Learning from the Adrian Peterson experience

Adrian PetersonBY DAVID TILSEN

I am disturbed by the reaction to the beating by Adrian Peterson of his son.  The “enlightened” members of the press and the community are quick to condemn him, and urge the Vikings to deprive him of his chosen career.  It is as if we believe that if we put this one person in prison, that the aberration has been dealt with and all is well with the world.
In 1986, as a member of the Minneapolis School Board, I led an effort to change the policy to disallow corporal punishment.  Let me emphasize the year.  It is really not that long ago.  It was a tumultuous debate, with principals and teachers warning the board that it would not be possible to manage a middle school without the threat of the paddle.  The effort was successful, but it was a close vote, and the result was in doubt until the end.  This vote, among others, earned me the enmity of the principals’ organization.
We can change brutal societal norms.  Within my lifetime, lynching was acceptable in some parts of this country.  The change will come with education, and parenting assistance.  It will not come by treating each case as an anomalous aberration.
There is evidence that the epidemic of domestic violence can be traced to being beaten as a child.  One child development expert testified that a parent’s hitting a young child conveys the value that it is appropriate to hit the people we love.  I don’t think any parent really wants to give their child this message.
Organizations like Parent’s Anonymous and Early Childhood/Family Education are some of the groups of hard-working people helping parents find alternative ways of disciplining and educating children.  Mr. Peterson, his community and our community need to be educated.  I don’t know if incarceration is the answer in this case. It depends on the facts, which I do not have, but I do know that we    are squandering a teachable moment here.
I hope we can move to a less violent society, let’s seize this moment.  If you want to talk to me about this please drop me an email to stop by to talk.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 20, 1986, “School Board votes to end policy allowing corporal punishment”:
“Minneapolis public school principals may no longer spank students, even when parents say it’s OK.
“The school board Tuesday narrowly killed a 10-year formal policy that allowed principals to mete out corporal punishment with parental permission.
“ ‘If we hurry we can get into the 20th century before it’s over,’ said board member Tilsen, who pushed for abolishing the policy.
“The vote followed a half-hour debate among board members and pleas from a former teacher who likened corporal punishment to child abuse.
“ ‘I guess if that’s the way the board decides we’re going to do business, then that’s the way we’ll do business,’ said Olson, principal at Lincoln Fundamentals School.
“Olson, a 30-year employee of the school district, said he has used a ping-pong paddle two or three times a year to swat students on the buttocks.
“Said Tilsen: ‘I wish we were dealing with graver issues. But I feel strongly about it. The argument that it’s OK to leave (as a policy) because it doesn’t happen very often is beside the point. The issue is whether it’s appropriate for our employees to hit students. In 1986 we have better ways to educate our students than to strike them or threaten to strike them.’
“Claudia Hexter, a former private school teacher, criticized the policy as encouraging violence. ‘Since the Minneapolis public schools are in the process of educating children about child abuse, it seems counterproductive to tell them they can be safe at home and not in schools,’ she said.”

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