November 14, 2010

Paddled in Alabama: Teachers Fail Math Test

Paddletown, AL: Almost three quarters of elementary-school teachers in the Bethlehem School District in Alabama have failed a math exam administered to them. The test included simple problems involving multiplication, division, and fractions, designed to assess the teachers' ability to stem the decline in standardized scores of the district.

This is not the the first time the teachers' knowledge of the subject has been assessed on a separate test. The results of the previous test administered in October, 2009, were quite similar. The results are not unique to the state of Alabama either. In Massachusetts last year, only about 27 percent of the 600 teaching candidates could pass the math and statistics section of the state's licensing exam.

As a punishment for repeated failure, and with a goal to improve teaching competence, the teachers were called into their respective Principal's Office, where they were each given 10 whacks with an approved paddle, as stipulated in the Alabama Teacher Improvement Act of 2008.

While the rest of the nation, especially the teachers union, was outraged over the corporal punishment for the failing teachers, reactions in Alabama, which is one of the 20 states where corporal punishment was legal for children in public schools, were mixed. Children, of course, were unanimous in their condemnation of paddling, but most parents in this overwhelmingly religious county thought paddling adults and animals went against their Christian values.

As an eager blogger, always looking for weird stories, I was intrigued. I caught the next cheapest flight to a state that I didn't think I'd ever visit. With some shouldering and jostling - fortunately, there was no protective cordon of Tea Party volunteers - I got within the earshot of Miss Jane, who was one of the teachers paddled for her repeat failure.

Me: Miss Jane, how would you describe the paddling you got?

Miss Jane: It was a nightmare. Just like what 18 year old Jessica Smith pleaded she was put through.

He told her to bend over a chair with her buttocks raised. The petite, attractive eighteen-year-old woman refused. The unusually large, strong young man then physically forced her to assume the position and summoned two assistants to hold her down as she struggled to resist. He swung Ole Thunder mightily, striking her buttocks, leg, and hip with the four-foot-long piece of wood. She momentarily broke a hand free and raised it to shield her body from the blows and he struck her hand with Ole Thunder, causing her to cry out that he had broken her hand. His helpers then pulled her feet up, raising her buttocks off the floor, and he continued to beat her. She was crying the whole time, humiliated, and in a great deal of pain. When it was over, her buttocks were bleeding, her hand was too swollen and painful to use, and her face was stained with tears. He then ordered Jessica Smith to return to her classroom and resume her studies.
--- Source: Plaintiff’s First Amended Original Petition at 2, Smith v. Sch. of Excellence in Educ., No. SA-05-CA-0062 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 15, 2005) Telephone Interview with Dan Hargrove, Attorney for Plaintiff (Dec. 14, 2005) via Deana Pollard Sacks, State Actors Beating Children: A Call For Judicial Relief.

I knew it was a stupid question, but as a self-respecting reporter I had to ask her how she felt when she was whacked.

Me: Miss Jane, how did you feel when that paddle swung and hit your butt again and again?

Miss Jane [tearfully]: Idiot, how do you think you would feel, if you were asked to strip and bend over, and then paddled, just because you wrote 1/2 + 1/2 = 2/4? It's humiliating... like... who was that... 17 year old Allison Guthrie from Dallas ... yeah, that's her... said in her interview with Human Rights Watch:

I think there were several levels of emotion. Physical pain, mental humiliation. One, it felt a little unjustified — just for being late? And being a female at that age, it was like there was this older man hitting me on the butt. That's weird. Very strange at that age. Even at that age I knew it was inappropriate, this being a man that I don't know. It was this instinctual knowing that it was inappropriate…

I have talked about it since then, but we didn't talk about it as being inappropriate then. I think it took me a while to realize why I was so ashamed by it and how inappropriate it was.

Allison must press charges for assault and battery, you know. Perhaps, molestation, too. I am an adult, not a child, and I have rights. It also hurts badly. Here, take a look!".

Leaving Miss Jane to the mercy of the rest of the paparazzi, I turned to Jason, a high school senior, who had attended the school where Miss Jane taught.

Me: Mr. Jason, what do you think? Should your teacher have been put through a humiliating experience like this?

Jason [livid]: Dude, haven't you heard about my cousin, Payton?

Payton attends Plainview Elementary and is in the seventh grade. Recently, Lewis claims her son came home from school with severe bruises and welts on his behind. Melissa Lewis said her son was upset, "Mom look at my butt and see if there is something wrong with it? He dropped his pants and I said wow what happened? He said I got paddled because I did not pass my science test."

