Pharyngula

At least James Dobson will approve

Focus on the Patriarchy has always favored punishing children to teach them right from wrong, so I can’t imagine them being too upset at this news: a fellow’s 4-year-old daughter was having trouble memorizing her ABC’s, suggesting that she needed some extra incentives to excel. So Dad waterboarded her. How sweet that Daddy cared so much about the importance of her education.

I’m going back to teaching in the fall. Will this be considered a reasonable educational technique? I’m thinking of putting a rack in the lecture hall and carrying around some thumbscrews just to help my students learn better.

Comments

  1. #1 Moggie
    February 8, 2010

    Is there a reliable source for this story? i.e., not the Daily Mail?

  2. #2 Tulse
    February 8, 2010

    This would be one of those “enhanced learning techniques” and “vigorous instructional procedures” that the New York Times talks about, right?

  3. #3 Glen Davidson
    February 8, 2010

    At least it’s not torture…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  4. #4 Free Lunch
    February 8, 2010

    I’ll bet you can get Michele Bachmann to endorse your new teaching technique.

  5. #5 Jam
    February 8, 2010

    Not believable. That the source is the “Daily Mail” makes it doubly doubtful.

  6. #6 Carlie
    February 8, 2010

    And once again, the US falls flat on its face when it comes to actual support of troops once they’re back from a combat environment. Rates of domestic abuse in military families are many times higher than in the general population. It’s so shameful how vets are (not) treated that I can barely even muster the words to express it. From all the stories I’ve read from vets trying to get mental health and even physical health assistance, the main goal is to spend as little money as possible and deny as many claims as they can, not to actually help the people who have actually risked their lives. The military needs to really crack down on admitting people with sketchy psychological profiles in the first place, and then needs to actually assist them after what they go through.

  7. #7 lordshipmayhem
    February 8, 2010

    The local children’s aid society seems to find that a very interesting teaching methodology, fortunately for the daughter, now no longer in Daddy’s “loving” care.

  8. #8 scribe999
    February 8, 2010

    From a local source:

    Anger over alphabet ends in arrest
    Charged: Man accused of dunking 4-year-old

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/1196/story/1054799.html?storylink=omni_popular

  9. #9 Dianne
    February 8, 2010

    Is there a reliable source for this story? i.e., not the Daily Mail?

    Google News gives a number of outlets carrying the story. It’s not entirely clear to me whether any of them are terribly reliable since they included a number of questionable UK papers and Fox News, but at least it’s not only the Daily Mail reporting this.

  10. #10 barry21
    February 8, 2010

    This sounds much more like a PTSD or mental illness horror story than anything that merits comparison to Dobson, odious as he is.

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    February 8, 2010

    Yeah, because Dobson does it out of stupidity and intent, not because he is traumatized and damaged.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    February 8, 2010

    OK, how about Fox News for a source?

    Never mind.

  13. #13 badgersdaughter
    February 8, 2010

    For anyone here not familiar with what Dobson says about violence toward children:

    “[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely.” — Dare to Discipline Pages 6-7

    And Dobson again, on using dog-beating as an example of why he advocates violence to discipline children:

    “Please don’t misunderstand me. Siggie is a member of our family and we love him dearly. And despite his anarchistic nature, I have finally taught him to obey a few simple commands. However, we had some classic battles before he reluctantly yielded to my authority.

    “The greatest confrontation occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three-day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone. But I didn’t realize until later that evening just how strongly he felt about his new position as Captain.

    “At eleven o’clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

    “On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. You see, he was in the bathroom, seated comfortably on the furry lid of the toilet seat. That is his favorite spot in the house, because it allows him to bask in the warmth of a nearby electric heater…”

    “When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie’s way of saying. “Get lost!”

    “I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me “reason” with Mr. Freud.”

    What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!” — The Strong Willed Child

  14. #14 Matt Penfold
    February 8, 2010

    What amazed me was that the Mail called waterboarding torture.

    Given that it seems to have been inflicted by the CIA on Muslims, and alleged terrorists at that, I am surprised they are not in favour.

  15. #15 NewEnglandBob
    February 8, 2010

    PZ, just take a 12 foot whip to class in the fall. Just think about all the possibilities to accessorize with it.

  16. #16 Ray Moscow
    February 8, 2010

    If we don’t stop terrorism at home, one day soon we will have to face it abroad!

