Dear Principal: Please Get Rid of the Cameras

Readers — Here’s a great letter by George Mason economist Alex Tabarrok that he graciously allowed me to lift from his blog, Marginal Revolution. – L.

Dear Principal _____,

Thank you for requesting feedback about the installation of interior cameras at the high school. I am against the use of cameras. I visited the school recently to pick up my son and it was like visiting a prison. A police car often sits outside the school and upon entry a security guard directs visitors to the main office where the visitor’s drivers license is scanned and information including date of birth is collected (is this information checked against other records and kept in a database for future reference? It’s unclear). The visitor is then photographed and issued a photo pass. I found the experience oppressive  Adding cameras will only add to the prison-like atmosphere. The response, of course, will be that these measures are necessary for “safety.” As with security measures at the airports I doubt that these measures increase actual safety, instead they are security theater, a play that we put on that looks like security but really is not.

Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today. Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before.

When we surround our students with security we are implicitly telling them that the world is dangerous; we are whispering in their ear, “Be afraid, do not venture out, take no risks.” When going to school requires police, security guards and cameras how can I encourage my child to travel to foreign countries, to seek new experiences, to meet people of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds? When my child leaves school how will the atmosphere of fear that he has grown up in affect his view of the world and the choices he will make as a citizen in our democracy? School teaches more than words in books.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Tabarrok

Thanks, but no thanks, bro.

127 Responses to Dear Principal: Please Get Rid of the Cameras

  1. hineata February 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Thank you, Alex Tabarrok! With you all the way. Just so glad I don’t have to deal with this crap! Sympathies to those that do.

  2. Library Diva February 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    What angers me about them, too, is that there always seems to be money for this stuff. Even when they’re cutting sports, cutting drama, cutting cool electives like Japanese, increasing class sizes, putting off capital improvement projects, eliminating field trips, slashing jobs and asking the unions for concessions, there’s always money for the damn cameras, school resources officers, buzzers, metal detectors, etc.

    In most American schools, these things aren’t needed at all and do little more than inconvience everyone who comes to the school. Schools that have lots of students who are in gangs may need them, but even then, they need to be paired with more long-term solutions. And maybe if their schools weren’t so shamefully underfunded, the students would respect them a little more. Until a couple of years ago when the school closed and my polling place change, I voted in a high school that literally had paint peeling off its walls for years. What kind of learning environment is that?

  3. Warren February 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Keep on them. All those measures are insane. You have more understanding and patience than I do. I wouldnt go thru all that to pick my kid up early. I would sit in the car and wait for them outside.

    A phone call to the office, “Yes, I am outside, yes I am not coming in. Send out my boy. Thank you very much.”

    Your kid, they cannot, I repeat cannot deny you.

  4. Kari February 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Completely agree. My daughter’s high school in Annapolis, MD began requiring that students wear their ID’s on lanyards (a well-known choking and germ transmission mechanism) while on school grounds. The idea was that all of the creeps trying to sneak into the building posing as students would then be thwarted.

    While at her school today for another matter, I asked the front office folks how many would-be imposters have been caught now that they have this fabulous new system in place. They all looked around at each other, completely confused. Of course, the answer is zero.

    Now I’d like to know how much the ID and lanyard system cost, and what the school ISN’T spending money on so they can roll out this bit of “security theater” (well said, Alex!). Our school budget now contains about a MILLION dollars per YEAR for security measure improvement. I’m predicting concertina wire in the near future.

  5. Ravana February 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Where the heck is that school? Over the top security measures for sure.

  6. Warren February 15, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    The stupid thing is, you cannot prove them wrong.

    They will insist that if it saves even one kid’s life, it was worth it.

    We will say that there is no way they can prove it was their security that did that, and they will say we cannot prove it didn’t.

    And round and round we go, where we stop…………well the security guards should know, because it is all on camera, and tracking chips in the student ID.

  7. Emily February 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    My high school tried the whole check in at the office security nonsense on me once when I went to the school shortly after I finished my first degree in music, so I could distribute flyers for private clarinet lessons over the summer. However, the music teachers knew me, and basically told me that the next time I want to visit, I should come in the doors by the music department, because if I signed in at the office, I’d have to STAY in the office, and they’d bring the person I wanted to talk to, to me, unless that person was in class/teaching, in which case I’d have to wait. But then, after that exchange, the office people kind of tacitly admitted that they thought it was silly too, because they knew me from my days as a student there, and remembered me from the mural in the cafeteria that I designed and helped paint the year I graduated, and from seeing my name on various awards around the school. I guess what I’m trying to say is, they knew I was a decent person, and acknowledged that graduating from high school didn’t make me a criminal.

  8. Captain America February 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Alex, this is a very good letter.

    I would point out that the more we make schools resemble penal institutions, the easier it becomes to strip away individual rights and liberties.

    We institutionalize ourselves. We lose our autonomy.

  9. Warren February 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    But what is to say that you didn’t become a criminal, after high school? Just kidding, just playing.

    Unfortunately in some schools it sounds like you are actually at risk of facing an armed guard, if you fail to follow procedure, and risk sending the entire school into lockdown.

  10. joanne February 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Wow. I wouldn’t have gone through the initial phases. I would not let my license be scanned, nor would I pose for a photo ID badge. I’ve been to major companies with actual trade secrets who have had less security than this to visit someone in the facility.

  11. Peter February 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    The stupid thing is, you cannot prove them wrong. […] We will say that there is no way they can prove it was their security that did that, and they will say we cannot prove it didn’t.

    Sarcasm works well.

    “Why did we waste money on this? I have a rock in my pocket that keeps away child predators and I would be glad to donate it to the school.”

    Also get a copy of the Simpson’s episode “Much Apu About Nothing” and show them the scene with Homer and Lisa and her “Tiger-repelling rock.”

  12. Cari February 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Love the letter Alex! Recently my county’s school system has totally implemented their “new security measures.” These measures include all outside doors being locked (buzzer to get in — unfortunately, the front office isn’t always staffed or quick to respond to the buzz), driver’s license/state issued ID turned in at the office meaning we have to return to pick it up as well as sign in and out and get a visitor’s pass. All in the name of safety. I think a better “safety” solution would be get to know the parents and those that have business at the school.

  13. Emily February 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    First of all, Warren, you’re right. I feel fortunate that my high school was, and is, relatively reasonable when it came to security/safety measures. We never had metal detectors, and the police officers that were phased in when I was in grade twelve or so, basically acted as furniture (and occasionally extra security at school dances), unless someone actually did something CRIMINAL, like physical fighting, weapons, or coming to school stoned. Normal misbehaviour was handled by teachers and/or administration. Nowadays, after that brief blip of insanity I mentioned upthread, well-known alumni are welcomed instead of being cross-examined. Because of this, I never felt like a prisoner when I was a student at that school, but rather, as a member of a community. When I visit now, I feel the same way, because the overall mentality there seems to be that, at a certain point, a line has to be drawn between protecting students from unlikely things that COULD happen, and allowing them to have a happy, healthy, and positive school experience, that naturally includes some element of risk.

    Second of all……this is only somewhat related, but when my brother was in grade six or so, he’d just been shuttled to his third school in as many years, because the Gifted program had moved. I was qualified to be in that program as well, but I’d opted out, because of the constant switching of schools it would have required. Anyway, at some point that year, there was a problem with vandalism in the boys’ bathroom, so the vice-principal’s solution was to remove all the doors from the stalls, and then lecture the boys about how “doors were a privilege.” My mom had words with the vice-principal, who then changed his story and said that the doors had just been taken down to be painted (flimsy excuse; it’d be easier to re-paint the doors without removing them), and then, the next day, the stall doors were back up.

  14. Suzanne February 16, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    My kids’ school has camera’s in some areas. I have never understood why, since they are very carefree about people walking in and out and anyone picking up the kids. But it does make me think about some issues.
    My youngest (in pre-school) let me know that her teacher smacked her for not obeying. She was pretty upset. When I went to the principal with the issue, they simply said that it was her imagination. It’s the word of a teacher against a 3-year-old. Guess who will be believed?
    My oldest (9 years) let me know that is was normal (I have to add here that I’m living in a developing country, where it is illegal but generally accepted that kids get smacked at school) and that her little sister just had to learn to live with it.
    I agree with learning to live with risk. But what if the risk is 100% instead of 5%? The worst that I saw was a hand print on my daughter’s thigh, and it did heal. But this does not mean that it is acceptable to me.
    A camera would have prevented it, or at least given me prove.

  15. Warren February 16, 2013 at 1:36 am #


    First I am sorry for you kids. That should not happen.

    I have to ask, does this mean you are taking the stance, better safe than sorry?

    What you are saying about something being a 100% risk doesn’t make any sense.

    If there is only a 5% risk of injury, then the odds are 95% in your favour that you won’t be injured.
    If there is a 100% chance of injury, who in their right mind would attempt it. Wouldn’t matter if there were cameras or the national guard. One would think, you wouldn’t do whatever it is.

    Even in this school with the all the steps and measures will not protect against attacks. All it will mean is the perp will be in the halls with a photo pass. And lots of cameras to film the carnage.

    We as parents have a choice to make, either we accept that in life there are risks, and some of them we cannot predict, prepare or protect against.


    We can construct schools, with steel re-enforced concrete, at least 36″ thick. No windows, closed secure ventilation systems, inmate/student movement closely restricted. No parents, volunteers, or outsiders allowed in, ever. No exceptions. All entrances monitored with metal detectors, radiation detectors, and explosive sniffing dogs. Regular armed hallway patrols. Teachers to be stripped searched each and every time they enter and exit a building. Regular head counts. Entrances to be barricaded, much like military bases and embassys on foreign lands. School buses will have drive in, secure bays for loading and unloading of students. Cameras will monitor everything, even while using the restrooms and showers. And so on.

    But like any security system, if someone really wants around it, they will find a way.

    Bad things happen to good people, people are killed, kids die, and it is all horrible. But contrary to what the media and some people would have you believe, they are not all preventable.

  16. hineata February 16, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    How I love my son’s state high school, which is built beside a river, with a public pathway at the back of it. I can and do sometimes cut through the school grounds from the river to the street, as it’s faster to get to town than walking right along the towpath to the end. No nonsense about going through the office – you only do that if you have actual business with the school.

    Public schools are paid for with public money, and should be reasonably open to the public, provided they are not interfering with the running of the programme (eg, don’t take your preschool kids to play in the school playground during the school day – very distracting to the poor kids stuck inside!).

    I can’t believe all the nonsense some of you have to put up with. Once again, my sympathies….

  17. Suzanne February 16, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    What I mean with 100% is that surely my kids will be smacked by teachers at some point in their years at school. And that is ridiculous to me. That is not a ‘risk’ anymore, but a fact. My oldest daughter simply shrugs it off with a ‘that’s how it is’ attitude, and on one hand I’m proud at her for that (that she doesn’t let it get to her), but on the other hand it is sad as well.

    I am trying to fight for a change. There is an organization of lawyers in our country supporting the parents in this and they have spoken to the principle on our behalf as well (probably with more force and less emotion than I can manage).
    I wish I could move them to another school, but it’s the same at other schools. And homeschooling is illegal here. Not that I could muster up the energy for that!

    The principal keeps her stand that nothing like it happens in the school, but all the kids and parents know better. Sadly enough, most parents don’t care.

    I have witnessed a smacking with a ruler that just made me sick. Unfortunately, I did not have my phone with me to catch proof, and by the time I had run to my car and back, it was over. That teacher, however, knew that I had seen it, and she left the school two weeks later.

    Now, the principal has promised me to install CCTV in the classrooms of the little ones (Pre-school) who cannot speak for themselves. I won’t be surprised, however, if recordings are not made or disappear.

    In the mean time, yes, my kids will have to go back to that same school and fight the system with me. And I can only hope that it will make them stronger.

    I don’t want my kids to feel like they go to a prison and are guarded by ‘Big Brother’, but I do want the teachers to feel that they are watched at all times. Every coin has two sides.

    I do agree with your ‘free range kids’ idea, but am not sure where to draw the line at acceptable risk and risk that is not acceptable.

    Here, toddlers play next to a busy road without pavement, parents drive with babies on motorbikes, and leave two-year-old kids alone in the sea while they buy lunch.
    Of course, they think that I am crazy getted worked up about a teacher handing out a smack. It won’t kill them.
    Today I took my kids off a ride on the fair grounds, because I saw that the (open) rails of the rides were powered by 220 V with jumper cables connected to a generator. They were upset, because all the other kids got to go on that ride. Where is my limit?

  18. Michele February 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Spot on!

  19. nathaniel February 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Not just at schools, but everywhere I wonder about the effectiveness of requiring IDs. I am 100% sure these systems are not linked up to ay official sources that runs any sort of check. I guess if they actually write down the info, if something happens they can use the information to catch someone later, but it still does no good as a preventative measure. The worst are the places that ask for ID, but don’t even write down the info. What good does looking at my ID do? Yep I am a person with an ID, and that does what?

