MSNBC recently released a promo where anchor Melissa Harris-Perry calmly explained how your children don’t really belong to you, they belong to a collective.

A conservative commentator claimed: “It’s so far beyond what we have ever thought as a nation, it’s remarkable.”

For those who haven’t seen the advertisement, Harris-Perry says: “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children.  Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility.  We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.  So, part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

The Commentator added, “This is not some kooky panelist misspeaking.  This is a pre-planned promotion that had to go through layers of approval and planning.  Their point of view is your children don’t belong to you.  But more than that, the organization’s hosts meet with the President regularly.  The idea behind this is going to be appealing to people.  People are going to say, ‘I love that.’  Because I’m freaked out, I don’t know what to do with my kids, they’re unruly.  I don’t know what to do.  So, the State will relieve you of that.”

What’s going on with this?  There’s an intriguing parallel to corporal punishment here.

Corporal punishment used to be prevalent in schools in many parts of the world, but in recent decades it has been outlawed in most of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and several other countries.  It remains commonplace in a number of countries in Africa, South-East Asia and the Middle East.  In the United States, a 1977 Supreme Court ruling held that school corporal punishment doesn’t violate the “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” clause of the Constitution.

In most places nowadays, where its allowed, corporal punishment in public schools is governed by official regulations laid down by governments or local education authorities, defining such things as the implement to be used, the number of strokes that may be administered, which members of staff may carry it out, and whether parents must be informed or consulted.

Spanking is a polarizing issue indeed.

Poland was the first country in the world to prohibit corporal punishment in 1783.  Today, it’s a criminal offense in Iceland, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.

In 1867, New Jersey became the first state to abolish corporal punishment in schools.  The second was Massachusetts 104 years later in 1971.  The most recent state to outlaw school corporal punishment was New Mexico in 2011.

Corporal punishment remains legal in 20 states, mostly in the South, but its use is diminishing and a movement for a federal ban has been afoot.

In an era when students talk back to teachers, show up late or skip class, talk during lessons, and wear ever-more-risque clothing to school, a central Texas city has hit upon a deceptively simple solution: Bring back the paddle.

The city banned the practice and then revived it in 2010 at the demand of parents who longed for the orderly schools of yesteryear. Without paddling, “There were no consequences for kids,” said the School Board President.

Now, the district says behavior at their 14 schools has improved dramatically.  “The discipline problem is much better than it’s been in years,” The School Board President said, something he attributes to the new punishment and to other discipline programs schools are trying – many residents praise the change – they hope that the old-fashioned solution can address what they see as rising disrespect among youth.

From the 1917 revolution onwards, corporal punishment was outlawed in Russia, because it was deemed contrary to Soviet ideology.   Other communist regimes followed suit: for instance, corporal punishment remains outlawed in present-day North Korea and in China.  All corporal punishment was banned in China after the communist revolution in 1949.  Meanwhile, communists in other countries such as Britain took the lead in campaigning against school corporal punishment, which they claimed was a symptom of the decadence of capitalist education.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at    

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