“Bend Over. Grab Your Ankles.”

corporal punishment (noun): punishment administered by an adult (as a parent
or a teacher) to the body of a child ranging in severity from a slap to a spanking.

For no apparent reason, I recently found myself wondering about the state of corporal punishment within the American educational system.  I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was a well accepted and oft administered practice, the exercise of which could be found in nearly every school teacher’s tool kit for maintaining order, decorum, and a focus on learning in their classrooms.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, when after a conducting a quick Google search on the topic, I learned that corporal punishment is not only discouraged in today’s overly litigious society, but that it has now been declared to be illegal in 22 states.  Such a shame; for it worked so well.

ShopThe autumn of 1966 found me enrolled in my junior high school’s Industrial Arts class.  Industrial Arts, more commonly known as “Shop“, was on virtually every boy’s short list of elective classes to take.  It being the course in which one learned the basics of woodworking, along with the use of table saws, band saws, lathes, drill presses, and belt sanders.  Before being turned lose in the shop, the curriculum at my school included six weeks of technical drawing or drafting.   This was a necessary prerequisite to flipping the switch on a band saw because we were required to create a detailed three-dimensional orthographic design of each item which we planned to create.

By now, you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with corporal punishment.  Let me explain.

It was a Friday, the last day of school before the beginning of the 1966 Christmas holiday break.  I was in Industrial Arts class, sitting at my drafting table in the classroom which adjoined the woodworking shop.  A good friend of mine, let’s call him John, was sitting at his drafting table just to my right.  Both of our tables were in the front row.  As class began, our instructor Mr. Carpenter, no pun intended, walked into the classroom from the shop and promptly told everyone to pass their completed homework up to the front.

Being a keen observer, Mr. Carpenter noticed that my friend John was not pulling the required paperwork out of his notebook.  “Where’s your homework, John?”  Mr. Carpenter inquired.

I don’t have it.”  replied John with eyes cast down at the work on his drafting table which suddenly had become of the utmost importance.   

“You don’t have it, or you didn’t do it?”  asked Mr. Carpenter unwilling to leave the subject at hand. 

“Uh, well I, um, … didn’t do it.”   

“Hmm? ”  replied Mr. Carpenter as he finished picking up the papers which had been passed to the front of the class.  We all could feel the slight yet unmistakable tingle of electricity in the air.  We all knew that on the weekends, Mr. Carpenter participated in rodeo events.  As such, we all were quite certain that he didn’t believe in taking “Bull” from anyone.

Mr. Carpenter walked over to his desk, dropped the homework papers, and instructed us to continue working on our drafting assignment.  He turned slowly, paused theatrically for a moment, briefly looking directly at John before walking to the door leading out into the woodworking shop.  The top half of that door contained a window which was normally closed from view by a venetian blind.  As Mr. Carpenter proceeded through the door, he nonchalantly pulled down on the string opening the blinds as the door closed behind him.

By pure happenstance, my drafting table was the only one in the classroom which provided a view into the shop.

John motioned to me and under his breath whispered, “What’s he doing out there?”

I glanced out the window.  I could see Mr. Carpenter standing at a large rack on which wood was stored.

“He’s picked up a piece of 1″X6″ about four feet long and is looking at it to make sure it’s straight.”  I replied.

As small drops of nervous perspiration began to appear on John’s brow, Mr. Carpenter walked over to the table saw, flipping the switch to turn it on.  Startled by the raspy, metallic sound of the saw coming to life, John gasped “Oh damn!  What’s he doing now?”

From that point, and for most of the 45 minutes remaining in that class period, I provided John and my classmates with a running commentary on Mr. Carpenter’s activities out in the shop.  With the table saw, he cut a piece of the 1″X6″ pine to a length of about 18 inches.  Mr. Carpenter’s actions were very slow and methodical.  While I never noticed him looking back into the classroom through the window in the door, I’m confident that he was totally aware that his every step was being duly noted and carefully reported to his charges in the drafting room.

Next he walked over to the band saw.  John’s body convulsed again as the band saw began to whine.  When I realized what was happening, I reported that it appeared that a handle had been shaped on to one end of the 18 inch board.  A sigh of total despondency slowly escaped from John.

