, maybe even visiting the episode later on, to talk about it, review alternative behaviors, and so on.

Dominick- I certainly agree that there are some things that kids need to be learn, in order to behave as competent adults. But, there is an importantdistinction, similar to Fromm’s "freedom from" and "freedom to" distinction. That is, we can teach our kids TO behave, and we can teach them what NOT to do. In class, I refer to this as the difference between giving tools, and taking toys. I have referred to this difference earlier: one strategy is to provide kids (and to model) competent, appropriate behavioral tools with which to negotiate their world (giving tools). The second is to emphasize what they should NOT do, and the short-cut method for teaching "not-behaviors" is to punish them (taking toys). There is a difference, if we extend each general stragegy to its extreme, between kids (adults) who have many tools at their disposal, and kids (adults) who find themselves with one or two responses to the myriad different scenarios that life will present. There is also a huge difference in the freedom and dignity experienced by the to sets of kids-now adults: One feels competent, and has a history of dignified interactions with adults. The other feels anxiety when available strategies are not sufficient for life’s challenges, and has a history of demeaning, humiliating, power struggles with adults. Read the tone of Julie’s comments, to which I originally responded:

"We knew we could not trust an adult who trusted children. Children should only be taken as seriously as they deserve to be taken. They have to earn respect. Children have to be taught how to act like adults. They have to be made to do it. They will resist. If they are naughty, they must be punished. If they are mean, they must be punished more vigorously. They must be taught to act nobly and defend the weak."

Where are they going to learn to act nobly when they are treated like prison-camp inmates? Doesn’t this strike you as a one-trick response to a looming change of rules? Why else would the Julies of the world care about this?

Now, your points about women and children. First of all, in my retrospective scenario, women were assumed by many men (and women!) to be cognitively and morally inferior to men. My buddy Freud contributed to this, and the idea was that, in their inferiority, they were somehow deserving of less humane treatment. The same was true of slaves, as one point. And so my point was precisely that progressive, liberal thinking and social change led to our current understanding (I’ll wait for Dain to disagree) that women as a group are NOT inferior to men as a group, and are certainly not well served by legitimizing physical intervention in order to change theri behavior. Even if (one might have said) it is for their own good.

Now, are children capable of the same cognitive and moral performance as adults? No. But, does that mean that they are deficient, and therefore deserve corporal punishment any more than you do? No! Children are not deficient forms of adults. Deficient adults are, but children are (usually) perfectly good forms of children. We could (and used to) describe them in terms of their apparent deficiencies, but developmentalists in the past 30 years have moved to a new understanding of children that emphasizes what they can, and do, do.

Two examples: developmentally, 4 year-olds tend to think that the world revolves around them, and that everyone’s point of view must be the same as theirs. So, for instance, a kid watching TV and talking on the phone to Grandma thinks that Grandma can see what he sees on the TV. This is a developmental characteristic of all kids at this age, and does NOT represent a refulsa to consider Grandma’s point of view. Not amount of punishment is going to change that kid’s "abilities." So, some day, the kid’s abilities will change, and then the child will have the capacity (and the tendency) to know that different perspectives exist. This will occurr independently of parental behavior.

Here’s another example. I am developmentally unable to sit the way I used to sit when I was a kid: like a bird, with my knees together, and my feet splayed out to the side. Here is an "ability" that I no longer have, and that a child still has. Does that make me a deficient form of a child, or rather a pretty good example of a 47 year old man?

My point is that we learned long ago not to view women as deficient forms of men. We learned (many of us) not to view other cultures as deficient forms of ours, and many of us have learned (though not the Julies of this world) that children are not deficient forms of adults.

You mentioned the difference between a pat on the bottom and abuse. Yes. An important difference. And, if it stays that way, probably no harm done (though I would still argue that there are better ways than the pat on the bottom.)

The problem is that in some cases, it does not stay that way. Just like with yelling. Parents of teens find themselves yelling in ways and at intensities that they would never have dreamed when their kids were cute little toddlers. Why? Because ineffective methods can be either (a) disgarded, or(b) tried harder. With yelling and with "patting," the problems occur when we choose (b).

To all of you!! I am getting tired, and I bet you are, too. I would like to point, however, to the relatively reasonable tone and examples of these most recent comments, as opposed to the few that began this marathon. This kind of hard-won progress is one reason that I can’t seem to stay away from this blog!