  17. #17 Chuck C
    February 8, 2010

    At least it’s not torture…

    No, it’s “Enhanced Parenting”

  18. #18 barry21
    February 8, 2010

    Exactly, PZ – Dobson knows what he’s doing. A guy who is caught roaming the neighborhood in a helmet and threatening to break windows sounds like something worse than an archaic, patriarchal belief system is at work.

  19. #19 Dianne
    February 8, 2010

    Even if we assume that Tabor is suffering from PTSD, what about the judge who granted him custody, the superior officer who ordered him to waterboard, the instructor who taught him how and the country that sent him into not one but two aggressive wars?

  20. #20 Ray Moscow
    February 8, 2010

    I’ll look for Dobson’s revised volume on parenting: Dare to Waterboard

    Better a little torture, er discipline, than a lifetime of rebellion!

  21. #21 marcus
    February 8, 2010

    I don’t think Dobson would have wanted to get all that water on the kitchen floor, he would probably prefer something easier and faster, like a cattle prod.

  22. #22 Gus Snarp
    February 8, 2010

    @Jam – While you are correct to seek a source better than the Daily Mail, the only thing unbelievable about this story is that it was called water boarding. This sort of child abuse is all too common, and it is particularly sad that in this case it may also be related to post-traumatic stress. The Mail did its usual sensationalism bit and called it water boarding and used that term in the headline, when it was really simply an abusive father dunking his daughter’s head under water. That’s probably no better than water boarding, but it’s not the same thing and the irresponsible act on the Mail’s part was trying to link the two without evidence that they are related. I understand that to anyone with any reasonable concern for and understanding of children, or human beings for that matter, this story is so terrible that the mind doesn’t want to believe it, but it is sadly the sort of thing that happens all the time.

  23. #23 Free Lunch
    February 8, 2010

    PZ, just take a 12 foot whip to class in the fall. Just think about all the possibilities to accessorize with it.

    He’s not an archaeologist.

    He should be keeping a giant squid in his lecture hall.

  24. #24 Randomfactor
    February 8, 2010

    should be keeping a giant squid in his lecture hall.

    A giant mutant squid with telepathic powers…

  25. #25 Midnight Rambler
    February 8, 2010

    Gus @22 is correct. I’m absolutely not defending this guy, who certainly does sound like an abuser with serious problems. But he dunked her head in a bowl of water (because he knew she was afraid of water). Calling that “waterboarding” is like the reverse of the neo-cons who were defending it by saying actual waterboarding was just dunking someone’s head in water, which is isn’t.

  26. #26 Kathy Orlinsky
    February 8, 2010

    If this story is true, I’m appalled. Of course, I shouldn’t be, because as the Bush administration explained, water boarding is not torture but is a legitimate method of extracting information and compliance.

    And I thought the only fall out would be that other nations would feel justified in torturing our soldiers.

  27. #27 Julia
    February 8, 2010

    PZ, I pray(sic) you think again before installing your rack and thumbscrews.
    I suspect your classes include healthy 18-20 year old males. If you have been successful in leading them towards independent thought, you may have a hard time applying educational aids of this sort.

  28. #28 Gus Snarp
    February 8, 2010

    Dobson’s dog’s behavior sounds like a description of a dog who has been beaten. Had he tried other methods his dog would likely have been more obedient, and the incident he describes would never have happened.

  29. #29 Romeo Vitelli
    February 8, 2010

    “I’m thinking of putting a rack in the lecture hall and carrying around some thumbscrews just to help my students learn better.”

    Just threaten to cut off their alcohol. Much more traumatic.

  30. #30 Louis
    February 8, 2010

    I think ever since they stopped whipping children educational standards have dropped.

    Mind you, that might be because I enjoyed the whippings. :-)

    Louis

  31. #31 nitramnaed
    February 8, 2010

    Well at least he wasn’t “GAY”!

  32. #32 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    Louis (@30):

    Mind you, that might be because I enjoyed the whippings. :-)

    Aww, and here I’d been virtuously resisting the temptation to do a FTFY number on Dobson’s little spanking kink!

  33. #33 Louis
    February 8, 2010

    @ Bill #32,

    Virtue? Resisting?

    I know not of these things!

    I think you should do your FTFY number immeidately, if not sooner.

    Louis

  34. #34 Epikt
    February 8, 2010

    PZ Myers:

    OK, how about Fox News for a source?

