Saturday, April 09, 2011

When seconds count, the police are just years away

Fantastic post at Popehat about the attitude of far too many educators and "experts" towards bullied children who have the temerity to actually defend themselves from the aggression of their tormentors. Money quote:
Don’t you see, fat kid? When that little monster threw a jab at your chin, you were supposed to explore alternative paths of conflict resolution. You should have dialogued with him, as seasoned bullying experts would say, and tried to understand what made him punch you in the face:

In other words, that he’s a bully, and you’re a fat nerd. And that’s what bullies do to fat nerds. Because our teachers, and seasoned experts, have more important things to do with their time than to stop bullies who know just where to step, close to, but not quite over, the line.

Or you can take your chances with the invisible line yourself, but if you step over it, you’ll be the one who’s “snapped.” And you’ll be the one who goes to jail.
The incident referenced in the Popehat post- kid finally retaliates against repeated bullying at school, it's caught on film, alleged educational experts are horrified at the prospect of children actually protecting themselves when their teachers can't be bothered to do so- took place in Australia, but it's quite applicable to the United States as well. We lock children in close quarters with people who systematically harass, abuse, beat, terrorize, or humiliate them, force them into close contact day after day for years on end, do nothing or worse than nothing to protect them from their tormentors, and then punish them if they dare to try to stand up for themselves.

There are few things more contemptible than telling a victim of ongoing aggression and abuse that they are morally obliged to sit and take it, especially when the victim is someone particularly impressionable and emotionally vulnerable,or who has been taught to look to you as an authority, or whose safety and well-being is supposedly your responsibility, or all three. And make no mistake, that is exactly what telling children "Just walk away" or "violence is never the answer" or "try to talk to him" or "ignore it" boils down to.

This is the sort of essential "socialization" children would miss out on without modern schools. If the losers and weirdos in the lower reaches of the great chain of being got it into their heads that their own lives, rights, and well-being actually mattered enough to be worth standing up for, where would that leave us? Just meekly soak up the abuse and beg for help that will never come.

People quite literally wouldn't treat a fucking dog the way they routinely treat millions of children in this country.

In practice "violence isn't the answer" isn't being said to everyone, at least not equally. It's being said to kids who get bullied a lot- in other words, the kids who are unpopular, different, weird, nerdy,  ugly, shy, socially awkward, or otherwise deviant in ways that put them among the lower echelons of the status hierarchy. An actual fight, in which the bully actually encounters effective resistance, is much more likely to result in actual adult intervention than than one-sided abuse- it's louder, more likely to draw a crowd, more likely to result in some sort of property damage, and more likely to disrupt the school's smooth operation. In practice, a policy of punishing both sides of a fight regardless of its cause often boils down to a policy of tolerating violence as long as it is directed solely at low-status kids.

Of course, it is adults who dispense and enforce these platitudes, and these adults are almost invariably well-educated middle class professionals. In other words, it is people who live secure in the knowledge  that they live in a world where violently assaulting them without provocation is a crime, that they are recognized as having every right to defend themselves against attackers, that they will not be forcibly compelled to attend if they refuse to spend their day in a setting where they are subjected to relentless humiliation and psychological abuse, and that anything even remotely approaching the sort of crap tolerated in schools would be met with police and prosecutions and lawsuits if they, God forbid, were the victims. Their safety and well-being matter enough to receive actual protection.

For all its defects, the macho "don't come crying to me about it, you sissy" attitude towards bullied children was still far more humane and decent than this. It was merely pitilessly indifferent to the victims, not actively allied with the bully. If nothing else, it at least recognized the right of the bullied child to at least try to defend himself instead of declaring him so utterly worthless and irrelevant that he isn't even worthy of his own protection.

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