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January 22, 2007

Spanking a Crime? Disappointment Violates Your Rights?


It is nothing new for conservatives to complain about the “nanny state.” We constantly criticize government intervention into our business and lives, largely because it usually results in an exacerbation of the problem that’s supposed to be resolved by such intrusion. However, we are only used to regulations on trade that are alleged to “help” our businesses, and to bans on smoking and unhealthy food ingredients that take the pressures of elementary thought off our shoulders.


But now, government is digging deeper, into our families and all the way into our childhoods. California will consider a Democratic proposal this week that could make it the first state in the nation to make the spanking of children who are three years old and younger a criminal offense, and punishable by up to one year in jail at that. Even worse, an alternative proposed punishment is a child-rearing class, most probably given by, well, California government bureaucrats.


Of course, the rationale behind such a bill is that it would control bad parents who abuse their children. But, hold on a minute, there are already laws that prohibit child abuse and that allow social workers to remove the child from his home if need be. But if a smacking does not cause an actual injury to the child, and has little effect other than to teach the child to behave better in the future, why is there a need for a no-spanking law? Once we move away from abuse and into the world of spanking, we are far from the area of universal human rights, and far from any justification for government intervention.


The political forces in California responsible for this bill are reminiscent of various elements of government across the country. They are no longer satisfied with simply cutting your choices as to where to educate your children. Now they want a say in how you raise them, too. They seek to reverse an effective tradition that is thousands of years old, and one that has served us well through this generation, simply because of self-righteous concepts of personal enlightenment and clairvoyance.


This latest move is, unfortunately, only part of a growing national problem in the way authorities, from government to school teachers, view and understand children. They are removing the emphasis from discipline and individual responsibility, while replacing them with the solid Franco-Californian feel-good principles of dependency and “self-esteem.”

One of the crucial settings of the battle between the progressive Utopian view on the one hand, and basic human instinct on the other, is none other than the school playground. Games like tag, touch football and other chasing games are being banned from many school playgrounds because they are too competitive. In some places, such as Attleboro, Massachusetts, even dodgeball is being forbidden because it is too “dangerous” and “exclusionary.” Where it is not completely barred, the game is being modified so that children could re-enter the game more regularly.

Basically, the message is: “It’s OK children, you don’t have to compete your hearts out. In fact, you don’t really need to try at all. Just show up, and we’ll take care of you, even if it means pulling all of your friends down to your level!” We are not talking about children with medical illnesses here. We are talking about depriving the average child from experiencing loss, failure and pain in a way that would help him grow up as a strong, competitive, disciplined and socially competent adult.


By taking away these normal childhood experiences, schools and the government are raising a generation of Americans who will regard disappointment as a violation of their rights, even if it is brought about by themselves. They are raising a generation that does not understand that success is a reward of hard work and good behavior, and that, conversely, failure is a consequence of laziness and dependency.

Not surprisingly, this course of government child-rearing goes hand-in-hand with a certain attitude about society that rewards idleness and stifles the spirit competition – and as such it shows no signs of stopping. It is hence time to tell the interventionists that enough is enough. So send your kid out to face the ups and downs of the playground, and for heaven’s sake, smack your children when they misbehave on a train or at the movies. If you don’t have the heart for it, I would be more than happy to do it for you.

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