    Cue O’Reilly claiming that the father obtained actionable intelligence from the little girl, preventing a major terrorist attack and saving thousands of lives in spite of objections from libbruls who hate America and want the terrorists to win.

  35. #35 Louis
    February 8, 2010

    Immeidately? I know what I meant, dammit. Update the dictionaries immeidately, this is the new spelling!

    Louis

  36. #36 Will
    February 8, 2010

    PZ, my apologies for sending you a news item from a sensationalist trashy tabloid. I should have double checked the site!

  37. #37 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    Louis:

    You asked for it… and inspired a slight modification of what I’d previously planned:

    [Dobson]However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the childLouis to cry genuinely and beg for more.” — Dare to DisciplinePlay Pages 6-7

  38. #38 Robert Estrada
    February 8, 2010

    I spent 3 years in the infantry during the Vietnam war. Even though I was lucky enough to spend my overseas time in Germany I nearly went insane just from the military environment. I saw quite a few soldiers who transfered in directly from Vietnam. Quite a few were damaged, but some were damaged before the war and some would have been poor parents regardless. This article does not provide sufficient information to evaluate that aspect of the father. That said, The childs welfare is paramount. It trumps all else.
    Sgt Robert Estrada

  39. #39 Lumpy_The_Great
    February 8, 2010

    This is a little unfair don’t you think, PZ? From the article it would seem that Dad is suffering from some sort of mental breakdown, possibly related to his miltary service. I don’t really think it’s appropriate to make hay with it.

  40. #40 alysonmiers
    February 8, 2010

    It takes a certain type of person to boast about how he threw down with a little bitty dog named Siggie.

  41. #41 Gus Snarp
    February 8, 2010

    @Robert Estrada – You nailed it. This is a horrible story about child abuse that may also be a horrible story about post-traumatic stress, but we don’t know enough to say for sure.

  42. #42 https://me.yahoo.com/a/DhjBEuJ8pt63x6eBKuPx0Jv9_QE-#7c327
    February 8, 2010

    I’ve read enough to say this guy belongs in prison – a Turkish prison.

  43. #43 GeorgeFromNY
    February 8, 2010

    “This is a little unfair don’t you think, PZ? From the article it would seem that Dad is suffering from some sort of mental breakdown, possibly related to his miltary service. I don’t really think it’s appropriate to make hay with it. (Lumpy)”

    Alas, Lumpy, this isn’t the first time for it on this ‘blog…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/10/department_of_redundancy_depar.php

    I consider PZ an absolute treasure when it comes to the advocacy of science and secularism. Many of his pieces here are atom bombs in the battles against Creationist foolishness and weasel-tongued apologia.

    That said, there seems to be another side to PZ and his writing – that of a crude, reckless polemicist happy to disregard his own standards for an opportunity to take a shot at the religious.

    This post is one such exhibit. Even leaving the mental illness angle aside, what on Earth do James Dobson and his stupid lobby group have to do with this?

    I cannot believe I am defending the loathsome Dobson in any way, shape or form but…

    Does PZ think advocacy of “punishing children to teach them right from wrong” is somehow extremist – or even distinctive of religious people, for that matter? Did PZ never “punish” his own kids as part of the disciplinarian role that all parents must sometimes play?

    Does PZ think Dobson advocating spanking – along with millions of other parents, including atheists, btw – means he would endorse what this father did?

    I read this sort of thing and I cannot believe this is the same man who penned the grand “Courtier’s Reply.”

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php

  44. #44 True Bob
    February 8, 2010

    I’m sure that this jackass was going to abuse his daughter, one way or another.

    I think he chose simulated drowning because the talking heads have downplayed the seriousness of it, as though there were no long term effects, and because he’s a sadistic psycho of one brand or another.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder why she is afraid of water?

  45. #45 blf
    February 8, 2010

    ABC News (who at least used to be reliable, people in the USA now can comment on whether or not they still are reliable) is also reporting this story, with the caveat:

    [Police Chief Todd] Stancil said he is not sure whether Tabor actually ran the water over the girl’s face, a move that would force a gag reflex. His girlfriend reported having “heard the water running” and said that Tabor had an “anger management problem,” Stancil said.

    (Admittedly, in the title of the story they call it “waterboarding”.) In any case, whether or not what the guy allegedly did to his daughter meets the technical definition for that particular torture, it seems clear something serious and uncalled-for happened, and that it isn’t the first time the child has apparently been abused.

