I'm visiting the Augusta area after moving away 10 years ago, and I felt a strong sense of deja vu upon reading the Aug. 11 column by Walter Williams on "whipping children."
In the late 1970s I was a student at Evans High School, and there was a debate then about the use of corporal punishment in schools and by parents. My mother wrote a letter to The Chronicle arguing against "whipping children" in either case, and she was castigated by responding letter writers. These folks said they were sad for her, because her children would turn out to be criminals or other dregs of society, all because of her unwillingness to whip or beat her children. I suspect that Mr. Williams would have offered the same opinion then, based on his wholehearted endorsement of "whipping children."
However, things didn't quite turn out like the respondents predicted. My sister and I are graduates of the Medical College of Georgia; I'm on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and my sister is on the faculty of the Medical School of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My brother designs and runs fundraising campaigns for religious organizations around the country. Our family's experience is proof that "whipping children" is not at all necessary to raise successful citizens with a positive effect on society.
As a health professional, I've unfortunately seen the sometimes terrible damage that "whipping children" wreaks on people who can continue to suffer for many years after the "discipline" has ended. Studies have shown that the vast majority of criminals were whipped or beaten as children. And parents must remember that their children will one day be adults who may hold them accountable for their actions. A number of the cases of "elder abuse" that I've encountered have resulted from retaliation by adult children for this kind of treatment when they were younger.
Training younger people early in non-violent child raising techniques and dealing with the societal factors that can lead children astray are much more effective and positive ways of improving discipline than resorting to the easy but potentially dangerous method of "whipping children."
Nick DeMartinis M.D., Philadelphia, PA
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