The citizens of the world who hate America are going to love the latest agitprop released this week by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. In a document titled "A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools," the left-wing groups seek to paint a horrifying portrait of the nation's classrooms as Abu Ghraib-like torture chambers.
The report compiles sob stories of students humiliated after being disciplined by school officials for unruliness, and claims that minority students are "disproportionately targeted" for punishment. Citing international law and threatening lawsuits, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU are demanding that the White House and Congress ban physical discipline in all public schools.
The report says that "more than 200,000 U.S. public school students were punished by beatings during the 2006-2007 school year," but makes no distinction between "beatings" that take the form of mere knuckle-rapping versus swats on the backside versus over-the-line violent confrontations. In several of the anecdotes cited, it wasn't bruised bottoms that upset the supposedly brutalized students. It was bruised egos.
Peter S., a middle-school student from the Mississippi Delta, whined to the researchers: "The other kids were watching and laughing. It made me want to fight them. When you get a paddling and you see everyone laugh at you, it make you mad and you want to do something about it." How about ending your bad behavior and flying right?
Of course educators must use common sense when punishing bad apples. Of course they should be held accountable if they cause undue harm. But the agenda of these outfits is not to ensure the safety of everyone in the classroom. Their agenda is to demonize unapologetic enforcers of order and to impose international dictates on American public institutions.
The main author of the report is a special fellow with the Open Society Institute, funded by George (America must be "de-Nazified") Soros. Replete with references to the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the report declares in sweeping terms: "All corporal punishment, whether or not it causes significant physical injury, represents a violation of each student's rights to physical integrity and human dignity. It is degrading and humiliating, damaging the student's self-esteem and making him or her feel helpless." It's Gitmo all over again.
As usual, the Human Rights Watch/ACLU activists inject claims of racial discrimination into the mix -- repeatedly underscoring that many of the remaining states that allow corporal punishment are in the South. They infer deliberate targeting of black students based on statistics that reportedly show that "in the 13 southern states where corporal punishment is most prevalent, African-American students are punished at 1.4 times the rate that would be expected given their numbers in the student population, and African-American girls are 2.1 times more likely to be paddled than might be expected."
But that disproportion does not automatically equal discrimination. What they don't tell you are the races or ethnicities of the victims of the thugs being disciplined. What they don't bother to mention -- because it doesn't fit the America-as-torturer-of-minorities narrative -- is the unmitigated violence perpetrated in American classrooms against minority teachers.
The recent videotaped beating of black Baltimore teacher Jolita Berry by a black female student -- as other black students cheered and screamed, "Hit her!" -- exposed the continuing chaos in inner-city districts. In that school system alone, 112 students were expelled for assaults on staff members this school year.
Federal education statistics show that between 1996 and 2000, 599,000 violent crimes against teachers at school were reported. On average, the feds say, in each year from 1996 to 2000, about 28 out of every 1,000 teachers were the victims of violent crime at school, and three out of every 1,000 were victims of serious violent crime (i.e., rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault). Violence against teachers is higher at urban schools.
America's problem isn't that we're too tough and cruel in the classroom. It's that we've become too soft and placative, too ashamed and timid to assert authority and take unilateral action to guarantee a secure environment. Exactly where the human rights groups want us.