    And I must resist… resist… resist the irony of an ABC report about reciting ABCs.

  46. #46 skeptical scientist
    February 8, 2010

    What on Earth did mom do that a court granted this guy custody? I’m mystified.

  47. #47 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Lao Daung Duen
    February 8, 2010

    Yeah, because Dobson does it out of stupidity and intent, not because he is traumatized and damaged.

    Hell fucking yes he does. Dobson and his ilks at FoF believe in the supremacy of the Biblical patriarchal system. So if a child doesn’t meet the father’s standards, he can use abuse. Anything is acceptable so as long as the system of power is maintained.

  48. #48 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    GeorgeFromNY (@43):

    Does PZ think advocacy of “punishing children to teach them right from wrong” is somehow extremist – or even distinctive of religious people, for that matter?

    I can’t speak for PZ, but speaking for myself, I think promoting the idea that physical violence for the purpose of inflicting nontrivial pain — no matter how allegedly “loving” and “measured” — is an acceptable way to discipline a child contributes to a social context in which stories like this can happen.

    Did PZ never “punish” his own kids as part of the disciplinarian role that all parents must sometimes play?

    Again, speaking for myself, I never once used any form of corporal punishment in raising my child, who is now a sophomore at Yale. I suppose there are things about her life that would give prissy fundagelicals the vapors, but I’m incredibly proud of how she turned out; I can’t think of anything that I should’ve beaten into her.

    No, ordinary spanking doesn’t always ruin a child — I was spanked, and I turned out OK (no jokes from the peanut gallery!) — but social acceptance of any form of violence against children is not as big a step as you seem to think from the kind of abuse described in this story, because the former establishes the predicate for the latter: Remember, this was done under the guise of correcting the child. And regardless of whether this guy is a victim of war or mental illness, or if he’s just a bad guy, he was more likely to commit this particular act in a society that countenances spanking than he would have been in one that didn’t.

  49. #49 blf
    February 8, 2010

    What on Earth did mom do that a court granted this guy custody? I’m mystified.

    According to the ABC News article, he did not have exclusive custody:

    Tabor’s daughter had only been living with him for just two months…. A court ruled late last year that Tabor would split custody of his daughter with the girl’s mother in five month increments. Tabor was to care for the girl for the first half of 2010….

  50. #50 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    PS to me@48: Spanking between consenting adults is, of course, a whole ‘nother kettle of horses of another color.

  51. #51 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Lao Daung Duen
    February 8, 2010

    Bill Dauphin, OM | February 8, 2010 4:51 PM

    PS to me@48: Spanking between consenting adults is, of course, a whole ‘nother kettle of horses of another color.

    Is there something you wish to tell us Bill? A desire to be “punished” perhaps?
    XD

  52. #52 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    Gyeong Hwa:

    Is there something you wish to tell us Bill?

    Just a nod to a pervasive Pharyngulan trope! ;^)

    Actually, I’ve confessed an interest in that area here before, but to date (and AFAIK this is not likely to change), it’s purely theoretical/voyeuristic. My actual life is boringly plain vanilla.

  53. #53 Knockgoats
    February 8, 2010

    GeorgeFromNY,

    Do you/did you/would you hit your children?

  54. #54 Louis
    February 8, 2010

    When I was at boarding school we used to get spanked if we were especially bad that week. Usually it was the headmaster with his cane, but if he was absent then Matron used to do it with her tennis shoe. So if you were naughty the right week, you used to get smacked on your bare arse by a middle aged woman wielding a tennis shoe and telling you you were a ver naughty boy and how this hurt her more than it hurt you.*

    I have to pay upwards of 150 for that sort of thing nowadays.**

    Louis

    * This is all true.

    ** This….not so true. More “truthy” ;-)

  55. #55 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Lao Daung Duen
    February 8, 2010

    My actual life is boringly plain vanilla.

    What do you mean? Vanilla is quite delicious if the ice cream is made right.

  56. #56 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 8, 2010

    Oh, I never said the vanilla wasn’t delicious, did I? ;^)

  57. #57 j h woodyatt
    February 8, 2010

    You can probably expect Focus On The Patriarchy to line up dutifully on the side arguing that this was a clear and unacceptable case of child abuse.

    Now, if a father were to be caught waterboarding his twelve-year-old to get her to confess to being a lesbian or an atheist… that might be a different story.

