When I think of bullies, I think of Scott Farkus. Scott Farkus, what a rotten name! He had yellow eyes! So help me God, yellow eyes!
For anyone who might not up to speed with the Christmas classics, Scott Farkus is the embodiment of all depravity in “A Christmas Story.” Unfortunately, whether it’s attributed to media hype or if kids really have become more aggressive over the past few decades, it seems that bullying in recent years has taken a turn for the worse. The modern-day Scott Farkus is 20 pounds heavier, with more pent up belligerence (the equivalent of the ED-209 in “Robocop”) and there’s more of them.
Bullying is anything but a new phenomenon. Everyone knows that bullies have been an age-old plight for young people for ... well, forever – all the way back to when Adam made the first “no girls allowed” club in the Garden of Eden. And while it might be true that bullying induces the same emotional trauma today as what was left by the Scott Farkuses of previous generations, others see it as a rite of passage ... and maybe, to an extent, they’re right. Arguably, bulling is just a part of growing up. Kids, particularly those at younger grade levels, don’t always grasp the implications of their harsh words or the long-term effects those words carry. I think the underlying problem is that students today are dealing with new methods of bullying. For example, cyber-bullying, something unheard of ten years ago, allows kids to slander their peers to an audience of hundreds, if not thousands, within seconds.
Adding insult to injury (pun intended), bullying is more common now than ever before, something not too surprising, given the incredible changes of our culture over the last two decades; the changing dynamics of the nuclear family, the average household that requires two working parents, and a suffering economy that shatters the dream of higher education for millions of young adults.
Bullying was again brought into the local spotlight last week, when a Norwich High School student was hospitalized after being assaulted by another student in the hallway. Of course, such an appalling incident is far more than bullying. It overshot cruel intentions and veered into criminal territory. But it bears the question: What, if anything, can or should be done to prevent similar incidents in the future? Some local schools have adopted an anti-bullying program which, admittedly, is a monumental step in the right direction; however, for schools that simply hang a banner that reads “Bully Free Zone,” it’s not enough. Common sense tells us that if bullying were to stop, it’s going to take much more than two-by-five-foot banner hanging over the entryway. If that tactic were successful, then by the same methodology, I wouldn’t have to lock my car doors; just put a sign in the window that says “Don’t Steal.”
Perhaps most bothersome are the people who insist bullying is a problem that can be prevented. The people who think there’s a fix to such a convoluted issue are the same folks who believe the sky could actually fall. There is no “fix” to bullying. There’s only ways to deal with it, ways to discourage it, and ways to limit it; but no amount of school suspension, shock therapy, tough love, or bad behavior boot camp is going to end it.
Perhaps if we could deal with the reality that there is such a thing as genuine hate, be that hate with or without a purpose, then we – yes “we” as a community – can move forward with realistic goals in mind, make changes that carry a real impact, and do something more effective than hang a banner to combat the Scott Farkuses of the world.
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