Chicago has one of the most progressive school districts in the nation. They have a curriculum designed by whole politburo of avant-garde thinkers like the bomb-tossing Bill Ayers.
As a progressive district, corporal punishment is not only illegal--The Chicago District School has a zero tolerance policy toward the use of corporal punishment. Policy is that any teacher caught hitting a student will be terminated on the spot regardless of union status.
So, it is not surprising that, when people look behind the façade, they find widespread reports of students being beaten by teachers while the administrators turn a blind eye. (Reference: Painful Lessons by David Savini).
Progressive regimes have had abysmal records with torture. A large number of People Movements and Change Movements have devolved into scenarios of oppression and genocide. The scrap heap of history includes The French Revolution, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hussein, and many more people's movements gone wrong.
Chomsky and other progressive theorists have filled tomes equating conservatism with torture, and have put forth a number of explanations of how torture starts in conservative regimes.
Having grown sick of progressivism, I thought I would yammer about why progressive regimes tend to be rife with beatings.
The populist leaders of progressive regimes are often driven by image politics. The party simply seeks to have purr words associated with their name, and snarl words associated with enemies.
The populist leader would make strong public denouncements of wrong doings, such as torture, tax evasion or corporal punishment. They might even launch a witch hunt to nest out any of his enemies that he can saddle with the label.
While the glorious leader pontificates, the people in the trenches must find ways to fulfill the unreal expectations. They quickly resort to whatever shortcuts they can find. Corporal punishment is the quintessential shortcut in education.
The over prescription of Ritalin is another.
People quickly latch on to the fact that the sole concern of the image driven politician is to keep bad associations from his name. One can take the shortcuts so long as the shortcut is not acknowledged. When abuse is acknowledge, one need simply project their actions on the party's enemies.
In Machiavelli's program, the prince would charge his lieutenants with torturing people to maintain control, but then would make a big public display of destroying the lieutenant in the public square when expediency required such actions.
Conservatives and even Libertarians have a strange allegiance to the Aristotelian tradition. The strange tradition essentially says that if society has a problem, then there should be a lot of open debate about the problem.
I do not believe that corporal punishment is effective. I avoid stating the opinion in absolute terms. There are many people who believe it is sometimes necessary. Also the term is not all that well defined. Technically, the term corporal refers to any physical interaction. If I saw a bully wailing away some poor schmuck in the playground and physically intervened, then I have engaged in a corporal act. If the bully feels hurt or, in any way is put off by my intervention, then I have engaged in corporal punishment.
People communicate through signals. All of these signals work through physical interaction. Communication with small children involves a great deal of touching. As such, one will never come up with a perfect definition of where corporal punishment begins. Placing a child in a crib in response to a screaming fit is corporal punishment. The parent is denying their child habeas corpus by placing them in a cage encircled with bars!
I won't go into the horrors of sending a child to their room without dessert or other such corporal punishments based on restraining personal liberty.
I love math, and have learned in game theory that, while the positive strategy is the ideal and works well when all players play positively, the tit for tat strategy is the best bet when the environment is less than ideal. The most successful all around strategy is one that allows for course corrections. In education, one should aim for a system based entirely on positive re-enforcement, but there needs to be room for a course correction when things start falling apart.
There are environmental situations where corporal punishment appears to be needed. For example, if you have a totally failed school where the students are beating each other, then one is left scrambling in a no-mans land of insanity where the administration needs to find ways to restore civility.
Of course, the best way to deal with a dysfunctional school is to have a system of choice where students could flee the dysfunctional school for one that works.
I recognize that the superior option is a politically impossibility. School choice might diminish the hard earned ironclad grip progressives have on the education system.
The option of firing bad teachers is out when unions are involved.
Were I charged with a school district that had wild disciplinary problems and teachers who beat students on the sly, it is likely that I would attack the issue by establishing an openly acknowledged policy of corporal punishment.
The mere presence of a policy brings the issue into the open so that there can be open discussion.
As stated earlier, I do not believe that corporal punishment works. If the policy demands that people state their reasons and objectives, then people would gradually reject the method.
For that matter, the act of challenging presumptions of corporal punishment has led to a drop in both the usage and severity of the technique. When one challenges the presumptions, one finds the method falls short of the goals of the teacher.
That statement depends, of course, on the goals of the education system. If the goal is to create either a warlike or submissive population, then widespread use of beatings works wonders.
If the ruling principle is the betterment of the child, then simple open discourse diminishes the problem, and a ban is not needed.
There is an interesting interplay between principle and policy. Extremely harsh policies might indicate a lack of principle. Strong policy often erodes the principle behind the policy.
The group Liberating Education was appalled at the report of beatings in Chicago schools. This group runs private Montessori schools. Montessori schools are backed by both strong principles and a sound teaching method. As such corporal punishment is pretty much a non-issue.
Of course, one can easily frame the Montessori Method as corporal punishment. The method uses a series of self-corrective learning materials. For example, a student might be given a set of blocks. The blocks only fit together in one way. The student must master the principles behind a puzzle to solve it.
The child interfaces with the puzzles on a corporal level. Putting the blocks together incorrectly might damage a child's self esteem. Self corrective learning toys can be framed as a form of institutionalized corporal punishment.
Anyway, the universal ban on corporal punishment that the UN seeks to impose by 2009 might prove a boon for image driven politicians who wish to appear progressive; however, the United Nation's dictate against all corporal punishment destroys the climate where one can drill down, unmask and resolve the negative principles that lead to the horrific abuse of children.
Yes, we should have laws that aggressively address the horrific child abuse and should throw ourselves into stopping beatings, rapes and outlandish abuse. However, when self-righteous buffoons like professor Pinheiro issue dictates at the world, one loses the ability to develop the best principles which are in actuality the best path to a positive future.
Professor Pinheiro's totalitarian dream simply leads to a system where the beatings continue while the clowns in power bask in delusions of their moral superiority.
IMHO, the sensationalized reports and totalitarian policies dictated from the top down don't solve the problem. They simply create an atmosphere ripe for abuse. The image-driven politicians who issue top down dictates simply create a smoke screen for abusive behavior.