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I am convinced that the rash of school shootings (29 since 1996 by my count) is result of our aversion to real violence and our glorification of fake violence.

When I was a kid, you got bullied, you fought the bully, and the bullying would stop.  You might lose the fight, but you stood up and fought.  You'd get a two day suspension and the bully would get four days.  A real fight was a couple of haymakers followed by a wrestling match.  You might end up with a black eye and skinned knees for your trouble and if your Dad helped you out with your boxing or wrestling, you might even win the fight.  Any bullying would stop after you stood up for YOURSELF.

This stopped being an option for most kids in the late 1980s as a zero tolerance towards violence began to sweep our schools.  There wasn't a difference between the kids when they got in fight.  You were both equally wrong.  You were supposed to use verbal techniques to diffuse the situation.  If you were bullied, you are supposed to find your friend, the Assistant Principal, and he or she would stop the bullying for you.  Violence doesn't solve problems unless you're the police or the military.

Unfortunately, the bullying doesn't stop, and the kid that is getting picked on figures it the day after the Assistant Principal talks to the bully because he usually catches a lot of grief for being a tattle tale.

At the same time really violent movies started to hit the screen.  Rambo, the Terminator, Commando, Predetor, Red Dawn all show violence as the ultimate solution.  If you can't make them listen to reason, kill `em all.  Half measures are for the weak and the authorities will not be solving your problem.  Make the guilty pay using whatever means are necessary.  A fair fight is for suckers.  Violence should be overwhelming and very deadly.

So a kid that is being bullied decides to implement his own ultimate solution or he is trained to be a victim that can't handle anything without the authorities stepping in to save him.

Since Columbine things have even gotten worse.  My kid is convinced he will be expelled from school if he fights...even in a clearly defined self-defense scenario.  If someone walks up and punches him in the face, he is supposed to take it.  I couldn't believe it.  I volunteer in the library, so I have pretty good rapport with the folks at the school.  I have talked to his teachers and the assistant principal, and my son's interpretation of the policy was essentially correct.  Zero tolerance for violence and there is no such thing as self defense at school.

We live in a violent world, why would we possibly want to train a generation of victims and in rare cases, vigilantes?  It strikes me as insane.

Originally posted to Kenevan McConnon on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 03:17 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have always told my teenager (none)
    That he should never start a fight and he should always try to avoid one, but I don't give a rotten rat's ass what the school says, he is allowed to defend himself. As his parent, I will take the heat for it and go 20 rounds with the school.

    Thank goodness he is rather large and rather popular, so this hasn't really been an issue since he as about 12.

    There are bagels in the fridge

    by Sychotic1 on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 03:22:17 PM PST

  •  i would agree (none)
    but I dont think any kid who is getting bullied would prefer to be beaten up over getting expelled. I suspect kids get bullied because they cant fight very well.

    and its a more general problem. We live in a world where fighting is only allowed by cops, but also where our basic morality dictates that a man fight back.

    Strengthen what remains

    by litero on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 03:43:05 PM PST

    •  Bullies pick on kids who are perceived as being (none)
      socially weak.  Not physically weak so much as not having a group of friends to stand up for him or having some social stigma(gay) that keeps people(homophobia) from coming to their defense.

      Bullying is a social offense as well as a physical one.  You can bully someone with name calling and slanderous rumors just as well as by slamming them into the lockers.  How do you think girls do it?

      •  girls (4.00)
        do it by doing things like humiliating the victim - surrounding the victim in a bathroom, say, and going through the victim's personal possessions. Or spitting, hair pulling, threatening, name-calling, teasing, insinuation, whispering, exclusion, ridicule, etc etc. There's no shortage, and I never saw a fight stop it, not at the elementary school level, anyway.

        My son's being bullied at school - where there is an anti-bullying program, which seems to mean there is a sign on the wall that says We Don't Bully, And If Someone Is Being Bullied We Tell A Teacher. I don't think it's too effective. Teachers can't watch everything. Parents can't do much. What's next? Surveillance cameras? Jail time?

