As is my habit, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning yesterday and one of their feature stories was on an anti-bullying program at a middle school in Nebraska. As you likely know, school bullying is a hot topic currently, especially since the suicide death of the Rutgers University student and the subsequent New Jersey law against bullying.
I have had a good bit of experience with school bullying, having been a glasses-wearing, quiet kid when I was in school, and as a teacher in my adult years. Not only have I observed school bullying as an adult, but I have also had students try to bully me and have seen them victimize other teachers. So, for forty years and in many different locations around the country, I have watched this problem develop and worsen.
Bullying has long since stopped being "kids being kids" and stopped being something we can expect victims to reasonably deal with as a normal part of growing up. For parents out there, it is not the same bullying we had in school. The new bullying is primarily psychological and it is sinister beyond anything we could have dreamed up when we were that age. When it is physical, it is dangerous. With the steady diet of violent entertainment most of our kids have grown up on, how could it be any other way?
Watching the report yesterday, a couple of things occurred to me. First, behind an incorrigible bully is a bullying parent. And second, because of the first thing, a bullying kid does not know better than to treat others that way. One of the girls on the program was an incorrigible bully. She saw absolutely no reason that she should think or behave any differently, did not care a bit that she was hurting others. Her eyes were flat, like a jaded adult, with none of the sparkle that we expect to see in a child’s eyes. I was wondering why her parents would have given permission for her to be shown in such a realistic, but negative light on national television—then they interviewed her mother and I knew why. Her mother was just an older version of her daughter—a bully. She made it clear that she saw nothing wrong with her daughter’s behavior and was, in fact, a little proud of it. She expressed that if the school had a problem with it, they needed to deal with it.
That brings me to the question that has been giving me pounding headaches for the past few decades: Why do we expect the schools to do what we are not willing to do as parents? Schools are for teaching kids, not raising them. In years past, parents spent the first five or six years of a child’s life teaching them the basics of how to get along in the outside world, then continued and enforced that as their children went through their school years. Now so many of us have these "free range" children that we put into school so that someone there can get them straightened out. The part that really gets me is that, at the same time, we have bound and gagged our teachers and administrators so that they cannot effectively teach or raise our kids for us! Why do they not do something about bullies? Because we have made it illegal for them to do something!
As usual, these are my personal observations and opinions. Let me know what you think—email@example.com