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

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

13
A Youth Worker's Opinion of the Majority Decision in Ingraham v. Wright

James S. Wallerstein

The confused opinion by the Supreme Court majority upholding corporal punishment in Ingraham v. Wright can hardly be the final judgment of the Court.

The Court could have held that school kids are protected by the Eighth Amendment, but that "paddling" is not a cruel or unusual punishment. Or, they could have held that "the proscription against cruel and unusual punishment . . . was designed to protect those convicted of crimes," and stopped right there. Either of these positions would, at least, have the merit of clarity.

If protection against cruel and unusual punishment were limited only to "those convicted of crimes," there would be a dangerous threat to many persons under the control of the state or its institutions. Mental patients, material witnesses, youth drafted for national service, neglected children, or old people in public institutions -- anyone held in protective detention for his own welfare or under civil, as opposed to criminal, custody -- would have no constitutional safeguard against cruel or unusual punishment.

The Russian grand inquisitors who allegedly have been sending political dissidents to insane asylums, would feel quite comfortable with the Supreme Court ruling. Those who criticize the Communist system are not "criminal," just "crazy." If it happened over here, the political dissenters would be "patients," not convicts, unprotected by the Eighth Amendment. Any treatment or mistreatment they received would be quite constitutional.

The Court majority makes much of the history of the Eighth Amendment derived from the English Bill of Rights in 1689. It was designed to curb the excesses of the English judges under James II. Big Brother, however, has become a good deal more sophisticated in his tyranny and in the

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