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Editorial: Legislature’s self-anointed disciplinarians lack their own

April 2, 2019

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, April 2, 2019; Editorial #8406 The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

When state Rep. Larry Pittman joined 15 other Republicans in a failed effort to defeat a bill to ban spanking and paddling in Public Schools, he invoked the divine.

“I personally thank God for every whipping my daddy ever gave me, and sometimes I got one at school and I got one when I got home, too,” Pittman said.

Pittman didn’t stop at his own experience. “When people tell me, ‘We don’t spank our children,’ I want to say, ‘Heh, and everybody can tell it too.’” Pittman’s guide to behavior modification in children: “Ultimately if a child won’t listen, that little pressure point on his rear-end that God gave you will open his ears. It certainly worked with me.”

While Pittman may say he wasn’t spared the rod, there’s little evidence it resulted in successful discipline. This is a legislator whose lack of discipline can be found in the extreme statements he’s made and the radical legislation he’s sponsored.

This is an elected official who has likened Abraham Lincoln to Adolph Hitler, contends the rebellion of the Southern states was constitutional and blames all the Civil War’s combat deaths on Lincoln.

“And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” Pittman said a couple of years ago in a social media reply to questioning of his sponsorship of legislation to ban gay marriage. “Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

What unifies several of the 16 advocates of school-administered physical discipline (which every school district in the state has now banned) is their own undisciplined behavior.

Take state Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican who is among the 17 GOP candidates in the special 3rd Congressional District election. During the 2017 legislative session, Speciale (with Pittman) was a primary sponsor of a bill to repeal the state constitution’s prohibition on secession. That provision, which bars the state from ever leaving the Union, was included in the state constitution as a requirement to return to the United States after the Civil War. The Pittman-Speciale bill was never discussed.

Speciale has easily won re-election from a heavily gerrymandered legislative district.

Matters of religion and faith are important. They are also deeply personal. In the United States they are between individuals and their conscience.

A particular faith or religious affiliation doesn’t grant superiority of motive or purpose over others. Nor does it offer license for mean-spirited bigotry.

North Carolina’s school districts have rightly banned physical punishment as a method of discipline in schools and the state should make it the law of the land.

Citizens, however, still have the strongest behavior modification tool – voting -- for self-serving elected officials like Pittman and Speciale. It is one they should use in 2020 at the ballot box to gain some permanent behavior modification.

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