I had a truly fascinating discussion with a person on Facebook recently. Turns out, there were some things I didn’t know.
For example, apparently, bullying is a free speech right. Because it’s a free speech right, the person being bullied can only “suck it up”. We should teach children to be mentally and emotionally )as well as physically) stronger so that bullying doesn’t harm them.
Also, bullying is a given. It is impossible to teach children not to bully if they are stronger, meaner, or more popular than others. Our society and our human nature is just wired that way. Again, the only possible response is to teach kids to just “let it roll off their backs”. I’m not sure how a 40 pound child can let punches from a 100 pound child “roll of their backs”.
Of course, I commented on the similarity between these claims and the claims of gun rights activists who say that their freedom to own guns and do with them as they will trumps any rights of anyone else to live. The response was predictable. “If you don’t like me having guns, you can leave this country. The Second Amendment guarantees that right and you can come and take them.”
This all started because a friend of mine posted this picture.
I disagree with this on several levels.
One: Why will we never ever get rid of bullying? We’re humans, we can darn near do anything. Why can’t we teach children that some behaviors are unacceptable. Why can’t we teach our children empathy and understanding of others?
The answer to that, is sadly, because of people like I conversed with on Facebook. These people are so firmly entrenched in the me vs. them attitude that they rarely see other people as anything more than things to annoy or entertain them. I grew up with one of those people as a parent (for a while). Even today, when my parent is well into his 70s, he hasn’t learned that other people have feelings and thoughts/opinions of their own that are worthy of consideration. He’s a four year-old in a 70 year old body. He’s a child who was never taught empathy.
I’m all for teaching kids to stand up for themselves and others. But bullying is the problem not kids who don’t stand up for themselves.
I use this definition for bullying from stopbullying.gov
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
I’m not a huge fan of that last bit, but I can see the value. If someone joins the school band and is not wanted by the rest of the kids, then they would be subject to bullying until they left.
The thing about standing up for one’s self is that it promotes fighting. And, let’s be honest, there’s only so much that a 40 pound kid can do when there is a real physical imbalance of power (whether it is one large person or multiple smaller people). The kid will get the crap beat out of him. Do that enough times and the kid will either crack or take revenge. Neither is good for the kid or for society.
Laws are in existence to tell people what is required and what is acceptable. You have to pay taxes (unless you’re a giant corporation). You can’t kill people (unless you’re a giant car manufacturer). You can’t line item veto laws (unless you’re a closely held corporation).
Bullying is not acceptable behavior. Thus, there are laws that tell us this. Except that there are parents who disagree with this law and break it themselves (encouraging their kids to follow their lead).
Finally, this is not about creating a society of victimhood. This is about what is socially acceptable behavior.
It’s absolutely stunning to me that some people believe that beating up people smaller than themselves is an expression of free speech. It stuns me that people harassing others to the point of suicide is considered, by some, to be freedom of expression (often with the tacit approval of responsible adults).
Nationwide, 5.9% of students had not gone to school on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey because they felt they would be unsafe at school or on their way to or from school (Table 16).
There are some bloody shocking stats in that survey report… and that is from a former teacher at an inner city school.
The problem isn’t that kids aren’t tough enough to handle bullying. We are not raising a society of victims.
Bullying is the problem. Stop the bullying and many of the issues surrounding it will also stop (suicide, injury, weapons, theft, etc) will be significantly reduced.
This isn’t a case of one or two bad apples. It’s an endemic problem in the same way that racial issues and homophobia are problems in our culture. Time and a change in the culture will (hopefully) remove these problems. Just like time and a shift in society removed slavery and allowed women and minorities to vote.
Sadly, it will not be a painless journey and, like those other issues, some will give the ultimate sacrifice for the cause to eliminate bullying. Others will stand up and demand their right to bully others.
 Note that I couldn’t find an original for this. The PFD refers to a book that I cannot find right now.