I do, in fact, care who started it

The great Randall Munroe takes on one of the classic Stupid Things Adults Say to Children:

 

The “If all your friends …” bit always bugged me. It’s closely related to the teacher-favorite “It doesn’t matter if everyone else was doing it.”

Teachers love to pull that one on the one kid they’ve singled out as “an example.” So the whole class is talking or disrupting or whatever and they focus on one child to bear the brunt of the punishment. The kid protests that everyone else was doing the same thing and the teacher says that doesn’t matter.

Of course it matters. It matters a great deal. It suggests that the rule isn’t really a rule at all, merely a pretext. Arbitrary and selective justice is not justice. The kid is right. He or she is a fifth-grader, and the kids who get singled out like that aren’t usually the best students in the fifth grade, so they probably aren’t able to articulate why what the teacher is saying is horribly wrong, but it still is wrong. And the kids know it.

Even worse is another favorite of teachers or other adults breaking up fights between kids: “I don’t care who started it.”

Really? You don’t care who started it? You don’t find that morally significant at all? You don’t find the distinction between aggression and self-defense worth considering in evaluating the situation?

St. Augustine cared who started it. That was, for him, a major factor in whether or not war could be considered justifiable.

But teachers don’t care about St. Augustine, and they don’t care who started it.

Again, the kids probably can’t articulate why what the adults are saying there is wrong, but it’s still wrong. Utterly wrong.

Teaching kids that aggression and defense are morally indistinct is wrong. Teaching kids that rules retain their legitimacy when selectively enforced is wrong.

Yeah, I know, all the other teachers are saying the same thing to their students. But if all the other teachers jumped off a bridge …?

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Chapter and verse
  • Jurgan

    I disagree.  The “everyone else is doing it” is usually used as a way of stalling the teacher or confusing him.  In my experience, when I’m hearing this excuse, I’m already turning to another student to say the exact same thing.

  • Aiwhelan

    Yes to this. Fred has brought up this idea before, and all it tells me is he has never been a teacher.  Usually there are two other factors involved that he’s ignoring:
    1. I need to get them all to stop. They ignore whatever I address to the class as a whole, so I need to talk to each student or group of them. I care that they’re all misbehaving, but I have to start somewhere.
    2. Part of what we teach in schools is character, and that includes “Just because your friend is throwing pens/shouting/has his phone out doesn’t mean you are not responsible for your own actions.” These are school-wide rules, enforced in every lesson since their first day there.

  • http://twitter.com/BillHiers Bill Hiers

    However, the problem Fred seems to addressing is more that the teachers have a favorite student, usually some sort of outcast they like picking on, who they single out in these instances.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    It’s not even that.  Sure, we can pick apart the motivations, and they’re rarely the best.  A favorite student that can get away with more, or just gets more than deserved benefit of the doubt, can be the source of the problem.  Sure, that’s worth noting.

    But, the problem is “I don’t care who started it.”  Well, it’s those first three words.  Whatever the reason is, not caring, itself, is a problem.

    It’s a problem in school, when the teacher doesn’t care who started the fight or who had been punched in the back every day for months on end or who had been the recipient of years of mocking harassment or…

    It’s a problem in politics when somebody says “both sides are guilty” and doesn’t care that one side has outright stated that the goal of defeating the other side is the top priority.

    “I don’t care who started it.  I just don’t want to be burdened with any responsibility!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Whatever the reason is, not caring, itself, is a problem.

    I find there is a limit to the number of fucks I am capable of giving. It varies day to day, but it does exist. Is that a problem?

  • AnonymousSam

    Depends on how you’ve prioritized your fuck-giving. Otherwise, we can point at our friendly neighborhood Republican senators and ask “Is it really their fault they just don’t care about those women and their problems?”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, of course, but I was responding to a blanket statement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    If you’re in a job/position that is built upon you being able to profer a king-certified-fornication, then yeah.

    If you’re being asked to make such an offering with regards to something that does not impact lives and over which you have no power, then no.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The sad thing is, teachers often use “I don’t care who started it” as a way to sneakily get out of punishing the person actually causing the problem because they agree with them. It doesn’t matter that Billy was calling Tim gay slurs, because the teacher agrees that gays are awful. So by saying “I don’t care who started it, you threw the punches” he/she gets to tacitly agree with the bullying. 

  • Fusina

    As a parent, sometimes I care who started it, sometimes I don’t. It depends. A lot of the time, I make my kids sort it out themselves. Only words, once it devolves into physical damage, I step in. I make sure that if I do, the results are pleasing to neither entirely. The hardest one is to stop the “Why aren’t you punishing him/her? They were just as culpable,” because I don’t do the punishments to please the other kid. None of their business how the other is treated is the line I most often use.