  58. #58 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlARhxz_EZad2_PPNvQmVelK-U8LVLTYeA
    February 8, 2010

    #43 ConcernedFromNY:

    there seems to be another side to PZ me and his writing my parenting – that of a crude, reckless polemicist intemperate thug happy to disregard his my own standards children1 for an opportunity to take a shot at the religious beat the living crap out of them.

    Fixed that for ya.

    1 Of course, this assumes you actually are a parent, and not just chuntering on about something you have no experience of, but think of these as hypothetical children.

  59. #59 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlARhxz_EZad2_PPNvQmVelK-U8LVLTYeA
    February 8, 2010

    It’s also interesting how ConcernedFromNY puts punish in scarequotes – it almost makes me wonder if he has some even more nefarious justification for spanking of children.

  60. #60 monado
    February 8, 2010

    Ah… you guys did hear about the 16-y-o girl buried alive in Turkey for talking to boys? If she’d been frightened enough by being half-drowned at age 4 it might not have been “necessary.” Girls are drowned in Saudi Arabia for similar offences or for being uppity. Welcome to biblical childrearing, the teen years!

  61. #61 GeorgeFromNY
    February 9, 2010

    BillD,

    While I’m all for minding the slippery slope, I think stating

    “? but social acceptance of any form of violence against children is not as big a step as you seem to think from the kind of abuse described in this story,”

    is more like jumping off a cliff. That’s my point about PZ’s original comment; claiming ‘this (religious) guy approves of spanking, therefore he’d approve of what Tabot did’ is absurd.

    I think this is implicitly acknowledged if we resort to catch-all terms like “violence against children” to describe spanking. As “violence against children” would perforce cover everything from a swat on the butt to knocking a child clear across a room, the very extensibility of the term argues against its utility.

  62. #62 Ichthyic
    February 9, 2010

    the very extensibility of the term argues against its utility.

    but only if you apply binary thinking to it, right?

    it’s utility is restored nicely if you apply a gradient scale.

  63. #63 shonny
    February 9, 2010

    Sounds a bit like the old sage ‘You have to be cruel to be kind’, which is the usual biblical bullshit.
    Kinda trying to explain why yahweh is described as a psychopathic, murderous, vengeful asshole, but he loves you?

    Was at the receiving end of physical punishment as a kid, but that was like water off a duck’s back. As soon as the bum had cooled down, the pain was forgotten.
    My younger brother screamed the house down, so he got off very lightly, the bastard, because he really had deserved it.
    Now, of course, here in Scandinavia corporal punishment of children is unlawful.
    But it still happens, and an 8 year old boy was bashed to death after a long period of abuse by his step-father, and the step-father only got 8 years imprisonment.

  64. #64 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 9, 2010

    GFNY (@61):

    While I’m all for minding the slippery slope, I think stating

    “? but social acceptance of any form of violence against children is not as big a step as you seem to think from the kind of abuse described in this story,”

    is more like jumping off a cliff.

    I strongly disagree that it’s a slippery slope argument; instead, it’s an argument about where we build our social foundation. There’s an old joke about a man who approaches an attractive woman at a cocktail party:

    Man: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?

    Woman: Sure, I guess.

    Man: Well, in that case, would you do me for $50?

    Man: What do you think I am? Some kind of whore???

    Man: We’ve already established that; we’re just dickering over the price.

    In a very real sense, once you’ve accepted any sort of physical battery of a child, no matter how mild and careful, as legitimate punishment, everything else is just “dickering over the price.” I’m not suggesting that in a world that rejected spanking, there would be no child abuse; I am suggesting that in such a world, no child abuser would be able to justify abuse — not to him/herself nor to others — as “punishment.”

    I remain convinced that, short of actual self-defense, there is never any legitimate reason for a parent to hit a child… and I’m pretty sure we’d have a better, saner society if we gave up all the excuses we make for parents who do so. Let’s obviate the need to “dicker over the price” by not being “whores” in the first place

    shonny (@63):

    Was at the receiving end of physical punishment as a kid, but that was like water off a duck’s back. As soon as the bum had cooled down, the pain was forgotten.

    Yah, that was my experience, too (except when my Dad lost his temper and went beyond spanking, into things like throwing full glasses of iced tea at my head or literally kicking my ass). My concern is not so much that ordinary spanking does much harm to kids, but that social acceptance of spanking harms society.

    ¹ My choice of metaphor here should in no way be taken as condemnation of actual sex workers, whom I generally accept as either (depending on their particular circumstances) victims themselves or people engaged in honest work.

