Bully Culture in American Schools

TheArtOfScience wrote:

SixteenBlue: So rape is part of human nature? I dispute that.

...

What if the kid is just an asshole? Some people are born that way.

So which is it? They're born that way but their actions aren't human nature?

You can't do a parent's job for them. The more our schools parent the less they teach. Schools are for schooling and parents are for parenting. Difficult to mix the two.

I'll keep this short so you don't have to waste much time quoting it into little sections that you can offer glib responses to. Do you have children? If so, are they super young? You're coming off as very politically correct but also very (in my opinion) naive. I don't mean that as an insult, it's just that a "war on bullying" like your proposing sounds suspiciously like a "war on terror". A lot of effort and money is put into trying to get people to not act like people. It's the cause of bullying (or terrorism for that matter) that must be addressed not the symptoms. In both cases the real answer lies at home. Note, I'm not actually comparing bullying to terrorism lest I get called on that.

EDIT: again? *sigh* There's a difference between an asshole and a rapist. A rapist is an asshole but an asshole isn't always a rapist. Some people are born pedos. Some people are born murderers. Some people are born paranoid schizophrenics. Some people are born only to soon die to a genetic defect. Does one person who likes to dress up in a fursuit and yiff make the entire human race furries? Rape, murder, and many other crimes are deviant behavior. Is rape human nature? No. Is the possibility of having a proclivity for rape (or any other countless deviant tendencies) part of human nature? I suppose so.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

You can't do a parent's job for them. The more our schools parent the less they teach. Schools are for schooling and parents are for parenting. Difficult to mix the two.

I'd say it's impossible to separate them.

I'll keep this short so you don't have to waste much time quoting it into little sections that you can offer glib responses to. Do you have children? If so, are they super young?

Ironically, the closest I've come to feeling bullied on here is by people who ask me that question.

You're coming off as very politically correct but also very (in my opinion) naive. I don't mean that as an insult, it's just that a "war on bullying" like your proposing sounds suspiciously like a "war on terror". A lot of effort and money is put into trying to get people to not act like people. It's the cause of bullying (or terrorism for that matter) that must be addressed not the symptoms. In both cases the real answer lies at home. Note, I'm not actually comparing bullying to terrorism lest I get called on that.

I get the feeling we would substantially disagree on what causes terrorism (especially 9/11 style terrorism), so I don't know how helpful this analogy is without a massive derail.

The role of parents is to teach children, well, pretty much everything and anything. As far as the household is concerned, the school is ancillary to education.

As far as the school is concerned, its role with respect to itself is to teach people proper social mores and common cultural touchstones, so as to achieve a common zeitgeist for community communication and solidarity. This will commonly include teaching parents how to parent, when they're failing in the school's areas of interest, as parents are a necessary aspect of children.

Parents teach you manners, how to get ahead, how to win friends and be convincing. Schools teach you law and how not to be a criminal.

Everything we do is human nature because, well, we're all humans. Some of it is more common than others, but "human nature" is inclusive of all our aberrations and idiosyncrasies. "It's natural" is a logical fallacy of "appeal to authority" without citing an actual authority - citing urban myths would be equivalent.

With respect to schools, in particular, we don't especially care which behaviors occur naturally and in what frequency. We demand uniformity in multiple behaviorial instances without regard for anything. For instance, we demand that children group themselves according to a convenient classification variable, and then to sit down for extended periods of time listening to non-story formatted topics. Left to themselves, few children will display a natural curiosity for arithmetic, the scientific method, or grammar; but we demand that they learn these things anyway.

Teaching them not to provoke each other to rage or not to be violent or needlessly abusive is just a facet of personality training. I don't see what's so objectionable about it.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

EDIT: again? *sigh* There's a difference between an asshole and a rapist. A rapist is an asshole but an asshole isn't always a rapist. Some people are born pedos. Some people are born murderers. Some people are born paranoid schizophrenics. Some people are born only to soon die to a genetic defect. Does one person who likes to dress up in a fursuit and yiff make the entire human race furries? Rape, murder, and many other crimes are deviant behavior. Is rape human nature? No. Is the possibility of having a proclivity for rape (or any other countless deviant tendencies) part of human nature? I suppose so.