    Sometimes I think Solomon had it easy.

  • http://Yamikuronue.wordpress.com/ Yamikuronue

     “The hardest one is to stop the “Why aren’t you punishing him/her? They
    were just as culpable,” because I don’t do the punishments to please the
    other kid.”

    Say I (aged 10 or so) and another kid, let’s call him Timmy, are both doing the same thing. I get punished and Timmy does not. Clearly the rule isn’t just “don’t do that thing”, or else Timmy would be in trouble. Without further explanation, I’m likely to conclude that the rule is “don’t be me and do that thing”, since that’s the difference: I’m me and Timmy is Timmy. I’m then likely to conclude that the teacher just hates me personally and wants me to suffer. I’m also likely to conclude that I need to get revenge on Timmy for pointing out how much the teacher hates me.

    It’s not about “pleasing the other kid”.

  • Carstonio

    Sometimes I think Solomon had it easy.

    My experience with squabbling siblings is that there is some degree at fault on both sides. One of my strongest challenges as a parent is my fear of anger and conflict. I’m incredibly tempted to separate them in every instance, instead of teaching them how to resolve the conflict. My kids are incredibly jealous of each other and they struggle with learning to share – their level of distrust in each other sometimes astounds me.

  • Fusina

     Yes. And along with the incredible jealousy comes an aching sweetness when they cooperate. Show love to one another. Give when they could take. I got my daughter a bag of gumballs which she shared evenly with her brother. No cues from me, no force used, she did it of her own free will. Yeah, I did get teary eyed over that.

    Regarding the “Life isn’t fair” crowd, yes, I do mention that. But I also ask, “What will you do to make it more fair?” and “Is there any way that it could be more fair?” Get the kids involved in the discipline and the revocation of privilege–I tried to teach my kids that with privilege comes responsibilities, and likewise, responsibilities come with privileges. Such that, they know if they are responsible, they attain more autonomy. I am not going to be here forever, and I want to leave kids who can handle independence. No one understands when I say it as “I won’t be their Mommy forever.” but the truth is, I don’t want to be their Mommy forever. I want to relate to my adult children as adults, autonomous and responsible for their actions and empathetic to those who are not as well off as they are/may be.

    I do hope that made some sort of sense.

  • Cissa

     Something like 35 years after I’d had any contact with my sister- and
    at least 4 years since she died- I still have nightmares regularly about
    her bullying and hurting me, and I had no recourse. If I complained, I
    was blamed; if I fought back I was blamed; she learned that she had
    impunity, and i learned that no one cared about the circumstances. OK, it was an abusive family in other ways, too, but this is probably the aspect that keeps haunting me.

    I was the older, by the way- which meant that i was required to be infinitely understanding and tolerant, and she had NO  requirements whatsoever, especially since she was my mother’s pet.

  • Splitting Image

    The problem is that a parent or a teacher very often only gets involved in an altercation after several rounds of escalation, making it difficult to determine who “started” it.

  • Jim Roberts

    My boys are 10 and 6. When I’m in the kitchen and I hear a sudden cry of pain from the living room and run in to find that the eldest has the youngest in a chokehold, I really don’t care who started it. The eldest may be right that his younger brother punched him and that started the whole brawl, but that doesn’t matter – his reaction was as wrong as his brother’s action, and he knows it. Neither act was just.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Fred, have I told you how much I love this blog lately?

  • Jurgan

    As for “I don’t care who started it,” what that’s usually talking about is escalation.  One student calls the other stupid, the other says “you’re gay,” then “your momma’s fat,” “your mom’s a whore,” “fuck you,” etc., and suddenly we’re at blows.  I don’t think the first kid is wholly responsible because he said “you’re stupid,” because both sides escalated the conflict when either one could have simply not responded.  It’s rare that you get one student walk up to another and punch him for no reason- typically it’s a series of petty insults that escalate into a fight.  Scale this up to a war analogy: When ten million people die in World War I, it really doesn’t matter that it started with a Serbian assassin shooting an archduke- all the countries involved had their own reasons for going to war and they were all responsible.  From my experience, both of these excuses are not genuine attempts at finding justice but rather attempts to obfuscate and avoid consequences.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    It’s rare that you get one student walk up to another and punch him for no reason
    Not in my experience.  Happened all the damn time and I’m not long out of school.  (Of course if you asked them they’d give a reason, probably a different reason for every time period.  In high school it was because they thought I was gay.  No idea where they got that idea; I actually find the male body intensely unattractive, apparently well beyond that feeling in most straight males.)

