Update 1: How do you think Tommy Jordan will spend his $50,000 prize from Google for his antics?
Update 2: I agree with Anonymous (see Comments) that a secondary moral lesson in the Story of Tommy Jordan is about the oxymoron of online privacy. However, Mr. Jordan’s methods do nothing “to socialize, to internalize [those] values” either.
Tommy Jordan got
what he deserves: a long chat with (and some parenting tips from) North Carolina Child Protective Services. No, I didn’t call them. But I'm glad someone did!
Public humiliation and graphic violence (against laptops…or whatever), are bad parenting because they are bad examples. Yes, it may make some parents feel good. Yes, I have no doubt the cops said “Kudos, sir” to Jordan. But that doesn’t make it right.
Is it “child abuse?” We should not fail to recognize that the difference is one of degree, not kind. As Elizabeth Wilson notes: “Destruction of property is almost always included in the definitions of domestic violence.” So the best we can say about Jordan’s outburst is: “Well, at least he isn’t beating his children or indoctrinating them in his own religion.” Well, not on YouTube anyway.
In educating children, particularly very young children, we're socializing them—teaching them to live in the world, that violence is not an appropriate solution to problems. Yes, the Power Rangers and other so-called heroes use violence. The producers say, “They're doing it to a good end,” but the end doesn't justify the means. We're teaching kids that violence is an appropriate mechanism for problem solving. That's disastrous. If you don't like what you see in society, you drop a bomb, or pull a knife or pistol…But I know words can work. I've watched it work on our playgrounds. You must learn that in life. But we don't learn it. We whack our spouse and we whack our kids. Corporal punishment doesn't work; we should be teaching positive discipline. When we teach corporal punishment, we're teaching violence as an appropriate solution to problems. Surveys of prison inmates have shown that over ninety percent were subjected to corporal punishment when they were young. Did it work with them? Obviously not. You've got to take the more patient approach and reach the minds of children—teach them to socialize, to internalize values. Then they're going to be good when they're away from you. That's what positive discipline does.
- Bob Keeshan (TV's Captain Kangaroo). 1996.
I expect to hear more from the Tommy Jordan school of parenting before the US election is over. The Right has been trying to use “parental rights” as a wedge issue in the culture war for some time now, and an Optional Protocol to the 20+ year-old (but still not ratified by the US) Convention on the Rights of the Child will open for signatures on February 28th. Like with other issues, don’t expect to learn much by following the public debate by the candidates. And please be careful with those rusty butter knives.