Let me try this again.

Why is being an asshole/bully human nature but rape isn't? Sure, they're different. One is much worse. But why is one human nature but one isn't? "Does one person who likes to dress up in a fursuit and yiff make the entire human race furries?" Of course not. But not everyone is born an asshole either, so why is that human nature?

It really feels like you're picking and choosing what is normal and ok and what isn't and I think you're doing that based off your own experience. You were bullied and came out fine so everyone should do the same thing.

Edit: Actually, the fact that you use the phrase "wussification of the American Male" makes me think exactly that. You got through fine and everyone just needs to toughen up.

Bullying serves a purpose in society. Rape does not.

Sorry to bully you there by asking if you had any experience with the topic you are speaking about in such a certain tone.

I'll take my leave now before I get too snarky.

Let me know when we've figured out how to successfully tame the human child!

TheArtOfScience wrote:

Bullying serves a purpose in society.

Really? I think we've actually reached a reasonable discussion point. What purpose is that?

FWIW, I have two children and they're reasonably well behaved. Of course, the price for that is nearly 24/7 behavioral supervision and management for most of their formative years. Each child is different, but people can be made to conform to behavioral standards when necessary.

For instance, me eldest was never prone to violent expression. I had to modify her behavior to be more assertive just so she could get around normally. My second was, so I had to slap that down hard at every opportunity just to hammer into her that violent expression is only tolerated in specific instances.

SixteenBlue wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

EDIT: again? *sigh* There's a difference between an asshole and a rapist. A rapist is an asshole but an asshole isn't always a rapist. Some people are born pedos. Some people are born murderers. Some people are born paranoid schizophrenics. Some people are born only to soon die to a genetic defect. Does one person who likes to dress up in a fursuit and yiff make the entire human race furries? Rape, murder, and many other crimes are deviant behavior. Is rape human nature? No. Is the possibility of having a proclivity for rape (or any other countless deviant tendencies) part of human nature? I suppose so.

Let me try this again.

Why is being an asshole/bully human nature but rape isn't? Sure, they're different. One is much worse. But why is one human nature but one isn't? "Does one person who likes to dress up in a fursuit and yiff make the entire human race furries?" Of course not. But not everyone is born an asshole either, so why is that human nature?

It really feels like you're picking and choosing what is normal and ok and what isn't and I think you're doing that based off your own experience. You were bullied and came out fine so everyone should do the same thing.

Yeah, I don't see why "Is bullying human nature? No. Is the possibility of having a proclivity for bullying part of human nature? I suppose so" isn't a valid response.

To be honest, it was this case of a guy who thought it wouldn't be a problem to Facebook friend a girl he raped in high school that got me thinking about the parallels between bullying and rape. Specifically, that bullies and rapists aren't boogeymen who jump out of the bushes: "I felt comforted by the fact that like everyone I've reconnected with on Facebook, he'd gotten fat, and by the banality of his listed interests like "Bob Marley" and "Scrubs." He was a monster in my memory, but on Facebook, he was just a man. I called him."

I'd hate to think that we as a society are powerless to fight back against either; from what I've seen, we're definitely not.

I feel like everyone needs to read Hobbes' Leviathan.

It's the crude beginnings of society itself. It's how, in an absence of other authority, human beings figure out who's in charge. There must be outcasts in order for there to be "normal" people. If you take any group of people and put them in that type of institutional environment what comes out is always going to look bullyish. Prison and mental hospitals are probably similar. Maybe even the military, I don't know. Bullying is part of this. It's how power is communicated in a setting where there aren't a lot of other mitigating factors. Most bullying isn't even physical. It's group A talking sh*t about person B.

"Bullying" in the context of school is really just how kids work out kid society. If you want to start talking about people getting their head kicked in or raped or set on fire or facebook stalked or whatever this UBERBULLYING is I think that isn't terribly relevant to what the vast majority of kids deal with on a daily basis. Yes there are exceptions where people go to far but the vast majority of bullying doesn't involve assaulting someone. Bullying is a social thing and it can be very visceral because these kids (both bullys and bullied) are just developing what will amount to their adult personalities. Their self-image is often very fragile and in more danger of being shattered by the words or actions of others.