    Last semester, in fracking university, I had someone throwing stuff at me, bodily cutting me out of conversations (starting talking to the person I was talking to by putting herself between me and that person for example) dropping her stuff on my foot and then yelling at me for touching her stuff without permission, and so forth.  No reason given*, no coherent pattern to when she did what she did beyond the fact it was always outside of the view of the patterns.  Certainly no discernible pattern related to my actions.  Sometimes I was talking, sometimes I was silent, sometimes I was walking, sometimes I was standing, sometimes I was just sitting at a desk.

    Perhaps more on point, there’s a difference between, “This needs to stop right now,” and, “I don’t care who started this.”

    “This needs to stop right now,” means it needs to stop regardless of who started it.  “I don’t care who started this,” means that you don’t give a damn whether it followed a pattern of escalation or one kid started pummeling another out of the blue or any of the variations in between.

    There’s a world of difference between the two.  “This needs to stop and stop now,” is a first step.  “I don’t care who started this,” precludes additional steps which in many cases may be necessary steps.

    If you don’t know the causes you can’t prevent similar things from happening in the future.  You also can’t get to the basic points of, “Even though [other student] did X to you, it was still wrong of you to respond with Y,” which are important points if it is an example of escalation as you describe.  And that only comes from finding out from the students involved what they think started it.  Not necessarily what actually did, but what they think did.

    If you can’t say, “Yes, [other party] was in the wrong, but when you responded with [action] you were in the wrong, which means you don’t get away with saying, ‘[Other party] started it,’ because what you did, starting with [action] was wrong.  You’re being punished [if student is being punished] because of what you did that was wrong.  If you respond to wrong with wrong you don’t get a get out of jail free card just because the other person was wrong first.”

    “I don’t care who started this,” precludes the important lesson that, “Even if someone else is wrong first, that doesn’t give you an excuse to be in the wrong.”  And that is a damn important lesson.  “Yes, [so and so] started this but what you did is still wrong and you’re still not allowed to do it,” is a lesson that needs to be learned by people who respond to wrong with wrong and that ignores the fact that sometimes it really is self defense vs unprovoked attack, which you will never even learn exists unless you care who started it.

    So, basically, “I don’t care who started this,” not only makes it clear that you don’t give a damn about whether or not one of the parties was acting in self defense, it also indicates that you don’t give a damn about teaching the lesson, “Just because someone else did something wrong first doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do something wrong in retaliation,” because that lesson rests on who started it.  To establish, “Wrong is wrong regardless,” you need to include, “Even if the other person started it,” which and the ideal time to really enforce that idea is when the person being taught it has just come out of a situation where they honestly and truly believe the other person started it.

    *Until this semester when she cut me out of a conversation that I was having by putting herself between me and the other person again but this time did so facing me, not the other person.  She assumed a threatening posture and gave her reason which when you cut away the weasel words and double standards (actually even leaving in the double standards) boiled down to: I don’t want you to speak.  Keep your mouth shut from now on and I’ll stop picking on you.

    But, as noted, she was doing things to me even when I was completely silent so even if you consider, “I don’t want you to speak,” a valid reason it still doesn’t explain many of her actions.

    A much better indicator of whether she was going to pick on me than whether or not I was speaking was whether or not someone in authority was likely to notice.  If she could do something without them noticing it would probably be done regardless of whether I was speaking or silent, if she couldn’t do anything without them noticing I was generally safe.

  • Carstonio

    In high school it was because they thought I was gay.

    You too, huh? I had assumed it was because I was more interested in books than in sports and I wasn’t stereotypically macho.  In elementary school the other kids thought I had mental retardation.

    During my middle-school years I went to a child guidance clinic twice a month, and the first day the counselor asked why I thought I was there, and I told him it was because my classmates were teasing me. I suppose I wanted him or the authorities at my school to bring in my classmates instead and tell them to knock it off.

    See, I had assumed that I should stay out of other people’s business and they should stay out of mine. I kept thinking that there was something about me or something about my behavior that was causing others to mistreat me, and that if I could figure this out, I could correct it and others would treat me the way I wanted to be treated.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    What’s happened/happening to you is terrible, but it still has a reason behind it.   They may be terrible, pointless unknowable and inexplicable reasons, but they are reasons. 

  • Jurgan

    Well, that was… a lot of words.  Anyway, that’s not my experience, and that’s what I was referring to.  Yes, there is a time for figuring out who did what, and I see your point about different phrasings meaning different things, but most of the time you’re just trying to cut through the noise and stop it.  Most of my experiences (and I have taught at some pretty rough schools) were of two students mutually responsible.  You make some good points that make sense in your situation, but they don’t match what I’ve dealt with.

