The saddest stories I’ve heard recently are about children who have killed themselves because they are being bullied by other children. I suppose it’s fair to say that, in some cases, schools bear some of the responsibility. Still, it is an unfortunate reality that some teachers spend so much time disciplining their students that they don’t have much time to teach.
Of course, it is the parents' job to instruct their kids in the rules of fair play and about treating others with the same respect with which they wish to be treated. They should point out the absolute cruelty of picking on their schoolmates. But let’s face it: A lot of children will never learn these things because in many cases this is the behavior they learn from their parents. Some of them hear their fathers bullying players at sports events; some of them hear their mothers bullying players at soccer practice. So, how are they ever going to learn? Probably some won’t learn until somebody bigger and older begins to pick on them, and the world just gets nastier after that.
I remember the big bully in my elementary school class. Oh yes, we have always had them. The difference was in those days if they got caught they were punished for that action and so they had to be careful to see that they weren’t caught. I learned later that the young man had been abandoned by his parents at an early age and had been brought up with a distant relative who had a houseful of kids of her own. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to meet him again when we were adults and I let him know in no uncertain terms what a hell he had made of many of our school days.
I think school boards should address the matter of bullies with new strategies. They should have a set of disciplines especially designed to deal with these culprits. School administrators, staffs and teachers should be alerted that the school district takes bullying as a serious offense and there should be definite guidelines on how to deal with them.
Too many kids learn intolerance from their parents. In some households, children are told they should avoid certain schoolmates for racial, sexual or religious differences. This leads to all kinds of immature bigotry. The little bigot surrounded by a like-minded group of friends can create all kinds of havoc. On the other hand, some kids are just mean and enjoy making others miserable. In any case, teachers, when they have an opportunity, should keep a sharp eye out for this kind of behavior.
I really don’t think any of us these days can give too many examples of the unfortunate consequences of bullying. Whether somebody dies, becomes ill or becomes involved in dangerous practices as a result of being bullied, it’s too high a price to pay. As Americans, we're going to have to take precautions to be sure our freedoms do not extend themselves into tyrannical behavior.
As much as can be said for our free education system, we have to work very hard to stay on top of the many problems that come with the territory. Unlike private and parochial schools, public school students are not expected to share or display a collective set of values. They, like the general population, come from various backgrounds and cultural groups. And their values are not always commonly held. There have to be standardized rules and regulations that apply to all and they have to be enforced; otherwise, things can easily dissolve into chaos.
Many of the kinds of crimes and ludicrous activities that go on around us make it obvious that many people have to have the differences between appropriate and inappropriate behavior spelled out to them. In some ways, technology has advanced so fast that it has overwhelmed people and some have lost their way.
No mater how much we dislike it, if we are to maintain a civilized society we are going to have to get into the habit of establishing rules and regulations in every area of our lives. Things have truly gotten out of hand. We’ll have to either rein them in or settle for living as barbarians.
Right now, we have to make a choice.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.