Reviewed by Chris Dugan, April 2001
In Detective Robert Surgenor's 1999 book, "No Fear: A Police Officer's Perspective," the author argues that we are in the midst of a juvenile crime epidemic. His central thesis is that the cause of this alleged rise in juvenile crime can be traced to an unprecedented number of parents raising children with a complete absence of corporal punishment. Unable to find a publisher for his manuscript, Surgenor took out a second mortgage on his home and funded the publication of this book entirely out of pocket. With this self-published vanity volume providing him with "published author" credentials, Surgenor has subsequently appeared on MS-NBC, the Dr. Laura television show, and the Montel Williams Show (twice) as well as on local television in the Ohio area. He also speaks on the subject of child discipline and juvenile crime to various Cleveland-area civic organizations such as PTAs, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis International, etc.
Always, whenever he has a public platform, Surgenor repeats the same themes one finds in his book: that he is a published author and researcher, that juvenile crime is soaring, and that his research traces this alleged increase in juvenile crime to an absence of corporal punishment in the home. Lack of spanking in early childhood, according to Surgenor, leads to a lack of fear, which leads to criminal behavior in the teen years.
"More and more, we are encountering kids with no fear of authority. Soon, we will have an entire generation of children who have never been spanked - out of control and defying authority as they grow into adulthood. An entire generation of people with no fear. Not afraid of their parents, not afraid of the police, not afraid of God." (p.127)
"Getting spanked by your parent is frightening. That is part of the negative consequence that is associated with negative behavior. That is part of the necessary programming of the child's mind that follows them throughout his/her lifetime. That is the major problem with the out-of-control youth of today." (p. 149)The importance of instilling fear in one's children, and the inadequacy of all other forms of discipline besides spanking to instill the necessary levels of fear, is a point to which Surgenor returns again and again throughout his book.
"Think about it. When you were growing up, what did you fear the most as punishment from your parents when you got caught doing something wrong? Were you really afraid of being grounded or losing privileges? Although it was boring for a few days, those penalties did not instill fear into your soul. It was the dreaded spanking that we were afraid of. It was the fear of being sent to your room, with the information that dad would be there shortly to deal out a spanking as punishment for your wrongdoing. It was the fear when you heard the leather snapping out of dad's belt loops. There was nothing that made you move faster or made your heart beat harder. You were afraid of the consequence. You feared your parent's authority. It acted as a deterrent to negative behavior." (p. 8, emphasis his)
"I would be unable to count the number of people who, when they were growing up, refrained from talking back to dad because they were afraid of him. My dad was a big man who, up to when I was twelve years old, made a living working in the steel mill... I don't recall ever giving my dad any lip." (p. 141, emphasis his)
"To allow your young child to defy your authority without swift and stinging consequences is inviting much larger problems years down the road. No matter what some of the experts say, attempting to rear your child "without fear" is laying the groundwork for a teenager who isn't afraid to flagrantly disobey your rules. To seek other forms of discipline rather than spanking when your four year old tells you "no," is guaranteeing that he will defy your authority when he is seventeen." (p. 203)Surgenor recommends use of implements. He also endorses face slapping as well as "boxing" a child's ears, (a dangerous and discredited practice long known to involve risk of permanent hearing damage for the child).
"There's a tendency to use the term "spanking" when referring to any type of corporal punishment, when we should be more specific in our terms... My parents used something besides their hand to make contact with my derriere, usually a belt or wooden spoon. I remember my dad once saying, "This is meant to hurt you, not me!" (p. 12)
"For thousands of years, parents have used pain as a motivator for positive behavior in their children. For thousands of years, parents have utilized switches from trees, belts, razor straps, and wooden spoons. For thousands of years parents have squeezed that trapezius muscle and boxed those ears. For thousands of years kids have gotten cracked a good one when they talked back. For thousands of years kids have gotten spanked with the belt when they got caught shoplifting. And do you know what? They turned out alright. In fact they turned out normal." (p. 13)
"I know numerous parents who have given the open palm to the cheek of a sassy offspring with no noticeable adverse effects." (p. 12)Surgenor warns his readers that a generation of violent, uncontrollable unspanked children were foretold in the Bible, and that people working to promote nonviolent alternatives to spanking children are tools of the Devil.
"I believe that the antispanking movement has, and will continue to have, a hand in the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy. Unbeknownst to the nonspanking advocates, they are helping to cause children to be "disobedient to parents," something that was predicted in 2 Timothy [3:1] in the year A.D. 66." (p. 126)
"It will be easy for that generation [of unspanked children] to gather together under the direction of the Antichrist in an attempt to defeat the coming Christ. Without God in their upbringing and without the fear of authority that is instilled in a child with the use of corporal punishment, millions of people will gather in the last day in the valley of Megiddo in the final battle of Armageddon... The [anti-spanking movement] is mounting an attack against parental authority. I believe Satan is using this group to accomplish his objective to eliminate the fear of authority from the coming generations." (P.128)Aside from his Biblical arguments and unverifiable anecdotes, which take up most of the book, Surgenor's case rests on three assumptions: that juvenile crime is increasing, that large numbers of parents are raising children without spanking, and that these unspanked children are responsible for nearly all of the alleged rise in juvenile crime. In the following pages, we shall discover that all three of these assumptions are highly dubious at best, and at worst, demonstrably false.
Two, we shall examine the U.S. crime statistics of recent years, to
determine if Surgenor's claims of a nationwide juvenile epidemic have any
verifiable basis in fact.
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