Friday, October 18, 2013

Bullying


To some extent or another, we all think of bullying as a fact of life.

I confess it was I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years by Wil Wheaton that pushed me to write this and not one of the more heartbreaking stories of suicide or other ways lives are utterly devastated by bullying.

Here's the thing, bullying is going to keep getting worse.  Period.

Keeping kids in school longer hours, giving them less free time after school.  I'm a 42 year old man, and I couldn't take that schedule.  I'm not the only one who thinks that.  My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me by Karl Taro Greenfeld makes that point as well.

Without the benefit of bullying, I can promise I wouldn't have survived childhood with that kind of schedule and I don't think I would now, although obviously I have Kim and Conan to make the effort to go on for.

I don't know if I'm the best example.  I certainly don't hit any norms.  I cut class in high school and would go to the library, try to avoid notice as long as possible while I read books until I was kicked out for not having a pass to be there and I'd go outside to smoke.

This is, I suppose, where it was cemented for me that School is a prison! and not a place to learn.  I certainly have more to say about that another day.

My point is that even at that point in my schooling, I wasn't broken.  I lacked the least inclination to obey, but I was still actively and enthusiastically interested in learning.  I just knew that school classes are rarely, if ever, the best medium for learning.  They are a primarily a medium for control and any real learning is largely incidental.

I wasn't bullied in high school, except by the school administration, but I was earlier.
No, I don't have any of those stories of relentless harassment.  I was just singled out by various other kids through the years for verbal abuse.  I didn't take it well.  I'd get into fights and then I'd be the one that got into "trouble".

It was a fine system, huh?

Let me just say, even this relatively benign stuff is still able to get me worked up.  If I think about those dudes, I feel like I could punch them again now.

But really, I know who the real enemy is and if I ran into any of those administrators from The Evergreen School from those days, I almost certainly would take the opportunity to finally punch them.  Yeah, it wouldn't do anything good.  Frankly, I'm quite happy to just never run into them.

That's where we come to School Bullying: A Tragic Cost of Undemocratic Schools by Peter Gray, "Bullying occurs regularly when people who have no political power and are ruled in top-down fashion by others are required by law or economic necessity to remain in that setting.  It occurs regularly, for example, in prisons. Those who are bullied can't escape, and they have no legislative or judicial power to confront the bullies. They may report bullying to the prison guards and warden, but the guards and warden may not know whom to believe and may have greater vested interest in hiding bullying than in publicizing it and dealing with it openly"

People who are disempowered learn that disempowerment is a standard way to live.  They then go about disempowering others to place themselves higher on the empowerment ladder.  It's basic.

It's even our stereotype, our joke even, that bullies are bullied at home.  We see that as the "punchline" of those things all the time, or, in more sensitive cases, the bittersweet realization we're brought to.

As with most stereotypes, it's, at best, incredibly simplistic, but almost certainly comes from something.  In some cases, they come from what the person doing in the stereotyping brings in.  It's certainly true that a substantial number of negative stereotypes about black people in the U.S. are rooted the expectations that slave owners had for their slaves that were insane expectations for a human.

In this case, we're probably enamored of the perceived irony of the bully being bullied, but I think there's a basic truth to it as well.  Those kids who are bullied at home are even further disempowered and, as such, have an even greater need to make themselves feel empowered by disempowering others.

And now we keep buzzing about the increasing "bully problem", while we take away more and more of children's freedoms.  In many cases, I'd strongly suspect this is a media problem more than a bullying problem.  The media likes to find some issue and blow it out of proportion in order to draw viewers/readers.

This one seems to have some real weight.  The stories we hear about bullying seem to have escalated in virulence now.  The "official" explanation has something to do with the internet, but I think that's at least 98% bullshit, thrown out because they either don't know or don't want to face the more basic truth about the nature of the schools that we send our children us to, and, more importantly, where our parents sent us.

In fact, in keeping with the basic philosophy, we're creating more and more rules to curb this issue.

Look, I'm perfectly happy with the two girls in this case be appropriately punished by the appropriate harassment and assault.  I even agree with Sheriff Grady Judd that there should be a way to put the bulk of the punishment onto the parents and administrators instead (or as well).  It's important to note here that I am not favoring the creation of new rules or laws here, just the serious enforcement of the ones already in place.

Most new rules will be counter-productive, making what is already a prison even more restrictive and, as such, greatly exacerbating the problem.

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