        They say my son's a sissy and he's gay and a crybaby (I notice the stigma of possibly being gay is a big issue even for a bunch of 8 year olds who don't know what they're talking about, and it's pretty sick how pervasive it is, and racism too, even when kids live in a household where parents aren't like that.) I tell him not to show it bothers him. I tell him to tell them to fuck off. I tell them it's their problem; there is nothing wrong with him. It would be nice if, when someone kicks him, he could kick back. I'd like to kick the kids who are giving him grief myself :) He is seriously depressed and likes the beat the crap out of his little brother.

        There is a level of hysteria, the zero-tolerance policies that don't seem to solve much but potentially create problems. That doesn't necessary mean kids would fight if they could - I myself used to hide in empty classrooms until I was sure all the bullies had gone home.

        But you know it's hard not to wonder where it's all leading.

        •  My son was bullied at school. (none)
          The school staff did what they could but until we moved it continued.

          He's now 34 and is a great adult, kind and knowledgable, but I'm sad about his junior high and high school years.  What's supposed to be the best years turned out to be, for him, difficult.

          I remember the same sorts of things when I was his age but not to this degree.  We've gotten meaner as a society.

      •  yeah sure (none)
        but I like to keep name calling and punching into separate categories.

        Strengthen what remains

        by litero on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 08:12:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can understand your point. (none)
          In some ways physical bullying is easier to define, prove and to some extent combat.

          Honestly, it shouldn't be on the victim to tattle on the bullies.  I make it plural because in bullying rarely happens in a vacuum.  Anyone who witnesses bullying and fails to come forward is complicit in it.  They are guilty too.  Too often schools don't want to take real punitive action against students whose parents are going to kick up a fuss.  

          Part of me just loves the concept of videocameras.  VictimKid comes to the school administrator and says BullyGuy punched me in the gut, slammed me into the lockers and dumped my backpack onto the floor.  The administrator checks the tape, ID's everybody who was doing more than passing by the scene and calls them in.  They get two choices: talk now or share BullyGuy's punishment.  If they refuse to talk, letters go home to the parents and offenses become part of their permanent records.  Perhaps they get suspensions from sports or extracurricular activities.  That would sting the jocks among them.  

          This is only my fantasy - in reality kids would avoid cameras and parents and coaches would raise such a stink that the policy would never be enforced.

          Got a friend who was teaching and coaching girl's volleyball in a private school.  He quit.  A coupla big donors to the school were complaining to the administration about him.  What was he guilty of?  Refusing to yield the gymnasium when certain well connected students wanted to used it during his team's scheduled practice.  And Daddy's girl didn't get on the team because she wasn't good enough.  I hope his ethics rubbed off on his students.

          •  Its a thin line (none)
            You cant force kids to like someone, and kids do need to learn how to deal with social problems. A lot of times, kids are ostracized for good reasons, the same reasons that would make us avoid a coworker or neighbor.

            I was thinking the other day about how kids instinctively protect each other from adults. No one keeps secrets like children. Kids live in a different society than we do, and going into that society to try to fix it, is like sending Mormons to the middle east to fix Islamic theology.

            Strengthen what remains

            by litero on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 10:07:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You can teach tolerance. (none)
              What bugs me the most about bullying is that some people think that it is just a few bad eggs, some juvenile delinquents or some other kind of Bad Kid.  It isn't.  The real bullies are the popular kids, the leaders of the in crowd, and the cool ones.  They are frequently athletes and possibly academic stars.  And when they bully, it isn't one on one.  It is the bully and his group against one lone kid.  Even if the victim could defend himself against one person, he can't defend himself against a crowd.  You can try to avoid one person, but try to avoid every one of his friends all the time.  It can't be done.  

              Peer pressure should not be underestimated.  Kids will go along with things that they know are wrong because speaking up could get them kicked out of the group.  

