Corporal Punishment in American Education: Readings in History, Practice, and Alternatives

By Irwin A. Hyman; James H. Wise | Go to book overview

PART VII

RESEARCH

One of the greatest problems in rationally discussing corporal punishment in the schools is the lack of hard research data. In order to obtain convincing data to examine the effectiveness of this practice, it would be necessary randomly to assign children to paddling and non-paddling with pre and post measures of behavior. Problems in methodology are numerous since there would be different rates of misbehavior which might or might not be aflected by the paddling but would not be observable. While design problems in experimental settings would be simpler than those in the field, it is unlikely that such research will ever be conducted because of an interesting paradox. While most Americans favor the use of corporal punishment, the funding of such research would be unlikely because of controls for the protection of human subjects which are maintained by most responsible funding agencies and research organizations. Therefore, much of the discussion of the effects of corporal punishment must be based on either correlational or retrospective studies or on inference from related research. This section presents the first attempt known to the editors systematically to gather most of the data available which are pertinent to the problem. A number of research issues are discussed in less depth in the Introduction, but the essays presented here offer overwhelming data to discourage the use of corporal punishment in the schools.

The first one resulted from an exhaustive review of the research on punishment over the last ten years. At the time of the review the writer was a graduate student in school psychology who did not have strong biases about the issue. In fact, because of his own background, he tended to be mildly in favor of the "moderate" use of the practice. A thorough examination and analysis of the subject convinced Bongiovanni that the weight of the evidence indicates that corporal punishment in the schools is not only ineffective, but probably counterproductive.

In contrast to the review of research on punishment, Wise offers an argument in favor of the use of reward to change behavior. Despite the

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