  • Becca Stareyes

    A problem comes when kids figure out how to ‘game the system’.  My little brother was bullied in middle school. Most of the bullies were aware enough of teachers to limit their activity to when they were unobserved. My little brother, who has autism, generally wasn’t aware of his surroundings in the same way (he acted the same regardless of who was watching). I don’t know who escalated the conflict from verbal teasing to violence, but my brother was usually the one caught and punished for it. 

    The lesson my brother learned was that he couldn’t go to the teachers if he was being bullied, because they would blame him. Which, I imagine, is exactly what adults don’t want to happen: most teachers know they don’t have eyes everywhere, so they need students to come to them. 

  • Matthias

    While I fully disagree about selectively enforced rules, I can’t say the same about “I don’t care who started it”.

    Because when an adult/teacher comes along he usually has enough strenght to break up the fight. Violence whether defensive or aggressive is no longer needed. Once further damage is thus prevented it is possible to calmly figure out who started it and punish the guilty party.

    Now obviously the same prinicple cannot apply to wars, because there no one is sufficiently strong to break up the fight immediatly and thus violence against the aggressor is justified.

  • FDChief

    The problem usual is just what everyone has pointed out – that coming late to the scene the teacher has only the word of the kids involved who started what.  And the deal isn’t so much punishing the offenders as getting the classroom back under control so the learning can resume.  Hence the whole not-caring-who-started-it.

     The one effective “solution” to this I ever encountered was the one the Army used when I was a trainee; “collective punishment”, the idea being that you succeeded or failed as a unit.   So if your sergeant caught everybody goofing off or horsing around EVERYBODY did pushups, because you had ALL failed; the originators because they started it, and the followers for going along and not reminding everyone else to knock it off.

    It was unjust and arbitrary.  But it worked.

  • Fusina

     This doesn’t work quite as well in a school setting, esp. when the kids are fully aware of the usual offenders, and have no power to do anything about it for fear of injury. My kids resent the arbitrariness of this type action bitterly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    The problem with the collective punishment model is that it encourages extracurricular vengeance against whoever is seen as actually causing the problems, and thus is just going to make bullying the outsider situations worse. Also, it means that if everyone’s screwing around, there’s no point to being the kid trying to be good- you’re going to get punished anyway.

  • AnonymousSam

    And in school, where everyone knows who started it and has their preferred victor, then you get five kids beating the shit out of the unpopular kid who tried to stand up for himself. Or… you know… like Full Metal Jacket.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    What always got to me was, “Life’s not fair.”  It’s true, and an important lesson to learn, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it pulled out in a situation where the lesson wasn’t, “So therefore you are free to be as unfair as you want to be with no ill effects provided that you have power over the person you are being unfair toward, as I now have power over you.  Life is not fair, therefore all bullying everywhere is justified until a bigger bully decides to bully the first bully into stopping.”

    Because whenever I see it used it goes like this:
    Child: [What you did] isn’t fair.
    Adult: Life’s not fair.

    And the, “Life’s not fair,” is said in such a tone of voice as to shut down all further conversation.

    Even, “Actually it is fair but I don’t have time to explain right now so ask me later,” would be better than admitting you’re doing something unfair and acting as if the general hostility of the universe was all the excuse you needed to be unfair.  For that matter, “I know, but I can only do so much,” would still be better provided the unfairness is a result of the adult’s lack of power to make things fair rather than favoritism.

    Sometimes you don’t have time to explain why X is the right course of action in a given situation, but telling a child that being unfair is completely ok because life in general is unfair is not a good way to respond to that situation.  It teaches all the wrong lessons.

    What children should be taught is that life not being fair is a reason for every human being, child and adult, to do their best to make it fair wherever they can and be fair in their own word and deed because they know that life will not sort it out for them.

    If all my friends jumped off a bridge I’d look at what happened to them, ask how the water is, and then likely jump myself.  There’s a part not too far from where I live where there’s a former rail bridge that’s been converted into walkway/ place to jump off a bridge.

    I have checked and it is, in fact, possible to say, “Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish,” between when you leave the bridge and when you hit the water.

    Fred talked in the past about how the important first step is, “Stop hitting your sister,” referencing his two daughters once.  Other details can be worked out later, if at all.  But even if you’re never going to have the opportunity to find out who started it, it still seems like you should care.

