Bullying 101: Learning Not To Be Hit

By | May 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

I’ve always hated bullies. I recall a day in the sixth grade. Recess was over, the bell rang, and we lined up to leave the schoolyard and go back to our classes. The boy behind me pushed me for no reason. So I pushed him back.

But our teacher happened to be the recess monitor that day. Let’s call her Miss Smith. She was very strict. She had me and the boy who pushed me stand in front of the class. She made fun of us for childish behavior, then told us to entertain the class by pushing each other. I was a good student, and I could not understand why she was treating me the same as the one who caused the problem.

Nevertheless, at the age of 11 or 12, I was determined to show the difference between the initiator of trouble and the one who responded to trouble. So I just stood there. The teacher repeated her order to push each other. And I stood there. Finally the other boy pushed me, and I pushed back. Satisfied that I had made my point, even if the teacher was too dense to understand it, I resumed my seat and the class went on.

Though I did not know it at the time, the mentality of our teacher was the same as that of many teachers elsewhere: I don’t care who started it ‒ you’re both going to the principal’s office. The explicit purpose of this approach is to suppress fighting. But the inevitable result is to encourage bullying and ‒ perhaps even worse ‒ to teach the toleration of bullies.

I believe this lesson has been learned so well that we have raised a generation of wimps who tolerate bullies, at home, at school, at the university, at work, in government, and in the world.

Then I started junior high school. I was small for my age and wore glasses. In the schoolyard at lunchtime, a larger, older boy homed in on me as though by radar. He enjoyed punching me on the back of the upper arm, causing bruises. He always used my left arm ‒ at least he was consistent. But fighting was severely punished, so I did nothing.

Summer vacation arrived, and I went to Boy Scout camp for two weeks. Though I was only an hour’s drive from home, for the first time I felt far enough from my parents to make my own decisions.

And sure enough, an older boy began the same bullying I had endured at school. He began hitting me on the back of the arm. But I had had enough. Unexpectedly, I approached him with an offer. He could punch me on the arm as much as he liked, but for each punch, I could punch him on the arm. Of course he agreed. A small crowd gathered to watch. He punched me fairly hard, and I punched him lightly.

Smirking, he punched me again. But this time, I used the technique I had learned by watching my favorite boxers on TV. I planted my feet, pivoted, and threw a punch with my weight behind it. The kids standing around winced from the loud whack. The bully said nothing but never bothered me again.

When school resumed in the fall, I looked forward to trying my new tactic on my old nemesis. But he had graduated, so I filed the tactic away in my mental toolbox for later use.

At the age of 13, I learned a lesson that many people do not learn even in middle age. As a seventh-grader, I learned what many professors, intellectuals, politicians, and even presidents never learn. I learned that bullies must be confronted. I learned that if reason proves ineffective, force must be used.

I learned that in order to reduce violence, one must be willing to hit − not just to be hit.

I learned that pacifism is a luxury to be enjoyed by a fortunate few, while bullies are restrained by others ‒ others who are willing to fight when necessary. I learned that pacifism is a luxury like a BMW, to be enjoyed by a fortunate few, while others must deal with a grimmer reality.

“Safe spaces”? “Microaggressions”? Refusal to hear opposing opinions? We are teaching young people to confuse “I disagree” with “I am offended” with “Shut up!” with “You shouldn’t speak here” with “If you try to speak here we’ll attack you physically.” Learning to tolerate bullies is only one step away from becoming bullies ourselves.

If you doubt this, look at what happens when unpopular ‒ that is, conservative ‒ speakers try to address university audiences. First they are shouted down. Then they and their supporters are attacked physically. And finally, they are not invited at all.

No, Miss Smith and all the Miss Smiths. You can distinguish between one who pushes and one who pushes back. In fact, you have a duty to make that distinction, and to impart it to your students. Otherwise, you wind up with that we confront today ‒ cowardly bullies too fragile to hear opposing opinions, but nasty enough to assault those who express them.

If you think young people like that will be able to preserve a constitutional republic, you’re crazy. They lack both the desire to preserve it and the idea that it is worth preserving.



Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.


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