              As for social ostracization - simply ignoring a kid and not including him socially is one thing.  That was me in high school.  I didn't like it but it wasn't totally devastating.  But sticking a kid's head in the toilet, slamming him into the wall, tripping him, watching him cringe when you approach - that is abuse.  If a parent did it we'd holler abuse.  If a teacher did, they'd be fired.  Is it any less wrong because they are kids?  

              Any teacher will tell you that kids are the most vicious and heartless stage of human social development. Even elementary  teachers know this.  Our job is to teach them the social skills they need as adults.  It isn't done by letting them work it out on their own.  They'll blithely drive their fellow human beings to suicide and homicide and then be utterly shocked at the results.  We have to  tell them what the limits are and enforce them.  

              •  I dont know that kids are that viscious (none)
                and I dislike anytime where a relatively normal set of behavior is labeled unnatural because of an extreme and rare case.

                Of course, assault is wrong, and its illegal and generally people do put a stop to it if they see it.

                Human nature may be unpleasant but it is not a disease.

                Strengthen what remains

                by litero on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 03:06:40 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Kids aren't consciously cruel (none)
                  for quite some time.  But when they are young, they copy fads quite happily.  They call kids names without realizing it really really hurts them.  They have a careless unthinking cruelty.  They use profanity for shock value.  

                  There are a couple 'Arthur' episodes on PBS where his little sister learns a few words, uses them and quickly gets into trouble when her parents find out.  D.W. has no idea what one word means, so after she gets The Lecture she asks her Mom.  Her Mom replies "I guess you could say that it means you want to hurt someone's feelings.". (The word is never heard, it is just a bleep.) Caillou has a similar episode when an older boy he admires calls a pigeon "stupid".  Caillou thinks this word is great and he and his friend start gleefully calling other things "Stupid!". Then he calls a playmate "Stupid!" and she runs in tears to her mother. Oops.  Another mother to child discussion follows.

                  Real bullying shows up in junior high when kids start form cliques, clubs and social alliances. I had a terrific teacher who was an expert on human nature.  He said that anyone who tells you that these(high school) are the best years of your life is lying.  These will be some of the worst years of your life.  High school is torture.  People just wallow in misty-eyed nostalgia and think that being young is all it takes to be happy.

                  My teacher also said "I know you don't beleive me now, but they[your classmates] will grow up to be human beings.".  I do hope he was right!  I never went to a reunion.  Nothing and no one to go back for. After over 20 years it would be like hanging with a bunch of strangers.

                  And kids know how to keep the worst stuff away from the teachers.  Trust me.

                  •  not the same for everyone (none)
                    good times and bad times. I spent my high schools years pretty messed up, drunk and high, but it wasnt all bad, and I dont think everyone had the same experience.

                    and I dont see anysign that people become better after high school. just less social

                    Strengthen what remains

                    by litero on Wed Mar 23, 2005 at 03:37:58 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm way more social now. (none)
                      It takes a certain level of social initiative to be good at the social politics in high school.  I didn't have it.  I was smart and quiet.  Not a goody two shoes.  I just wasn't interested in the parties and intoxicants.  I didn't see the benefit.  I saw people acting like complete fools under the influence and couldn't figure out the attraction.  Why try to be like 'everybody else'?  They certainly weren't my idea of what I wanted to be.

                      Then I got to college found a bunch of smart people who had been through what I had.  God it was nice to talk to people who knew what critical thinking was and practiced it regularly!

                      You remind me of a HS classmate.  He was smart and had he spent more time sober and motivated, he could have been valedictorian.  Instead he showed up, did enough to get by and when he was interested showed flashes of genius and brilliance.  There was some mention of a bad home situation, but no one really knew for sure.

                      •  and you remind me (none)
                        of someone who learned to cope with the pain of being invisible, disliked, or mocked by thinking himself superior to those who held him in low esteem.  The ability to play sports , talk to girls, and have a social life is not a sign of stupidity.

                        I know its hard not to despise those who dont like you, but its something you need to grow out of. HIgh school is over, stop hating jocks and cheerleaders.

                        "some mention of a bad home situtation"

                        He could have been valedictorian!

