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Is School Bullying Really That Bad?

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Posted in Advice by Joel Gross

A former bully victim asking such a question may seem silly, but I think the topic deserves analysis. ‚ Today’s schools have become a padded cocoon, intended to protect students from exposure to anything that can be potentially harmful. ‚ Most schools have zero-tolerance policies towards drugs, guns, bullying, and many other potentially harmful activities. ‚ Students caught engaging in anything remotely close are usually immediately expelled. ‚ Even toy water pistols and over the counter prescriptions get kids kicked out. ‚ The goal is to keep kids safe.

But are these protection policies really beneficial to kids? ‚ Does “helicopter” schooling work?

America has gone to an extreme in trying to protect public school students from themselves and those around them. ‚ Zero tolerance policies lead to very negative results. ‚ What happens when these kids have never experienced any potentially harmful activities in a fairly safe environment? ‚ They end up facing these harmful activities in a far harsher environment much more likely to cause them to fail.

Preventing bullying in schools with zero tolerance policies stops people from learning how to deal with bullies. ‚ Bullies exist in every area of life and bullying tactics are employed by almost everyone in some form or another. ‚ Knowing how to deal with bullies is an invaluable skill, but our students are not learning how to do so. ‚ 

I learned how to deal with bullies at a young age in middle school and that knowledge of human psychology and interaction has served me well the rest of my life. ‚ Being bullied is a miserable experience and if allowed to go to far, it can cause serious damage. ‚ However, once you have been bullied you realize how much it sucks and you don’t do it to other people. ‚ You also learn how to handle bullies and keep them from harming you or gaining power over you. ‚ 

Consider this: is it better to learn how to deal with bullies in a protected environment where bullies are equal in status (students) to you or to not know how to deal with bullies and have your superiors bully you as an adult? ‚ When you are an adult, you have no protections against bullying outside of your own abilities, whereas a student always has teachers, principals and counselors there to fall back on. ‚ I have seen people in my own workplace who didn’t know how to handle bullies get used and abused. ‚ I feel very sorry for them that they never learned how to deal with bullying issues as children. ‚ 

So what am I suggesting? ‚ I think adults should stop bullying when it happens and use instances of it as a teaching tool for both the bully and the bullied. ‚ Zero tolerance policies towards bullying though are actually more harmful in the long run to students than some limited bullying.

The real key to stopping bullying altogether is to help people develop more compassion for one another. ‚ How do you do this? ‚ For me, it happened as a kid. ‚ I was a brute as a little kid and treated kids I didn’t like very poorly. ‚ When I reached junior high though the situation suddenly flipped around and I was on the receiving end. ‚ I hated it and really regretted treating other kids poorly before and actually even sought them out and apologized for my behavior. ‚ However, if I had never been bullied there is a chance that as an adult I would have no compassion for others and would not think twice about mistreating them. ‚ I see many adults who act just this way and its sad that they never learned these lessons.

4 thoughts on “Is School Bullying Really That Bad?

  1. I never bullied anyone as a child. My dad had always told me that you should never prey on the weak. It’s a sign of weak character to make fun of less fortunate people. You should treat everyone with respect and understand where people are coming from. So i was always very compassionate. I think that’s why I developed very good social skills as an adult. Joel knows this, I can get along and get anyone to like me, whether it’s an Icelandic Eskimo or a Spanish bullfighter lol. I would never allow anyone I knew to get bullied and if I caught a bully in the act i would attack him lol.

  2. I disagree with your asinine assessment of bullying. There should be zero tolerance of bullying in schools and the perpetrator should be publicly humiliated in class in front of the victim and expelled from regular school and be confined either to juvenile hall or a prison system. Once there the thug will learn a good lesson.

  3. I see I cam to this discussion late but I was looking up links recently because of the increase in News coverage. I was bullied extensively throughout school, K-12. And only later in life did I learn to cope with it. On my own. I remember thinking when I was young that I wish an adult or teacher would notice because I was too embarrassed to tell them. And yet, now, given perspective, I can’t for the life of me think of a way to solve the bullying problem except to go in the direction that we as a culture seem to be marginalizing: Self defense, self worth and pride. The idea that your life is worth defending and it shouldn’t be a crime or (in the case of school) a punishable offense to fight back. Culturally, we seem less inclined to go that way. We’d rather make more laws, which will likely do little to stop bullying. After all, murder has been against the law for, well, virually millenia and yet, people prone to violence against others rarley care about the law, or evn morms and mores. I would think it would also take school administrators and teachers willing and able to exercise judgment instead of enforcing zero tolerance rules, which do little but remove the need for independant thought from the enforcer. My two cents.

  4. Prof Moriarity – Well said (minus the spelling errors)! I agree with you on every level, especially your last point about removing independent thought from the enforcer. People put so much energy into raising awareness instead of reading into the specifics of an altercation between two people, and potentially saving a young person’s life by showing some direct interest and care.

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