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Debate Over Paddling

After reading the article on Assemblyman Mickey Conroy’s paddling legislation (“Legislators Brace for Debate on Paddling,” Jan. 28), I found myself in the most unlikely situation of having the same sentiments as the Orange County Republican--with one subtle difference. While Conroy eagerly awaits his opportunity to legally swat juvenile offenders with a slab of wood, I see paddling as a great form of punishment--for legislators.

How’s this: For each day the state Legislature fails to pass a budget on time, California citizens may whack their elected representative on the buttocks! I can’t wait! Based on the past couple of years’ molasses-like progress, I’m sure my 30, 40, heck, possibly 50 swats will give me a workout that the StairMaster only wishes it could deliver!

DAVID GERSHWIN

Los Angeles

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* Since the vast majority of prison inmates were physically abused as children, I fail to see how institutionalizing abuse will prevent future criminals. If the humiliation of being abused in private can be a major force in creating a criminal, what kind of horror would we be unleashing with the public humiliation of paddling?

JEANNE DOUGLAS

Los Angeles

* The pending legislation to allow corporal punishment in California schools is but one more thinly veiled subterfuge for racial abuse. At present, even under strictly regulated disciplinary procedures, elementary students in urban schools are routinely subjected to harsh and humiliating verbal outbursts by authority figures. Children are routinely repressed into frightened submission at the expense both of self-esteem and effective learning.

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Schools with a more privileged clientele would never seriously consider corporal punishment as a disciplinary option, law or no law, because parents would simply not permit it.

Imagine the pressure that will be brought to bear on disadvantaged families. For them, a sensitive, rational response to normal, age-appropriate limit-testing has become an unaffordable luxury; only strict adherence to the rules of absolute conformity seems to promise a viable future for their children. Unrestrained authoritarian speech should concern us; the prospect of untied authoritarian hands should terrify us.

MIRIAM ELKINS

Los Angeles

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