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.