Tag Archives: Catholic school

Spare the Rod, Spare the Child

In our latest podcast of About Men Radio, AMR posse members Richard Rodriguez, Pedro Rosado and Christopher Mele discuss discipline.

No, wait. Not discipline in a BDSM kind of way. Though, of course, there’s nothing WRONG with that. Just sayin’… (By the way, Rich, you left your whips and gimp mask at my house.)

The discipline we’re discussing is the kind we were subjected to as kids growing up at home and at school. Some of that has been discussed in previous blog posts by me and by guest blogger John Roche, who shared his experiences as a student at a Catholic high school in the Bronx.

In this show, we revisit those bygone days when Pedro and his older brother would be told by their 4-foot-tall grandmother to stoop down so she could smack them in the head.

Or listen to stories of one of Rich’s older brothers getting a whuppin’ with a bamboo stick by their mom.

(Rich, for the record, professes to have been such a goody-goody that he was not subjected to such punishment, but does say that his mother merely raising her voice was enough to make him tremble and toe the line.)

As for me? Well, let’s say I was a smart-alecky, moody kid who met the business end of a spatula or a belt. Once or twice. OK, maybe more…

“This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” the saying goes. Really? I’m pretty sure I’m the one walking (barely) around with a sore behind.

We also address what kind of discipline we have meted out as parents. Can there be too much of the “tough” in tough love? Do we regret some of the steps we’ve taken in the name of enforcing order? And what triggers us as fathers to engage in such behavior?

On a less serious note, for the first time ever, we provide a (way too-belated) parental advisory about our content and use of bad language on the show.

This advisory leads to a diatribe by Pedro that, in turn, leads to me hyperventilating from laughing so hard. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I passed out at some point.

So put on your headphones, get a paper bag to breathe into and press play.


Corporal Punishment and Catholic Schools

On a recent visit to see my parents, the conversation turned to stories of how they enforced discipline with their three children.

Being the oldest, naturally, I was subjected to the worst of it.

Spatulas. Belts. Shoes.

They were all weapons of ass destruction.

They were used when I was being mouthy or disrespectful, which as I recall, was often.

But as much as my parents were enforcers of discipline, they were no match for the nuns, Christian brothers and lay teachers who made up the staff of the Catholic schools of my youth.

I recall my second-grade teacher who had “the lightning rod,” a steel ruler that was as thick as it was inflexible.

Another teacher used to grind his school ring into your skull.

I attended an all-boys Catholic high school in the Bronx where faculty members were liberal in doling out punishment and enforcing discipline.

For freshman algebra, I had Brother Tin, a Christian brother who stood about 4-foot nothing.

But his stature belied his speed.

Brother Tin

I don’t recall why, but one day a classmate, Mike Wasilewski,  who stood about 6-foot-2, got in trouble and was called to the front of the classroom.

In his heavily accented English, Brother Tin said: “Wasilewski, take off your glasses.”

I never saw Brother Tin’s hands even leave his sides but I vividly recall Wasilewski’s  head recoiling from the sharp, loud smack he took across his face.

But perhaps the most memorable story came on an afternoon while we waited outside a locked classroom and were gathered in the hallway.

This one student, Mike, was recounting a story to a buddy and it was laced with F bombs.

“F bomb this and F bomb that…”

Unfortunately for him, he did not realize that the office of our assistant principal, Ron Patnosh, was scant feet away.


And his door was open. And he was inside. Listening.

The next thing I knew Patnosh materialized as if he were an apparition.

“Where do you think you are?! Do you think you are out on the streets?! How dare you talk that way!”

As he shouted at the F bomber, each sentence was punctuated with a loud smack across the kid’s kisser.

I just stood there doe-eyed like Buckwheat from the Little Rascals.

All of this reminds me of the story of the incorrigible kid whose dad is going nuts dealing with his son’s misbehavior at school.

At public school, the kid is a disaster academically and routinely gets suspended.

The dad tries to enroll his son in a private school but the results are the same.

In desperation, the dad decides to send his son to Catholic school.

Lo and behold, the kid straightens up, discipline complaints from teachers disappear and his grades soar.

One night the dad sits the son down and asks: “After all of the trouble and anguish you put me through, why now did you decide to behave in school?”

The son replied: “Dad, I walked in the classroom and took one look at that guy nailed on the cross, and I knew they meant business!”

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