Using the belt sander, Mr. Carpenter very carefully sanded the board and its handle; rounding and smoothing the edges around its entire perimeter.  Then it was over to the drill press, where a series of holes were drilled through the rectangular portion of the wood above it’s handle.

After giving his work a thorough visual examination, Mr. Carpenter took the device by its handle and quickly slapped it once or twice against the palm of his other hand, the sharp stinging sound of which seemed to awaken us all from a trance.  Suddenly, we realized that there were only 5 minutes left in the period.

Slowly, Mr. Carpenter opened the door.  “John, ….. can you step out here for a moment?”  Realizing that the statement was a command rather than a question, John stood and very deliberately walked out of the classroom and into the shop.  None of us were willing to make eye contact with John.
As the door closed, Mr. Carpenter led him into an area of the shop which even I could not observe.  In the drafting room, you could have heard a pin drop.  As we all sat at our desks, eyes fixed on our three-dimensional orthographic drawings, we heard the unmistakable “Thwack!”  of pine meeting rear end, followed in slow succession by two additional “Thwacks!”

Judgement had been decided.  Justice had been served.  All homework was completed for the remainder of that year!

As we filed out of class that day, Mr. Carpenter, paddle stored under his arm, wished us all a Merry Christmas.

“You too, Mr. Carpenter.  Merry Christmas to you.”


Photo credit: chazferret Foter CC BY-NC
Photo credit: buzzle.com


Things Aren’t Always What They Appear

News is anything that makes a reader say, `Gee Whiz’! “
– Arthur MacEwen, American editor

You may have heard or read about the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news story on the youth soccer league in Midlake, Ontario, Canada which has decided that they want to improve the experience of the children playing on its teams.  In order to achieve this goal, the league’s administrators have decided to eliminate what they consider to be one of the more damaging aspects of sports; that being competition.
Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association explained the objective this way, “This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball.  And the kids are loving it.
(I added the emphasis)

According to the story, Helen went on to say, “By removing the ball, it’s absolutely impossible to say ‘this team won’ and ‘this team lost’ or ‘this child is better at soccer than that child.  We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination.  If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.

Here in the U.S., several major media outlets including The Washington Times and USA Today picked up the ball-less soccer story, running it in their print and on-line editions.

There’s only one small fly in this particular ointment.  Nothing about the story is true.  It was originally broadcast on the CBC’s “This Is That ” program which, by the way, happens to be entirely satirical in nature.

Sadly, I don’t find it surprising that so many people were hoodwinked into believing that this story was true.  After all we do live in a culture which, far too often, is guided by ill-advised, but politically correct philosophies.

As an example, some school systems have eliminated the use of the letter grade “F” because it might serve to label particular students as not performing up to minimal standards.  No matter that those students are in fact not performing up to minimal standards!   We just wouldn’t want their egos damaged by their having to face the truth regarding their own lack of effort nor to hold them responsible for making an attempt to improve their study habits.

In the world of youth sports, political correctness is responsible for the now common-place practice of awarding every child on every team a trophy at the end of each season regardless of how they or their team performed.  Apparently, it’s now considered bad form to only recognize the hard work and achievement of those teams and individuals who actually put in the effort to excel.

From my perspective, those individuals who are wearing their rose-colored, politically correct glasses fail to understand the simple and age old truth that when events are structured so that everyone wins, in actual fact, everyone ends up losing.

The winners soon learn that their extra effort gained them nothing at all.  While the losers learn that little or no effort is required to achieve the same level of reward and recognition as those who did put in the extra effort required to achieve.

Hear that loud slamming sound?  That’s everyone being forced to the lowest common denominator at exactly the same time.

But enough about programming subsequent generations into being under achievers who expect to be rewarded for their (lack of) effort.

The really sad thing about this story is that main stream media in the U.S. picked it up and reported it as being factual and newsworthy.
There was a time when news stories weren’t published unless the facts contained within them could be thoroughly substantiated by at least two reliable and independent sources.  In those days, journalists actually worked very hard to vet, or to confirm, the truth of their stories before they were reported as being factual.  Apparently those heady days of journalistic accuracy and excellence are going, if they are not already gone, the same way as the “F” letter grade and the awarding of trophies only to actual winners.