    On, “Everyone else was doing it,” I think it matters a great deal if it’s true.  First off, if it is (for a given value of “everyone” that probably does not equal 100%) then the teacher let things get way out of hand before interceding.  Second, it means that the problem isn’t individual students, the problem is the entire climate of the classroom.  Pushing things off onto a scapegoat isn’t going to change that climate, it’s just going to teach “everyone else” that the odds are very much in their favor that if they do it again they won’t be punished.  (Only one person will be, if the group size is three or more the odds are against them being punished.  If the group size is 10 to 30 then they’ve got really good odds that they won’t be punished.)

    People do need to learn that, “Everyone else was doing it,” doesn’t make it right, but the person to do that teaching isn’t the one who has power over, “everyone else” unless it comes after making sure that the whole group is treated the same way.

    When discussing Baseball vs. Evangelistic culture someone pointed out that the rules aren’t always the rules.  If a rule isn’t enforced then it’s not really a rule anymore.  If you suddenly pick one person to enforce it on, you may be able to make an argument that, “Hey, it’s in the rule book,” but you’re not really respecting the rules, you’re being an asshole.

    The rules need to apply to everyone, unless there are clearly defined exemptions that can be reasonably explained (e.g. everyone has to stand except for those who can’t), otherwise they don’t have a chance at being just, and that’s before we even get to what the rule is, which itself is going to play a pretty damn big role in whether or not the rule is just.

  • Fade Manley

    In my experience, “collective punishment” turns into the class viciously shredding whoever was unlucky enough to get caught, and teaching kids that if one person is misbehaving, they might as well give up on good behavior because it’s not going to help anyway.

    I don’t think “make the other kids bully the troublemaker” and “teach kids that good behavior is pointless because it can be easily sabotaged by anyone at any point” are actually useful lessons for children. “Unjust and arbitrary” are not how I want a child’s education to be described.

  • http://dragoness-e.livejournal.com/ Dragoness Eclectic

     Ditto this. I always loathed collective punishment, because it is intrinsically unfair, and because one asshole basically holds everyone else hostage for his bad behavior, no matter how well they behave. Why should I even try if I’m going to get punished because John Doe over there is an asshole?

    Hell, I got fired once because I told a supervisor to his face that it was unfair, and I don’t care how they did it when he was in the army, this isn’t the army. I already went through that crap in boot camp, and having some civilian on a power-trip think it’s a great idea to emulate boot camp nastiness is just not on.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I always loathed collective punishment, because it is intrinsically
    unfair, and because one asshole basically holds everyone else hostage
    for his bad behavior, no matter how well they behave. 

    Sure; when there’s a reliable authority figure who can be trusted to know who behaved well, who behaved poorly, and to mete out punishments and rewards in proportion to past behavior, then all I have to do is behave well and trust that I will be rewarded for it, and that’s a wonderfully relaxing place to be.

    Unfortunately, such reliable authority figures are few and far between.

    Which means it is sometimes useful to teach people how to deal with being part of a group of peers, any of whom can cause suffering for the entire group.

    For example, learning how to organize one’s peers to enforce group norms against “John Doe over there,” and how to participate actively in that sort of organization, is sometimes useful.

    For example, learning how to instead relax those group norms, and welcome John Doe into the group despite the collective costs of that, is sometimes useful.

    And learning how to distinguish among situations that call for the former and situations that call for the latter is always useful.

    Granted, collective punishment as typically implemented is a really poor way to teach those skills, just as throwing someone in the deep end of a pool is a poor way to teach swimming.

  • Jim Roberts

    What I’ve found that works – at least for Sunday School – is giving the person I’ve spotted doing the wrong thing an appropriate punishment, and penalizing the others. I usually let the kids sit right next to each other. I know that they talk a bit when I do this, but that’s okay – let kids distract themselves occasionally and they keep their attention better over the long haul, generally.

    If I catch someone pestering their neighbour and I get the, “He/she* started it,” line, then I tell the kid, “Well, I only say you doing it, and you know not to do that yourself,” and that kid gets to sit in the Boring Chair.** The rest of kids now have to sit at arm’s length from each other. It seems to work although of course I arrange the classroom to minimize potential conflict anyway.

    * It’s usually a “she” in this class. One particular “she.”
    ** It’s in the middle of a large carpet and well away from everything and everyone else.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (nods) Sounds reasonable, and I’m glad it works.

    So, just to be clear: would you say that collective punishment sometimes works, or would you say that what you describe isn’t collective punishment?

  • Cathy W

    My sixth-grade social studies teacher used collective punishment. I always saw it as a sign of how little control he had of the classroom – he couldn’t figure out who the problem kids were or what to do about them, so everyone was made to write sentences when the classroom got too loud.

