This is something that came up in conversation last night while I was out watching the hockey game eating a ridiculous amount of 3 cent dry ribs.
There is an old family friend that works at my old elementary school, or primary school, or den of noise, depending on where you're from and what your stance on children is. She is one of those playground supervisors. You know the ancient ladies that stand by the school doors watching the children run around and play. The problem is that children don't just run around and play. They run around and torment each other.
There are a lot of people out in the world these days that think that bullying is a huge problem. They think that if they can abolish bullying children will be able to develop in a non threatening environment and have a happier healthier school life. Bollocks.
This family friend, we'll call her Patsy, because that is her name. Well she saw this little kid every day getting bullied. The other supervisors would do their best to stop the kids from bullying this poor child, but as everyone knows, kids can be sneaky little bastards and adult eyes don't necessarily see everything. The tormented child would run to the supervisors for protection. This didn't help with the bullying. It just made it worse. "Gotta run and tattle... neener neener neener." The supervisors would do whatever they could to punish the bullies but couldn't abolish it completely. You never can. Instead they teach this poor victim that he is doing the right thing by running to them for protection. This is a stop measure, not a solution.
Now Patsy is getting sicker and sicker of having to deal with these bullies, and the victim as well. So one day the little sprite comes to her in tears saying the bullies punched him. Patsy didn't see it happen so there is nothing she can do to punish the bullies. He said, she said bullshit. So she turns to the little tike and tells him, "Look if you don't go back out and play and the next time those boys come to pick on you, if you don't turn around and punch them right back I'll take you to the principal’s office."
This little kid, who is actually bigger than the boys bullying him, goes back out into the playground. About 5 minutes later there is a large crowd gathered around in the center of the yard. No one was saying a word, no cheering, just total silence. Patsy comes running over to see what all the kerfuffle is and sees one very unconscious bully, and one previously bullied child standing holding his fist with tears in his eyes.
Rules are rules so Patsy takes the young child to the office to deal with the principal. Where the first thing out of the child's mouth was, "Patsy told me to". Patsy was suspended from work pending possible disciplinary action. The bully’s mom was even talking of pressing criminal negligence charges.
This was until there was a disciplinary hearing where all parties involved were brought together to talk about the incident. Patsy, principal, bully and parents, victim and parents were all brought together to solve the issue as quickly and pain free as possible.
First the bully's mom gets up and says "My son did not deserve to be assaulted, he was just playing when this other boy comes over and punches him. I'm livid that a supervisor even told the child to hit my son. I want her fired and the boy expelled." A case of my son's perfect and this is all your fault type argument.
Patsy's turn, "I just want to say that I've seen your boy pick on, ridicule and harass this other boy for months on end. There have been multiple incidents where we have caught him about to assault this other boy. I'm pretty sure there have been more incidents that we haven't seen. I feel that my solution to the issue was to teach the victim to defend himself. I'm not sorry for telling him what I did. Your boy will be fine."
The mother of the bully was red in the face ready to scream. However it wasn't her turn to speak.
The Victim's mother gets up with tears in her eyes. "For months my boy has cried himself to sleep knowing he has to go to school the next day. My son comes home every day from school saying he hates it and he never wants to go back. I tell him to do what all the books and media say you're supposed to do about bullying. Talk to an adult, tell someone. Nothing has worked. It isn't just your boy that picks on my son, I'm sure. However, that day that my son punched yours, when I picked my son up from the principal’s office he was crying because he hurt your boy, but let me tell you this though. That was the first night he didn't cry himself to sleep."
Patsy ended up not getting fired. She got a stern talking to but that was about it.
What I'm getting at with this story is that we as a society are approaching bullying the wrong way. Bullying isn't something new. It has been around since the dawn of time. It is part of societal growth and development. If we abolish bullying where will we learn to defend ourselves in the social battlefield of adulthood?
I read a story about a guy that got mugged by an unarmed assailant, didn’t even put up a fight just handed over his wallet.
How about in business, assertiveness is something that is lacking in the workforce today. People are afraid to ask for raises. Afraid to fight back when the big corporations start pushing them out of business. People have had their spines removed.
I think we don’t need to attack the bullies as much as we have been. We need to educate the young on defending themselves effectively. Teach them the skill sets they will use for the rest of their lives.
You can’t get rid of bullies; they are as much a part of society as cliques are. Not everyone is going to get along. Why bother forcing it. Instead teach them the social problem solving that they must develop in order to survive in an adult world when they grow up.
I’m reminded of the news story from a couple months ago about the victim picking up the bully and power bombing him.
Here is the clip.
It is terrible to see violence. I'm not an inherently violent person. I still think that sometimes defending yourself is the right thing to do. There is only so long you can run away.