Even if The Washington Times and USA Today had just taken the time to have an intern Google “Midlake, Ontario“, they would have learned that the place simply doesn’t exist.  Good job Main Stream Media.  I’d give you an “F” on this one if that grade still existed.

Edward R. Murrow most certainly is turning somersaults in his grave.


Photo credit: SportsGrid.com
Photo credit: newspaperalum.com

A Hunter’s Tale

I’ve personally never been a hunter.  I have absolutely nothing against hunting.  In fact, I believe that when properly exercised, it can serve the very useful purpose of regulating wild game populations.  And since my neighborhood seems to be increasingly overrun by white tailed deer, referred to locally as “white tailed rats“, a bit of well regulated hunting here on the cul-de-sac might be just what the game warden ordered.

Even though I’m not a hunter, I do own a .22 rifle.  I acquired it many years ago when I was in college.  In a moment of weakness, I traded a set of really nice Koss stereo headphones for it.  The good news is that during a subsequent bartering economy session, I reacquired the Koss headphones in lieu of something which I can no longer remember.  I still have both the headphones and the .22 rifle.  The headphones have long since been replaced by a set of ear buds and to my knowledge, the rifle has never been fired at anything other than empty beer bottles, old milk jugs filled with water, and pieces of wood standing on end.  And before anyone asks, “No, it wasn’t me who shot up all of those road signs.

Over the years, I’ve known and worked with many avid hunters.  I’ve sat through countless lunchtime discussions during which these later day Allan Quatermain’s relayed tales of their latest treks through the nearest woodlands in search of elusive game.

Of all the stories that I’ve heard, only one remains with me; as vivid in my mind today as the first time I heard it.  Before I relay it, I feel it necessary to warn the faint of heart that now would be the time to avert one’s eyes or better yet, turn the page.  And yes, what you’re about to read actually occurred exactly as I’ll describe it.

It was a late fall afternoon in the hill country of Texas.  As he tells it, my friend and his father had been out since before dawn stalking deer.  Listless hours of sitting in their deer stand had yielded nothing except the occasional sighting of an armadillo.  They both had resisted the temptation to take a pot shot or two at these armored oddities because they feared that the sound of their guns would scare off the deer which were almost certainly just about to crest the closest hill.

As the sun sank lower in the western Texas sky, they reluctantly gave up, having never laid eyes on a deer.  Disappointed, they returned to their car for the trip home.  My friend’s father, being worn out from the day’s inactivity, decided to climb into the back seat, stretch out, and take a nap.  Even though the late afternoon autumn temperature was beginning to drop, he decided to leave the car’s backseat windows rolled down.
About 30 minutes into the trip, with dusk rapidly gathering and his father snoozing pleasantly in the back seat, my friend was driving down a long stretch of narrow highway.  In the distance, he could see a lone tractor trailer truck barreling down the highway coming toward him.

According to my friend’s account, just seconds before the truck and his car were going to pass, his perception of time momentarily shifted into super slow motion.  From the right side of the road, he saw a large deer bound out into the highway in what was to be a vain attempt to cross it safely.   At the exact moment that the deer crossed the center line, it was met from it’s right by the truck and from it’s left by my friend’s car.

In a manner of speaking, and perhaps thankfully, it’s safe to say that the deer never knew what hit him.  The combined speeds of the truck and car each traveling at 60+ miles per hour in opposite directions had the net effect of neatly severing the deer in mid-torso.

It would probably require an applied physicist, well versed in the laws of bodies in motion to explain what happened next. As my friend told the story, as soon as the truck and his car had passed each other, time returned to it’s normal speed and he became aware of frantic motions in the back seat accompanied by strange gurgling noises.

Pulling over to the shoulder of the road, he turned to see what was going on and found his father attempting to extricate himself from under a large mass of deer entrails.  When his father’s head finally appeared out from under the deer’s viscera he said, “Dad, I told you it was too cool to roll that window down.

I’m pleased to report that father and son have reconciled and returned to hunting together.  The last time I checked, they were still looking for someone willing to make a good trade for the car.


Photo credit: Mr. T in DC Foter CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: muskva / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA