Corporal Punishment and Infantilism: Why Haven't US Schools Changed Since the 1850s?

Educational Activist
Over a year ago

This has been a rollercoaster of an election year, and it’s not even over. From Hillary Clinton’s tweets demanding Donald Trump delete his account, the 1000 Bernie supporters that sat on CNN's doorstep with #OccupyCNN trending (which CNN refused to cover), and pretty much everything Donald Trump has said going viral, it’s been a busy year for the presidential candidates.

While there are many issues that they have covered in debates and interviews, one issue that hasn’t been squeezed dry is education. In fact, it’s hardly been touched. There’s been a lot of talk about the Mexico-America wall being built, the Orlando shooting with a military-grade weapon, and immigration rights. But the issues of standardized testing, bettering our science classes, and charter schools hasn’t been discussed quite so thoroughly. These are not unimportant issues, they affect 50 million Americans, and if you consider education as a building block, in the broader scope of things it affects the future world of all Americans.

Education is important. Having our children’s minds cultivated to the best of each kid’s ability is the key to ensuring that the next generation can do better, build smarter, create more. But no one is talking about it.

Filmmaking has led to some awareness. As mentioned by Nikhil Goyal, the author of Schools on Trial, a few documentaries like Waiting for Superman, The Race to Nowhere, and The War on Kids has led to more open discussion about the problems with schools and modern education. It brought the tough issues to the forefront of many parents’ minds, however momentarily. But the problems are still rampant. Just this past April, Shana Perez filmed her own five-year-old son screaming and wailing as he tried to escape being paddled by a school official for truancy, and she was shocked at the rampant violence. Somehow, corporal punishment is still legal in 19 US states.

Nikhil Goyal's book is Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice.

Goyal argues that education journalism doesn’t often capture the full story, usually content to pit one kind of school against the other. With broad brushstrokes like this, not enough is really learned about the deeper systemic issues, and the students’ stories are left untold. The students know why standardized testing doesn’t work for them, and they’re the ones who can describe why corporal punishment doesn’t teach them. Instead of pitting charter schools versus public schools, Goyal believes journalists need to undertake more in-depth research about the problems in the US education system to fully understand and report on it. The education system hasn’t changed since the 1850s, frozen in time while progress has marched forth in most other societal arenas. Why is that? These are delicate subjects that need to be handled with thoughtful and studious journalistic reporting. With some hope, the presidential candidates will discuss this much needed topic with as much care as it deserves.