    Amazingly, this didn’t improve the children’s behavior; at the end of the year, if anything, we were writing sentences more frequently than at the beginning. And I saw it as entirely unfair; I recall I spent one class period writing “I was not talking in class” rather than “I will not talk in class”… was I being punished for not quieting the other kids? Or for existing in proximity to misbehavior? I dreaded this class.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     Collective punishment works when you are participating in a unit voluntarily, i.e. the military, because peer disapproval works in that situation as you have the option of leaving, and it can encourage cohesion by bringing everyone together against the DI.  It does not work in situations where people are not there voluntarily, i.e. school, because peer disapproval only makes a bad situation worse when you can’t escape, and setting students up for an adversary relationship with teachers works against establishing an educational environment. 

  • PatBannon

    In my experience, “collective punishment” turns into the class viciously shredding whoever was unlucky enough to get caught, and teaching kids that if one person is misbehaving, they might as well give up on good behavior because it’s not going to help anyway.

    I don’t think “make the other kids bully the troublemaker” and “teach kids that good behavior is pointless because it can be easily sabotaged by anyone at any point” are actually useful lessons for children. “Unjust and arbitrary” are not how I want a child’s education to be described.

    I consider it effective for adults, who are generally more mature and more able to not degenerate into petty backbiting than children. I would not consider it effective for children.Also, a classroom is not nearly as cohesive a unit as a military unit. It would be unrealistic to hold students to the same standards as soldiers.tl;dr: I agree, but submit that it’s not that collective punishment completely ineffective, it’s that it’s ineffective here.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    It’s a dodge because the teacher cannot be omniscient and know everything that goes on in her class. Besides, it’s good for children to learn from an early age that adults are clueless and lazy; it will build character. 

    Does anyone else hear the comic strip in the voice of David Mitchell? 

  • http://vovinyl.blogspot.com/ FangsFirst

    Does anyone else hear the comic strip in the voice of David Mitchell?

    I went back and did after you said this. Thank you for that! :D

  • Ian

    Wait, sometimes “I don’t care who started it” is the morally right response.  Take World War I.  We could blame Serbia for harboring terrorists, or Austria for abandoning diplomacy, or Russia, or Germany but it really doesn’t matter.  The injustices that led up to the war were inconsequential compared to the astonishing amount of suffering caused by the ongoing war.

    Peace activists like Bertrand Russell were imprisoned for undermining the righteous British crusade against the people who started the war.  Russell would have been right to say that British people had a duty to find a way to bring the senseless fighting to a halt, and that it didn’t matter whether Britain started the war.

  • vsm

    I suppose it depends on how you view the question of who was to blame for World War I. Austria-Hungary declared war first, sure, but it would have never escalated as it did if it wasn’t for the system of imperialist rivalry and alliances that was European foreign politics at the beginning of the 20th century. Figuring out who was responsible for that would have been most useful and legitimate.

  • Jim Roberts

    I was going to say something about how European politics and intrigue are sort of off-topic from talking abotu classroom discipline, but then I remembered the series of detentes, coups, treaties and skirmishes that constituted my junior high experience. So, carry on.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I still think the best model most of us have for international politics is a kindergarten playground.

  • Foreigner

    Kaiser Bill, most likely, for deciding that despite Imperial Germany being the wealthiest nation in Europe, with the highest standard of living, and the best-equipped and trained army, what the Reich really needed was a hugely expensive North Sea battle fleet which so no purpose whatsoever except to piss the British off, a country who up til now had been his friend and might have been his ally. Subsidiary charge of not renewing the Re-insurance Treaty with Russia can be thrown at him as well.

  • Carstonio

    And it was obvious from the Treaty of Versailles negotiations that Britain and France were out to settle old scores. (To be fair, a united and armed Germany had scared most of the continent, and Germany itself feared a war on two fronts.) The unanswerable what-if question is whether less vindictiveness would have prevented World War II.

  • Guest

    That question isn’t unanswerable, as while the vindictiveness of the ‘winners’ was an issue there were a number of larger issues in the start of WWII. Not the least was the manner and reasons that Germany ended up surrendering, that lovely little depression most of the world went through, etc, etc.

  • Foreigner

    Counsel for Reichsmarschall Goering said it wasn’t fair, because the USSR had a judge on the bench, and they’d been just as bad.
    Counsel for the USSR observed that Goering’s lot had started it, so ner.
    Counsel for the UK opined that yeah, the Jerries had started it, so shut up, fatty.
    Judge Biddle, USA, presiding, gave as his learned opinion that jurisprudence in Europe was obviously less well-advanced than he had assumed, and if they didn’t all shut up  *right now* there would be no milk and cookies for *anybody*, was that clear?

