MISTAKE practically makes perfect, some teachers may say even when things turn out worst. What we learn best, after all, often comes the hardest.

Soft in the head may as well be the easiest way to end up dead. Tough luck, but we know the knocks called experience—in the eureka of hindsight—are barely wrapped in baby gloves. So stop whining, thus we want to shush our inner wimps even as we groan against the heavy-handed weight of punishment. And so it makes sense why the question of discipline can’t be answered easily.

On the matter of spanking schoolchildren, for instance, America is “intensely divided,” as one article stated, explaining the lack of national policy on corporal punishment while the law remains wide open for hairsplitting. For the record, in at least 19 American states, it’s legal for school authorities to discipline their pupils with a paddle smack on their butts regardless of the hue and cry from such groups as the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Parents may protest, but one survey showed many of them are no less literally hard-hitting as they believe in the biblical equation of a spared rod and a spoiled child. Trite, but the rhyme holds right: “No pain, no gain.”

Earning more in knowledge, at least. Or so we who are smarting from the lessons of living in the so-called Third World would have been the wiser or less prone to bear the brunt of distress. Learning from it all finally is a civic duty, according to one of the initiators of a coalition in Cebu set for a prayer rally against “greedy leaders who pocketed public funds.” That’s the reason, she explains, why health care and education in our country are not free or hardly affordable.

Indeed, where we repeatedly get absent-minded in our responsibility as voters, it has been a no-brainer why cameragenic clowns like the Revillas and the Estradas keep on killing us softly. Death so slow goes with the extent our maturity or its utter lack can be gauged by the grim reality of our political choices through the years. Old habits die hard, we’ve long been told.

Stories about public trust being short-changed are such a yawner, we know. Who cares to hear more of the same old snore? Still, the haunting persists even as we fancy living up at last to such fairy-tale notions as change and progress. The ghosts of mistakes past, making their hair-raising presences felt the more the headlines creep up our spines, continue with its peek-a-boo of clear and present dangers for our little ones.

As long as we allow some of our elected leaders to continue misbehaving and bullying the nation’s future with a threat of permanent degradation, it can only be the most severe beating we can inflict on our own children.

Outgrow the usual woes, and overcome the constancy of the hard knocks. Then again, even our authorities appear clueless. How else can we explain the enduring state of helplessness in some of our schools where teachers and their wards have less need of natural calamities the more waves of their discomfort are whipped by the steady drift in the political system?

Ad nauseam, recurrent reports about lack of classrooms and other “alarming” features of some school (lack of fire exits, dearth of materials, overcrowding, etc.) can only be symptomatic of the larger illness that afflicts our national leadership.

Follow the way of our teachers, instead. They know best, we assume, although it remains a mystery why the government has always been tardy or truant in giving them their dues—such as increasing their salaries, for instance, instead of draining the public coffers all the way to the pockets of the corrupt we never fail to elect.

“Some aspiring teachers are often disenchanted with the public school system because of the difficult working conditions… and an increased level of responsibility,” claims the executive director of the Coalition for Better Education (CBE). No rocket science to figure out, of course, why “not all graduates would end up as public school teachers” despite the reported “increase in the number of enrollees in education courses.”

No need to ask as well why some of the best and the brightest would rather become nurses or call agents, or domestic helpers abroad. In the long run, it hobbles our future generation when nothing’s quicker than the snicker from a stand-up comic’s wisdom: “Teachers deserve a lot of credit. Of course, if we paid them more, they wouldn’t need it.”