  20. ebohlman February 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    Library Diva: In many places (for example here in Illinois) the money for this sort of stuff comes out of a separate budget (“life safety fund”) from the one that general operating/program expenses come out of, and which can’t be used to fund general expenses.

  21. Warren February 16, 2013 at 10:48 pm #


    Your situation is unique. Assaults by teachers in North America are handled quite differently, by the law and by parents.

    Personally speaking. A teacher assaults my kid, they best hope the police get to them, before I do.

    I to, have let my toddler, around two, play in the sand knee deep in water, while I was getting something from the car, or food truck. I could see them at all times, and also judged the distance I would have to cover as within my range. Again, a judgement call. I know my abilities and my kids capabilities. Really wouldn’t bother me to lose my fries and gravy in the sand, to make that mad dash.

    Back to the assault at the school. I would not subject my kid to that. If the principal isn’t doing anything, go to law enforcement. The media. I think you said you were out of country, so get the embassy involved. This is serious.

  22. hineata February 17, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    @Warren – yes, sometimes a forceful approach is appropriate to solving a situation. But I wonder if you have really thought about what you are advocating here.

    1/Embassies would be unlikely to become involved in a child being smacked at a school, (unless, possibly, it is an international school) because school discipline is generally a domestic matter, i.e. no business of foreign embassies. This might change if the child was being lashed, caned (like that idiot 18 year old American brat in Singapore a few years back, who deserved every cane he got), or otherwise severely brutalised, but a smack on the leg? No way, no how.

    2/ In much of the world, and most particularly the developing world, North Americans are not popular. This is unfair, but a fact of life. And every white person is usually considered an American.(I have a fair amount of experience in this. Most of the time when I travel I am the only white person in miles). So –

    If Suzanne is white, and she chooses to go to the media about her child being smacked, at the very best she is likely to make her home country/North America a laughing stock. At the worst, depending on the country she is living in, she could make life difficult and/or dangerous, not only for her own family but for any other whites/foreigners living in the area.

    Honestly, the American/Canadian/Western way of life is not the only one out there, and you need to remember that, whether we like how they do it or not, developing countries are sovereign nations that have the right to do things their own way. This includes the right to ignore individual rights. In many countries, no one will give a fig about you as an individual, or about your child/family. Particularly if you act as if you are a loud-mouthed, over-indulged Westerner.

    Note I said ‘act’. I am not saying you are one. And I’m sure neither is Suzanne, seeing she doesn’t appear to have done anything yet. But if you chose to do what you are advocating above, you would come across as one. And in the process you would likely solve absolutely nothing, and just add one more straw to the fire of anti-American, anti-Imperialist fervor that is rife around the world today.

  23. Suzanne February 17, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Thanks Warren,

    I’m not from the US, and cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a country where on one hand teenagers are driven to school by parents and watched at all times, while on the other hand kids get killed in mass shootings.

    I’m living in Thailand, where people pretty much still take care of their kids as if we were in the ’50s. Kids in the back of a pickup truck, seat belts and helmets are virtually non-existent, kids playing next to busy roads, street dogs, etc. But that combined with the technology and speed of today’s world.

    People here think I am crazy with my car seats, never allowing my kids on motorbikes, and joining them in the pool instead of giving them inflatable wings and dunking them in. Sometimes I do think that I am crazy, because to most kids not much happens. However, there is a high rate of freak accidents here involving kids and vehicles or power cables.

    My kids (like anyone in the world) do not want to stand out and be different. My main worry is not making them into fearful children, but that they will become like I was as a teenager and do everything that is not allowed anyway, but then behind my back. I survived my childhood, but I do know that I did take unnecessary risks back then.

  24. hineata February 17, 2013 at 4:28 am #

    I wonder if you’ve ever been the only white face in a crowd of people who follow a different religion, and who actively hate much of what America stands for.

    We were living in Malaysia in 2003, and I absolutely had to go out to get official papers signed the day George Bush made his appalling speech on ‘good’ and ‘evil, thus starting the Second Gulf War’. He was already a joke across the region, but on that day he became, surprise surprise, particularly unpopular (Malaysia being a Muslim country).

    Never have I felt more vulnerable or exposed than I was getting on to the bus that morning. Very fortunately, and to their credit, the people of Johore, a PAS stronghold (PAS is the more extreme of the Muslim political parties in Malaysia, with ties to Jemal? Islamiah) had a much better grasp on life, and much more generosity of spirit, than Mr Bush, and I was told that it wasn’t my fault, that it was ‘an American Government problem’, and I wasn’t beaten up etc. However, if they had chosen to beat me up, there would have been little I could have done about it, and not a lot of justice available afterward unless I had money to bribe various officials. And Malaysia is several steps up the ladder of ‘justice’ in a Western sense from other developing countries.

    Even you, with your undoubted physical superiority to myself, could have done little to halt a mob. And nothing much to get justice afterward. Because most of the world really doesn’t care much about you or me or our families. Or what we consider our ‘rights’.


  25. hineata February 17, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Sorry Suzanne, spent so long writing the above that I missed your post! Have only been to Thailand once, and then only to the southern part, but seen lots of the ‘babies on bikes’ stuff….Six or seven on a moped when I first was in Malaysia, seems to be down to only 3 or 4 these days, and then just in the back streets, progress maybe! Hope it begins to happen in your country.

    You write like a Westerner – did you study overseas? None of my business, of course, just curious :-).

  26. christine February 17, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Maybe it’s because I’m only 26, and because we had these measures in my schools it doesn’t seem that crazy to me. Most days all students had to go through metal detectors, we always had to have our ids with us, we had barbed wire (facing inward) around the track, there were cops, and there were cameras, although I’m pretty sure they didn’t all work.
    We also had gang violence. People were shot outside of the school and stabbed inside . We had lock downs due to riots.
    Sure, I hated standing outside in January when people were funneled through the security checkpoints, but we were used to it and I was never stabbed.

  27. Allen@Funny Baby Videos February 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I agree with much of what you wrote about. Security cameras will help identify someone after they have committed a crime, they don’t deter crime or stop a crime that is happening.

    Security cameras don’t make anyone more secure, they just make people more identifiable.

  28. hineata February 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Also, Suzanne, I am a little surprised that the principal of your daughter’s school would agree to have security cameras installed (if I am reading your post correctly). Are your children at private schools? It’s just that Thailand does not seem to be exactly rolling in money, and the money security cameras would cost would surely be better spent elsewhere in education.

    As, incidentally, would the money being spent on security in the OP.

  29. Caleb February 17, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Wonderful letter! I will steal the term, “Security theater.”

    Also it is good you pointed out the harm such “security” could cause. It is a good reply to the line, “If it saves only one life it is worth it.” That line can snuff the life out of life. Why ban sleds? “If it saves only one life it is worth it.” Why ban baseball bats? “If it saves only one life it is worth it.”

    I understand it was deemed a fire hazard to tape crayon pictures on the walls of classrooms. Paper and wax, you know. Dangerous stuff. But when I tried to find an example in official national records a single fire in a school, involving crayon drawings on a wall, I couldn’t find one.

    Guess where most school fires start. The science lab? The kitchens? No, the bathrooms.

    It is not only due to illegal smoking, but often such bathroom fires are started on purpose. Light the toilet paper, alarms go off, and you get to skip Math Class.

    The year I investigated had roughly 5000 bathroom fires in schools across the USA. (Sorry, I can’t recall the year, but it was around 2005.)

    Such behavior tends to suggest anger and resentment in our youth. It will not make that anger and resentment less to take their crayon drawing down as a “fire hazard.”

    No crayon drawing on a wall has done the damage taking them down has done. We need to point out the that sort of damage, each time we hear the line, “If it saves only one life it is worth it.”

  30. Warren February 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm #


    Sorry, really do not give a damn about race relations, international incidents, how the world sees the US, or in my case Canada, or whether my morals will offend the natives. My child is my concern, and if they are being hit by someone I am not just going to sit back and allow it to happen. If it is a matter that the culture their says physical crap like that is okay, then I do not have to worry about involving anyone. I can adapt to their way of life, and handle it myself.

    But in all reality, I would not live in a culture that allows assaults on kids.
    Suzanne also stated it is against the law, just not enforced. In that case the embassy is duty bound to help.

  31. hineata February 17, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    @Warren – please don’t tell me you think all countries enforce every law in their books. I doubt very much that Canada does. We certainly don’t. And a country would be nuts to involve its embassy in a simple thing like a child being slapped. Slapping might be seen as ‘assault’ in parts of the West – in much of the world it’s just good child discipline. I’m sure Donna, for example, has at least heard by now of the multiple uses for the sasa broom…

    Not surprised really that you don’t give a damn about race relations, and how the world views North America. Your attitude seems par for the course among a lot of those inhabiting your continent, which is why Westerners are viewed poorly in many places.

    Your attitude, as long as you remain in your own country, is absolutely your own business. Once you step outside of there, you become an ambassador of sorts, whether you like it or not. And also whether you like it or not, your actions can impact on way more than just you and your family.

    Not that that appears to be something that would bother you. But if you do choose to travel outside of North America, I hope I’m wrong about that.

  32. Warren February 18, 2013 at 1:30 am #


    So according to your ideals, I should allow an adult to slap my kid, to preserve race relations, to avoid negative thoughts towards Canada, and to not offend the ways of the native population?

    I am all for respecting the culture of the country, that I find myself in. It is actually a sore spot with me, because those who immigrate to Canada are constantly trying to change and restrict our culture and traditions.

    But when it comes to an adult slapping my kid, I don’t give a rat’s ass if it is a teacher, a law enforcement officer, a general, or the leader of the country. You do not, repeat, do not lay a hand on my kid, my wife, or any member of my family.

    This next statement is going to really bother some, but that’s me. I speak my mind. Letting an adult hit in anyway your child makes you a coward. I don’t care who you are, where you are from, what sex you are, how big or small you are, if you do not come to the defense of your child either by law enforcement or taking matters into your own hands, you are a coward.

    As far as being an ambassador, I can guarantee you that coming to the defense of my family, when threatened or assaulted is exactly what a real Canadian would do. Hell if I witnessed you being assaulted, I would come to your defense.

    When you talk about my actions impacting on more than me and my family, that is not my problem. I assess each person as an individual, and do not hold it against their country, religion or race. To do otherwise would make one a bigot. If someone wants to hate whites, First Nations, or Canadians because of something I did or said………..then that is their problem, and not mine. They want to hate me, that is my problem. I am not responsible to every bigot out there.

  33. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    “Suzanne also stated it is against the law, just not enforced. In that case the embassy is duty bound to help.”

    No it’s not. An embassy has absolutely no control over which laws the host country chooses to enforce and how.

    When you travel to another country, you are the subject of its rules, customs and laws. Your embassy is absolutely not going to bail you out if you violate those rules, customs and laws and find yourself in deep do-do. In fact, they cannot. It is completely against international law. Your embassy can speak to people and put political, financial or publicity pressure on your behalf (something they will not do for kids being slapped in school) but ultimately you are 100% subject to the rules, laws and customs of the country you are in.

    It sounds to me that Thailand culture allows for the smacking of kids in school regardless of any law to the contrary. You can choose to accept that or you can choose to never enroll your children in school in Thailand. You, a Canadian, can’t go into Thailand like a bull in a china shop and demand that Thailand change its culture to fit your wants. And if you do try to do so, you may end up in trouble and your embassy is not going to bail you out. It is really that simple. Thailand doesn’t actually care what Warren or Canada thinks about its culture. Thailand doesn’t actually care what Warren or Canada thinks about smacking school kids. Thailand is not going to change its culture for Warren or Canada. You can think whatever you want about Thailand and its culture but the only thing you can do about it is stay away (Well, you can also get a job with a human rights agency and work towards change in the Thai culture but somehow I don’t think that you are going to do that).

  34. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Now you may think that it is just fine to end up in a Thai prison for “taking care of” the school teacher that smacked your child. That is certainly a choice and more power to you if you want to risk going there. But you absolutely cannot expect that other countries view the smacking of children the same way that you view the smacking of children or that your embassy is going to somehow bail you out of your legal troubles should some arise from your taking care of things yourself.

  35. Emily February 18, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    @Warren and Donna–I think Suzanne might have a few options in between “letting her daughter get slapped for the good of race relations,” and “taking it up with the Canadian embassy in Thailand,” or “ending up in a Thai prison for ‘taking care’ of the offending school teacher.” What would she do if this was happening back home in Canada? She’d probably have a talk with the teacher and/or principal, mention the handprint-shaped bruise she saw on her daughter’s thigh, that wasn’t there that morning, but was there after school (bonus points if she photographed it as evidence), and ask to spend a day observing in the classroom. She’d probably also go into that conversation angry, but at least trying to stay composed, and instead of being all “Mama Bear” from the start, she’d probably give alternatives, such as “You can give Junior a time out if she misbehaves, but please don’t hit her.” So, I think it’d be a good idea to at least try that approach here, because it might work. If it doesn’t work, then Suzanne can go above the school’s heads, but that shouldn’t be the first resort.