Where is the outrage? Everyone froths with anger when a woman is beaten in distant Malaysia or Saudi Arabia for wearing pants and blouse. Here a six year old is beaten blue in her butt for coloring her hair blue! Look, you can't do what was done to Payton even to a dog in this country. ASPCA will be upon you before you can say Jack Robinson, but they won't dare laying a finger on this teacher. It's about time Miss Jane and the likes of her understand what it feels like when they whack kids half their size! Tell me, why should there be a different rule for them just because they are a few years older?"

Nodding my head vigorously, I moved to Miss Jane.

Me: I think Jason does have a valid point here. If adults could file assault and battery charges against paddlers, why can't children do the same? Don't they have rights on this sort of things?

Miss Jane [twiddling the cross around her neck]: Oh, no, absolutely not. Children have no rights. Except the unborn, of course. The lord god has commanded us to smack children with a paddle to discipline them. See for yourself (she took a copy of the Bible and held it out to me):

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24.

Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15.

Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13-14.

Me: Yes, the Bible sayeth so, but aren't thereth laws againsteth this? Oops, sorry, Miss Jane, I just got trapped in a language time warp there!

Miss Jane: No, sir, there ain't no such such laws, not around here. Not in any of the 20 states that you foreigners...

Me: Mme, I am not a foreigner. I am a U.S. citizen.

Miss Jane: Whatever... what you godless liberals...

Me: Mme, I don't really care about labels, but I am not a liberal. Actually, I am for small government, zero tax, free market, against the Health Care Bill...

Miss Jane: Well, then you must be in the Tea Party.

Me: ... pro-ERA, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage...", but it's true that I don't believe in god.

Miss Jane [looking confused]: How could that be? Atheists are all liberals, commies... aren't they? Anyway, as I was saying... corporal punishment in schools is legal in the 20 states they call, and we proudly admit, the Bible Belt. We follow god's laws here, not the laws of those Washington frauds and rogues.

Me: So, you think it's okay to paddle children as young as 3 and 4, but the government should protect adults like you and me from it?

Miss Jane: Exactly. And, what's the point of paddling adults like me? Isn't it too late for us to learn how to add 1/2 and 1/2? [Grimacing] oooooh... it hurts badly, you know [starts to sniff].

I held out my hand-kerchief to her, and walked to a genial old fellow standing a few feet away.

Me: You, sir, what's your opinion on padding teachers?

Man [giving me a big grin]: I thought you'd never ask me. What goes around, comes around. If the teacher could paddle the kid till she is blue in her cheek, and expect that she wouldn't be tardy with her homework next time, why not paddle the teacher for being late to work, eh?

Me: How do you discipline a kid then, if everything else fails?

Man: If everything else — including stuff that had a much better chance — failed, why do you think paddling will do it? Is this some kind of "Hail Mary Pass"? [Chuckling to himself, mutters] bloody faith and football fanatics! [Louder] you want to know more about this barbaric stuff? You can read it all here.

Me: How can you say that paddling does nothing to discipline a kid? God said to Moses...

Man: F$#! god, f$#! Moses. That was two or three millennia ago, if it ever happened as they say it happened. Do you mean to say that we have learnt nothing in all these centuries? What do you think all those professors and researchers got paid for? instead, you wanna bet your child's life on these fellows who didn't even know that the earth went around the sun and that small pox could be prevented with vaccination? Good luck!

Me: Okay, but shouldn't parents know what's best for their kids?

Man: No, not always. Are you a parent? Do you know that "at least 10,000-20,000 American students needed medical treatment after becoming victims of corporal punishment in their school environments during the 1986-1987 school year... Medical complications may prevent students from returning to school for days, weeks, or even longer. Reported medical findings include abrasions, severe muscle injury, extensive hematomas, whiplash damage, life-threatening fat emboli, severe arm or leg nerve injury (including fractures), brain hemorrhage, and others (including death!)...

Me: You can always cite extreme cases in your favor. Don't you think with moderation and care, paddling would help children behave?

Man: Science does not corroborate that. Listen to what the American Academy of Pediatrics says: "[C]orporal punishment within the schools is not an effective technique for producing a sustained, desired behavioral change and is associated with the potential for harm including physical injury, psychological trauma, and inhibition of school participation."

Me: So, you think it's quite likely that Payton Lewis will perform no better in his science test because of the paddling that he got?

Man: Payton who?

Me: The kid who got paddled by his teacher for failing in the science test...

Man: He paddled the kid for failing in a test? What a jerk! Who failed the science test here, eh... the student or the teacher?

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