by michael on December 6, 2010


I have given about a dozen lectures during the past month. Many parents raise the topic of bullying. Bullying is a pervasive concern. Their children are subjected to it; they know it is inflicted on other children and it is a topic commonly discussed with parents and with school staff. There is also a consensus that schools do not take bullying seriously. Please see my post on Tolerance a few days ago.

One of the more heinous incidents of bullying on a personal level has been in the news recently—see  http://diverseeducation.com/article/14244/ NEW BRUNSWICK N.J. — Colleges should adopt a code of conduct that prohibits bullying and harassment in the wake of the suicide of a Rutgers University student whose gay sexual encounter in his dorm room was streamed online. This vile behavior by a roommate is but one form of bullying, and it, as with others, can have lethal consequences. Lethal consequences are, fortunately, rare. The more common consequences of bullying are often insidious and pervasive.            

Interesting material on bullying in schools is available on this website, among many others. http://www.bullyinginschools.com/. Here is a quote from the website worth reading:

Bullying in schools is as old as any problem that plagues schools, and yet it is one of those cases that receive the least amount of attention. The air of denial is sometimes so pronounced that some schools brand themselves as “bully free” institutions. In the end, these downplayed incidents leave victims traumatized and scarred for many years while the culprits gain more confidence to continue with their evil deeds.

Physical abuse, taunting, and exclusion of the victim from popular groups and pasttimes are some symptoms of bullying in schools. The victims are usually those students who are typically insecure, branded as “nerds”, and lack a circle of friends.

The topic of bullying being on my mind, it was coincidental, if note fateful, that I received a comment from a reader of this website sharing a brief exchange she had with a second grade school teacher. The teacher was talking to a third person. The teacher said if someone is hitting and bullying a child in her class, she tries to stop it, but, and here is the phrase that merits our analysis, if the child fights back he is just as wrong. The teacher expresses that judgment to the child and to the child’s parents.

I find the teacher’s thinking and her morality thoroughly repellant. One first notices that the teacher said she tries to stop the hitting and bullying. Tries? These are second graders!!! How in the world do you try and not succeed in stopping—thoroughly and without qualification—the beating of a second grader? How incompetent and weak must such a teacher be? And what happens if the teacher cannot stop the bullying and hitting? The victim continues to be beaten.

What is meant by “defend” one’s self? Anything other than fall to the ground begging for the aggressor to stop? Consider that while this inept school employee is trying to stop physical violence, the victim must accept the pummeling, the hits, the wrestling, the vile language, the taunting without defending him or herself. If the victim tries to defend him or her self, the victim will be deemed an aggressor morally and administratively equal to the original aggressor!

But more is involved than the gelatinous behavior of a person that should be held to a high standard of care to protect her students. There are moral and ideological implications of the teacher’s morally neutered thinking. We note that the teacher exercises no moral authority. She exercises no moral judgment. Notions of right and wrong or good and bad are beyond her pay grade, as it were. She is morally worthless. Her perverse moral relativism makes the victim equal in culpability to the aggressor.

The mere act of defending one’s self becomes a crime—that is, a violation. It is difficult to grasp the perniciousness of this teacher’s world view. More difficult yet is grasping that this teacher’s attitude is probably not isolated or rare. The morality of one’s actions is measured, by and large, by its consequences. This teacher’s philosophy will increase bullying. Her ideology will increase assaults on innocent victims. Ideas have consequences, and these consequences are all malevolent.

This teacher condemns her students to preemptive surrender, to appeasement, to self abasement and to hiding and withdrawal. The aggressor determines the morality of the victim’s response. Is it defense at all? Is it fair? Is it proportionate? Is it necessary? The attacker controls the teacher’s assessment of the attack. No independent free spirited soul can tolerate such self-denying behavior.

The consequences of the teacher’s ideology are the same as those guilty of immoral tolerance, which I wrote about a few days ago: this teacher helps the aggressor, never the victim. The teacher’s ideology is welcome with enthusiasm by every bully, by every thug and by every tyrant. Self-defense becomes an existential crime: wanting to exist becomes a crime. Such an attitude is worse than morally perverse.

In my view, not only should the victim fight back, but children should be instructed that if they are on-lookers or by-standers, they should intervene to stop the bully. They should be taught not to tolerate evil. Obviously the authorities must step in to diminish the severity of the conflict, but this pathetic teacher doesn’t even have the confidence that she can do that. Thus, children will be beaten and bullied and if they dare stand up for themselves, they will be sanctioned as if they initiated the attack. Teachers like this make vouchers quite attractive.

More later

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle Saul December 6, 2010 at 6:23 am

Very insightful. If we do not stand up to people and let them push us around, that does not make us stronger than them. If you punish a child for stopping their attacker, of whatever size or strength, this will only cause more problems later. You are enabling the bully, because they know their victim will be found just as guilty as them. This is the real reason that bullying is still around. We enable the wrong side, and throw every obstacle at the person trying to do the right thing. What if another student who was taught by their parents to stand up for the victim in this situation also got in trouble for being an equal aggressor? We can only conclude from this line of reasoning that the bullies are enabled, the victims are beaten down with no way to get out, and bystanders are taught helping others gets them in trouble. How has this solved anything?


bonnie boden December 6, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Bystanders of acts of bullying are equally guilty. Anyone who can stand by and watch a child or any person being abused mentally or physically, and does not intervene owns the outcome of the aggression and heinous act.

Teen suicides, lately as a result and most primarily of children who are or are accused of being gay, has brought an historically evil trend to the media, and thus now are a major topic; just as Rock Hudson, (the consumate male lead), polarized aids and Christopher Reeves, Superman (how ironic that the man of steel was brought down by the antithesis of his powers) taught the world about the affliction, quadriplegia. But bullying has been around for centuries. And bystanders have been around for centuries. We all know that bullies are typically insecure, come from some kind of sadness themselves, are followed by the weak and gain strength from hurting people they deem weaker than themselves. All with the intended desire to feel superior – or perhaps even equal.

Cyberbullying is a brand new trend that has helped to bring this sickening disease into the living rooms of homes in North America by providing talk shows with juicy examples of inexcusable abuses. I suppose that the good news is that people are more aware. The bad news is that nothing seems to be happening to stop it.

Teaching children that being a bully is wrong must begin with parents, be supported by the school system and punishable by law. But we are dealing with kids. Kids are not punished by law. It is an act that needs to be dealt with and not tolerated at every juncture in a persons life, by every resource human kind has at its disposal.

But, it begins with the parents. And bullying has been around for centuries because there are bad parents, who had bad parents, who had bad parents. We call it epidemic today. I believe this is because we are merely more aware of it through the advanced technology and media.

We should be able to use these same resources to help counteract it. A new campaign is presently flooding the net and PSA’s. The tag line? “It gets better”. I personally do not think this ad has any impact. Tell a child who is being cyber bullied or beaten at school to just keep persevering. It gets better. It is tantamount to saying, hang on – you’ll pull through. Maybe?

I believe harder tactics are required. Just what they should be – I have some ideas – but they likely would not be approved by society. Stronger campaigns depicting bullies and showing them for the weak, insecure humans that they are. These could be sympathetic to the backgrounds of bullies, but somehow I believe if we could orchestrate campaigns that focused the sadness of bullies, bullies may have less followers and become pitied instead of empowered.

But mostly I believe we should make parents responsible for the actions of their children – legally.


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