  36. Donna February 18, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    @Emily – Again, other cultures are not Canada. Smacking children is expected in Samoan culture. Heck, beating children is perfectly acceptable among much of the population. Bruises and marks need to be fairly severe before a Samoan will care. There is no such thing as a time out or grounding or children’s rights. Each individual adult barely has any rights within the aiga (family), and children exist solely to serve whomever they live with (which is frequently not their biological parents). It is one of the largest cultural clashes we see between the American court system and the population. Our clients who get charged with assault for smacking kids have absolutely no understanding why what they did is considered legally wrong because it was 100% culturally acceptable.

    If I asked a non-westernized Samoan not to smack my child, they simply would not comprehend and I would not be able to count on them not to do it in the heat of a moment. I have some power and options if it happened since this is a US territory and governed by a US legal system, but that protection woukd not be found in independent Samoa. To avoid all of this, my child goes to a palagi school and I don’t hire Samoan babysitters (and a Samoan babysitter would be rare anyway since that also is outside their culture).

  37. Emily February 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    @Donna–I know that other cultures are different from Canada, but I figured that, if Suzanne could speak to the school officials without sounding angry or judgemental (which would be difficult after seeing that level of bruise inflicted on her child by a teacher), then it might work. I was thinking that it might be best not to phrase it as “hitting is wrong,” but rather, the same way you’d ask for anything else for your child, such as, “Please don’t include my child in sex ed, because I’d prefer to have that conversation with her at home.” In other words, the formula of “I know you usually do X, but for my child, I prefer to do Y,” might work, if Suzanne can maintain her composure throughout the exchange, difficult as that may be.

    Also, if there are no other schools that Suzanne can enroll her kids in, where the teachers don’t hit the students, and homeschooling is illegal in Thailand, then wouldn’t the school have to accommodate Suzanne and her kids somewhat, since they don’t have the option to find another school with a different policy? It seems strange that homeschooling would be illegal in Thailand, but hitting children is okay, even for teachers,, because they’re effectively allowing teachers to make a “parenting” decision by hitting kids, but not allowing parents to make a parenting decision to keep them away from the school environment where the hitting happens. I’m all for free range, but I still don’t think that teachers, or Brownie leaders, or Little League coaches, or any third-party adults, should have more say in a child’s life, than that child’s parents or guardians.

  38. Emily February 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    @Christine–I’m only two years older than you, and my high school was nothing like that. No metal detectors, no barbed wires, and the two or three police officers who were phased in when I was in grade twelve or so, didn’t intervene except in the case of criminal activity, and didn’t even interact with us unless we initiated it. They also acted as extra security at school dances. Do schools even still have those anymore? We also had a few security cameras, which were also phased in when I was further along in high school, but they weren’t all over the school, just around the entrances and exits, and again, they were pretty much just for monitoring criminal activity, and we could come and go as we pleased. Anyway, it seems strange that we’re only two years apart, but our experiences were so different. Where are you from? I’m from Canada, so maybe that’s why.

  39. Warren February 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    @ All of you willing to wait and see, or just accept as part of the culture have lost all my respect, and have no credibility with me anymore. I used to disagree, and yes get passionate, but still had respect for you as people.

    But if you are going to tell me, that you feel okay with someone slapping you child? Then you are just as bad as the idiot laying a hand on the child. A god forbid you slap mine, because I am not nearly as tolerant or stupid to allow you to get away with it.

    To answer the what if in Canada………… Face to face with the principal demanding the teachers job. If the principal refused in anyway shape or form, I would get the Ontario Provincial Police involved and press charges. This is black and white, no grey area. You do not hit my kid. And anyone that allows other adults to assaualt their child is sick.

    If you are in a culture where you cannot do anything about it, then get your kids out of the school immediately.

    I cannot believe the people in here that are willing to let their kid be hit. This isn’t falling off a swing or tripping on first base. This is physical assault of a child by an adult. It left a hand print untill after school for crying out loud.

  40. hineata February 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    @Warren – ‘that is not my probem’.

    Is that your answer to everything? Wow, just wow! Is it comforting to be the centre of the universe?

    And, again wow, so you can defend yourself and your family against everything, can you? Good luck with that. No wonder so many of you North American males in particular have caused so much trouble around the globe – you all seem to think you’re Rambo. I would give you months of survival in the Canadian wilds, and approximately 15 seconds with an angry mob of Asians – long enough for them to arm themselves with whatever planks, machetes or kitchen knives were available in the immediate area. Against a
    ‘crowd’ of two Samoans (actually, they wouldn’t need two) you would last less than that. If you think differently, you’ve never met a Samoan in the flesh.

    And that’s just against local, personal confrontation. Try taking on the judicial system of a developing nation. Go on, just try it. I promise to raise money to support your children and grandchildren while you argue your way out of jail. While your embassy watches from the sidelines.

    As for the ‘coward’ charge, grow up. As Donna points out above, in less emotional terms than I am using here, the world gives not a crap what little Warren, and even his pretty little country, thinks about anything much.

    And, once again, are you really completely ignorant of the fact that many cultures do not consider slapping a child on the leg to be assault or abuse?Again, read Donna’s missive above.

    And while I’m at it, I will add that I myself do not consider slapping a child on the leg to be assault. (Oh, dear, I have thought patterns different from yours! I come from a culture different to yours! That will never do, will it? ) I would not do it to other people’s kids, but have done it to my own in the past, and have been slapped by members of my dad’s family, with the acceptance of my dad. It was part of the culture. So, were I in a culture that still practiced such things, I would not myself be telling the teacher off for slapping my kid. I would be asking what my kid did wrong, and then punishing them again at home for misbehaving. Not because I am a coward, but because slapping a child on a meaty part of their anatomy is NOT assault.

    Sorry to you that that doesn’t fit with your ridiculously narrow view of life.

  41. Donna February 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    @ Emily – Again, cultures are different. Western society has a very individualistic mentality in which the individual family unit is placed above the collective and the individual person is placed even above that. That is the complete antithesis of many non-western cultures. They view the collective as far more important than the individuals that make it up. There is also great deference expected to elders and people in power such that a parents wants for their children are subservient to the culture, family elders and chiefs.

    It is difficult to understand the difference and how it plays out if, as I suspect, your entire experience has been in western cultures. You are trying to view a non-western culture in a very western way. I am not particularly familiar with Thai culture, but it may not have the same ideals, cultural norms, societal structure and family dynamics as you are presupposing all cultures to have. I would never assume that problems in another culture could be addressed in such a very western way. It may be possible and throwing the idea out there is fine but not in such a “this is what you should do” way that assumes all people view the world through the same filter as Canadians.

  42. Donna February 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    Silly, hineata, you can’t fight two Samoans. Samoan aigas are much larger than that. And all that “intimidation” would be laughed at – for about 2 seconds before the Samoan war cry is sounded and you are knocked flat on your ass. My suggestion would strongly be to not get up or you will find yourself faced with a wall of 300 pound Samoans looking to fight, and that’s just the women in the aiga.

  43. hineata February 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    @Warren – please stay in your little conclave. You obviously are not prepared to accept that people think differently from you. A shame I’ve lost your respect, but then, really, what does it matter at all? At all? Not in my part of the world….

    And as for getting the kids out of school immediately, did you read what Suzanne wrote? Homeschooling is not legal in Thailand. But of course Warren, who runs his world, wouldn’t care about things like that. You would remove your child, and then whine when the local police turned up to jail you. After all, your precious Western individual rights have been violated.

    Gee I’m sick of your sort of abysmal ignorance. No wonder the world is in such a mess.People like you aren’t prepared to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your petty little vision of the way life should . You’re almost as bad as these Muslims who practice ‘honour’ killings in Western countries. Expecting other countries to bend to your way of life.

  44. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    @ Warren – What you would do in Canada has absolutely no bearing whatsoever as to what a Thai would do in Thailand or even what a Canadian could do in Thailand. I know it is hard for you to understand but the Thai and Thailand can actually make up their own laws, rules and customs without checking with the Canadians. In fact, many of their rules and customs predate the existence of Canada. If you choose to darken Thai shores, you are subject to their laws, rules and customs. You can try to protect your kids from them – as I do by sending my daughter to palagi-run schools – but you can’t insist that the laws, rules and customs change to fit you. Any attempt to do so is going to be met with resistance. Any attempt to do so in an in-your-face manner is not going to end well for you.

  45. hineata February 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    @Donna – so true! Yes, I had forgotten the women, LOL!

    Thank God that, as a teacher, I was considered almost a goddess when I taught Island kids. Watched some of those mums going up against each other, and it wasn’t pretty…!

    Never mind. At least, at 6′ 2″, there would enough left of Warren to provide a decent meal in the umu. Though in Malaysia he would go further. All the little bits he’d be chopped into would fit nicely with vegetables in the wok. The only question left would be, do Canadians go better with noodles or rice?

    Ta for lightening the discussion again :-)

  46. Emily February 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    @Donna–I understand what you said about the Samoan culture where children are supposed to respect their elders, but I figured that a parent talking to her child’s teacher and principal about finding means of discipline other than hitting, would be met with at least some level of respect, because that would be an adult talking to another adult, which would make them equals, and there are ways to do it that aren’t demanding, like “We’re trying to teach our child peaceful problem-solving skills at home, and it’d really help us if the school could be consistent with that.”

    However, like I said, it honestly never occurred to me that there could be any culture where third-party adults have more say in children’s lives than those children’s parents do. If that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine why people there even have children, if they know from the beginning that someone else is going to decide how they’re to be raised. Suzanne would know more about the situation than any of us, but really, I find it hard to believe that a polite conversation, or a note from a parent saying, “Please don’t hit my child; use XYZ non-violent discipline methods instead,” would be ignored.

  47. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    @Emily – First, it would be highly unlikely that a Samoan parent would care about smacking. It is 100% accepted in the culture. Even if a Samoan mother did care, family status will come into play as to whether the parent would talk to the school. A family of low status will never deal with a family of higher status as an equal. A family of high status will never put up with a lower status family questioning them. This will carry over into a school setting. Palagi families would not be limited by this but almost no palagi children attend Samoan schools.

    Children in Samoan culture are not viewed the same way as children in western cultures. Samoans have children because birth control is not culturally acceptable and they need workers, not because they have a desire to raise children. In fact, something like 40% of Samoan children live outside their biological homes and the percentage of grandparents raising at least one grandchild is near 100%. It is common for kids to float from house to house within the family, depending on who wants or needs them around at that time.

    And control extends well into adulthood. Parents completely control the lives of their adult children. And parents are controlled by many levels of matai (chief). There is a family matai, a talking chief and a head chief. All of whom can tell you to do X with your children and expect you to listen.

    Samoan culture is becoming more westernized due to extensive settlement in New Zealand, Australia and the US so this doesn’t hold true for every family but is the traditional Samoan culture.

  48. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    And, no, questioning the school about smacking – which is actually illegal in Am. Samoa and enforced as a US territory but no so in independent Samoa – would not be respected. As I said Samoan culture 100% supports the use of physically discipline. It is largely the only discipline other than shaming used on children. If you questioned the smacking in the fashion you described, it would be viewed as questioning the culture abed parenting skills of the Samoans. Not acceptable.

  49. Donna February 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    “and,” not abed.

  50. Donna February 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    And by “enforced,” I mean that the largely US prosecutors will prosecute cases of which they are made aware. I imagine that there are MANY, MANY, MANY cases of smacking occurring in Samoan schools that never get reported to anyone because (a) kids are so used to being smacked that it is their norm and few would think of mentioning it to parents; and (b) even if they did report it to parents, the parents would support the method of discipline and not call the police. The cases getting reported are largely westernized families who have spent considerable time in the US or cases where true injury occurred (especially if medical care was needed).

  51. hineata February 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    @Emily – in lots of cultures, parents aren’t actually in charge of their kids. Even here in New Zealand, Maori grandparents up until recently had more say than the parents in, among other things, the name of the child and who raised the child. And the so did the eldest in the generations.My grandmother had more over her sisters’ and brothers’ kids than they did themselves. Her mother took and raised one of her cousin’s kids as soon as it was born, because the child’s grandparents agreed. The mother had no say at all. And while it doesn’t happen so much now, it certainly isn’t unheard of for kids to be passed around the family.

    In Samoa, too, teachers and headmasters are often ‘gods’. No one would think of going against them. And Samoans are certainly not cowards. They simply have a culture of respect for elders and authority.

    Like much of the world before the 60s, when Westerners suddenly decided that only the self and the rights of the individual trumped the good of the family, community or nation.

    It might sound like some of these cultures don’t ‘think’, because it doesn’t occur to them to question the sorts of things we think are wrong. But then, why does it not occur to us to arrange marriages? Many of these marriages appear to last longer than love marriages. Why should parents have all the say over their children? Generally in the West we think they should, but why do we think that way? That idea is certainly not universal.

