School Spankings Are Banned Just About Everywhere Around The World Except In US

In 19 States, It's Still Legal to Spank Children in Public Schools  via NY Times. Image Mark Graham for The New York Times

In 19 States, It's Still Legal to Spank Children in Public Schools via NY Times. Image Mark Graham for The New York Times

In 1970, only three countries – ItalyJapan and Mauritius – banned corporal punishment in schools. By 2016, more than 100 countries banned the practice, which allows teachers to legally hit, paddle or spank students for misbehavior.

The dramatic increase in bans on corporal punishment in schools is documented in an analysis that we conducted recently to learn more about the forces behind the trend. The analysis is available as a working paper.

In order to figure out what circumstances led to bans, we looked at a variety of political, legal, demographic, religious and economic factors. Two factors stood out from the rest.

First, countries with English legal origin – that is, the United Kingdom as well as its former colonies that implemented British common law – were less likely to ban corporal punishment in schools across this time period.

Second, countries with higher levels of female political empowerment, as measured by things such as women’s political participation or property rights – that is, women having the right to sell, buy and own property – were more likely to ban corporal punishment.

Other factors, such as form of government, level of economic development, religious adherence and population size, appear to play a much less significant role, if at all.

We are experts in education policyinternational policy and law. In order to conduct our analysis, we constructed a dataset of 192 countries over 47 years using country reports from the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Then we matched it to data from the Quality of Government Institute.

It is true that the trend of banning corporal punishment in schools aligns with the passage of the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child – a treaty now ratified by all countries except the United States. The treaty requires nations to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity.” However, as our analysis reveals, it wasn’t the treaty alone that spurred the bans.

Global shifts in corporal punishment norms

Worldwide, 732 million children attend schools where corporal punishment is allowed.

Social norms surrounding this issue have shifted over time from viewing corporal punishment as an appropriate disciplinary method to viewing corporal punishment as less acceptable. In the last several decades, for instance, experts have found that corporal punishment is harmful to children socially, cognitively and emotionally.

Consequently, many countries have adopted new laws banning corporal punishment in schools. South America and Europe have made the most progress toward outlawing corporal punishment in schools. Africa and Asia have had more mixed results. There are no bans against corporal punishment in schools in the United States, India and Australia. In the United States, corporal punishment in public schools is legal in 19 states. It is also legal at private schools in 48 states.

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While we found that countries with English common law systems were less likely to ban corporal punishment in schools, the reason why requires a closer look.

Common law countries abide by the principle of stare decisis – that is, the idea that similar cases should be decided upon similarly and should rely upon precedent. This means in practice that policies on a given issue are slower to change and become somewhat “locked in” because court cases and appeals take significant time.

Conversely, countries that are based primarily in civil code are often able to change the laws mostly through legislation, which often can be nimbler and swifter. Of course, some nations, like the United States, change laws through both methods.

Our analysis found that the proportion of countries with bans increased steadily after the passage of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. We also found that not a single country with English legal origin banned corporal punishment in schools prior to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even among countries that ratified the convention, those with English legal origin were 38% less likely to adopt a ban.

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Female political empowerment and corporal punishment bans

The degree of female political empowerment in a country is also strongly associated with how likely the country is to ban corporal punishment in schools. Why is this the case?

One possible explanation is that women in general show lower support for the use of corporal punishment. Women also more generally prefer compassionate policies over violence. And finally, female political empowerment can reflect the progressiveness of society itself, given the clear links between women’s rights and human development. Societies in which women have greater rights tend to have more progressive policies in other domains as well, such as environmental protection.

The future of corporal punishment in schools

In sum, it appears that international agreements such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child might nudge some countries to make progress on specific human rights issues – in this case, the right for children not to be physically punished in schools. Yet, the ratification of an international treaty has limited influence, it seems, in comparison to a country’s legal structure and the level of its female political participation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled the practice of corporal punishment in schools unconstitutional. In fact, it issued a decision in 1977 that noted both the historical traditionof corporal punishment in U.S. schools, and the common-law principle that corporal punishment is permissible as long as it’s “reasonable but not excessive.”

How the Conservative Right Hijacks Religion and Why Democrats Must Challenge Them

By Mike Sosteric, Associate Professor, Sociology, Athabasca University. First published on The Conversation

Democrats are beginning to challenge the Republican grip on the language of religion and faith in the United States. Democrat Sen. Chris Coons, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, recently wrote an essay for The Atlantic, “Democrats Need to Talk About Their Faith.”

