Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Sudden Surfeit of Bullies

By Alan Caruba

Have you noticed how the subject of “school bullies” or “bullying” is suddenly in the news? These things don’t happen spontaneously.

For most of my life I have earned my living in public relations and one learns a few things about the way the public is herded toward certain assumptions and actions when enough money and effort is made to influence their judgment.

In early March, in concert with the White House, the National Education Association, a union, not a benevolent “association” of teachers, released “a new survey on bullying” that found, not surprisingly, that teachers “and education support professions” were in desperate need of “additional training on when and how to intervene in bullying situations.”

If the raucous crowds of teachers and other public sector union members who gathered in Wisconsin’s state house and outside of New Jersey’s in Trenton are any indication, the NEA knows a lot about bullying and hardly needs any instruction on how to deal with it.

“Our members,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, “know that bullying is a significant problem” and, naturally, they need “more training” to deal with it. These are people who presumably passed through four years of college education in order to become teachers and, if the NEA is to be believed, they simply did not receive enough training to deal with school bullies.

This is so absurd one hardly knows how to address it. The NEA produced statistics that “82 percent of school employees report they have witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month.” This does not strike me as an epidemic of bullying.

“98 percent believe it is their job to intervene when they see bullying happening in their school.” Well, duh! What are they being paid for?

Unless I am just too old or too terribly out of touch, bullying has been going on since the days of the one-room schoolhouse. The delicate psyches of school children, whether they are the bullies or the bullied, manage to survive. At one time or another, the masses of children condemned to government schools have all had to deal with this.

Why is this bullying issue being ginned up? In an age of the Internet with its FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube ability to turn any bullying incident into a worldwide event, we are simply more aware of them. We are aware, too, that some few children whose parents were unaware or inattentive commit suicide.

Many children are the typical targets of bullies, male and female, because they are having gender identification problems, are fat, are white, are black, are not on any sports teams, are serious students getting good grades, or are simply available to be bullied. Surely every school has its cliché of bullies.

Blogger Hans Bader recently took note of the fact that the Obama administration sent a letter to school officials “that undermines both free speech and due process.” Bader noted that “a political appointee in the Education Department sent a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to the nation’s school boards claiming that many forms of homophobia and bullying violate federal laws against sexual harassment and discrimination, but those laws only ban discrimination based on sex or race—not bullying in general.”

“The letter from the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, defined ‘harassment’ so broadly,” noted Bader, “as to reach both speech protected by the First Amendment, and conduct the Supreme Court says does not legally qualify as harassment.”

Why is the White House and the Department of Education reaching all the way down into your local school is push for greater acceptance of homosexuality in particular and government intervention in general for an element of school life as old as education in America?

Is there any parent or citizen that is not aware of how poor the quality of education is in America these days? Is there anyone who has passed through grades K-thru-12 who doesn’t understand that bullying has always been a problem; that teachers and school administrators routinely intervene to deal with individual cases? That no “additional training” is required for this?

In a new book coming in May, “Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse”, author Annette Fuentes makes a case for the way too many schools treat students as potential jailbirds, requiring them to pass through metal detectors, and be subject to intrusive searchers, or suspended for alleged infractions of idiotic “zero tolerance” policies.

Following the Columbine High School tragedy, Fuentes noted that the “public’s perception of school violence and youth behavior was seriously out of whack with reality,” adding that “Failing schools breed failing students and place them at risk of falling into the juvenile justice system, especially as policing and the practices of that system increasingly make their way into the schoolhouse.”

How crazy is it when a five-year-old is arrested for bringing a butter knife to school or a teenage girl is suspended for bringing Midol for her menstrual cramps? Why are six-year-old strip-searched in a classroom when a few dollars goes missing from the teacher’s desk? These incidents are too often a part of school life for today’s students trying to learn anything in a hostile environment.

“Hysteria, not clear-eyed analysis, has colored the public’s understanding and, regrettably, tainted media coverage of school violence,” writes Fuentes. “The climate of fear has created ripe conditions for imposing unprecedented restrictions on young people’s rights, dignity, and educational freedoms.”

So, it follows naturally that the NEA and the White House are busy of late creating a campaign that will underwrite the wasting of millions on “additional training” to deal with an overheated and deliberate campaign to make Americans think that schools are rife with bullying when it is nothing more than one of the most common problems when masses of young people are “educated” in schools that more closely resemble minimum security prisons than places of learning.

© Alan Caruba


Ronbo said...

Any wonder why so many parents have selected private education, home schooling and the up and coming Internet high schools for their kids?

Public education is in meltdown and in its current form is nothing more than a government version of bullying and brain washing designed to create a generation of "Good Little Americans" who goose step for the greater glory of the socialist ruling class.

TexasFred said...

Bullying has indeed gone on for as long as I can remember...

In my school days teachers were actually teachers and they got INVOLVED too...

I remember this one kid, he was short, fat, had a crossed eye and got picked on all the time, then, one day, he had enough and he stood up and punched one of his detractors in the nose, breaking it and causing a bloody mess.

He then turned to his detractors buddies and asked them "OK, who's next?"

He never got messed with again, and after he shot up to 6'1" and about 195 pounds, he made a vow to himself, he vowed that he would never BE a bully nor tolerate one...

Oh, and there were 2 or 3 teachers that witnessed his transformation, and he didn't get disciplined, the police weren't called and life went on, in a much better fashion too...

McThag said...

As someone who was bullied; it doesn't stop until you fight back. Once they get hurt even a tiny bit they depart for easier prey.

All I needed was for the school to not impose draconian punishments on ME for defending myself.

Getting the same punishment as my bully for fighting back was a strong lesson about trusting the government to do justice.

Alan Caruba said...

@McThag. Your story is a very common one and a correct assessment of how to deal with a bully. The distressing part is being punished for self-defense and the lesson that teaches.

James said...

@Ronbo, I hear you on the merits of private school. I went to private school myself, and if anyone got bullied there, they were dealt with instantly; I nearly got thrown out of my school for a relatively minor outburst that would have gotten me arrested had it been at a public high school. In public school, they wait until they can get the most media attention so that morons from the Left can complain about it; same with the unions and special interest groups.

LarryOldtimer said...

Don't get mad . . . get even! "A big bully might make a lunch out of you," I was told by my big brother, "but if you get a really large bite out of him while he is doing so, no bully in the school will ever mess with you again."

So my big brother said, and so it happened.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

TexasFred said...

P.S. The short fat kid with the crossed eye was ME...

And I never got bullied again...

Alan Caruba said...

Yup, I knew that!