    As for politely talking to the teacher, in Suzanne’s case, that may not be a bad idea, and it sounds like she might have approached the school. If a similar thing had happened in Malaysia, and if I felt that possibly the teacher had overstepped the mark, (eg the issue might be language-based, rather than non-compliance on my child’s part) personally I would not have gone in myself, because as a woman I know that I would not get the same level of respect as my husband. My husband, both as a man and as a native speaker, would have been better at dealing with any issues. As is normal in a Muslim country. In Suzanne’s case, maybe the same thing applies, though I don’t know enough about Thai culture.

  52. hineata February 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    @Donna – in many cases, as you know, the parents would go much further than that, and deal to the child at home too.

    As lots of us used to. Gosh, I can’t imagine that even in America, most children a couple of generations ago would have dared tell their parents they’d been in trouble at school. Does no one remember the woodshed?

    In a lot of the West, we’ve chosen to stop acting like that. Good for us, though I seriously wonder some days. But if other cultures choose to act in different ways in their own countries, good luck to them.

  53. Donna February 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    @hineata – Yep.

    I do find it interesting that such vigor was given against smacking children since it was par for the course in even western societies just a generation or so ago, and is still practiced by many in western cultures, at least in the US anyway. I am not saying that it should still be done. I’ll leave that decision to individual families. I just don’t get the outrage over other cultures still following a practice that had widespread use everywhere just a couple decades ago.

  54. Earth.W February 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    Why are your schools like that? Because they are training children now so they are used to the treatment which will be standard across America by the time they grow up all because America today is too lazy and selfish and fearful to stand up against oppressive despots.

  55. Emily February 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    @Donna and Hineata–Okay, fine, I didn’t necessarily say “parents,” but I don’t think that a child’s school, or peewee soccer coach, or ANY adult who hasn’t specifically taken on the responsibility of raising said child, should have more say in his or her life, than the people who have, who could be the parents, grandparents, or whoever’s acting as the child’s main guardian(s). So, in this case, it’s Suzanne. She’s the guardian of her children, she’s chosen to raise them herself instead of farming them off to their grandparents or other relatives, so she should make the parenting decisions, not her kids’ school. Asking the school not to spank her kids isn’t “criticizing parenting skills,” because while the school may be entrusted with the kids’ care during the school day, there are still boundaries, that only the parent/primary caregiver can cross.

    Besides, when you go to another country, that doesn’t mean you have to start doing everything the natives do, all the time, or else you’re being “insensitive.” When I lived in Australia, I still spoke and wrote like a Canadian (using Canadian English instead of Australian), I loved body boarding, and I even learned fire twirling, but I was indifferent to cricket or footy, and, try as I might, I couldn’t stand Vegemite, or any similar products. In other words, I lived my life as I saw fit, and nobody minded, as long as I was considerate of others. So, I don’t think Suzanne saying, “I want to raise my own children” is entirely unreasonable, even if she’s a Canadian living in Thailand.

    As for the “woodshed” thing, okay, fair point, parents used to spank their kids even in North America until maybe 40 or 50 years ago….although, if the child had already been punished at school, it seems like a moot point. However, the question of “to spank, or not to spank” at home, was still up to the parents, and it was still clear that the parents were raising their kids, and not the schools. I don’t know exactly what caused schools to make the shift, but maybe it was from parents deciding that they didn’t want to spank their kids, and having some straight talk with the school officials, and telling them that they didn’t want them to spank their kids either. In other words, change doesn’t happen unless people speak up. That doesn’t mean going for the nuclear option the first time, but the school isn’t even going to know that Suzanne (or whoever) has any objection to using corporal punishment, if she (or whoever) doesn’t say so.

    Also, let’s talk about terminology for a second. A slap that’s hard enough to leave a bruise the shape and size of an adult’s handprint, on a three-year-old’s thigh, is well beyond spanking, and firmly into the category of “child abuse.” When you think of the relative sizes of a toddler and adult, an adult’s hand would cover a good part of the surface area of the child’s thigh, and that really isn’t okay. I can’t help wondering, how do adults in these cultures teach kids to resolve their conflicts peacefully, using their words instead of their hands, feet, and fists, if they themselves hit children for misbehaving? What I wonder most of all is, how do they convey the message of “pick on someone your own size” when they routinely inflict physical pain on people a fraction of their size? Culture or not, all I’m seeing here is a never-ending cycle of violence, that’s propelled by unquestioning acceptance. If enough people question it, and object to it, then it could change.

  56. Warren February 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Well it is very nice to be me. I enjoy being me. And no I am not the center of the universe, but damn near.

    So what if it was accepted just a couple of decades ago, that is the lamest excuse I have heard yet. Damn, we used to strap .45’s to our hips and walk down mainstreet in the past, as well. Do you want that again. Not that long ago women were raped and not a damn thing done about it.

    So let’s do it. Go back to all the things that were acceptable. I have no problem with it. Public hangings, settle disputes with duals, public whippings, hell why not whip a slave or two while we are at it.

    I do not care what the culture, what the country, you lay a hand on my kids, or any of my family, and you deal with me. And as much respect as I have for the Somoan people, if they were to hit my kid, they better call on all their ancestors for help.

    I love all these put downs and comments about me running the world, center of the universe and such. They are quite humourous. I have seen it many times before, that those with strong wills, strong morals, and stand by their convictions no matter what the circumstances are often heckled for being arrogant.

    Arrogant is thinking you more than you are. Reality is knowing exactly who you are. The only reason you think I am arrogant is because you do not have the strength of character to do what needs to be done, while I do.

    And on a sidenote, you do not know me, you do not know what my background is and what I am capable of, so I wouldn’t mouth off about what the Samoan or Thai’s would do to me.

  57. Donna February 18, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Warren – All I can sag is LOL.

  58. Donna February 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Say, not sag. Sigh.

  59. hineata February 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    @ Earth W, we’re not talking about schools in America, where you don’t appear to be able to look at kids the wrong way as a teacher without getting into trouble.

    @Emily – I think we might be talking at cross purposes. Kids in Island and, to some extent Maori, cultures, are not ‘farmed out’. They grow up with whoever the elders dictate because this is the way they live, not because parents are irresponsible.

    We don’t have to give up our whole culture to live in someone else’s, but depending on where you are, you have to expect to give up varying amounts of it. In Malaysia, for instance, life is easier in the areas I usually frequent if I keep my arms and legs reasonably well covered, and sometimes it is best to wear the baju kurung, the long-sleeved native dress (also cooler, believe it or not). Micro shorts are totally the wrong idea. I don’t consider this an invasion of my rights, but the polite thing to do.

    Same with food – we eat whatever the locals eat, mainly because my husband is a local. Very occasionally this has included things like snake. It often involves eating in places with filthy floors, drains running down the middle or the sides, and occasional rats sitting at the edge of the eating area. No point in protesting any of this – no one will listen, and neither do they need to. Their country, their rules. I don’t like it, and if I have a choice I try my very best no to eat in this sort of establishment, but sometimes I have no choice, except to grit my teeth and bear it.

    My kids have never had to deal with schools there, being foreign born, but if they did, we would have to do the same with the schools. Politely protest, if we didn’t like something, but then either put up with what was happening or remove our children (and we would be luckier than Suzanne, because in Malaysia homeschooling is vaguely legal). Suzanne probably doesn’t have that choice.

    You actually do sometimes have to compromise on your culture to live in someone else’s. Think of the level of compromise First Nations people have to put up with in Canada, Aboriginals in Australia and Maori in New Zealand. Or the Orang Asli in Malaysia. Indigenous people compromise to varying degrees every day of their lives, as do immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds coming into our countries. And think too of how much most of us don’t like the groups of immigrants who refuse to compromise (various groups of Muslims spring to mind here). We don’t like that too much, do we? Or at least, people here don’t, and from media reports it doesn’t sound like people in other countries are exactly understanding, either.

  60. Donna February 19, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    @ Emily – That may be what you think is right and that may be the way it is in the western world. It is not that way everywhere. Samoans don’t seem to have a problem with the matai or others controlling their lives because they were not raised in a culture that puts any importance on the individual at all. Their lives center around the family and family includes cousins, uncles, aunties, grandparents etc and genealogy has one person at the head who rules everything for everyone. Even if you live at home, your parent’s wants don’t overrule those of the greater aiga. It is their life. You simply cannot view the entire world through the glasses of western society and deem it lacking just because it is not the same as what you would want.

    I could be wrong but I don’t get the impression that Suzanne is a foreigner in Thailand.

    And many schools in North America did spank children until recently – it is actually still perfectly legal, although not often practiced, in many states. When I was a kid, there was no opt-out provision like there is today. The school deemed paddling the punishment, you got a paddling. And mom or dad never would have considered going to the school to protest even if you were never spanked at home. School was school and school controlled school and home was home and parents controlled home. It has just been recently that parents have come to believe that the school should function to please them as individuals or that they really have any place in school. Outside of chaperoning some class trips and dances, our parents never stepped foot in the classroom during the school day. And our moms were predominantly stay at home moms.

    The fact that some cultures still maintain this separateness of school and home should not be surprising. It doesn’t mean that we have to do it too – although I do think that it is interesting that we protest schools controlling home decisions while at the same time trying to control everything for our kids at school. But it shouldn’t surprise us that other cultures have not changed as quickly or at all.

  61. Donna February 19, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    “Generally,” not genealogy. My auto correct is going crazy today.

  62. Donna February 19, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    Even in A. Samoa where I, as a US citizen, have every right to live, we must compromise our lifestyle in the public realm. In my home, I can do 100% as I wish. But, in public, my family must respect the Samoan culture, even if that means that we can’t always go where we want, do what we want and wear what we want.

    If there are aspects of the culture that I don’t like, I may be able to remove myself from them, but I can’t completely violate them and I can’t insist that the culture change to suit me. For example, I don’t have to spend all day on Sunday in church as the Samoans do, but I do have to stay off the beaches and hiking trails and avoid public carousing.

    In recent years, relations between palagis and Samoans have deteriorated. In the past, the palagi contract workers were largely families. Now the largest group are young/single adults who treat this place as if they are on spring break. The Samoans feel as if their culture is not being respected. As a result, many of the contract positions are getting cut and there are far fewer palagis working down here now than there has been in past decades.

  63. Emily February 19, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    @Hineata–I do know about the issues with the First Nations people in Canada–one of my friends from Western told me that her grandmother had been abducted and taken to a residential school, where all the Ojibway-ness was beaten and brainwashed out of her. Also, one of my professors in Australia was an Indigenous Australian, and he actually witnessed the Invasion happening–he saw his cousins being taken away, while he hid in the cornfields, wanting to cry out, but having to stay silent, so he wouldn’t be taken too. However, that was in the past, and it’s 2013. Canada has moved on, and taken steps to reconcile with the First Nations people, and Australia has established a formal Reconciliation Day, and given the Indigenous peoples reparation money for their trauma. It’s not enough, but they’re getting there–in fact, my professor said it wasn’t even about the money, or the day, and he didn’t want a public show of pity; he just wanted to open the lines of communication, so that society doesn’t repeat its mistakes, and that applies to every country that experienced something like the Invasion.

    I also know about giving up “some” of your culture in deference to the locals, but I didn’t think it was a “let strangers beat your child” kind of thing; but more of a “no tank tops in the Vatican” kind of thing. The latter is reasonable, but the former is not. As for eating what the locals eat, in my case, that wouldn’t necessarily always be an option, because I’m vegan. So, no, I wouldn’t eat meat to be polite, and I wouldn’t eat in a filthy restaurant with disease-laden rats either. If I was travelling in a developing country, I’d probably pack bottled water (or Diet Coke) and Clif bars for such situations, pretend not to be hungry at the restaurant, and then eat my packed snacks later, the same as I’d do in any situation where I was invited for a meal that I couldn’t eat, with people I didn’t know well.

    I haven’t been to a developing country (yet), but I’ve been to Italy (slightly different standards for hotels, etc., than we have in North America, and some of my friends had problems with bugs in their hotel rooms), and New Orleans (we had to walk down Bourbon Street, and I think I just stared at the ground the whole time, to avoid having a panic attack), and of course, I lived in Australia for two years. I’ve also been to California, and I lived in Quebec while I was at Bishop’s (of course), but the only real culture differences there were the “smoking” culture, the fast, slangy “Quebecois” French versus the Parisian French I’d been taught in school, and the proliferation of greasy food, like poutine. Anyway, I managed to cope in these places, by simply embracing the aspects of the culture that worked for me, and not the ones that didn’t. So, if I didn’t want to eat something, I didn’t eat it. If I didn’t want to go inside a building that reeked of cigarette smoke, or was too noisy/crowded, and would set off my anxiety, I didn’t go in–I’d wait outside if I had to. Nobody thought of me as a “rude North American,” because I didn’t make a big to-do about any of these things, and since I didn’t look any different from the “locals” (except in Italy), I got away with it. I don’t even entirely conform to the Canadian culture either–I don’t like hockey, or poutine, or beer, but that’s okay, because Canada is a place of diversity. Most other cultures like Canadians, so I feel lucky in that regard, but it never occurred to me that I’d have to stop being who I am just because I was in another country. I guess the International House experience kind of spoiled me.

