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Enlightening Yule Gifts Worth Thinking About


Now that all the major holiday shopping and chores are behind me, I can turn to people I haven't forgotten, even though I've tried.

For starters, I could almost fill Santa's bag with items for all those who wrote objecting to my view that child abuse begins with spanking, that except for hugging and patting children on the back, parents should keep their hands to themselves.

One reader insisted in a letter to The Times that "even before they start to walk . . . (children) need discipline," which he defined as "the hand or the belt." He questioned whether I even had any children and suggested that if I did they were probably the kids who "walk by my house shouting obscenities, destroying front yards, starting fights."

* For that reader and others like him, I have a lengthy report from Nottingham (England) University's Child Development Research Unit, compiled by John and Elizabeth Newson.

Basically, the Newsons' study of more than 700 families indicates that those children so nettlesome to our reader probably receive the very treatment he wants for them. Children who are frequently beaten, it says, are very likely to become delinquents.

It shows that children who are struck with a hand, belt, switch or whatever once a week are much more apt to have problems with the law than those who are not smacked around.

* For the 11 readers who wrote and called to remind me that the Bible endorses spanking when it says, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," I have a copy of the Bible and a challenge to find that quote in it.

Hint: It's not there. The line comes from a Samuel Butler poem and is only figuratively referring to children. For those who haven't time to look it up, here it is:

Love is a boy by poets styled;

Then spare the rod, and spoil the child.

* For those same readers, and anyone else who believes children need a little violence now and then, I have a copy of the new book, "Soul Murder," by psychiatrist Leonard Shengold, published by Yale University Press.

In the book, Dr. Shengold details the crippling lifelong effects of abuse to children. As the title implies, he believes their souls have been murdered, which makes us understand how these victims will more than likely make their own children victims, too.

* Finally, I have a list of the Orange County children whose abuse will have been reported to authorities before the end of the year. I warn you, though, you could read "A Christmas Carol" a lot faster. The list contains 20,000 names, and I figure at two seconds a name, you will require about 11 hours to read them all.

I also have a special gift for the groups of people out there trying to ban books from schools and libraries.

It's a needlepoint pattern, suitable for framing, that suggests: "It's not what they read that's important, it's that they read."

The Chicago-based American Libraries Assn. reports that efforts to censor books have increased dramatically in the past few years. The 1989 hit list, for example, contained more than 500 different titles, ranging from "Hansel and Gretel" and "Catcher in the Rye" to the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

As my 11-year-old would say, "Get serious!"

Anyway, the pattern is available, along with a suggestion that if they truly want to make a contribution to education that they do something positive, like involve themselves in fighting illiteracy or the high dropout rate.

Or do something really radical for Orange County, like work for passage of a school bond issue.

Last, for the lady who called and demanded that The Times stop running stories on the homeless in Orange County because "they're all drunks and bums," the complete report of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

And, the wish that I could fill her greatest need--a human heart.

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