{discipline punishment details}

Aside from the fact that periodically I fail to dress myself appropriately, let alone make balanced meals, and let’s not mention my basic bone-deep laziness, I know I am not appropriate parenting material. I see the world through some strange angles and I’m not sure I could raise someone to fit well with society. Also, there is discipline. I kind of lack it, and, one of my students informed me years ago, I am also Mean.

When I was teaching, I was known for having a well-ordered, quiet, tidy classroom, because frankly, the times when it was NOT those things, the fangs started itching and the horns started to sprout through my hair. I used to tell my fifth graders that a classroom was a dictatorship, not a democracy, and that I was their Dear Leader for the day. I forced my kids into a semblance of order because I needed order to be able to teach them – and here’s hoping that they benefited from the order, and learned.

I admit that I was probably a little (way?) too strict, though my mother, who terrified her students for twenty-five years, and now her grandchildren (well, none of them were ever really scared, but all the Littles know without a doubt when Teacher/Grandma’s patience is at An End) thinks I was an excellent disciplinarian. I am uneasy with that label, though. My students only obeyed because of my draconian tendencies to take their toys and have them run laps around the building or the playground when they talked and fidgeted, or go a period standing, when they continually tipped back their chairs. I was very quick to bring consequences, I sometimes raised my voice (well, it was fifth grade – sometimes that was the only way to be heard), and sometimes, I was Scary, and did I mention Mean? In all seriousness, I sometimes wonder at the present-day effect of some of my disciplinary tactics from back then.

If you’re wondering what’s brought on this examination of past punishments I have imposed, it’s the case of the woman in Cleveland who drove on the sidewalk. She was in a hurry – every morning, apparently – and, every morning when the school bus stopped to pick up kids, she went around to the sidewalk to avoid stopping when the red lights flashed. The bus driver, aghast, filmed her little trick, and now:

The judge sentenced Hardin to pay $250 in court costs and suspended her license for 30 days and more.

Hardin must also stand at the intersection of E. 38th Street and Payne Avenue wearing a sign next Tuesday and Wednesday that says “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She has been ordered to wear the sign from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. both days.

At first blush, this might seem a success. Everyone sees that Crime Doesn’t Pay. The kids see a person who broke the rules humiliated. The parents, other drivers who didn’t drive on the walk, and the bus driver all feel vindicated. Everybody wins!


Why the word “idiot?” Doesn’t the English language lend itself to other descriptors which don’t also double as name-calling pejoratives? And, sure, she’s lost her license for what is clearly a violation of the vehicle code, and she’s had a pinch in her wallet, but I’m a little surprised that no one is addressing the real issue: she felt her time and her life was more important than the safety of others. To me, that needs to be looked at. Is this lady just a traffic violator, or a sociopath?

As a deterrent – a threat – the sign probably works. People will think twice before attempting something so stupid. But as a corrective, redemptive device, it fails. Is this lady going to love her fellowman that much better, and place their safety above her own, after weeks of being mocked by school children and their parents? Is she learning more than just loathing for the judge who sentenced her? Is she actually examining how her choices brought her to this sorry pass? How is calling someone an idiot rehabilitative?

Do you see why I don’t have kids (and am not in the legal profession)? I’d be on the floor, every day, trying to figure out how on earth I was supposed to civilize the random impulses we all have to be idiots every day.

I hope this lady gets therapy, sensitivity training, anger management. I have a feeling she’s going to need all three.

7 Replies to “{discipline punishment details}”

  1. I was all of those things you are before I had children. And I’m a pretty good mom. (Just saying.)

    What I have learned, not just as a mother, but as an evolving human, is that SHAME should never be used as discipline. Our country is very shame-centric and we are currently the most obese, medicated, indebted, addicted, and (dare I say it?) numb populace in history. It doesn’t work except to leave lasting scars on the psyche, which are then dealt with in a variety of unhealthy ways, including using one’s children as targets for one’s unexpressed rage.

    Better to channel this woman’s energy into community service at a children’s hospital for sick or brain injured kids–because that’s where they take the kids who are hit by drivers avoiding stopping for two minutes for the school bus.

    1. YES. I think that’s exactly to what I was objecting – the shame. The humiliation. The idea that she’s supposed to learn to do better from that. It never works, it only drives the self-sickness deeper… because the driving on the sidewalk thing is deeply symptomatic of something not right inside… I think the community service option is a really good one.

      Incidentally, I cannot imagine standing-on-her-head-yoga-diva as lazy and ill-dressed in any way. Can’t.

  2. It’s a bit more than a pinch in her pocketbook, having the license suspended: she’s going to have to find somebody else to take her kid(s) to school, as well, and likely share that person’s costs.

    I think “only someone horribly self-centered” would be better than “only an idiot.”

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