Okay, I'll say it. One of the best things we can do for today's youth is for adults, in positions of authority, to develop a willingness to give the hind parts of misbehaving youth appropriate attention. You say, "Williams, are you suggesting that we return to the old-fashioned, uncivilized practice of whipping children?" Yes, that is precisely what I'm suggesting.
First, let's address the issues of old-fashioned and uncivilized. During my youth, the old-fashioned and uncivilized 40s and 50s, parents and sometimes teachers whipped misbehaving young people. Whipping has always been one of the tools of discipline, until we allowed experts into our lives. Dr. Spock and other "experts" told us we shouldn't whip our children. They advised that having to whip a child was a sign of parental failure.
Regardless of what the "experts" preached, the undeniable fact is the "uncivilized" practice of whipping children produced more civilized young people. Youngsters didn't use foul language to, or in the presence, of teachers and other adults. In that "uncivilized" era, assaulting a teacher or adult would have never crossed our minds. Today, foul language and teacher assaults are routine in many schools.
For some kinds of criminal behavior, I think we'd benefit from having punishment, along the lines of Singapore's caning, as a part of our judicial system. You say, "Williams, how cruel can you be?" Let's think about cruelty. Today, it's not uncommon for young criminals to be arrested, counseled and released to the custody of a parent 20 or 30 times before they spend one night in jail. Such a person is a very good candidate for later serving a long prison sentence or worse, facing the death penalty. If you interviewed such a person and asked, "Thinking back to when you started your life of crime, would you have preferred a punishment such as caning, that might have set you straight, or be where you are today? I'd bet my retirement money that he'd say he wished someone had caned some sense into him. That being the case, which is more cruel: caning or allowing such a person to become a criminal?
It's difficult for parents to raise children all by themselves. Part of raising children is the environment. That environment includes other adults. During my youth, I might be doing something mischievous such as throwing stones. An adult would come over to me and ask, "Does your mother know you're out here throwing stones?" I'd reply, "No sir or no ma'am," and hoped that the matter ended there. Today, it's quite different. An adult correcting a youngster risks cursing and possibly assault. That's a sad commentary: adults are justifiably afraid of children.
Do we Americans as parents, teachers, principals and others in positions of authority have the guts and will power to control our youngsters? Or, are we going to play costly games such as having metal detectors at school entrances, video monitors, locked classrooms, hallway guards, teacher panic alarms and in general a jail-like atmosphere at our schools? Youngsters could be stopped very easily from bringing weapons to school. You say, "How, Williams? What makes you smarter than the experts who haven't figured it out?" Here's my prediction: if the punishment for the first offense of bringing a weapon to school was five lashes on the butt with a cane, and the punishment was carried live on the six o'clock news, there'd be an end of weapons being brought to schools.
Children, especially boys, are born barbarians. We as parents and teachers have a mere 18 years to civilize them before foisting them off on the rest of society and we're not doing the best job that we can.
Walter E. Williams
August 6, 1999
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