Snow: To spank or not to spank is a waning issue

asnow@newsobserver.comOctober 19, 2013 

I suppose that since time began, being “first” in something positive has been important to human beings.

I remember the late Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham used to brag about North Carolina being “first in turkeys.”

He, of course, referred to the Thanksgiving bird. But some of my “northern” friends enjoyed teasing me about our state being first in “turkeys,” as in uneducated, uncouth redneck natives.

Now Robeson County schools have the questionable honor or dishonor of being first in spanking among the state’s school systems. During the 2012-13 school year, according to a recent Associated Press story, corporal punishment was administered 184 times in North Carolina schools. Robeson schools accounted for 76 percent (141) of those spankings.

In an op-ed article, Tom Vitaglione of the Action for Children of North Carolina noted that for most students a spanking is a traumatic event.

Many of you remember when spankings were the discipline of choice in our schools. That was before corporal punishment was deemed traumatic.

Only nine of 115 local school districts in the state still use spankings, Action for Children reported.

Obviously, the Biblical admonition, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is no longer in vogue our public schools. But spankings’ disciplinary substitutes apparently aren’t working very well either.

I suppose some of the innovative disciplinary measures that worked in my childhood would be laughable today. In addition to spankings, a teacher might order the offender to stand in the corner on one leg for a specified time. Or sit on a stool up front wearing a paper hat marked “Dunce.”

Little girls were seldom spanked. Instead, they might be forced to stand at the blackboard with their noses pressed within a chalked circle. More than once, I saw tears trickling down the blackboard. Now, to me, that qualifies as “traumatic,” although the word wasn’t in vogue back then.

Of course, there was the old standby punishment: writing 100 or 200 times “I will not whisper to others during class.” Or “I will not throw spitballs when the teacher’s back is turned.”

Our “crimes” were nothing like today’s. Nobody dreamed of taking a gun to school. Drug use was nonexistent. “Sassing the teacher” merited a trip to the principal’s office for a first-class paddling.

Note-passing to the little girl across the aisle carried an automatic punishment – the great humiliation of having the teacher read the note to the entire class. Surviving the playground taunts and teasing at recess wasn’t any fun. The notes were innocuous, not laden with sexual overtones, as they might be today.

A key factor in those orderly classrooms of yesteryear was total support for teachers in the students’ homes.

In our family, a spanking in school earned a spanking at home. I still say discipline begins at home. Educators are trained to educate, not to wield a paddle or come up with some ingenious way to maintain order without damaging sensitive psyches or prompting a raging mother to remind the principal that her son is a Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Holy mole-y!

A recent N&O article discussed the invasion of moles that are tunneling through local lawns. I fought that war once and won, although I’ve forgotten the weapons I used.

At the time, WPTF radio featured a wonderful call-in program called “Tar Heel Gardener.” One segment dispensed tips on how to deal with moles in particular. The Gardener mentioned that putting mothballs in the moles’ holes sometimes deters them.

The Gardener, and no doubt many listeners, cracked up when a woman called to ask, “But how do you hold their little legs while you’re doing that?”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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