Now then. Time to bully my wife into making me dinner! (who am I kidding, I'm cooking :/ )

TheArtOfScience wrote:

It's the crude beginnings of society itself. It's how, in an absence of other authority, human beings figure out who's in charge. There must be outcasts in order for there to be "normal" people. If you take any group of people and put them in that type of institutional environment what comes out is always going to look bullyish. Prison and mental hospitals are probably similar. Maybe even the military, I don't know. Bullying is part of this. It's how power is communicated in a setting where there aren't a lot of other mitigating factors. Most bullying isn't even physical. It's group A talking sh*t about person B.

My guess is some institutions involve more bullying than others. Give me a choice between an education in a Finnish school or a stay in a Turkish prison, I know which one I'll take.

Just because a problem arises from human nature does not mean that problem cannot be minimized by improvements in human culture. Or exacerbated by cultural failure.

CheezePavilion wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

It's the crude beginnings of society itself. It's how, in an absence of other authority, human beings figure out who's in charge. There must be outcasts in order for there to be "normal" people. If you take any group of people and put them in that type of institutional environment what comes out is always going to look bullyish. Prison and mental hospitals are probably similar. Maybe even the military, I don't know. Bullying is part of this. It's how power is communicated in a setting where there aren't a lot of other mitigating factors. Most bullying isn't even physical. It's group A talking sh*t about person B.

My guess is some institutions involve more bullying than others. Give me a choice between an education in a Finnish school or a stay in a Turkish prison, I know which one I'll take.

Just because a problem arises from human nature does not mean that problem cannot be minimized by improvements in human culture. Or exacerbated by cultural failure.

Do you think this problem can be solved? I am all for a bully free world. I myself had my fair share of bullying when I grew up (though I was able to ignore it so I don't feel scarred by it today) but I think this is one of those impossible problems to solve.

If it is agreed that it is human nature to form cliques, and in every society there will be people with different levels of power, it is inevitable that some cliques will bully other cliques to maintain their position of power.

This happens with adults as much as it does with kids. The big difference is kids are immature and don't have a good concept of respect so they tend to be cruel whereas adults tend to be more conniving.

Education is the only weapon we have against bullying. If we teach our kids to be respectful of other people, the chances that they will become bullies will be reduced, but there will always be irresponsible parents that don't teach their kids to respect others and so I think there will always be bullies.

Solved? No. Then again, we haven't 'solved' murder or robbery (or to continue with the example, rape), but that doesn't mean we just call it human nature and give up. Like you said, education is a weapon. And sure--you won't be able to reach some kids because of bad parents or, well, bad kids. Like you also said, we can reduce the chances though.

I think it's a mistake to look at human behavior and make hasty conclusions about human nature. The 'middleware' between human nature and human behavior is human culture. Really, humans aren't even human until they acquire culture. And we can change culture.

Interesting comments. I was bullied mercilessly as a kid until I became 14, trimmed down and started taking martial arts so I could hold my own. I still have a lot of anger about things, and on more than one occassion I've found myself trying to check absolute rage over some relatively minor douchey thing someone's done. All that being said, I think things are worse now than they were in the 80s. Back in the day you had more "equal opportunity" bullies - guys who were just nasty to everyone. It sounds like today's bullied kids are made into pariahs by their entire class. That's a lot harder IMHO to overcome than run-of-the-mill older kids taking lunch money from the smaller kids. It also seems a far greater number of kids either killing themselves or shooting up their classrooms.

I know there's a few GWJers who grew up overseas or who aren't American. It'd be interesting to know if there are cultures with far fewer bullying problems.

It's a matter of perspective. My own country is nominally a republic, but it's functionally an oligarchy. Kleptocracy is what some might call it, but it's not nuanced enough. The right to steal government funds has a pecking order and manner of procedure! You can't just steal stuff around here. You gotta pay the right peeps for the right.