    Defendant Hess said “Who am I? Where am I?” and the hearing was adjourned pending Defendant’ Hess’ visit to Matron for some happy pills.

  • Jim Roberts

    For those criticizing Fred for not understanding, I think it’s worth pointing out this paragraph:
    “Teachers love to pull that one on the one kid they’ve singled out as “an example.” So the whole class is talking or disrupting or whatever and they focus on one child to bear the brunt of the punishment. The kid protests that everyone else was doing the same thing and the teacher says that doesn’t matter.”

    This almost exactly what Becca Stareyes was talking about – punishing the obvious, rather than seeking to punish the culprit, and then justifying it with, “I don’t care who started it.”

  • z00m3r

    Fred, yer missing the big picture; read some of the other critical comments here. 

    It’s not about selective enforcement or lack of moral distinctions, in general — but it _can_ be if the parent/teacher/guardian doesn’t go beyond the most immediate action to defuse, and explain at some point the important issues behind the conflict, in whatever way is accessible to that age group. Modelling positive behaviour and setting and enforcing clear guidelines consistently as possible _in general_ is important too.

    Is every conflict between children strictly about an aggressor and a defender — a guilty “bad guy/girl” and an innocent “good” one? Not by a long shot, and I think you know that. :)

  • AnonaMiss

    It was always my understanding in school that “I don’t care who started it” was a way to reinforce that if someone is bullying you, the response is to get an adult, and not take matters into your own hands just because you felt righteous. If you didn’t go through the proper channels to take care of your problem, you were in the wrong too. Which is, in my opinion, a good lesson for the real world. If someone is breaking into my house, I need to call the police and focus my efforts on shielding myself from harm, not confront the burglar.

    Even after the fact, if there is a confrontation, in my opinion who started it is a very minor part of the moral equation. I judge by accumulated fault. If you ‘start it’ you have merely committed the first fault, not necessarily the most egregious. If I find out a coworker stole some money from me and I go and punch hir in the face, the fact that ze committed the first fault doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t get punished for punching hir. (Self-defense is a different matter – I don’t ascribe fault to acts of self-defense, because it’s an attempt to protect yourself, in the course of which the other person may incidentally be harmed.)

    NB. I have a strong distinction between ‘fault’ and ‘responsibility’, which I often need to pull out when victim blamers come around. Victim blamers tend to have a fetish for people needing to “take responsibility for their own actions/lives/whatever”, and it’s easier for me to get my point across by acknowledging for the sake of argument that sure, the victim bears some responsibility, but the victim didn’t do anything wrong, while the victimizer did, so clearly the victimizer is at fault.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    I have a strong distinction between ‘fault’ and ‘responsibility’, which I often need to pull out when victim blamers come around.

    I’m never clear on just what the difference is.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m never clear on just what the difference is.

    They do tend to be used interchangably, which I think is why I developed such a strong distinction. Insisting on a distinction between words can help keep concepts distinct when they might otherwise slide together in unhealthy ways.

    Basically, responsibility is causal blame, while fault is moral blame. Keeping the two separate is helpful when you’re dealing with people who want victims to Take Responsibility!! for what happens to them, and also with the kind of people who take offense at any suggestion that maybe they should drive more defensively, because they know the law and they have the right of way, and if there’s an accident it’s the other driver’s fault!

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Basically, responsibility is causal blame, while fault is moral blame.

    That raises the question of what “blame” means, since it’s usually treated as near-synonymous with “fault,” even more than “responsibility” is. (Merriam-Webster seems to define all three of them with reference to each other.)

  • AnonaMiss

    OK, take a traffic accident for example. The light changes, someone runs the red light and ends up getting t-boned by someone who now has right of way.

    The drivers share responsibility, since both of their actions caused the accident.  Obviously if the light-runner had stopped like ze was supposed to, the accident wouldn’t have happened; but if the one who got the right of way had been driving defensively, ze could also have avoided the accident. If the time lag between the one direction turning red & the other turning green was shorter than usual in the area, the engineer who made that design decision is responsible too. 

    Only the one who ran the red light is at fault, because ze was the one who broke the rules.

    Responsibility is diagnostic: what were the contributing factors, and how can we avoid this sort of thing happening in the future? Fault is punitive: who was in the wrong, who should have to pay to set it right?

    In my usage, anyway.

  • DavidCheatham

    Responsibility is diagnostic: what were the contributing factors, and how can we avoid this sort of thing happening in the future? Fault is punitive: who was in the wrong, who should have to pay to set it right?
    No one’s going to understand your use of the word ‘responsibility’ like that. I should know, I’ve tried to differentiate exactly those things before, using ’cause’ instead of ‘responsibility’ and no one liked or understood it.

