Should Psychologists Enter the Fray to End Corporal Punishment in Schools?
From Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Legal Precedents, Current Practices, and Future Policy, by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Kelly M. Purtell, and Igor Holas, we learn that corporal punishment (CP) is currently still a legal disciplinary option in 19 states in the United States and in private schools in 48 states. In a given year, approximately 220,000 children are subjected to CP at school with approximately, 10,000 to 20,000 students a year requiring medical attention. Most school CP involves hitting a child or adolescent (from preschool through high school) on the behind with a wooden paddle.
The authors convey what science clearly tells us: CP is ineffective and harmful to children, and there are effective, evidence-based interventions that schools could be using instead to promote positive behavior. Given this, reviewer Alan Kazdin suggests that “moving into advocacy and saying 'should' to the public goes beyond what science is intended to accomplish and what scientists are uniquely trained to do. . .if we want to eliminate the use of CP and the violence and antisocial behavior that CP often begets, perhaps scientists cannot stay out of the fray” (para. 9).
Do you agree with Kazdin that given the harmful nature of CP, scientists cannot stay out of the fray? What role do you think psychologists should play in helping to end corporal punishment in schools?
By Alan E. Kazdin
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(34)