Since the society is founded on clan dynamics, the same hierarchy often imprints on youth dynamics. It doesn't often get to systematic persecution because everyone is NOT equal and you're supposed to know who to kowtow to - who is whose child and what not. Mr. Muckymuck doesn't need to beat you because his father's thugs will if you offend him far enough. That said, he doesn't usually feel a need to demonstrate his power by beating up the powerless. It's a show of weakness to expend resources beating up no threat people.

You're much more likely to get beaten up as a part of a faction war or some social taboo than you are because some kid feels a need to reaffirm his self-worth.

I don't think any of the immediate post above is applicable to solving the American situation. You guys have a lot of problems, but having a real republic isn't one of them.

Alternate, more useful thought:

Child hierarchy dynamic in school may be reflective of the relative equality Americans enjoy across the middle class. Your own father will tell you to give your lunch money to the school bully if the threat is that he'll have his father assassinate your family one by one.

My cousin was bullied in middle school and decided to write a song about it. It is geared towards kids and teens, but I think she did a good job. She hopes the message will help other kids and teens.

LarryC wrote:

I don't think any of the immediate post above is applicable to solving the American situation. You guys have a lot of problems, but having a real republic isn't one of them.

Alternate, more useful thought:

Child hierarchy dynamic in school may be reflective of the relative equality Americans enjoy across the middle class. Your own father will tell you to give your lunch money to the school bully if the threat is that he'll have his father assassinate your family one by one.

Interesting. I wonder then if some of the societies with the most equality (ie, Scandinavia, Holland, Japan) have lesser problems with bullying. Or more. Having recently finished Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, I fully understand that countries like Sweden are not paradises on earth. But it does seem that America has a huge bullying problem for a first world country.

Japan has the hikikomori. Unless you guys have a widespread problem with kids completely shutting themselves off from the world on account of stresses and bullying, I think you have it better.

I read TAOS' initial view on bullying and think the reaction against him was too harsh. I agree that bullying is an inevitable part of human nature, but I'm not about to leap to the conclusion that that justifies the practice. Treating bullying as anything other than a consequence of animal behavior will lead to more ineffective policies in school which treat symptoms rather than root causes.

Also, here's a question: do you think most bullies self-identify as such? I saw someone say earlier that bullies grow up to regret their actions. I saw someone disagree. I'd argue that's an impossible hypothesis to test given that I'm pretty sure most bullies don't wake up in the morning and think, "I cannot wait to bully today!" *

I'm more interested in the bully mindset here than anything else.

*Edit: I'd be willing to bet that at one point or another, some people in this very thread have, unbeknownst to them, been labelled as a bully by a victim.

I had a history professor in college who would start off his Western Civ course every semester by saying "let us assume for the purpose of this course that human beings don't have a nature, but a history".

I always liked that outlook because it accounted for progress in the way humans interact. In Old Testament times, genocide and systematic rape as a weapon were common tools in tribal warfare. Now they are war crimes for which perpetrators can expect to be hunted down to the ends of the earth. As recently as 150 years ago, the concept of women or minorities voting and/or owning property was as ridiculous as willing one's estate to the family dog. Now we have a black president and a female secretary of state.

Perhaps there once was a time when bullying and the crude cliquish hierarchies that they create provided some utility to the running of brutal tribal societies, but that time has past. And teaching and/or socializing our kids to accept that is not in the interests of our kids or our society as a whole. It is a failure of American education.

Now they are war crimes for which perpetrators can expect to be hunted down to the ends of the earth.

I suspect that, had Bush and Cheney authorized the use of rape and mass killings, they would be sitting fat and happy in their country homes right now.

Those laws only apply to people who aren't friends of the United States.

There seems to be a growing extreme between the folks who are much easier to be bullied and dont have the will or means to defend themselves and the growing number of little sh*ts that enjoy making others suffer.

bullying requires a lack of respect for the person you're bullying. That general lack of respect tends to be due to poor parenting. Personally i think it's a stepping stone for someone to care so little for someone that something like rape would occur.

I dont see any of the above as human nature but a result of the environment.

So, would you guys be okay with martial punishment in response to bullying behavior?

I've yet to see anyone offer any concrete means of battling bullys.

What sort of corrective behavior is going to socialize bullying out of our school system?

