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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Schoolyard Bullying

The morning DJ on my drive into work today was talking about a recent survey that found something like 60% of students report witnessing some form of bullying every day in school (perhaps along these lines, but I can't seem to find the actual 'recent' study). When I was in middle and high school there certainly was a good (or perhaps, bad) amount of bullying going on, and I'm sure it has not gotten better.

The thing that really caught my attention, however, was not the unsurprising revelation that bullying happens, but the recommendations put forward by the National Crime Prevention Council (which I think conducted the survey) to counter bullying.

Paraphrasing, the recommendations went something like this:

1) When confronted by a bully, just walk away.
2) Make a joke. Even if it's about yourself, making the bully laugh might just make him forget about bullying you.
3) Stay with friends whenever possible, don't go places alone.
4) If you feel physically threatened, ask an adult for help.

Those options might sound great, but I have at least a few problems with most of them. First off, from what I gather there are data out there regarding bullying, how much it happens, whom it affects, etc. The thing I can't seem to find (and please point me in the right direction if you can find it) are data on how effective these recommendations are at ending the bullying. And I don't mean how effective they are at getting your kid out of the immediate situation. I mean how effective are they at ending the bullying.

Let's take them one at a time, in reverse order.

#4: To me, that's the most sensible and probably safest course of action in the short term. Of course, short of physically removing the threat (e.g., expulsion from school) all this does is allow some sort of (likely) touchy-feely intervention on the part of some adult/councilor. And remember, ratting a bully out to an adult is sort of like turning in a mob guy. Even if you get him, he's got friends and the adult (or the FBI) can't protect you all the time.

#3: Safety in numbers. True. But again, you can't always be surrounded by sufficient numbers. If a bully is patient enough, s/he will eventually find the target alone.

#2: Ah yes, perhaps my least favorite. Make a joke...even if it's about yourself. What message does this recommendation send the kids who are being bullied? What will they take away from the experience? IMHO, the lesson learned by the bullied will be: my pride is expendable in the face of a threat. The lesson to the bully is: if I threaten someone, they'll make themselves look like an ass...mission accomplished.

#1: Walk away. Lesson? Bullied: It's better to disengage from a dangerous situation. I agree that it certainly is. However, the recommendation did not qualify the suggestion to "walk away" by placing the phrase "if safe to do so" afterwards. So the lesson to the bullied is really: Turn my back on my aggressor, while the lesson to the bully is: If I threaten someone and wait just a second, s/he'll turn his/her back to me and then I can strike safely.

Recommendations 3 and 4 are fine if employed properly. Number 1 and 2 are, in my opinion, stereotypical of the wuss culture that is increasingly being pushed by some in our society. I agree that we should all avoid physical conflict whenever possible, but there are times when you should absolutely fight. If we prepare kids to only consider retreat and capitulation in the face of adversity, have we really done them a service...or a serious disservice? More specifically, do we know that just turning one's back on a bully is effective? Does it lead to increased immediate attacks (while one's back it turned)? Does it lead to increased future attacks? Do we know? (Again, if anyone has found data on this please let me know).

Why is it that we are not teaching children that sometimes you don't have a choice but to fight back? Sometimes you're backed into a corner by three bullies. You've got nowhere to run and jokes just don't seem to be working. What should your child do? Should s/he refuse to fight back and have his/her head stuck in the toilet while three bullies stand there laughing?

If you answered "yes" to the last question, what have you taught your child? When faced with adversity later in life (e.g., in the work place) what will his/her response be? What if your grown child has a family of his own and his home is invaded by a criminal bent on death and destruction? Will his first reaction be to hesitate, hoping that many a joke will suffice to dissuade the bad guy to not rape and kill his family?

I remember well the 'recommendations' made by my own parents when I was in middle and high school (and even before, I suppose). They told me straight out that whatever happened, so long as I did not start a fight and told them the truth afterwards that they would stand by me. I knew they meant it and I knew that they would absolutely go to bat for me in the face of any school or law enforcement official.

Fortunately, none of that was ever necessary (at least in part because I was big enough to not be bothered by the bullies). But the fact remains, I knew with absolute certainty that I did not have to submit to the capricious will of some dirtbag just to avoid conflict. I knew then I know now that my parents would stand by me so long as I was convinced that I had acted righteously.

So ask yourself, which is the better outcome. An adult who has known all his life that he has the right to fight back when threatened and given no reasonable alternative, or an adult who has known all his life that it is never ok to fight back and that he should submit to the bully to avoid conflict at all costs?

The answer is a personal one, and all any of us can do is affect that tiny little piece of the world that ends at our proverbial fingertips. However, I have confidence that the American spirit is not yet dead. Although it requires some looking and the occasional between-the-lines-reading, it is there for everyone to see in the news every day. I just hope that there are enough of people out there who, like me, are willing to identify evil and stand up to it when given the chance. And further, I hope that those people are willing and able to raise children who place the same value on individual righteousness and resoluteness in the face of adversity, bullying and downright evil.


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