Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Crime and Punishment

Margaret and Nyssa: Posing in the pillory. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Civilization is built on a number of ultimate principles...respect for human life, the punishment of crimes against property and persons, the equality of all good citizens before the law...or, in a word justice." ~ Max Nordau
This "pillory" was built just outside the courthouse on Duke of Gloucester street in Williamsburg. Petty criminals were punished here, arms and head held immobile for several hours in front of family, friends and the community. This form of public humiliation invited public participation, as insults and objects were often hurled at the occupants. This seems like a cruel form of punishment but public humiliation or "peer pressure" can be effective.

Nyssa has always been well-behaved; at least most of the time. There were a couple of incidents when she was two, but they were minor and expected at that age. Only twice did I receive notes from her teachers regarding disruptive behavior in the classroom. I handled them both in a similar fashion. (Continued)

Nyssa sat in front of Aaron in first grade. Aaron was as cute as a button, and a young Southern gentleman. Nyssa had long blonde curls that we usually kept in a ponytail but this must have been picture day, as her hair was down. She had a first grade crush on Aaron and every so often during the day she tilted her head back and swished her hair across Aaron's desk to get his attention; this made it impossible for him to copy his spelling words. The teacher must have reprimanded her several times but she forgot herself and the "tilt and swish" would start again; thus the note.

I give Nyssa points for giving me the note, some children wouldn't have. A lecture and a spanking and hugs and kisses followed. She promised never to do it again, but six year olds have short memories; she needed something to cap it off; consequences to burn it into that computer in her head. I wrote a note back to the teacher explaining what Nyssa needed to do. I went over the instructions with her before school. After the class assembled in their room, Nyssa was to raise her hand and ask the teacher if she could speak to the class. Then she was to stand in front of the whole class and apologize: to the teacher for being disobedient, to the class for disrupting their day and to Aaron for the "tilt and swish". The teacher signed the note, proving my instructions were followed and Nyssa brought it back home. She cried, she made it through her little speech and the system worked! I never received any more notes.

Nyssa and her friend, Margaret were just posing here. But what mother of teenage children hasn't dreamed of being able to harness that hormonal burst of adolescence and all it entails? Who hasn't pulled their hair out or turned gray surviving those teenage years? Perhaps the pillory should make a comeback? It might at least deter those pesky boys that show up at the front door for your daughter's date! Oh yes!

Submission for PhotoTuesday topic "justice". (end of post)

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