corporal punishment and school achievementWhat do New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have in common? Their public schools all routinely rank among the worst in the US. These states also allow corporal punishment of children. In contrast, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut usually appear close to the top of the list in US education and do not allow corporal punishment in schools.

These are correlations and don’t prove anything about cause and effect. At the same time, this data suggests something that’s obvious for most people–that paddling kids in school doesn’t improve educational achievement, nor does it do much to improve classroom behavior.

Well, maybe it’s not so obvious to everyone. In this morning’s Albuquerque Journal an article by Hailey Heinz discusses New Mexico’s current status on corporal punishment. She quotes State Representative Rick Miera who introduced a bill banning the practice, “We don’t allow corporal punishment anywhere except in public schools, it’s not allowed in hospitals, it’s not allowed in mental health centers, it’s not even allowed in the armed forces.”

The bill that Representative Miera proposed was passed in the New Mexico House and Senate. The bill now sits on our new Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s desk. She’s deliberating over whether to sign or veto the measure.

A surprisingly large group of legislators opposed the bill the moment it was introduced. For example, Rep. Larry Larranaga from Albuquerque voted against the bill (thus for corporal punishment) and  argued “Kids just need a little discipline; there’s got to be a little fear. Fear is a motivator.” Yet he cites no studies supporting the idea that this form of discipline helps, probably because data is not on his side.

We hope our Governor signs the bill.

Photo by Robb North, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.