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Origin of Corporal Punishment

In the colonial era, the Puritan belief that humankind is innately tainted by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve led adults to see children as contaminated by an evil element that needed to be driven out by force. Puritans believed that all disobedience and academic error was the work of Satan, and children’s innate proclivity for evil had to be destroyed through pain and humiliation. The idea that suffering can correct unwanted behavior became fundamental to institutional design, whether that design was the stocks in which prisoners were displayed for public abuse or the raised stools and dunce caps intended to correct student misbehavior or ignorance through humiliation. “To spare the rod,” it was believed, led inevitably to spoiling the child, so slapping, spanking, and whipping were generally understood as beneficial educational tools. These beliefs persisted. Indeed, as late as 1977, in Ingraham v. Wright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that spanking did not violate students’ rights, noting the widespread use of corporal punishment to maintain discipline in educational settings. Corporal punishment remained legal there-after in more than 20 states.

Inside Origin of Corporal Punishment