                        Strengthen what remains

                        by litero on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 07:12:55 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The guy was bright and lost. (none)
                          I always hate to see talent go to waste.

                          I didn't hate jocks and cheerleaders - I just didn't understand them or the cool crowds.  There was all this effort put into jockeying for social status which I had no interest in.  

                          •  asbergers? (none)
                            maybe he was lost. maybe he was going to a different place. Not the path of being a glorified tech.

                            Strengthen what remains

                            by litero on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 08:24:18 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Always did wonder where he went (none)
                            My friend and I argue over who of our acquaintances has Asberger's Syndrome.  He's a prime candidate since his son has been diagnosed.  But he isn't the worst of our geek friends, we have one who is very very likely A.S..

                            I sometimes think I am, but I don't have enough symptoms to qualify.  I'm not fantastic at making other people feel at ease and sometimes delight a little at causing discomfort.  But I am great at intuiting my not-so-verbal kids needs, so my communication skills aren't all bad.  I suppose my obsession is native plants and ecosystems, but I keep a lid on that.  I don't have any of the sensory problems, unless it is that I dress for comfort.

                            I think I just like considering myself A.S. as an excuse for not trying harder socially.  Social challenges for me can be exhausting.  It doesn't always flow naturally, I have to constantly think about what I am doing and saying when I am with new people.  I should just come up with a generic shmooze.  "Hi! How are you? Yes, my life is wonderful, no complaints.  And you?  Oh, that's great! I'm so glad for you!. ...". Just stroke, stroke, stroke until I can leave.

                          •  its mammalian (none)
                            I am not easy with it myself, but its not about sharing information, its about an emotional relationship. Do you feel stupid when you pet a dog? Its just a set of behavior. You say hi, how are you, etc, and the purpose is to let everyone know what they think of each other. If they still have the same relative status. Are they still attracted, still disgusted, still scared, whatever.

                            Native plants? Isnt the genie out of that bottle? I dont think native ecosystems will exist in five years?

                            Strengthen what remains

                            by litero on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 09:04:16 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Native plants rock! (none)
                            Even though we have problems with invasives.  

                            My problem is I am nosy, inquisitive, curious and terribly interested in information.  So I am constantly putting the brakes on my urge to pry when I am in social situations.  

                          •  yeah me too (none)
                            I think if you are a 'character" it becomes easier. Exageratte your faults, and they become accepted.

                            Strengthen what remains

                            by litero on Thu Mar 24, 2005 at 09:34:29 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

    •  I lost half my fights as a kid. (none)
      I'd much rather take a beating than lose my right to an education.  I might not have fought as a kid if I thought I was going to be expelled.
  •  Great diary and relevant. (none)
    The issues:

    1.  Should kids fight physically for their rights?  

    2.  If they're not fighters, what recourse do they have?

    3.  Should there be finer definitions of bullying behavior?  And should there be consequences to match?

    4.  How can we show our kids that the shy ones, the outliers, the inarticulate ones, are worthwhile?  We've done a piss poor job of that so far.

    5.  Is it us?  How do parents allow media violence and guns in the house and yet raise gentle, loving people?
    •  My answers (none)
      1.  You should always have the right to defend yourself.  Fighting should be a last resort, but it must be an option.

      2. Everyone can learn to fight.  Find a local Brazilian jiu-jitsu school and in a year you will be able to handle yourself in most self defense situations.  This true for adults and children.

      3.  We've got plenty of definitions.  We need a rational way of dealing with bullying and violence.  We love fake over the top solutions and shun the minor case of fisticuffs.

      4.  Some kid's may end up victims, but if they have the will, they should have the opportunity to learn and practice self defense.

      5.  Sometimes you have to know the hard to understand the soft.
  •  Most Kids are Vicious (none)
    Ask any crippled kid about that.

    Grownups simply hide it better.

    "Dictators would be better off if they zoom zoomed now and then" - Ira Gershwin

    by jabney on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 05:46:40 PM PST

  •  So it was a solo bully (none)
    my condolences.

    I understand better now.

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