Ask the Experts: Questions Answered with Spanking Researcher Phil Davis

For more than two decades, Georgia State University professors Phillip Davis has studied corporal punishment as a form of discipline in the home. Today, you can find him in his office atop a downtown Atlanta high-rise, nestled in a mountain of books, research papers and students’ work that seems nearly as tall as the building. Through his largely survey- and interview- based research, Davis has taken a variety of approaches to assessing the dynamic of spanking, slapping, whipping and other forms of corporal punishment within American households. “Nine out of 10 people have done it, and nine out of 10 adults got it when they were kids in one way or another,” Davis said. “ Most who use it grew up with it, so it’s all very normal — as in ancient history.”

And, in fact, corporal punishment is a practice that dates back to ancient history in varying forms, but the ancient practice has been coming under some very modern scrutiny.

Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer/Flickr

Spanking at Home and in the Classroom, What’s Right and Wrong?

A recent YouTube video of a Texas judge beating his then 16-year-old daughter with a leather belt has reignited the debate over the effectiveness and morality of corporal punishment in the home. Judge William Adams, 51, contended he did nothing wrong and was simply punishing his daughter for stealing after the teen was caught downloading illegally distributed music from the internet. Local police in Aransas, Texas have launched an investigation into the judges actions, but under state law — provided the actions were administered in the interest of “reasonable punishment” – prosecutors may not have a statute to stand on. Corporal punishment in the home had long been permissible under Texas law, and in 2005 state legislators took steps to strengthen those rights. House Bill 383 effectively set the standard for parental discipline as “reasonable punishment” and placed the burden of proof for abuse cases in the hands of the prosecutors.

Flogging is “Unsettling” but Better Than Prison, Says Criminal Justice Expert

At first glance, flogging appears to be an archaic, cruel punishment too reminiscent of the Dark Ages.  But former police officer and current criminal justice professor Peter Moskos thinks flogging could be one solution to many of the problems facing the criminal justice system — problems such as overcrowding.  Moskos’ new book, In Defense of Flogging, lays out his argument. In an interview with Salon.com, Moskos said he thinks when compared to prison, flogging is “the lesser of two evils.”

“Taking away a significant chunk of someone’s life is far worse than any punishment that is virtually instantaneous,” he told Salon.  “We should be honest about prison and recognize that we’re sentencing people to years of confinement and torture.”

Moskos admits that flogging isn’t a likely alternative to incarceration, but hopes his book will get people thinking outside the box. “I wanted to throw a hand grenade into this debate because I don’t really see it going anywhere,” he said.

Rural GA schools still spanking

More than 28,500 students were spanked as a form of discipline in Georgia public schools last year. The latest annual report is out from the Georgia Department of Education called Counts of Discipline Actions. It reveals that corporal punishment was more prevalent in rural counties and in the southern parts of the state. Laurens County led the state with more than 2,400 students who got paddled. Randolph County was second, with almost 1600 students getting corporal punishment in 2009.