On one hand American culture has gotten to the point where parents will take their children's side over the school's. We have students goading their teachers and filming them with cell phones when they finally snap, costing them their job.

Let's not forget about fisticuffs! As a teacher if you witness a fight you are completely f*cked. You can either A) not do anything and get sued if a student gets hurt due to your inaction or B) try to break up the fight and get sued if a student gets hurt in the melee as you try to separate them.

We treat our children like these porcelein dolls that are fragile and in need of our constant hovering. You realize that if you want to turn schools into "societal education centers" (which they already are...making good US citizens who will vote for who they are told to without thinking too much) then your children will not be exempt. Even if you are involved and parent your child you are going to send them off to a school that is going to instill values in them that may or may not be in line with what you want them to hear.

Then, one day, we will live in a world free of bullies! (and artists, and musicians, and intellectuals)

To me the whole "we've grown past that stage of human development" argument is akin to the "things were always simpler back in the day" argument. They are fallacies brought about by our lack of perspective.

This entire topic confuses me. I'm not entirely sure of the role people think schools should play in our children's lives. I personally didn't learn "don't be a racist sexist asshole" in school.

So if you want the school to change our children's behavior so that they will be genteel (omg CLOCKWORK ORANGE) how would you propose they go about it?

TheArtOfScience wrote:

We treat our children like these porcelein dolls that are fragile and in need of our constant hovering. You realize that if you want to turn schools into "societal education centers" (which they already are...making good US citizens who will vote for who they are told to without thinking too much) then your children will not be exempt. Even if you are involved and parent your child you are going to send them off to a school that is going to instill values in them that may or may not be in line with what you want them to hear.

You say that like in a lot of cases it would be a bad thing.

CheezePavilion wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

We treat our children like these porcelein dolls that are fragile and in need of our constant hovering. You realize that if you want to turn schools into "societal education centers" (which they already are...making good US citizens who will vote for who they are told to without thinking too much) then your children will not be exempt. Even if you are involved and parent your child you are going to send them off to a school that is going to instill values in them that may or may not be in line with what you want them to hear.

You say that like in a lot of cases it would be a bad thing.

Uhm...yeah. I think it would. I send my child to school to learn how to do algebra not to have them teach him how to be a decent human being.

You are advocating a nanny state where the government not only tells our children what to believe, but how they should behave.

Yeah, it would be a very bad thing in my opinion.

You need to have discipline in school. There is a difference between enforcing discipline and instilling life values.

TheArtOfScience wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
TheArtOfScience wrote:

We treat our children like these porcelein dolls that are fragile and in need of our constant hovering. You realize that if you want to turn schools into "societal education centers" (which they already are...making good US citizens who will vote for who they are told to without thinking too much) then your children will not be exempt. Even if you are involved and parent your child you are going to send them off to a school that is going to instill values in them that may or may not be in line with what you want them to hear.

You say that like in a lot of cases it would be a bad thing.

Uhm...yeah. I think it would. I send my child to school to learn how to do algebra not to have them teach him how to be a decent human being.

You are advocating a nanny state where the government not only tells our children what to believe, but how they should behave.

Yeah, it would be a very bad thing in my opinion.

You need to have discipline in school. There is a difference between enforcing discipline and instilling life values.

Hmm. Clearly you are not familiar with the kindergarten curricula pretty much everywhere on the civilized planet.

Frankly I'd like the right be able to do to the bully what the bully did to my kid.

Right now I think we are teaching kids that there aren't real life repercussions for bad behavior.

I'm realistic enough to know that my kid isn't a saint and glub help him if I find out he's been bullying someone. But I honestly have no idea what to say to him if he's being bullied (aside from the usual "defend yourself" schtick), especially by a group. You can't fight everyone and even the best fighters can be taken down by a group.

TheArtOfScience wrote:

You need to have discipline in school. There is a difference between enforcing discipline and instilling life values.

but you also said:

TheArtOfScience wrote:

I'm not going to go on the "wussification of the American Male" tangent here and I do think that some types of bullying cross the line into hate crime. There is a difference between bullying someone for the hell of it and being racist or homophobic. Not a huge difference, but a palpable one.

Can't have it both ways. Some parents are racists and homophobes.