Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Strap

As I mentioned before, the book I'm reading with the BG's group is set in Michigan in 1963. Unsurprisingly, it has a lot more bullying and corporal punishment than today. Today, we talked about an incident where the older "delinquent" brother straightens his hair, something his parents have expressly forbidden. After the angry mother delivers the "Wait 'til your father gets home" admonition, the children get ready for the "whipping" the older brother is certain to receive.

As it turns out, the father shaves his son's head, rather than beating him, and there was much discussion of the appropriateness of his response. Amazingly to me, the kids seemed to think that it was measured and deserved. "What has happened to the righteous indignance of youth?" I wondered. The times they are a changin'.

Following on that thread, I told the students about discipline at St. Anne's, my elementary school in Windsor, Ontario. At St. Anne's, egregious misbehavior was rewarded with a trip to the Principal's office and the administering of a blow from "The Strap" a short, thick leather belt speckled with tiny nubs to enhance its, um, effectiveness. They were wide-eyed and rapt, and as I think about it, it's amazing that something that seems so weird now--misbehaving students were beaten by city employees--was just a natural part of life.

The book also involves a long family car trip, and we talked about games you can play to pass the time. I mentioned 20 questions, and the geography game, where each player must name a place that begins with the last letter of the previous location. One of the students taught me a related version, where each player must come up with a place and an occupation to go with their name: we all took a turn. "I am Brian from Brunei and I am a Book Group Leader" was my contribution.

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