Recollections of Childhood Humiliations
Punishment Spanking NoSpank
"The following story is true. There was a little boy, and his father
said, "Do try to be like other people. Don't frown." And he tried
and tried, but could not. So his father beat him with a strap;"
The above quote (presumed autobiographical) is from Oliver Heaviside's (1850-1925)
3 volume book "Electromagnetic Theory" (Volume III, Chapter IX,
New York : Dover Publications, 1950.). Heaviside was responsible for the
recasting of much of physics, most notably, Maxwell's equations, into elegant
vector form, which is how it is taught today. However, in all of the textbooks
of physics, I've never seen him credited for this.
A good biography to read is:
Nahin, Paul J. (1987), "Oliver Heaviside, sage in solitude : the life,
work, and times of an electrical genius of the Victorian age," New
York : IEEE Press, 320 pp.
A Gentle Slap
"There was a wealthy lady in town, a good but pompous women, who used
to come to the church gorgously painted up and attired with an enormous
train and attendants. One Sunday I had just finished ringing the bell in
the belfry and rushed downstairs when this grand dame was sweeping out and
I jumped on her train. It tore off with a ripping noise which sounded like
a salvo for musketry fired by raw recruits. My father was livid with rage.
He gave me a gentle slap on the cheek, the only corporal punishment he ever
administered to me but I almost feel it now. The embarrassment and confusion
that followed are indescribable. I was practically ostricised until something
else happened which redeemed me in the estimation of the community."
The above quote is from Nikola Tesla's (1856-1943) autobiography. Even a
gentle slap can make an indelible impression on a young child. He was six
years old at the time. Incidentally, Tesla is the originator of the modern
60 cycle alternating current power generation system used world over, and
popularized by Westinghouse over the competing Edison-direct current system
then manufactered by General Electric. Westinghouse reaped enormous profit
but Tesla died impoverished. Tesla, who was nominated in 1916 to share the
Nobel Prize with Edison in 1916, declined because did not want to share
it with an "inventor." He considered himself a "discoverer"
and did not want to destroy the relative values between the two categories.
Furthermore, Tesla was also the inventor of the wireless radio system, often
credited to Marconi who got the 1909 Nobel prize for his work. The Marconi
patent was eventually overturned in favor of Tesla, but after it had already
expired! All these events greatly distressed Tesla, and to share an award
with Edison was simply too much for him.
Tesla, Nikola, (1982), "My inventions : the autobiography of Nikola
Tesla / edited, with an introduction, by Ben Johnston, Williston, Vt. :
Hart Bros., pg 47.
O'Neill, John J. (1981), "Prodigal genius : the life of Nikola Tesla,
Hollywood, CA," Angriff Press, (republished: Albuquerque, N.M. : Brotherhood
of Life, 1994.) pg 230-231.
A Story For Us All
"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told
me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in
striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree
was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or
five,he did something that she felt warranted a spanking - the first of
his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch
for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came
back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch,
but here's a rock that you can throw at me." All of a sudden the mother
understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if
my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it
with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy
onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the
kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something
I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery
- one can raise children into violence." I think that too often we
fail to feel situations "from the child's point of view," and
that failure leads us to teach our children other than what we think we're
teaching them. "
As told by Astrid Lindgren when she received the German Book Trade Peace
Prize (1978) for her literary contributions. See story
"My mother helped me with my homework when she came home from work.
For a while I had trouble telling the letters H and K apart. One evening
my mother was taking great pains to explain the difference to me. I could
scarcely pay attention to what she was saying because I noticed my father
getting more and more furious. I always knew exactly when it was going to
happen: he went and got the hand broom from the kitchen and gave me a trouncing.
Now I was supposed to tell him the difference between H and K. Of course,
by that time I didn't know anything anymore so I got another licking and
was sent to bed.
That was his way of helping me with my homework. He wanted me to be smart
and make something of myself. ........
There were evenings I can still remember down to the last detail. One time
I was assigned to draw houses in my arithmetic notebook. They were supposed
to be six squares wide and four squares high. I had one house finished and
was doing just fine when my father suddenly came and sat beside me. He asked
me where the next house should go. I was so scared I stopped counting the
squares and started guessing. Every time I pointed to the wrong square,
he pasted me one. All I could do was bawl and couldn't answer at all anymore,
so he went over to the rubber plant. I knew very well what that meant. He
pulled the bamboo stick supporting the plant our of the flowerpot. The he
thrashed my behind with the stick until you could literally peel off the
From the autobiography of Christiane F. (1982): "Autobiography of a
Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict" and quoted by Alice
Miller (1983), "For Your Own Good, Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing
and the Roots of Violence," pg 111-112, NY:Farrar Straus Giroux.
Last updated 9 May 2000
2000 by Duen
Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.
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