Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #2

B. The Cognitive Damage

1. Punishments/penalties are all artificial consequences, contrived ones. It is not really a simple ‘cause and effect’ phenomenon when some active agent chooses the effect for a cause. In this way, our contrived consequences are substituted for the real world, natural consequences a child may experience when he explores or misbehaves, and therefore any real world learning experience is circumvented. This is the function that is in play when we note, through many good studies that corporal punishment hampers cognitive development.

When standardized punishments are substituted for the nearly infinite number of random real world consequences of childhood exploration as well as misdeeds, the vast and varied learning that may have happened is severely lessened, and the only learning that does happen is artificial and contrived. This is definitive of serious arrested cognitive development. It follows that the resulting impairment of thought will vary, of course with many factors, but certainly with the degree to which a child is controlled. A child who has more real world learning experience will be better able to process information regarding the real world than one whose learning years held few real world mistakes and learning opportunities.

2. Of course, parents need to protect their children from extreme danger. Life and limb certainly take priority over individual missed opportunities for real world learning. These safety hazards are not the most common situations parents and children face, however, and this is not a valid argument for the use of punishment generally.

Some may say that children need to be punished to learn to obey in every situation, so that their obedience will be guaranteed when there does arise a hazard, a real threat to life and limb, that a child needs to be conditioned to obey so that he may be ordered away from a street or a river and will comply immediately. This, I would say is a valid argument only if this sort of conditioning didn’t have a serious down-side. I believe that the damages that result from punishing, and certainly from the all-encompassing environment of punishment that this argument implies, brings a terrible cost also, up to and including a considerable cost of life and limb, in the form of violence, crime and suicide, along with the many social costs that are not as visible, that result from the cognitive hobbling that is produced by these methods.

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