  64. Emily February 19, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    P.S., Just to clarify, I’m not naive enough to think that Clif Bars and Diet Coke or bottled water are available in every country. I’d pack them from home if I had to.

  65. hineata February 19, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    @Donna – you’re expressing it do much better than me today.
    Am far too emotional about this sort of thing, but it does make me cross the way some of us Westerners refuse to respect other cultures. The number of times, for example, I’ve seen female tourists dressed in short shorts and singlet tops in Malaysia, an Islamic state, is really embarassing. But, of course, it is their ‘right’ (sarcastic sigh), so who are the natives to dare to complain?

    Off topic completely, but do fafafine exist in A. Samoa as well as ‘Samoa’ Samoa? An American friend of mine working in a predominantly Island school here had never heard of them, and thought I was joking when I explained why there was a very pretty cousin (I think) with a very deep voice picking up one of her students from school.

    Always assumed it was part of the culture across the Samoas, but maybe I’m wrong. So, do you have come across any in your part?

  66. Bob Davis February 19, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Interesting how the discussion of “security cameras” evolved into a discussion of spanking in other cultures. Getting back to “security”, one of the problems with “security cameras” is that they generate tons of images of absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Filtering out the few seconds when the “bad’ guy is in the area is the hard part. We also have to consider that some “bad guys” are crazy but not stupid, and spend lots of time studying the “target”. On the security side, if nothing has happened for a long time, it’s human nature for the alertness level to gradually drop. I always remember what a Irish Republican Army “Provo” said after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher “You have to be lucky every time. We just have to be lucky once.”

  67. Donna February 19, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    @hineata – Fafas do exist in A. Samoa. They are quite common and fully accepted as part of the culture.

    Early in our time here, I took Maya to a fafa pageant. About half way through, one of the contestants ripped off her shirt. Obviously there was nothing there. Maya looked at me and said “is that really girl?”

    For those still reading fafafines (fafas) are Samoan men who dress as women. They are kinda a mix between drag queens and transgendered. Other than those who compete in the pageants, they are not outlandish like drag queens. They simply dress like normal Samoan women. But they are not truly transgendered in that they are women trapped in men’s bodies and want a sex change. Openly gay men who are not fafas are extremely rare in Samoan culture. Interestingly, it is my understanding that fafas exclusively have sex with “heterosexual” males (gay men on the down low). They do not form romantic relationships with each other.

  68. Donna February 19, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    @ Emily – You’ve never been outside of the western world. Cultural differences between Canada, the US and Australia are miniscule. Italy is slightly more diverse but is still a western culture with the same essential mindset. Nonwestern countries are completely different animals. You are talking about hockey and beer and we are talking about fundamental differences in the way people view the world and their place in it.

    But if bugs in hotels and Bourbon Street are your idea of hardships, you seriously need to think long and hard about whether a developing country is for you before you make plans to go and are miserable. Do research and be completely honest with yourself. Because, in many places, bugs in your hotel would be far more desirable than what you have and the crowds would make Bourbon Street look like a ghost town (unless you were there on Mardi Gras).

    And I guarantee you that if someone cooked you a meal or took you out for a meal that you refused to eat, they did consider you a rude North American – or at least rude – even if too polite to say.

  69. Emily February 19, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    @Donna–I’m just saying that I haven’t been to a developing country; not that I planned to go. If I did visit a developing country, it’d probably be to visit friends from International House, who already know that I’m vegan, don’t think I’m rude (otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends), and live in the more “developed” parts of these countries. For example, my friend Martin is from Kenya, but he lives with his family in an apartment in the nicer area, although he’s walked through the slums on many occasions, and he’s been robbed there a few times too, by people who have no choice but to turn to a life of crime, because the Kenyan economy is so bad. Also, getting back to the food issue, I guess that’s another point–I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, or just how I was raised, but I’ve always believed that the company and the conversation is more important than the food, and it’s rude to scrutinize what your guests eat. So, complaining or sulking would be rude, but just not eating much/at all, wouldn’t be.

    But, anyway, not all people who live in developing countries are poor to the point that buying/making someone a meal would make or break them–in fact, one of my favourite “Martin” moments at International House was when I myself was going through tight times, didn’t have money for much of anything, and the cheap flip-flops I’d bought at the school store had fallen apart, been duct-taped back together, and fallen apart again. A few days later, Martin just happened to come into possession of a pair of black women’s Skechers sandals that were in my size. He told me that another friend didn’t want them anymore, and did I want them? I still have them now, and they’re my favourite summer shoes, not just because they’re sturdy, and they go with everything, but because I know that Martin must have bought them for me, but didn’t want to embarrass me by saying so outright. At the time, I was working as a mentor, and therefore, I didn’t want people to know when something was wrong in my life. Also, it’s kind of funny, because Canada has several “foreign aid” programs, to provide food, education, clothes, shoes, etc., to needy people in deveolping countries like Kenya, but at International House, a Kenyan person turned that right on its head by buying shoes for a Canadian.

    As for Suzanne’s issue, I still think she’d be okay if she raised the matter politely, because she’s not telling anyone else how to raise their children; she’s just asking to be allowed to raise her own children in the way that she sees fit. If changing schools would change the situation, I’m sure she’d have done it by now, but that isn’t an option, because all the schools hit kids. If homeschooling was legal in Thailand, I’m sure she’d have looked into that, but it isn’t. So, the only option left seems to be to speak up.

  70. Warren February 19, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    This is more than funny, this is absolutely in the range of whackadoodles. You will not force your kids to go outside at recess(previous posts), but you will allow their adult teacher to slap them hard enough to leave hand prints.

    Sorry but you really need to re-evaluate your priorities and lifestyles.

  71. Emily February 19, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Actually, Warren, just so we’re clear, I wouldn’t force my hypothetical future child to play outside, AND I wouldn’t allow their teachers to hit them.

  72. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    “But, anyway, not all people who live in developing countries are poor to the point that buying/making someone a meal would make or break them’

    That’s really not the point. It’s not economic, it’s about hospitality. In many, if not most, cultures refusing what you are offered is insulting an effort at hospitality, and quite hurtful.

    And don’t confuse generosity for wealth, either. I don’t know what your friend Martin’s circumstances were — maybe he was well off. But again, in many cultures you wouldn’t let your friend go without decent shoes unless you were so destitute you couldn’t possibly do anything about it.

  73. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    And, BTW, “refusing” can mean “quietly not eating.” While you’re right that in North America and probably most of Europe, it’s considered rude to overconcern yourself about what your guests are or are not eating, in other places it’s the opposite — it’s the guest’s duty to receive enthusiastically and not to do so is what is rude. That’s not because it’s all about the food rather than the company, but it’s assumed that the act of sharing should be met with the act of receiving gratefully, both in word and action, and that’s part of what it means to be “in company” appropriately. It seems unfair to someone who really can’t eat or can’t stand the food, but adjusting to things like that in other cultures is extremely important.

  74. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Warren, to whom are you referring?

  75. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    “As for Suzanne’s issue, I still think she’d be okay if she raised the matter politely, because she’s not telling anyone else how to raise their children; she’s just asking to be allowed to raise her own children in the way that she sees fit.”

    What you need to understand, though, is what Donna’s saying: asking your child to be treated exceptionally has no place in many cultures. Further, she’s not just asking to be allowed to raise her own children in the way that she sees fit — she’s asking that the teachers not teach in the way that they see fit. From their perspective, it is no different than insisting that an American teacher DOES slap your child if the child does certain things. It is just as abhorrent NOT to smack a child who gets out of line for some people in this world, as it is for us to slap young children across the face. And this isn’t just some out of line teacher, this is a teacher who is functioning in the context of the values of her culture, her training, and the culture of the institution in which she’s employed.

    That doesn’t make it right, or something that should not be protested (it would be far better if no child was ever slapped at that school) but it does mean that it’s not just a simple, reasonable request to ask a teacher to entirely invert her own values about how to deal with children on the ground that Suzanne “just wants to raise her child as she sees fit.” From the school’s perspective it’s not about how Suzanne raises her children, it’s about how the teacher does HER job.

  76. Emily February 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    @Pentamom–I had other shoes at the time, just not sandals. I don’t know for sure that Martin bought me those shoes, or he legitimately got them from another friend, as people in our community routinely just gave away things we didn’t need anymore, especially before moving rooms, leaving for the summer, etc……but, I’m sort of thinking that he did buy them for me, because it wouldn’t make sense for someone to “hand down” a pair of women’s shoes to him, that were obviously too small, and decorated with black sequins. As for wealth, well, I had some idea. Martin could afford to buy himself things he needed, and luxuries he didn’t, like take-out pizza, a fancy cell phone, nights out, etc. If he did buy me those shoes, I don’t think he put himself in financial ruin to do it.

    As for the (hypothetical) food issue, meat makes me physically ill, because I’ve been a vegetarian for eleven years, and a vegan for two. On the rare occasion that I’ve bitten into something appeared meatless, but wasn’t, my throat clenched shut, and I couldn’t swallow the meat, so I had no choice put to spit it out. So, in the unlikely event that I could swallow it, I’d probably either throw up, or be ill for days, and I think throwing up on someone’s kitchen table, is probably ruder than not eating something that I know would make me throw up, or make me sick to my stomach to the point that I wouldn’t be good company for the rest of the visit. Anyway, it’s all a moot point, because if I were ever to go to Kenya to visit Martin, or India to visit my friend who’s from India, or whatever, well, they’re my friends, and they know my deal. They wouldn’t make me do something that makes me uncomfortable, and actually, my friend from India is vegetarian too.

    As for Suzanne’s issue with the school, I still don’t think that asking her children not to be slapped by their teachers, is the same as a North American parent asking for their children TO be slapped, because Suzanne said herself that it’s technically against the law to hit a child in Thailand, but that law is just poorly enforced. It’s also against the law in North America, but it’s enforced, for the most part, so asking a teacher to use corporal punishment on your child, would be asking the teacher to break the law. But, what seems even worse than the lax enforcement of the anti-corporal punishment law, is the fact that there’s no alternative to simply sending your kids to school and allowing them to be hit hard enough to leave bruises. All of the schools operate that way, and homeschooling is illegal, so you’re sentencing your children to an entire childhood of being beaten by unrelated adults. Besides, Suzanne said that her daughter who came home with a handprint-shaped bruise on her thigh, was only three years old. I’m not saying that it’s “more okay” to hit older children, but what infraction could a child that young have possibly committed, that would warrant that kind of a punishment?

  77. Warren February 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Just to see if I was missing the point, I had three moms, my wife, the nurse down the road, and our newest mom on the block.

    All of you that will allow a child to be slapped were deemed unfit by all three. The fact that you would stand by and allow an adult to hit you kid was completely unacceptable by all three. One of them also stated that it is the mother’s who need to be slapped for allowing it.

    When your kids grow up, and have emotional issues, just tell them its okay. Mommy let it happen so the lady or man hitting you wouldn’t be offended. When your grandkids have bruises, don’t worry about it, because it is normal. Your kids were taught that slapping is a perfectly acceptable form of discipline. Best tell your kids to stay in Samoa, or Thailand or wherever, because if they slap their kids in the west, their asses will be in jail. The judge won’t give a crap, what they do overseas.

  78. Warren February 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Sorry, forgot to add, the three moms read the post and comments.

  79. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Warren, I’ll ask again. Who here would “allow a child to be slapped?”

  80. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Emily — I wasn’t saying you should eat something that would make you ill. I’m just saying you can’t judge foreign standards by your own. If you can’t eat the meat or the whatever, that WILL be an affront. You can either try to explain why it’s absolutely impossible to avoid giving an affront and hope for the understanding of your hosts, or avoid going into cultures and situations where refusing the food offered you is considered more or less insulting. What you can’t do is insist that there’s no cause for offense because you don’t consider it one or because you want it to be otherwise or because it isn’t for Canadians.

    You’re right that the fact that corporal punishment is illegal does make my analogy not quite right. I wasn’t saying that nothing should be said or done about it, but that it’s not quite as simple as being about the way Suzanne wants to raise her child. It’s also about how the teacher wants to teach, and the general cultural understanding (despite the law) that she is within broadly accepted limits in doing so. So I’m not saying just put up with it, don’t complain, don’t try to change it — I’m just saying don’t expect that because an argument seems simple and reasonable to you, that it will be persuasive to people with an entirely different set of assumptions from A to Z about what’s going on in the situation.