Fung is making a helluva lot of sense, seriously. The rest of you have seen too many of those "Send my kid to boot camp!!!" episodes of Jerry Springer, I suspect. How sad.

Yep, I knew Fung would trot out Piaget and developmental stages if given the chance. What he doesn’t tell you is that Piaget said that some people NEVER achieve true adulthood...I wonder why? Could it be because the adults around them didn’t care enough to hold them responsible for their actions? No, surely not.

You know, Fung, I think the thread has developed nicely as well, but not because of YOU. Indeed, the thread got seriously adversarial when you made comment #7, and I suspect you would have continued on in this fashion accept that I forced your psychobabble into the land of EVIDENCE (a area of weakness for most Liberals). So, I will gladly accept credit for "moderating" this thread.

Now, your points about women and children. First of all, in my retrospective scenario, women were assumed by many men (and women!) to be cognitively and morally inferior to men. My buddy Freud contributed to this, and the idea was that, in their inferiority, they were somehow deserving of less humane treatment. The same was true of slaves, as one point. And so my point was precisely that progressive, liberal thinking and social change led to our current understanding (I’ll wait for Dain to disagree) that women as a group are NOT inferior to men as a group, and are certainly not well served by legitimizing physical intervention in order to change theri behavior. Even if (one might have said) it is for their own good.

As for this statement, what complete nonsense. Women and children have always had it better in Western societies than elsewhere (oh, PLEASE, disagree with me on this!!!) Liberals love to think they are responsible for all this "progress," but in fact most of it was created by the productivity of capitalism, the sensibilities of Christianity, and the inherent moderation of the Anglo-Saxon world view. Modern-day Liberals spring from the same tree as the Jacobins and the Marxists, and their fruit is dark and bitter.

Anyway, Fung, good job of back-pedalling (and then claiming credit for success). You are operating in the finest tradition of American left-liberalism.

Hey Dain - you like EVIDENCE so much, why don’t you give us some for your much ballyhooed Christian beliefs??

Who said I had any, MLT? I’m a scientific conservative...I just believe that the Biblical portrayal of human nature is pretty close to accurate...the "crooked timber of humanity" and all that. Nonetheless, I admire Christianity for its unique and counterintuitive messages (e.g., give unto Caesar, do unto others, turn the other cheek). Christian belief is one of the very few avenues we have in making better people. Of course, Christianity, like every other social institution, has a mixed and sometimes bloody track record, but it also has real successes (e.g., status of women, abolitionism, civil rights, science itself). Moreover, "science" and "secularism" also have mixed records (e.g, the Holocaust, the "bomb," the gulag, but also antibiotics, space travel, and so on). On balance, I think Christianity is a pretty good thing, and I’ve had trouble understanding why so many "progressives" hate it so much.

As for myself, I learned a long time ago that "progressives" would encourage someone to turn the other cheek and then KO them! No thanks.

Uh, just a small observation. What would be the success of "operation respect" in,oh, a Saudi Madrassah? Are they in dire need of respect?

I’d bet they’d just be a fallin over each other as Pete Yarrow yoddles out "Puff the Majic Flagon"

Comment to "Dain," regarding comment 35:

So, you DON’T necessarily believe that Jesus was the son of God and died for our sins and was resurrected, you just feel that Christianity is a tool for "making better people"?? And while you maintain some detached admiration for Christianity’s "unique and counterintuitive messages" such as "do unto others" and "turn the other cheek," you would not approve of such messages guiding any sort of government policy, I presume? What makes "do unto others" counterintuitive, by the way?

While I’m sure many Beltway political strategists and Straussian neocon think-tank gurus might (or, DO) happily embrace the idea of powerful non-believers using Christianity as a method for social engineering ("making better people"), I think many devout believers would themselves find the practice deeply disturbing, and objectionable.

Lastly, I find your divvying of historical credit and blame between Christianity and secularism/science to be rather simplistic - laughable, really. I would especially love to know your theory on how Christianity can claim "science itself" as one of its "real successes."


I have no doubt that a Christian fundamentalist might take exception to my views of religion, particularly treating it as just another social institution. Nonetheless, I do view Christianity in that way (on alternative weeks, at least...other times I’m pretty devote myself). It is absolutely true that the more people actually believe in Christ the better the institution at shaping human behavior. In short, I’m glad that others are more "faithful" than I am. I may not be "of them" as much as they would like, but I am an ally. But please don’t call me a neo-con! Or a theo-con! I’m just a conservative in the old sense of the word...a believer in balanced social institutions that check the nasty proclivities of human nature.

The Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" hasn’t exactly been the watchword of human civilization, now has it? The fact is, we have to work at doesn’t come naturally (particularly among children). That’s why I say it is counterintuitive.

Laugh away! You show your own ignorance of the emergence of science. Read some history, dude!

On second thought, my last comment there was snide rather than helpful (too many battles with smarta..ed liberals, I’m afraid). One great book for linking religion with several societal outcomes (including modern science) is Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God. For the record, Stark is a major social scientist at Baylor (but he got his Ph.D. from Berkeley, dude...his bona fides are in order, even for moonbat liberals).

Dain- I was not taking credit for the change in tone. Instead, I was enjoying it, and acknowledging it, because I appreciate the chance to argue with people, but not just for the sake of argument. I truly scratch my head about why normal people would support this administration, and its agenda. I like to argue, and I also like to arrive at greater understanding, and to finally identify areas where we agree.

Just for the record, you don’t like Piaget, you don’t like correlational field studies, you don’t like archival research, and you don’t like laboratory research. As I said in our other running argument, I wish that you had told us earlier that you really don’t respect research at all. We (or I) could have saved a lot of research and typing, and we could just talk about our opinions!

I notice, Fung, that your posts are getting less and less substantive. Running out of meaningful things to say, or just evidence?

You fundamentally misunderstand. I have enormous respect for research methodologies, and I often think that secondary analysis (using statistics on historical data) is better than contrived experimental methodology (primarily because randomization is seldom thorough enough to actually control for ’context’). What I don’t respect are most of the people actually conducting (often abusing) those research methodologies. You know the type...they flog the data until they get the "results" they want. You’ve seen it, so have I...let’s not pretend. Far, far too many of your social science colleagues got into "the business" to reform the world rather to understand the world, resulting in advocacy research. Much of social science has been reduced to manufacturing "ammo" for the "culture wars." True science is about discovering the truth, independent of current social pieties, etc.

So, please, don’t insult me by saying that I’m anti-scientific. Far from it. What I’m against is the refusal of certain people (that would be you, again) who blind themselves to real evidence because of emotional and/or ideological commitments. You have noticed that I do provide readings and data for much of what I say...hardly the hallmark of a anti-scientific Neanderthal.

"On second thought, my last comment there was snide rather than helpful."

Well, there is at least one thing that we agree on, Dain.

"I have no doubt that a Christian fundamentalist might take exception to my views of religion..."

Oh no, I would give a much more mainstream section of Christians -not just fundamentalists- credit for taking exception to your extremely cynical views on religion.

As for Christianity "making better people," some recent headlines make clear that there might be some troubling holes in that theory, especially in the United States. Priest sex/molestation scandals, serial killers who were leaders in their church, church congregants going on a shooting spree during a service, and your all-but-officially-Christian Air Force Academy being the same institution that had some sex and rape scandals just a few years ago.

If you find yourself unable to be a faithful believer -presumably because your scientific, rational mind can’t make the necessary leap of faith- you should not prescribe it or insist on it for society as a whole.

I don’t read Dain as being cynical here, just honest about the uncertainties of his own intellectual position vis-a-vis the core Christian truth claims. Pouncing on that as evidence of "cynicism" strikes me as highly unfair.

Moreover, Dain’s claims about the social utility of having lots of real Christian believers in the social mix are by his own account based on observation--i.e., Dain is not simply prescribing something willfully, as Scahill suggests, but is drawing an inference from observation. Now one may bring forth counterevidence, etc., against Dain’s observational claim, but to say that Dain is insisting on society as a whole being Christian is silly.

Consider an analogy: To observe, based on evidence, that exercise has socially beneficial effects (saves scarce resources by preventing illness, etc.) is not thereby necessarily to call for the imposition of a prescribed exercise regime on everyone. But it might indicate that efforts to tell people about exercise are no bad thing, etc. And this can all remain true even if a given individual is not, for whatever reason, personally inclined toward exercise.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL:

Warning: include(/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2005/06/where-are-the-grown-ups.php on line 1622

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/sp/php7.2/lib/php') in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2005/06/where-are-the-grown-ups.php on line 1622