I am dismayed and disconcerted at the number of parents that have asked me to talk about bullying. They ask that I address it on this blog; they ask that I talk to them personally about bullying. An unhealthy undercurrent in the culture makes bullying a topic that needs to be addressed.
The Good, The Bad and The Difference has a few discussions on bullying. In the classroom, opinions were expressed about bullying with intensity and, at times, with contempt. Children saw the responsibility of stopping bullying and of protecting children falling directly on the administrators and teachers and on the parents of the bullies. Read the news and the unending cascade of articles on bullying and you can discern that often the actions of these supposed protectors of children fall short.
Late last night I read an article on www.TVSquad.com about Chris Colfer receiving a Golden Globe award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of a student in “Glee.” I am unfamiliar with Glee but evidently the show addresses bullying:
Here is the majority of the article:
“It was a big night for ‘Glee,’ with three wins at ‘The 68th Annual Golden Globes’ (Sun., 8PM on NBC). The first of these came in the supporting actor category, and there was perhaps nobody more surprised than winner Chris Colfer.
“His role as Kurt Hummel on ‘Glee’ has grown to be one of the most powerful and poignant stories in the large ensemble, which has been emphasized by more screen-time in this second season for the 20-year old actor.
“After the regular thanks to the cast and crew, Colfer gave a shout-out to all those kids that ‘Glee’ speaks for.
“To all the amazing kids who watch our show and the kids that our show celebrates,” he said. “Who are constantly told ‘No’ by the people in their environments — by bullies at school — that they can’t be who they are or have what they want because of who they are. Well, screw that, kids!”
I have written about tolerance on this blog. My assessment is that tolerance is a morally meaningless term, for it can justify or condone the tolerance of evil or of bad behavior. Tolerating evil is evil. Tolerating can easily degenerate into indifference and then into aiding and abetting. Tolerance, in and of itself, is not a moral virtue.
I have also written about bullying in schools in the context of some schools—their teachers and their administrators—making the victim as responsible for the bullying as is the aggressor.
This is done in two ways: charging the victim that defends himself as equally guilty or responsible as the aggressor and, in a way that is more subtle and more pernicious, making any provocation, no matter how trivial, morally equivalent to a physical beating.
The vicious deceit now perpetrated by many in authority is to mask the elimination of tolerance of bullying by making everyone responsible. Tolerance becomes the excuse for eliminating all moral judgment and for the elimination of the exercise of discriminating moral authority and action. It is a vicious resolution.
Thus, the student that calls a person a jerk becomes the moral equivalent to the student that responds to the name calling by viciously beating the name caller. But words can hurt, my students exclaim. Well, maybe, but they don’t hurt as much. Our students have become culturally saturated with the drivel of the inner pain of words—silly words, stupid words, irrelevant words. Name calling hurts the person called a name. Yes, but by a difference of degree—a difference of degree in intensity and physical effect.
I fear we are raising weak children. I have pointedly asked children if they would prefer to be called a name, no matter how nasty, or be beaten. At first, they say both are equally bad. Those responses illustrate how deeply our children have been indoctrinated about the sanctity of feelings and their power. Then I discuss the consequences of physical brutality and the feelings resulting from being called a name. I ask again which they would prefer. Without exception, the students change their views 180 degrees and say they’d rather be called names.
Students then say “Words hurt you only if you let them” or “You can shrug off words if you want to.” Children get stronger.
Of course, bullying must be eliminated. It must be addressed and it must be fought unceasingly. We must protect our children. Bullying must be recognized first for what it is: the assault by one person or group upon another or others. Then it must be stopped by the exercise of power—intervention and negative consequences.
Chris Colfer ended his acceptance speech with strong words that indicated both defiance and an exasperation regarding the prevalence of bullying and, by implication, how authorities have failed to address bullying in a productive way.
The lesson to be learned is don’t be a bystander. Keep asking for help until you get it. Get parents involved in a positive way. If parents won’t do their jobs, then seek other people until you find someone who will help. Stop the bullying. Do not tolerate bullying and do not tolerate those people that tolerate bullying.