    And, in the final analysis, if it’s really true that there is no legal educational alternative in that country to having your children slapped around (and I really doubt that’s the case — there are enough internationals in Thailand that I have a hard time believing the alternatives are completely absent, but maybe they’re unavailable to Suzanne for some reason) then it comes down to, if they don’t listen to your complaints, you only have two choices: put up with the corporal punishment, or leave. I am not saying those are good choices or that anyone should be content with it, but it’s still true that you don’t get to create your own reality and you can’t single-handedly change another culture where you’re meeting that kind of resistance.

  81. hineata February 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    @Pentamom – Warren is probably referring to me, because if I was resident permanently in a developing nation where slapping a child for disciplinary purposes at school was the custom, then yes, I would allow it. I might politely question the teacher, if I was concerned that the measure was a result of miscommunication rather than naughtiness, but even that would be dependent on the social environment. Because, frankly, I have a much better ability than people like Warren to accept that not everyone thinks the same way. Also, as stated above somewhere, I do not believe slapping to necessarily be abuse, which has obviously got a few peoples’ backs up. That said, I do not slap other people’s children because that is against the law here, and my own I have slapped a handful of times in their entire lives, as only a few times are necessary, if applied properly, and with far more hugs occuring than slaps. And never anywhere else but their thighs and backsides, both appropriate for the purpose.

    And interestingly, when I took my children on a bus tour of Europe, their excellent behaviour was much commented on, particularly by a Canadian couple, who noted that they were reluctant to take their grandchildren out to McDonalds, let alone on a two week tour of foreign countries.

    Catspaw was saying that the reason why Canadian commentators here in particular might be getting upset is that evidently you have had strict anti-smacking laws since the early 1980s. If that is true, then I begin to have an inkling of why this is such an emotive issue for you all. I must say, though, that I do find it rather hypocritical. The enforced removal of Native Canadian babies from their parents was occuring up until at least the mid 1970s, and y’all are bothered in the extreme by a little physical discipline? Personally I find that bizarre. Which has caused the most longterm harm? And little outrage seems to be coming from white Canadians about that.

    The enforced adoption thing came up through papers on indigenous education I’m doing as part of my Masters, and also as the result of an ongoing interest in Eric Schweig, who has my vote for sexiest man alive, LOL!

  82. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Fair enough, Hineata, but he keeps saying “all of you.”

  83. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    I mean, he says “all of you that would allow your child to be slapped” which implies a fair number, certainly more than one.

    I think many people also make a distinction between spanking — smacking on the backside or thighs — and slapping on other parts of the body. Many more people would tolerate the former than the latter.

  84. hineata February 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    @Warren – heck, what in the world would make you think that anyone outside your town would care what three mums up the road from you have to say about their parenting. What I find most amusing is that you are the one who is always going on about your rights to parent as you see fit, and yet you have the gall to suggest that people like myself, and much of the world are unfit to parent because we would make different choices from you.

    All I can do is emphasise once again, like a broken record, that NOT EVERYONE THINKS THE SAME. Lord love a duck, are you really as narrow-minded as you are coming across?

    Catspaw, though, has also pointed out to me that I probably have a distinct advantage over you in this particular area, so I will concede that maybe I am being unfair. I am mixed race, and so grew up with two distinct ways of doing things being obvious to me right from the get-go. One a very rigid culture in which everyone minded their own business, raised their own children and looked after their own affairs to the exclusion a lot of concern about others. The other culture often swapped kids, most often at the dictates of the elders, were expected to trump up money for each other, and were liberal in both slaps and hugs – far more physical with each other.

    And then I married my rather cool and useful Malaysian Chinese husband, and added a third bit to the pot. This has been handy for my kids, who have a better grasp, for example, of alternate religious systems than most of their teachers. And a much better grasp than people like you, Warren, on the vastly different ways of thought present in the world. Gosh, even my almost uneducated mother-in-law has a better grasp on this than you do.

    As a fianl laugh, it is funny but normal that you sought comment from your friends about the ideas here. I passed on some of your comments to my sixteen-year old son, and when he had finished choking with laughter on his cereal, he expressed amazement that an adult could be so truly unable to understand the world. He also suggested that you stay completely out of Asia, at least – he too has seen jails in Malaysia, and violent mobs, and knows conditions are worse elsewhere. I then had to explain the concept of monoculturalism to him, as for him, being immersed in different belief systems on a daily basis is a fact of life. He had difficulty comprehending that for many people, one way of seeing life is the norm.

  85. hineata February 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    @Pentamom – oh, you’re right. I think he is, though, just lumping everyone together. Donna has made it quite clear that she wouldn’t allow that to happen, by saying that she sends Maya to palagi schools.

    Samoans particularly do sometimes slap kids around the head, which is actually dangerous, and we used to run education programmes about that, because some of the kids I taught had hearing loss as a result. However the same group of people are also among the most physically affectionate you’ll ever meet, and the same children who are physically disciplined are also subject to hugs and kisses far more often. Very physical people. Very different way of thinking from many Westerners. Not wrong, just different. Heck, if we looked after our elderly like Islanders and Asians do, we’d have far fewer lonely and useless-feeling oldies.

  86. Emily February 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    @Pentamom–Who knows? Maybe Suzanne will leave Thailand, if she finds out that there are no legal alternatives to sending her children to school to be slapped until they’re literally bruised black and blue. However, she won’t know if there are alternatives, if she doesn’t ask. As for the forced placement of First Nations children in residential schools, of course that’s worse than spanking, but that doesn’t mean that anything less heinous than brainwashing entire generations of children, should just be allowed to happen. By that logic, the German police would be justified in looking the other way when someone stole a car, because it wasn’t as bad as Hitler killing hordes of Jewish people during World War II.

    As for the food issue, I already explained that the only reason I can think of for visiting a developing country, would be to visit friends of mine who are from there, who I met at International House in Australia. So, it’s not like I’d be walking into that environment blindly, and suddenly end up sharing a meal with people I don’t know. If I did, I’d certainly explain why I can’t eat meat (or eggs, or dairy, or gelatin), but my friends who I was there to visit, would already understand why. If I met anyone else there, then they’d probably be friends of my friends, and we could explain it to them too. It might mean risking a negative reaction, but I wouldn’t assume from the get-go that they’d react badly, and eat food that’d make me sick, just to avoid that reaction; I’d speak up (with translation assistance if they spoke a language that I didn’t), and assume the best of them from the beginning. If they reacted badly then, it’d be on me to decide how to go forward. I’d probably either only socialize with them when food wasn’t a focal point (not an option in some cultures, I know, because the majority of their socializing revolves around food), or I’d discontinue the relationship altogether.

    I guess what I’m saying is, no matter what the issue is, no matter where you are, you don’t get anywhere by just keeping quiet about something that bothers you. If you don’t say anything, they’ll assume you’re okay with it, and nothing will change. If you decide it’s a big enough deal that you want it to change (and yes, a child coming home from school with a bruise obviously inflicted by another person, let alone an adult, would be a big enough deal in my eyes), then you have to first give the people a chance to listen to your side of the story, and make it right.

    I wouldn’t have so many friends from all over the world, if I hadn’t asked questions about their cultures, etc., and vice versa. I’ve had people ask me if I was American, and I’ve had people tell me how much they’d love to go to Canada, because they thought it was basically a giant ski resort with maple syrup, since storybooks and movies with snow rarely show the less-fun side of snow (shovelling, scraping off cars, block heaters, bad road conditions, etc). I’ve even been questioned about incredibly mundane aspects of my life–for example, I had a housemate from Zimbabwe who asked me, “do all Canadians like cereal so much?”; because I ate cereal for breakfast on a regular basis. So, I could have been offended that people stereotyped me in this way, but I wasn’t–instead, I cleared up their misconceptions, they cleared up mine, and it would start conversations that blossomed into friendships. I don’t think I know everything there is to know about international relations, but I do know that it starts with communication, and with treating people as individuals first, and nationalities second.

  87. Warren February 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    No my motivations have nothing to do with the laws of the land.

    My motives come from the ideal that you do not physically abuse children, whether they are your own or someone else’s.

    And the fact that any parent is willing to allow another adult leave a handprint on their child wreaks of weakness. Weakness as a parent, and weakness as a human being.

    I do not give a rat’s ass if it is Somoa, Thailand, Japan, Germany, France, Chile or the middle of nowhere. There is no excuse for hitting a kid. And there is a big difference between a spanking and leaving bruises and handprints. If you cannot tell the difference you are a moron, that needs to take some sort of parenting course.

    You want to hit someone, take on someone your own size. You want to hit me, go for it, I’ll smile at you and ask you if that’s the best you got. Hit a kid, and even more so one of mine, I you will know what it is like to be hit. And no I am not a bully, but my upbringing and training tells me to defend those that cannot defend themselves. And if you weak willed moms won’t defend your kids, don’t worry because there are enough people like me that will defend them for you.

  88. hineata February 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    All right, Warren, I give up. You are completely missing the point.

    Just please stay in your little enclave.

    Also, the ‘bring it on’ is hilarious. Did you bother to read Donna’s comments? Frankly, my ninety-plus year old aunty could take you down. She’s five foot nothing, but she fights dirty. Plus, she would be backed up by several dozen rellies.

    Most parts of the world are not self-centred or individualistic as you obviously are. By self-centred I mean imagining oneself and one’s culture and ideals as the centre of the world – actually the only relevent view.

    Seriously, how does it feel to have a narrow view of life? I just can’t imagine it….

  89. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    ” However, she won’t know if there are alternatives, if she doesn’t ask. ”

    Correct. So I will say for the third time, of course she should protest and object.

    That I’m saying “Don’t assume people will see it your way because it seems plain to you” should not be taken as saying “Don’t try.” But if you go in thinking it’s all so simple because it makes sense TO YOU, you won’t be able to make as effective a case, as if you go in understanding that their point of view is completely different.

  90. pentamom February 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    “I guess what I’m saying is, no matter what the issue is, no matter where you are, you don’t get anywhere by just keeping quiet about something that bothers you. If you don’t say anything, they’ll assume you’re okay with it, and nothing will change. If you decide it’s a big enough deal that you want it to change (and yes, a child coming home from school with a bruise obviously inflicted by another person, let alone an adult, would be a big enough deal in my eyes), then you have to first give the people a chance to listen to your side of the story, and make it right. ”

    Absolutely. And all I’m saying is, if you’re going to do that, you have to do it with the attitude that what you are saying will seem strange to them, even though it seems normal to you.

    If you already understand that, great. But your earlier suggestion that you’d just simply not eat what you’re offered and that should make everything fine implies that you may not be as sensitive to other people’s perceptions of what’s right and normal, as you may think.

  91. hineata February 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Also, totally off topic but related to the ‘bring it on’ comment, muscle mass for muscle mass, if you are a white Canadian, which your attitudes tells me you must be, you would have maybe half the muscle mass of a Samoan your height. In fact, most Maori too.

    So please try going up against one (though as Donna pointed out, you wouldn’t get the chance to take only one). Just make sure to film it, so we can have a good laugh.

    If you armed yourself with one of those ice hockey sticks you might gain a few seconds advantage – at least until Grandma returns with the kirikiti bat (used usually for Samoan cricket, played by entire villages at a time. Great fun to watch).

  92. Emily February 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    @Pentamom–I guess I should have clarified. If it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, and there was no chance to tell the hosts in advance that I’m vegan, I’d simply fill up on vegetables and bread, and not eat the meat part of the meal. If it was a planned thing, I’d tell them that I’m vegan. As for the corporal punishment issue, I agree, that’s best to be broached gently, and you’re right that “this may sound strange to you” is a good way to start. I feel pretty much the same way Warren does about corporal punishment, but I also think that people are more likely to listen to your point of view when you’re polite about it.

  93. Donna February 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    “This is more than funny, this is absolutely in the range of whackadoodles. You will not force your kids to go outside at recess(previous posts), but you will allow their adult teacher to slap them hard enough to leave hand prints.”

    I assume this is addressed to me and just establishes that Warren has a serious reading comprehension problem since I’ve stated no less than 3 times that I send my child to a palagi-run school to AVOID her being slapped at school.

    But we can’t be bothered to do something like read. Afterall, fists, threats, and intimidation are all that are needed in the world to prove that you’re a “man,” not reading ability.

  94. Donna February 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    “But, anyway, not all people who live in developing countries are poor to the point that buying/making someone a meal would make or break them–in fact,”

    It has nothing to do with that. In many cultures it is rude to refuse to eat something provided for you. This goes for most developed, western cultures. North America is the only place I can think of where it is not considered the height of rudeness to refuse to eat when invited for dinner. And, even there, you are still going to find MANY who consider it rude.

    I went to France the summer after I graduated from high school to stay with a friend. We moved from place to place visiting her family and friends, ending the trip at her home in Reims. When I first got there, I gorged myself on all the wonderful french food. By week 7 in Reims, my appetite had waned. My friend’s mother took her aside and questioned what was wrong with her cooking. She was highly insulted that I ate less food at her house than she had seen me eat in Paris when I first arrived. We tried to make her understand that I just ate far more than usual at the beginning and was now eating more regularly. She was still highly insulted and the end of my trip was very uncomfortable because of it.

