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EVERYTHING BUT: Kid-gloved bullies

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: Kid-gloved bullies

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Some educators and children development specialists espouse the notion that “physical punishment” is inappropriate action against the school bully. They argue that such reinforces violence as a pertinent solution to a problem.
Instead they suggest “support, supervision and mentoring”. And if that school bully simply rejects “the assistance” given? The cute answer is to have the bully “removed to protect the other students”.
The bigger question, of course, is: have him or her removed and put where?
If indeed we are going to be serious about zero tolerance of this barbarism among school students, we cannot be soft on its treatment. Zero tolerance cannot mean the turning of the other cheek by the suffering victim or his or her family – not for the sins of this wretchedly wicked and cruel band of reprobates.
The perpetrators of this crime of bullying ought to be thrown out of the general school system and given their education somewhere else – during a stint of rigid incarceration. The hush-hush conferences with the principal and ad hoc mercy committees that often follow for fear of the smearing of the school’s name just won’t cut it.
Let’s be candid about it. High on a principal’s priority list these days is the school’s reputation and good name; then his – or hers. And neither will have school or principalship “sullied” in the Press. Nothing else will do.
Teachers we accept as mostly hard-working, dedicated, even if underpaid, professionals. The good ones are without question the bedrock of our intellectuality. We ought to hold them in high esteem.
There are several of mine who are long dead and whom I still respect; and those who are still alive I address reverentially as sir and ma’am. I owe them a great deal.
But this will not be an excuse for me to turn my head away from a recklessness in school where teachers become invisible when bullying raises its tormenting head among their charges. If teachers are literally afraid to confront the bullies, what are these browbeaters and ruffians doing on the school’s compound?
Clearly these ungovernable brats belong at a boot camp at best, or simply at Dodds.
We will not stamp out bullying in school by being soft on the offender and finding excuses for this abhorrent behaviour. We will not stamp out bullying in school by these obtrusive textbook, wishy-washy diagnoses of juvenile delinquent conduct born of excessive bravado and braggadocio, and obvious intellectual disability.
None of the school bullies I knew ever relented because they were called to the Lord’s altar, or preached the Sermon On The Mount, or mollycoddled after all the pain they had inflicted. We need to disabuse ourselves of this foolishness of a philosophy of behavioural protagonists that the more you expose young deviants, including bullies, to repeated instructive messages of positiveness and well-being, the more they will become angels and eventually responsible citizens of the state.
The vast majority of us who heed the prodding do not require much change – if any at all. At best, the behavioural change gurus can lay claim only to reaffirmation among us the law-abiding.
Truth be told, bullies invariably require shock treatment – or a good shocking hand. The bullies I knew, once you surprised them by standing up to them, or by getting someone else to do it for you, were so befuddled and embarrassed by having their domineering dignity stripped off them that they seldom came back.
And if they did, there was a double whammy awaiting them. Peers love to back up their valiant.
The softness on bullying in which principal, some teachers and parents seem to be drowning these days is a result of the touted belief that all children – and all parents, for that matter – are intellectually and socially able. This is balderdash, of course! To start with, the bullied is usually of higher intellect and in possession of many more and greater quality social graces.
The bully is much less sensitive, his or her education not purposefully fired by any curiosity, except to see how much pain his victim can take; his positive talents not nurtured by anything noticeably good.
It is a mistake to assume that the bully will be readily amenable to soft talk for a swing from violence as would the average school student from simple bad behaviour. The two will not make civic clones.
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.