Kersten on spanking

This is my first post in response to one of Katherine Kersten’s columns. Katherine Kersten is a former fellow of the Center for the American Experiment, a Minnesota right wing think tank.

In my views she is noted for crying political correctness when segments of society she does not identify with are upset about something that she sees as being oversensitive. She is also noted for claiming victimhood for segments of society that she identifies with, notably Christians. That is my take on what makes her tick.

So today’s column is entitled, Spank kids and lose them to overzealous government. Sounds like a pretty scary title, lets take a look at it.

Give your son a paddling, and you might end up in the nanny state’s woodshed.

So paddling might have you end up in the woodshed. The use of the woodshed is probably an attempt to bring us back to a more rustic and rural society, better times, back to when paddling was an acceptable form of discipline. Nanny state, is typical right wing smear against left wing social welfare supports.

At their wits’ end, they considered tougher love. They had previously consulted a Hennepin County social worker about corporal punishment, and she had informed them that it was OK so long as it left no marks or bruises.

I find this to be hard to swallow. First of all, which department do you call to find out what sort of physical contact will get in your trouble with Child Protection Services (CPS) and which won’t? Second of all, while spanking is pretty controversial, would a parent want to clarify what is acceptable knowing that they may be flagged by the government. Third of all, if I was willing to call a social worker and get an answer that spanking is okay, wouldn’t I have the worker’s name, and after CPS got involved, drag that worker into all of this. I never saw any mention of this “worker” later in the column.

After warning Gerard repeatedly and posting Bible verses to remind him of the consequences, Fraser smacked the back of his son’s upper thighs 12 times with a small wooden paddle after he disobeyed and lied. He repeated the process twice over an hour and 15-minute period when the boy remained defiant. The paddling left no marks.

Okay, I am not a Christian, haven’t read the bible, but I am not sure what bible verses the father was posting to warn of the consequences. I believe the ten commandments have something about honor thy father and mother, but does it spell out spanking as the punishment. The location of the spanking seems a little strange to me too, I thought it was the rear end, not upper thighs. Maybe it is more painful, maybe that location bruises less.

The column goes onto to talk about the removal of the children from the home, another son from Bible camp, to help point out that they are good Christians. They fought the system, got the children back, and Hennepin County is fighting it.

Gerard, now 15, returned recently from a Christian boarding school in Utah where his father and mother — a materials handler and hotel kitchen worker, respectively — sent him after raising the $50,000 tuition by refinancing their home.

Now hopefully, this family researched and found a good program that help Gerard, but many programs use the tough love method, tough love to the extreme, and some have resulted in deaths. As the USA Today reported on a GAO study this past October:

The GAO on Wednesday presented the committee with the results of their investigation into the industry. The congressional investigative agency selected 10 deaths to examine in depth and found reckless practices, inadequate training and misleading marketing. It also found what Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., called “horrific” examples of abuse.

Note, they selected 10 deaths to investigate, you can only select 10 when you have more than those 10 deaths to investigate.

The county’s continued intervention is absurd, Gerard says. “I understand now that my dad paddled me because he loves me, and he wants me to have success in my life. He disciplined me, he didn’t abuse me. They’re very different things.”

Does Gerard consider the original intervention acceptable, but not the continued. What enlightened him to the fact that his dad loves him, was it the expense they paid for the wilderness camp, was the wilderness camp even tougher than the tough love at home and he came to appreciate the gentler tough love dished out at home?

“Excessive force by a parent is obviously inappropriate,” said Jill Waite, Shawn Fraser’s attorney. “But this is political correctness run amok. The county’s standard of harm is extremely broad, vague and subjective. Because these government workers are of the opinion that spanking is bad, they want to impose their belief on all parents.”Where is it written that people with a social work degree know what’s better for kids than their parents?” Waite said.

Waite’s arguments seem kind of strange considering that the father contacted one of those people with a social work degree to find out what is acceptable. So clearly at some point he either was concerned that he would run afoul of the laws, or he was seeking validation for his choice of discipline. Of course the attorney throws out political correctness which is a standard tool of conservatives to dismiss something as liberal elitism, and is further push the perception with the impose their belief on all parents.

Kersten further goes on to say that most believe that spanking is okay.

Most Americans agree. According to research cited by Waite, commissioned by the Family Research Council, 76 percent of those surveyed said that spanking was an effective form of discipline in their home when they were children.

Where to start with this? Family Research Council (FRC) is very Christian “family values” organization. Does the invalidate their research, not necessarily. So I went to their web site and searched for spanking. There are 6 entries all from this year, they are dated, January 29, April 3, 3 on November 28 (last Wednesday) and November 30 (last Friday). So 4 of 6 records were dated in the past 5 days. Now in fairness, all 3 of the records for November 28th are tied to proposed legislation in Massachusetts, one link to the CBS report and two pieces in response by FRC. The November 30th piece is a debunking of spanking.

One of the pieces had this to say:

In truth, the research shows that spanking (a few swats on the behind with an open hand) does not make children more aggressive, is not demeaning to the child, does not lead to adult dysfunction, and is usually not applied impulsively or in anger.

So FRC which defends spanking as a discipline tool outlines what research shows as effective. I doesn’t look like the father consulted the research approved method. Few swats vs 12 times twice in 1 hour 15 minutes, behind with an open hand vs small wooden paddle on upper thighs. Where the father was consistent with FRC is that this clearly wasn’t impulsive, as he had previously consulted that mysterious Hennepin County social worker.

Back to Waite’s statement, I did not see this commissioned study in my search of the web site. So that raises some questions. I was searching to question who they asked, was the survey skewed by population selection. But apparently it is not posted on the web site so I can’t tell you.

The column ends with this:

“We need a way for children and families to be protected from the government,” said Jill Clark, Natalie Fraser’s attorney.

In the end, the Fraser case is about parents’ fundamental right to raise their kids. Government, said Clark, “has become the third parent leaning over everyone’s shoulder.”

Sounds like Jill Clark might have been paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s line:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

Of course the government leaning over your shoulder, when parenting, not when conducting warrantless wiretapping, is part of the “nanny state” that so concerns the right wingers.




  1. James Bond said,

    December 10, 2007 at 2:33 am

    Spare the Rod and spoil the conservative, I always say.

  2. Jim in Texas said,

    April 19, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I have a pscyhology degree. I went to seminars with Albert Ellis. I have a 144 IQ, no criminal record, and a national security clearance from 20 years in the US Army from which I’m retired in Texas with my wife of 20 years. I had a few spankings from my mother and my aunt growing up and I was also put in a foster home as a teenager because my old man had a drinking problem. I
    went through more hell in foster homes than I ever had to put up with in my
    real family and the emotionally traumatic experience of being ripped away from my parents by your Harpy Valley PTA Liberal Fascists is a hell of lot worse than any spanking I recall. Its people like you who made me a Reagan Republican. If you want to preach about how to raise kids have some of your own instead of having secret abortions to cover up getting college degrees by screwing your college teachers to make up for having a low IQ and heavy drug use like a lot of the people writing college psychology textbooks since Timothy Leary was handing out LSD to his Harvard Psychology Classes.

  3. John Hoff said,

    June 3, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    On a side note, the lawyer mentioned in the case–Jill M. Waite–was suspended today from the practice of law.

    Now THAT is a spanking.

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