  95. Warren February 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Your comments are not even worth responding to, anymore.

    Yes I understand you send you kid to that school. But you also demonstrated that you are okay with a kid being slapped as part of one’s culture, and you also stated how funny it was to be so against it, since not so long ago it was accepted in western culture. I find it interesting that you never answered about bringing back carrying sidearms in the street, duals to settle disputes, public hangings, or back to when women were possessions. That was all acceptable in the western world at one time.

    Anyone that would allow a child to be assaulted for fear of offending someone or a culture is emotionally and morally weak. No misunderstanding, no nothing.

    Anyone that stands by and allows anyone to be assaulted, is weak morally. You can make any arguement you want about culture, religion, geography or whatever you want, it is still weakness and the inactions of a coward.

    I really do feel for your kids, and the lack of respect you have for them.

  96. Donna February 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    @Warren –

    I have never struck my child nor do I allow others to do so. I don’t smack my child because I don’t like to. I don’t feel that smacking children is abusive or an assault, although it can be if taken to an extreme. So, while I draw the line at true abuse, I don’t have a problem with other people, within my culture or out of it, choosing to smack their own children. They are entitled to make their own parenting decisions that are different from mine. Something that you have no ability to understand while being perfectly willing to get into people’s faces, intimidate them and no doubt even try to beat the crap out of them, if they tried question a choice that you make. You are a complete hypocrite. And that, to me, makes you morally and emotionally weak.

  97. hineata February 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    @Warren – that’s amusing, because that’s precisely what my teenager was saying yesterday regarding your nonsense. Unfortunately I was bored at the time, so continued to take the bait, more fool me.

    @Donna – personally I’m going to stop now. I have spent far too much time on this individual, who appears to have all the common sense of your average DOC outhouse. Hope you have a good day. You have made many sensible points – thank God at least some North Americans who leave the continent have your sort of sense.

  98. Donna February 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    “how funny it was to be so against it, since not so long ago it was accepted in western culture. ”

    Again with the reading comprehension problem. I said that I was shocked that you seemed so outraged that it was considered acceptable in other cultures since we ourselves considered it acceptable – and still do in many western countries – not more than a handful of years ago. Your own personal beliefs as to smacking have never been addressed by me at all.

    “I find it interesting that you never answered about bringing back carrying sidearms in the street, duals to settle disputes, public hangings, or back to when women were possessions.”

    Because everything you say should be of such import that I feel the need to respond? I saw no reason to reply to this because it was a worthless comment apropos of nothing. But if I must respond, I would say that some of those things do still exist in other cultures and that doesn’t surprise me either.

    “Anyone that would allow a child to be assaulted for fear of offending someone or a culture is emotionally and morally weak.”

    I would never allow a child to be assaulted in any culture. Smacking on the back of the leg is not an assault. I “allow” – by which I assume you mean “fail to stop” – because I don’t get to tell the entire world how to raise their children. I do not fear offending anyone. I respect other people and other culture’s rights to make decisions that are different than the ones that I would make.

    “I really do feel for your kids, and the lack of respect you have for them.”

    I really feel for your kids and the lack of respect for differences and others that you teach them.

  99. Donna February 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    @hineata – There are far more of us traveling out there than there are Warrens. We just blend in instead of sticking out by being obnoxious.

    A few years ago, while working in small town, rural Georgia, a new lawyer started working with us. Very shortly after she started working there, we found out that she was a lesbian and her “wife” (same sex marriages are not legal in Georgia) was expecting their first child shortly. Without a hitch in their step, these older, very conservative, very republican women sat down and planned a baby shower. Most people really are more accepting and good than we give them credit for being. Unfortunately, the obnoxious loud mouths control the stage.

  100. Emily February 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    @Donna–Fine, I give. Maybe, possibly, in the unlikely chance that I end up eating dinner at the home of someone I don’t know, in a different country, they might possibly be offended if I didn’t eat enough to please them, if I wasn’t able to let them know ahead of time that I’m vegan. However, I really don’t see a situation like that happening to me in the near future, so it’s a moot point, but if it ever did happen, I’d rather listen to my body than make myself sick (either from eating something my body can’t handle, or just eating too much). Awful as it may sound, I put my own health before other people’s feelings, and maybe that does make me rude.

    However, for the record, I think we might have been picturing two different kinds of gatherings. I was imagining a buffet or family-style type of scenario, and I’m thinking now that you were thinking a plated dinner. If it was the former, I’d just not take what I couldn’t eat/didn’t want, so I’d only be mildly rude, by not taking a bit of everything, and not REALLY rude, by wasting something.

    Likewise, if I had a child, I’d put his or her health and safety before any third-party adult’s dubious right to hit them, but I’d phrase my concerns politely, because going into the school/soccer field/dance studio/Cub Scout den with guns blazing, would just make everyone angry and not accomplish anything.

    @Warren–I actually agree with you that it’s not right to hit children, but do you really think that beating up another adult, for hurting your child, is going to get the message across? You might inflict some physical pain on the other person, but then they’d go away from that exchange thinking, “Okay, Warren says he’s against violence, but he hit me, so what’s up with that?” At best, it wouldn’t reflect well on you, and at worst, they might try to have your children taken away from you, if they believed you to be a violent person. I know you’re not, but if the only information someone had about you, was that you beat them up for slapping your child, then you can see how the situation would look from their point of view, right? Besides, this isn’t even about any of us; it’s about Suzanne, and her children. I said right from the beginning that it’d probably take a lot of strength for her to be able to hold herself together, and have a rational discussion with the teacher who inflicted a hand-shaped bruise on her toddler. Sure, it’d be easy to get angry, because she probably IS angry, but it’s not going to get the results she wants. Done the right way, a polite conversation might stop the hitting, or provide Suzanne with an alternative option for her children’s education, that doesn’t involve them being hit, but storming in and yelling, threatening violence, or ACTUAL violence, is just going to make things worse. So, I don’t think that being calm in a situation like this is “cowardly,” it’s simply looking to the result you want, and figuring out how to get there.

  101. Warren February 19, 2013 at 10:12 pm #


    You are so full of it, your eyes are brown. Allow as compared to fail to stop. Care to respect instead of fear of offending.

    Accuse me of having a lack of comprehension. Call me a loudmouth, do or say whatever you want.

    If having the courage and conviction to stand up and defend those who cannot defend themselves is being rude and loudmouth, then so fucking be it. I will be loud and rude everyday.
    Because cowardly, weak willed and weak minded people such as yourself Donna, are part of what is sick with this world. You are so full of yourself, and how you would take the high road, the diplomatic route and so on. Yet, all you ever do is take it, and never do a damn thing about it. Weak and pathetic, Donna. It took this issue to show, but it has. Your true being. All talk, and no action. I have seen it before, and you are the classic example of it.

    And Emily, just for the record, I do not issue threats. I either act, or I don’t. Threats are nothing more than a stupid advanced heads up. As for a teacher, if they hit my kid, well yes physical violence does solve something. The teacher will be unable to assault another student from a hospital bed.

    We are not talking about disagreeing with the teacher about a test mark. We are talking assault. Pure and simple. If you cannot get worked up, and protect you child from it. Maybe you shouldn’t be a parent.

  102. hineata February 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    @Donna – lovely to hear about those women in Georgia.

    Maybe there is hope for the world yet :-)

  103. Emily February 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    @Warren–Really, you’re going to resort to bathroom humour? Anyway, I find that expression insulting, because I actually have brown eyes, not because I’m full of anything, but because I was born that way.

  104. Warren February 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Out of respect for Lenore, and the wonderful work she is doing, I am going to leave this site.

    The fact that some of the people in here are willing to either allow or look the other way at children being assaulted, this is no place for me. I love and respect my children and those of other’s far too much to be associated with such morally weak people.

    The only way for evil to truly win is for good men to do nothing.

    Looking the other way, making excuses, rationalizing and out right allowing violence against children is no better than hitting them yourselves.

    As far as the topic of respect goes, you are out of your league. My kids are just like their dad. They do not automatically give anyone respect. Respect is earned, not given.

    Do not believe all the fear mongering that Donna does about children being taken away. If a teacher assaulted my kid, and I exacted some revenge, CAS cannot take my kids from me and my wife. CAS in Ontario is far more realistic than the american version. And you miss the point. I am against violence against kids, and in the right circumstances I am all for violence adult to adult. What would the teacher take away, from the encounter? Knowing that the next time they hit my kids, they may not live thru the day.

  105. hineata February 20, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    So long Rambo.

    Hopefully at some point you’ll be worthy of respect, but I’m not holding my breath. Your poor kids.

    @Donna – Maya is so lucky to have a sensible parent. Am sure what she’s learning in Samoa will hold her in good stead for the rest of her life. The earlier a child can learn that the world is not just one way, the better.

  106. Donna February 20, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    I suppose there was some banal insult in all that bluster. Somehow I’m not insulted.

    “As far as the topic of respect goes, you are out of your league. My kids are just like their dad. They do not automatically give anyone respect. Respect is earned, not given.”

    I guess this is the major difference. See I believe every human being on the planet is worthy of respect simply because they are human beings. People can LOOSE my respect by their actions but everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity until they do something deserving of loosing that respect.

    I have little doubt that your children are just like you. That one sentence saddens me more than anything else written on this blog.

    But on that note, I guess there is nothing else to say but bah bye Warren.

  107. Donna February 20, 2013 at 1:51 am #

    Emily – Nobody is saying that you need to eat something and make yourself sick. We are saying that you need to be aware that everyone doesn’t think exactly like you as it concerns food or clothes or just about everything else on the planet.

    And many developing countries would have no understanding whatsoever of “vegan.” The idea of choosing to not eat available food is an absolutely foreign concept to people for whom food is/was within recent generations scarce (even if the family you visit is not poor, the culture is based on the masses not the elite). Does that mean that you need to eat? No. It means that you need to take the time to talk and explain to people and not just automatically assume that they have the same mentality towards food as you.

    As I said, most people are accepting and good. They want to like you. They want to please you and make you happy if you are their guest. They also like to treat people to their favorite foods. This can be a delicate situation but you are going to completely bugger it up if you just assume that everyone thinks about food the way you do.

  108. Emily February 20, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    @Donna–Of course I wouldn’t just assume. I said very clearly upthread that intercultural understanding is based on communication, which I learned while living at International House in Australia, which is why I have friends from all over the world. When I said that I’d “explain that I’m vegan,” I meant, of course, that I’d explain what it meant, if they asked about it, or seemed confused in any way. Remember how I said that a lot of people in Australia would ask me if I was American? Well, even when I told them I was Canadian, they didn’t think that was much different than being American, until I told them a bit about our culture. So, likewise, if I was faced with someone, from any culture, who didn’t understand veganism (because, some people right here in Canada don’t quite get it), then I’d just simply tell them, “I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal,” and then give examples. Don’t worry, I don’t assume that everyone thinks the same way as I do, about food or anything else. When I said, from the beginning, that Suzanne should “approach the hitting situation the same way she would with someone from her home country,” I really meant, “Look at the person as a person first, and a person from a different culture second.”

  109. Donna February 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    @Emily – Your comment proves my point. It is not about someone not understanding what the term “vegan” means. Even after you define the term, there will be absolutely no understanding of why on God’s great earth someone would choose not to eat an available food. Because that is a HUGE unimaginable luxury for many people in the world. The idea that people have enough food in enough variety to simply say “I will no longer eat any animal products” sounds to them like Greek myths sound to us – entertaining ideas but not to believable.

    The point is that you can’t approach a situation in a foreign country (again I don’t think Suzanne is foreign to Thailand) as if you are approaching someone from your own country. THAT is assuming that the whole world thinks like you. You have to approach someone from Thailand as someone from Thailand. You have to make them understand why smacking children is wrong within the framework of Thai culture, undertsanding and thought processes and not Canadian culture understanding and thought processes. To do that, you have to understand Thai culture, history, lifestyle, thought processes and accept them as perfectly valid.

  110. hineata February 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    ‘Look at the person as a person first, and as a person from a different culture second’.

    @Emily, I am sure you mean well. But even the concept of looking at people as individuals is primarily a Western one. As an example, my husband’s grandfather was prayed for by a missionary and healed, and so he converted to Christianity, and so did his whole extended family, not because they necessarily had a ‘conversion experience’ as Western churches might explain it, but because the head of their extended family became a Christian, and hence so did they. They did it with sincerity and without complaint, because they moved as a group.

    The attitude of treating people as individuals before looking at culture (because most of the teaching pop. is white and monocultural) is damaging to both Maori and immigrant children here in New Zealand, and from the literature the same thing is happening in Canada. Culture is central to how we perceive the world, which I think we have all established here ad nauseum, given the different angles we are coming from in this discussion.

  111. Sally February 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Emily, I rejoice there are people like you out there!

  112. Betsy February 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    CHILDREN deserve respect and privacy. So do adults.

    What a travesty all this is.

