The people who should get spanked are the Legislators

November 29th, 2007

The Massachusetts State Legislature is thinking about making it illegal to spank your child even in your own home.

I think the folks in Massachusetts need to familiarize themselves with this passage from Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

“Have you ever raised a puppy?”

“Yes, buy cialis seek sir.”

“Did you housebreak him?”

“Err … yes, sir. Eventually.” It was my slowness in this that caused my mother to rule that dogs must stay out of the house.

“Ah, yes. When your puppy made mistakes, were you angry?”

“What? Why, he didn’t know any better; he was just a puppy.”

“What did you do?”

“Why, I scolded him and rubbed his nose in it and paddled him.”

“Surely he could not understand your words?”

“No, but he could tell I was sore at him!”

“But you just said that you were not angry.”

Mr. Dubois had an infuriating way of getting a person mixed up, “No, but I had to make him think I was. He had to learn, didn’t he?”

“Conceded. But, having made it clear to him that you disapproved, how could you be so cruel as to spank him as well? You said the poor beastie didn’t know that he was doing wrong. Yet you inflicted pain. Justify yourself! Or are you a sadist?”

I didn’t then know what a sadist was — but I know pups. “Mr. Dubois, you have to! You scold him so that he knows he’s in trouble, you rub his nose in it so that he will know what trouble you mean, you paddle him so that he darn well won’t do it again — and you have to do it right away! It doesn’t do a bit of good to punish him later; you’ll just confuse him. Even so, he won’t learn from one lesson, so you watch and catch him again and paddle him still harder. Pretty soon he learns. But it’s a waste of breath just to scold him.” Then I added, “I guess you’ve never raised pups.”

“Many. I’m raising a daschund now — by your methods. Let’s get back to those juvenile criminals. The most vicious averaged somewhat younger than you here in this class …and they often started their lawless careers much younger. Let us never forget that puppy. These children were often caught; police arrested batches each day. Were they scolded? Yes, often scathingly. Were their noses rubbed in it? Rarely. Newspapers and officials usually kept their names secret — in many places this was the law for criminals under eighteen. Were they spanked? Indeed not! Many had never been spanked even as small children; there was a widespread belief that spanking, or any punishment involving pain, did a child permanent psychic damage.”

(I had reflected that my father must never have heard of that theory.)

“Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law,” he had gone on. “Flogging was lawful as sentence of court only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and was rarely invoked; it was regarded as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.'” Dubois had mused aloud, “I do not understand objections to ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment — and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense.

“As for ‘unusual,’ punishment must be unusual or it serves no purpose.” He then pointed his stump at another boy. “What would happen if a puppy were spanked every hour?”

“Uh … probably drive him crazy!”

“Probably. It certainly will not teach him anything. How long has it been since the principal of this school last had to switch a pupil?”

“Uh, I’m not sure. About two years. The kid that swiped –”

“Never mind. Long enough. It means that such punishment is so unusual as to be significant, to deter, to instruct. Back to these young criminals — They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sentence was: for a first offence, a warning — a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses a sentence of confinement but with sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested may times and convicted several times before he was punished — and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that mild punishment, be given probation — ‘paroled’ in the jargon of the times.

“This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, with no punishment whatever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. Then suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called ‘juvenile delinquent’ becomes an adult criminal — and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder.”

He had singled me out again. “Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house … and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken — whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?”

“Why … that’s the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!”

“I agree. Or a child.”

Entry Filed under: Observations

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. capper  |  November 30th, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Sorry, Elliot, even though I like Heinlein and enjoy reading his work, this was a bad example. I had worked with foster kids for six an a half years. I have seen kids get corporal punishment that screwed them up for life. Now, I’m not referring to the single swat on the butt, but more serious, or ‘unusual’ types of physical discipline used. Some nights, I still wake up from a nightmare of the things I’ve seen.

    Not to mention the studies that show something like 85 or 90% of inmates were subjegated to physical discipline when they were children. There are also studies that show children who receive serious physical discipline often develop actual holes in their brains (even if the blows weren’t to the head) that can result in a serious personality disorder or psychosis, working much like mad cow disease does in cattle.

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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