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Too bad Principal can't spank again
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Between the 1950s and the 1970s, something changed in America.

Read this true account by a school principal who was new to his school in the 1940s: "They began to take me for an easy mark. One boy, named George, weighing 180 pounds - the same as I weighed - was a constant pest, becoming more daring during each passing day. One day while I was reading an after-lunch serial story to the class, George kept making noises through a paper megaphone and shooting spit wads. After a second warning he made one more pass. I put the book down, went down the aisle taking George firmly in hand and removed him forceably from his seat, except that he hung onto the desk. The desk was ripped from the floor and George, the desk and I proceeded down the hall. We came back, put the desk in place and proceeded with the reading. Consequently there were no more problems with any student for the rest of the year."

I relish that story. A win-win. But there's more. Mr. Moon added: "George remembered me with a Christmas card for many years after he moved away."

Imagine that. No more discipline issues and George genuinely respects Mr. Moon.

This was written by the late Richard Moon, a teacher and principal in the tiny town of Waterford east of Hughson. His account intrigued me. Moon took care of the troublemaker and I'm left applauding.

Similar stories about Mr. Walter White abound. He would set tails on fire, and still maintain respect from those he disciplined.

Back then, school authorities were allowed - no, expected - to deal with such problems with a little physical "encouragement." Parents generally supported the school official administering discipline. In the words of retired Ceres High School teacher and principal Fran Welsh, "when we were in trouble at school, we were in trouble at home."

In Ceres, Mae Hensley was notorious for tracking down kids playing hooky. If she found a boy hiding under the bed, she'd grab his heels and drag him out and haul him down to school where he was supposed to be.

Consider the contrast when, just a few years ago, another principal in the same town made national news when he took two fighting teens and made them get on their knees and ask for forgiveness from one another in lieu of more serious punishment, and one of the boys' moms cried foul. Unbelievable. I say good for Don Davis for trying to teach that sometimes you have to eat humble pie in order to become a better person.

While Moon, Hensley and White had no problems straightening the crooked path of a wayward child, today it's a much different story. Today if an authority were to do what Mr. Moon had done, the ACLU would have his head on a stick, and indignant parents would be calling whistle-blower press conferences on the "barbaric practices of Neanderthal school teachers." Oh, and add a $23 million lawsuit to the mix against the principal for emotional distress.

Now that school officials are not allowed to exact swift but certain justice in the classroom, is it any wonder that little Johnny Troublemaker and little Freddie Gangbanger are skilled at the art of demanding their rights whenever they're confronted for their misdeeds? Is it any wonder that we find buildings tagged, cars stolen, drugs sold and in the case of Turlock where boys twisted the wing off of a seagull recently, when kids are allowed to cross the line (if indeed they even know where the boundary lines are set.)

Psychologists say that kids want and need boundaries to feel secured and loved. When they are confused about those boundaries or allowed to create their own, chaos results.

Yes, I know that some principals got carried away "back in the day" and occasionally bad stuff happened. (My 91-year-old grandmother told me that a teacher let one little guy have it in her Oklahoma classroom to the point that there were internal injuries that resulted in his death.) But I really feel we'd all be better off if we returned to the days when kids could be persuaded with a swat on the behind - perhaps done in the presence of another staffer to prevent problems. Of the stories I've heard, the kid never acted up again and ended up respecting the authority who administered the paddling. What could be wrong with returning to that method?

Parents - that what's wrong. Parents and educators are no longer on the same page. Too many parents try to be their kids' best friend and spoil them with all kinds of "toys." They have been aided by sociologists who think saying no to children damages self esteem. Nonsense.

We do live in a different world than that of 1945. Community is less community today. Back then, families were more connected, ate dinner together, worked together and entertained each other, read more, and kids benefitted from the oversight of two parents who stayed together no matter what. Divorce was rarer than today (489 per 100,000 divorces in the US in 1930s). There were less competing interests; no TVs, no texting, no internet, no cell phones, no video games.

I'm not sure what changed. Perhaps it was when TV took over in the late 1950s and the art of communication fell by the wayside. Or maybe it was during the sexual revolution when the divorce rate soared. In the 1940s and 1950s, families went to church and at least some of those values rubbed off. This country turned off church a long time ago. Maybe it could be that.

All I know is that we've got a horrible gang problem and something tells me that these kids never had a Mr. Moon lay into them when they deserved it.

What a tragedy.

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