    I suspect the grant money is easy to get for this kind of stuff in schools from the Feds. Locally, I don’t think you could pay for all with just a school levy? Maybe you parents could ask for your money back.

    Your proof is your child’s word. Something happened at school, then something happened. You don’t need camera.
    A camera doesn’t speak for them, you do.

  113. Emily February 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    @Donna and Hineata–I understand what you’re saying, but as I said before, the chances of me dining with strangers in a developing country, is very slim. If I did visit a developing country, it’d almost certainly be to visit a previously-established friend who lives there, has seen me eating vegetarian or vegan food for two years at International House, and is completely cool with it. That’s what I meant by seeing someone as an individual first, and a nationality second. It’s just as narrow-minded to assume that “No one from X country will understand Y belief system,” as it is to assume that “Everyone from X country must understand Y belief system.” That’s what I was saying from the beginning–don’t assume either party understands everything, ask the appropriate questions, be willing to listen, and also be willing to explain yourself if they don’t understand something about you. Like I said, International House didn’t make me all-knowing about every culture in the world, but it did teach me a lot, and one of those things was HOW to move forward towards gaining understanding of other people’s cultures. A lot of that learning took place on the spur of the moment, around the dinner table, in the living room watching a movie with people, in a my Indian friend’s room while she was showing me her collection of saris, at the beach on a random Saturday afternoon, or in the middle of nowhere during a bush walk.

    As for the hitting a child issue, okay, maybe it’s necessary to do some research on Thai culture before the meeting with the teacher/school officials, but that meeting should absolutely still happen, so that you can give the people a chance to understand. Not everyone from the same culture is the same, and two people/families from the same culture might do things completely differently.

    For example, my friend Princy and my friend Swati are both from India. Princy’s family practices arranged marriage (with Princy and her sisters being given options, and the ultimate decision being up to them and their potential mates), and Swati’s family doesn’t practice arranged marriage, but Swati told me that her parents are sort of subtly pushing her to marry a person from India. There might be another Indian family that practices arranged marriage the traditional way (as in, the parents choose exactly who they want their daughter to marry, and that’s final), and another that really doesn’t care whether their daughter marries an Indian, a white person, or a Smurf. Anyway, I originally saw arranged marriage as being oppressive, but Princy told me that she actually prefers it that way, because she’s close with her parents, she doesn’t feel that anyone knows her as well as they do, and hey, having them help with the husband-selection process is one fewer decision she has to make, IF she even decides she wants to get married. The methods of arranged marriage have also evolved over the years–according to Princy, there are now arranged-marriage websites, which must make things a lot easier logistically.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I never would have learned all of this if I’d been so worried about not offending people from other cultures, that I never asked about their cultures in the first place, for fear of making a “mistake,” or sticking my foot in my mouth. Likewise, Suzanne shouldn’t be afraid to have that conversation with her kids’ school about the different cultural norms surrounding corporal punishment.

  114. hineata February 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    @Emily – love the Smurf! Some days I wish I’d married a Smurf…. :-).

    And I have gotten so emotional about this topic that I probably haven’t made some points terribly well. You’re right about giving offense – it isn’t too worth worrying about, because you are going to do it anyway. Heavens, I have poured the outside rubbish into a metal tin that contained sacrifices my mother-in-law was making to the gods, because I thought the thing was an incinerator…The only reason she still talks to me (as much as we can talk) is because she doesn’t know!

    What we do need to be careful of, as Westerners, is barging in and throwing our weight around, because many of us are very good at that. Going Rambo on people just reinforces stereotypes. And to be careful that we don’t assume anything much. Which you are advocating anyway.


  115. Emily February 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    @Hineata–That’s a pretty funny story about the metal tin you thought was an incinerator. As for the “Rambo” thing, don’t worry–I’m all about treading lightly, and seeking to understand the other person’s point of view, EVEN if they did something that I’m not crazy about. Warren is the one who advocates the “Rambo” approach, and he said a few posts upthread that he was leaving this site, although I saw him replying to Lenore’s article about helicopter pet owners, so maybe he didn’t really mean it.

  116. Donna February 20, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    “Look at the person as a person first, and a person from a different culture second.”

    Which works well for dinner parties, but I think the better tactic if you want to solve a problem is to view the problem culturally first because different cultures solve problems differently.

    For example, in the US, it is considered the height of rudeness to go over someone’s head to solve a problem. We want to address it person-to-person. So a coworker going to the boss with a complaint about you would likely completely destroy the work relationship. In Samoa, personal confrontation is just a pointless brawl waiting to happen. The best way to solve a problem with another family is to go to your matai, who will go to the other family’s matai, the two matais will work it out and tell everyone what to do.

    So before you can solve a problem you have to look at how the culture involved solves problems. Should Suzanne talk to the principal calmly and rationally about this? Don’t know. That is a very North American way to do it. That may not be a good way to do things in Thailand at all. Who we talk to, who does the talking, how to approach someone, tone of voice, humbleness, aggression, etc. are not universal, but vary from culture to culture. Get it wrong and your chances of resolving the situation go down considerably.

    The problem I have with people like Warren is that they just want to vent their rage at people and not solve problems. That is why his only solution to every single situation is anger and aggression. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to attack it in a way that is going to solve the problem and that requires different tactics for different cultures and even different people within the culture.

  117. Donna February 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    And people who announce their departure from sites like this rarely actually leave.

  118. Emily February 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    @Donna–I was actually thinking that it might be best for Suzanne to either talk to the teacher first, and then the principal, or talk to the teacher and the principal together, but first, hop on the Internet before calling the school, and do some cursory research on how people in Thailand solve problems. However, I’m starting to think that maybe this is becoming less about the issue at hand, and more about you wanting to prove that I’m narrow-minded, culturally insensitive, and just as aggressive and rude as Warren. I’m realy not, it’s just that, well, like I said, there’s the Rambo approach, and then there’s the “don’t even ask/initiate the conversation, for fear of offending the person from a different culture” approach, and what I’ve been trying to say all this time is, there’s a happy medium. It’s not always clear what that happy medium is, but it usually involves rational discussion. I’m just saying that this discussion should probably happen sooner rather than later, before the teacher hits Suzanne’s child again.

    Besides, remember my story of my two friends from India, who come from families with different views on arranged marriage? The same general principle applies here. If Suzanne decides to talk to the teacher first, and then go to the principal if that doesn’t work, there’s always the chance that the principal feels entirely differently about corporal punishment than the teacher does, and will become more vigilant about making sure that none of the teachers hit any of the children, which would be a win all around.

  119. Emily February 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    *I meant to say, I’m really not like Warren, because “really” has two L’s. This board needs an “edit” function

  120. Donna February 21, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Emily – I don’t think you are culturally insensitive at all. I think that you are very human in that you view the world through your own life experiences and expect that that is the way everyone sees things. We all do that to various degrees and always will. However, you, unlike the Warrens of the world, are very open to possibilities and willing to embrace new ideas.

    I do think that there is a tendency for many to say basically “this is the obvious next step you must try” instead of “here’s an idea” and remembering that it may be not be a workable solution due to the nature of the culture. In fact, that extends to inside our own cultures. Things that are workable in the abstract may not be at all in the situation at hand with the players involved. People, myself included, tend to present ideas as must-dos and then view people saying “that won’t work” as excuses when things just aren’t always workable in the specific situation and maybe the person involved knows better than the outsiders.

    And Suzanne stated in her second post that she (through lawyers) has already tried to talk to the school to no avail. I am not pooing the idea of going to the school. I recognized that it was tried and failed.

    I also recognize that Suzanne seems to be an intelligent, articulate person and caring mother. If she had not tried this obvious, to us anyway, next step (which she has) then there is probably a reason that she didn’t go there. I don’t know any decent parent who would not want their child hit in school, but not have the thought of talking to the school to see if there was anything they could do to at least opt their kids out.

  121. Emily February 21, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Wow, I guess I missed the part about Suzanne talking to her kids’ school without success, and then consulting a lawyer. My bad……I guess this also means that all of this back-and-forth discussion, and arguing, and “losing” Warren, and explanations of my experiences meeting people of various other cultures at International House, really wasn’t necessary. You’re right, Suzanne does seem like an intelligent and articulate person, and a caring mother, and she’s probably frustrated enough about the whole situation, without us making it worse. I was complicit in that, and Suzanne, if you’re still reading this, I’m sorry.

  122. pentamom February 21, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    “And people who announce their departure from sites like this rarely actually leave.”

    It took Dolly a few tries, but evidently it eventually stuck. But you said “rarely” and you’re right.

  123. pentamom February 21, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    “The problem I have with people like Warren is that they just want to vent their rage at people and not solve problems. That is why his only solution to every single situation is anger and aggression. ”

    And what is particularly hard to deal with in a setting like this one is that he’s not just like that for himself, but then he projects weakness or willingness to put with injustice on behalf of others onto any person whose approach is *to any degree* more nuanced or diplomatic. Even to argue that a less overtly confrontational solution might actually WORK better is to lack the resolve to deal with things and just let yourself, or your kids, or some innocent party somewhere, get steamrolled by the bad people of the world.

    Emily, I haven’t been trying to be critical or put you down or suggest that you’re ignorant. It’s just that like Donna, I wonder if you really grasp that, unlike in our multicultural North American experience, “culture” for most people in the world isn’t a matter of trappings of polite behavior or specific traditions,** it goes right to the essence of how people think, how they regard relationships, how they solve problems, even how they view what they themselves and other people “are.” So I’ve just tried to point out that to treat someone as an “individual first” and then putting culture second, might be to completely violate their conception of how people are supposed to interact in the first place. And I don’t think you’re stupid, I think MOST people, including most highly intelligent people, think the way you do. It is, so to speak our “culture” to do so, and really, it’s everyone’s culture to think that the basic assumptions we have about how life should work are generally shared, and it’s only the marginal things that vary among people in different places. But it’s just not so.

    **I am not saying that for North Americans, culture is only those things, but that that is how we regard culture, but not only is it not merely that, but other people in the world don’t even regard it that way. Most people don’t even think about the word “culture” that much — it’s just “the way it is,” just like for us, “dealing with people as individuals” is ordinarily “just the way it is.”

  124. Betsy February 21, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    Getting back to Alex’s letter, from an environmental psychology viewpoint, the last sentence rings true, it’s more than words.
    This is what we teach: cameras eyeing your every move,
    check-ins, metal detectors, background checks, fingerprinting..
    all this technology in use, promoted as keeping you safe, even alive. From some of the comments, most of the school funds are spent on this. So this is where the focus is. If you have not learned to submit to that after you graduate then what have you learned?
    The real solution is how do we break the Problem, Reaction, Solution routine. Problem: There was an incident. Reaction: Over-reaction. Solution: Technology Innovation or some irrational rule or law.

  125. Susan2 February 26, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    It’s hard for me to get worked up about this issue. Cameras are EVERWHERE in our lives. Most office buildings, malls, public buildings, even most streets in urban areas have cameras. Many places that you would never suspect. I don’t necessarily think they are needed in all schools, and they may be a waste of money, but if we are going to start campaigning against cameras, then do it on a larger, societal scale.

    And many commenters seem to think that the cameras are to protect the kids against adults and intruders, but, since this is a high school, they are probably mainly to monitor kid on kid behavior. Maybe it doesn’t prevent crime, but it can serve to solve the “who stole my violin” question or the “who is constantly picking on the Special Ed kid who won’t tell but us ‘losing'” his school supplies when he is in the hallway.” I have seen cameras used in both these scenarios. And now that i know that there are cameras in the courtyard at my daughter’s school, I will have her park her bike there. She had a bike stolen (locked) from in front of the school, and the secretary told me where any future bikes should be parked. It might not keep the bike from getting stolen, but it might help it get returned.

    ID’s aren’t a big deal to me either. Every place I’ve worked required IDs on lanyards. Why not get the kids used to making sure they have their ID when they come to school? Plus, now that my daughter has a high school ID, she is able to get discounts at stores, theaters and more!

    Our high school has several buildings, and IDs are scanned whenever students enter a building. This helps keep attendance stats and can help catch kids who are regularly skipping earlier before they get too behind.

    Also, by high school, it can be difficult to differentiate between students and adults. Young adults (recent grads or drop outs) will try to get into the building if they have a beef with a student there, and the IDs help stop that. Yes, it would be great if all staff knew every student on sight, but in a school with 2,500 kids, that’s just not possible. And the IDs help things move more quickly.

  126. Stephanie M March 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    I am trying to explain this to moms in my area because of a bomb threat. I explained that camera wont stop bombs. that cops and bars on the windows wont stop bombs. threats are attention seeking and so on. The response is as always-But it can’t hurt!

    So I said I think it could hurt. It would be expensive and take money away from other areas that are way more important, and it would create a prison like atmosphere that will be uncomfortable for learning. It could also cause us to put our guard down with a false sense of security and we may miss the real issues.


  1. Free Range Kids » Dear Principal: Please Get Rid of the Cameras - - February 23, 2013

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