  65. #65 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 9, 2010

    Ooops… cut-and-paste error in my jokescript @64; I think y’all can figure out what it was supposed to be.

  66. #66 GeorgeFromNY
    February 9, 2010

    BillD,

    “In a very real sense, once you’ve accepted any sort of physical battery of a child, no matter how mild and careful, as legitimate punishment, everything else is just “dickering over the price.”

    But this elides the central point, which is that HOW and WHY you do something can be as important, if not more than, WHETHER you do it.

    And… ‘physical battery of a child?’ Do you mean battery in the legal sense or the common-usage sense? Because if we extend it to include something like spanking then again, as with the previously used ‘violence against children’ phrase, I think we’re stretching terms to absurd lengths.

    “I’m not suggesting that in a world that rejected spanking, there would be no child abuse; I am suggesting that in such a world, no child abuser would be able to justify abuse ? not to him/herself nor to others ? as “punishment.”

    Fine, but to what effect? The Joshua Tabors among us already live in a world (Movie Trailer Voice: “In a world…”) where his conduct is overwhelmingly viewed as monstrous and not any kind of acceptable parental discipline. Social mores clearly hold no restraining power over such people, even those not as unhinged as Tabor apparently is.

  67. #67 Bill Dauphin, OM
    February 9, 2010

    GFNY:

    But this elides the central point, which is that HOW and WHY you do something can be as important, if not more than, WHETHER you do it.

    Er… um… whuh?

    And… ‘physical battery of a child?’ Do you mean battery in the legal sense or the common-usage sense?

    I mean hitting, dammit, and similar methods of inflicting pain; don’t be obtuse.

    Because if we extend it to include something like spanking then again, as with the previously used ‘violence against children’ phrase, I think we’re stretching terms to absurd lengths.

    Inflicting pain is inflicting pain; my whole point is that the existence of socially acceptable forms of violence creates the risk of people conflating them with unacceptable forms. Hence…

    The Joshua Tabors among us already live in a world … where his conduct is overwhelmingly viewed as monstrous and not any kind of acceptable parental discipline.

    …I disagree. He justified his actions to himself by characterizing them as punishment. That’s crazy, of course, but it’s a species craziness that’s potentially enabled by the fact that we allow people who aren’t officially either crazy or criminal to hit their children.

  68. #68 GeorgeFromNY
    February 18, 2010

    Bill, sorry for the late reply, but I was busy with WoW. :)

    Ok, I wrote:

    “But this elides the central point, which is that HOW and WHY you do something can be as important, if not more than, WHETHER you do it.”

    To which you responded:

    “Er… um… whuh?”

    Which part of what I wrote is not clear, Bill? I was merely restating the old apothegm that a difference of degree can be greater than one of kind.

    I was, in fact, echoing Ichthyic’s point (see above) about binary vs gradient thinking.

    You wrote:

    “I mean hitting, dammit, and similar methods of inflicting pain; don’t be obtuse.”

    I am NOT being obtuse; I being precise – hence my refusal to lump the specific act of spanking into broader categories like “violence against children” or “hitting kids.”

    You seem rather stuck on this, as you reply

    “Inflicting pain is inflicting pain;”

    but my whole point is that the very argument we’re having here demonstrates the problem with such absolutist, reductionist notions.

    If we draw a giant, bright line between “inflicting pain” versus not “inflicting pain,” everything from the mildest swat on the rump to savage, crippling injury will be on the same side of that line. This strikes me as absurd and useless as either moral or practical parental guidance.

    As for your concern:

    “the existence of socially acceptable forms of violence creates the risk of people conflating them with unacceptable forms.”

    Yes, it does. But isn’t this true anyway? You’ve identified what I would call an existential problem of human living, not an argument against spanking.

    There are many socially acceptable forms of violence, right up to lethal force in self-defense. Shall we abjure all of them, lest we unwittingly provide the fevered mind of some psychopath with justification for his rampage?

    You end with:

    “That’s crazy, of course, but it’s a species craziness that’s potentially enabled by the fact that we allow people who aren’t officially either crazy or criminal to hit their children.”

    We also allow people who aren’t officially either crazy or criminal to confine their children against their will – sending them to their rooms, grounding them, enforcing curfews and the like.

    Does this potentially enable those who think it appropriate to chain their kids up in basements and attics, as some have infamously done?

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