This is a bold and necessary move. However, it may come up against scientific and progressive resistance. This resistance is based on the claim that science and religion, or religion and progressive politics, are incompatible.

Scorn for religion can be seen both among some learned atheists or in popular culture. Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins dismissively discusses religion in The God Delusion; comedian, political commentator and talk show host Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous also took a smug and barbed approach and has faced criticisms of liberal Islamophobia.

Arguments voiced by such figures often argue that science is empirical while religion is based on authority, is reactionary and expects you to believe things based on faith, dogma or charismatic authority.

True, some of the faithful eschew empirical reality in favour of blind faith.

But not all scientists reject faith and traditional forms of religion. And not all religion is about blind faith and authority, nor is all human spirituality beyond empirical investigation.

Science and human spirituality are not incompatible. Scientists can, and sometimes do, think about and explore human spirituality in a philosophical and empirical manner.

Spiritual closet

If some scientists seems to accept a relationship between science and human spirituality, they may still be unwilling to discuss it openly. They are, so to speak, in the spiritual closet.

One study of scientists in U.S. universities found that although only a small subset was religious in a traditional sense, many consider themselves spiritual in some way. Their sense of spirituality was congruent with their views about science.

Some psychologists have sought to explore spirituality through empirical investigation. The observable aspect of human spirituality goes by different names. To some, like William James, pioneer of modern psychology and author of the 1880 Principles of Psychology, it is “mystical experience.” To Abraham Maslow, founder of both the humanistic and existential schools of psychology, it is “peak experience.” Addictions specialist and community workerWilliam White calls it “transformational experience.” In my research in the area of the sociology of religion and mystical exerperience, I call it, for agnostic simplicity, connection experience.

‘Connection’ experiences can help heal

Psychologists who have studied connection experience agree it is an observable and consequential thing.

White reviews historical accounts to relay how transformational change — a “process of psychological death and rebirth” — can lead to recovery from alcoholism.

William R. Miller, clinical psychologist and emeritus professor of psychology and psychiatry at University of New Mexico, has researched what he calls “quantum change” — “sudden, dramatic, and enduring transformations that affect a broad range of personal emotion, cognition, and behaviour.”

Big deal if some people have mystical experiences. Why is this relevant?

Conservatives hijack the religious agenda

Connection experiences are important for many reasons, but one in particular stands out.

The political colonization and exploitation of human spirituality is a strategy of conservative elites. Christina Forrester, founder and director of Christian Democrats of America, notes that in the 1980s, political conservatives used people’s authentic spiritual sentiment to create a moral majority of spiritual zealots organized around an opposition to abortion that did not exist in the same way before.

When Donald Trump was campaigning for president, he claimed he loved the Bible but then refused to elaborate when asked about his favourite verses. His supposed love for the Bible may have helped him fool the masses and get him elected. Similarly, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio garners support from conservative Christians by sending out periodic Bible tweets.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi regularly presents himself as a devotee, despite his clear economic conservatism and disdain for the poor.

The conservative right does not own spirituality

Despite scientific evidence and ongoing political relevance, many intellectuals or people affiliated with progressive movements abdicate concern with human spirituality. The irony of the dismissal of spirituality is twofold. For one, it is a losing political strategy.

It allows people like Trump and Modi to exploit human spirituality and manipulate people’s spiritual sensibility, gaining support from the very constituency they will inevitably go on to eviscerate. In addition, the dismissal is itself anti-science and based on a theoretical misunderstanding.

It doesn’t need to be this way. The conservative right has no exclusive claim to human spirituality. In its authentic form, human spirituality is egalitarian, progressive and transformative. For example, many of Jesus’s teachings resonate with socialism: in one story —told in three variants in three books of the Bible — a rich man asks Jesus what he needs to do to be perfect. Jesus says, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. We can imagine the impact on people like Trump, Rubio and other economic elites to being confronted with a message like that.

Human spirituality cannot be owned by any one political ideology, nor should it be. It is often exploited by conservative actors, but there is healing and progressive potential as well. As long as progressive actors abjure studying religion, reactionary ones will have free hand to misrepresent and exploit it.

Therefore, overcome what University of California at Los Angeles sociologist Linda Brookover Bourque calls a stylized and simplistic understanding of religion. The next time Trump claims he loves the Bible, his hypocritical claims can be silenced by the roar of a truly enlightened progressive collective.