    Especially because you put ‘how can we avoid this sort of thing happening in the future’ as part of responsibility, which leads into what sounds to people like victim-blaming.

    Moreover, the word doesn’t even actually mean that. Responsibility _does_ mean who is at fault, as an actual legal term.

    I have found a much better term is something like ‘circumstances’ or ‘events’. I.e., what were the circumstances that lead to the bullying? Or even, as you used to explain it, ‘factors’ works just fine.

    We really do need to be able to talk about ‘What things lead to these bad things happening?’ without the implication that the first things (especially the people harmed) are ‘guilty’ of anything, but ‘responsibility’ is exactly the wrong word to use for that.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    No one’s going to understand your use of the word ‘responsibility’ like that. 

    I wouldn’t quite say “no one,” but yeah, there are a lot of semantic landmines around words like “responsibility,” “blame,” “fault,” etc.

    I’m fond of “contributing factors” myself, though I’ve run into people who rear up at that one too.

    I sometimes use “correlates” instead, which is a noun most people don’t even recognize, which helps. (Also, even when we think we’re looking for causes, we tend to spend most of our time looking at correlates, because they’re easier to identify, and I have a certain pedantic fondness for actually saying what’s true rather than what I’d like to be true.)

  • DavidCheatham

    I’m fond of “contributing factors” myself, though I’ve run into people who rear up at that one too.

    It’s because that sounds like a thing someone _did_. They hear it as saying the victim ‘contributed’ to the crime.

    The best way to describe things in a moral neutral way is to use the passive voice, or something that ascribes no agenda or motives to anything. The circumstances are that X was true of the victim, Y was true of the location, Z was true of the attacker, etc.

    And then, of course, in the next sentence, put the ‘responsibility’ on the person who deliberately choose to have the problem occur, aka, the attacker.

    I sometimes use “correlates” instead, which is a noun most people don’t even recognize, which helps. 

    The problem there is that, for those of us who actually know what it means, it’s not exactly what we’re talking about. Low property values correlate with crime, but low property values are not in any way a contributing factor of crime, or cause circumstances that lead to crime…it’s the other way around.

    There are really four types of things we’re talking about 1) Environmental circumstances we can change, for an example WRT bullying lack of cameras or failure to supervise kids during specific times, 2) Environmental circumstances we can’t change, like the fact kids develop at different rates and any school is going to have bigger and littler ones, 3) the behavior of the person responsibly, aka, the bully, which we want to condemn, and 4) the behavior of other people, aka, the victim, which we do _not_ want to condemn, but still actually is one of the things that caused the problem.

    #1 and #3 should be our main focus, with perhaps some discssion of #2. 

    Although there are a few places where a little suggestion or two to #4 might be a reasonable idea, for example, if someone gets in an accident that is not legally their fault, but nevertheless they could have avoided. I know I’ve been in a car accident where I had no legal culpability but could have avoided if I had been paying attention.

    But this really only applies to accidents and stuff that _no one_ wants to happen. All saying ‘This person should make themselves a less attractive target to attackers’ is doing is implying ‘…so the attacker will then attack other people’. Uh, no. Just no.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    And then, of course, in the next sentence, put the
    ‘responsibility’ on the person who deliberately choose to have the
    problem occur, aka, the attacker.

    Just to be clear: if I say things to you, and you suffer, and you punch me, on this account I’m the attacker… yes?

     

    for those of us who actually know what it means, it’s not exactly what we’re talking about.

    As I said in the first place, it’s often not what we want to be talking about, and yet we do end up spending rather a lot of time talking about correlates nevertheless. Sometimes we even end up fooling ourselves into thinking they’re causes.

    saying ‘This person should make themselves a less attractive target to
    attackers’ is doing is implying ‘…so the attacker will then attack
    other people’. Uh, no. Just no.

    While I don’t agree with you generally that the causal but non-condemnation-worthy behavior of other people (aka #4) is unworthy of attention, I do agree with you that the particular flavor of #4 you quote here is usually reprehensible.

  • DavidCheatham

    Just to be clear: if I say things to you, and you suffer, and you punch me, on this account I’m the attacker… yes?

    Yeah, a better term for me to use would have been would be ‘instigator’, not ‘attacker’.

    Something like 95% of all fighting in schools is between someone who wants to cause problems, and someone who wants to be left the hell alone. This rarely has anything to do with the person who throws the first punch.

    School administrators are either the stupidest people in existence or willfully ignorant not to know this. Fights happen because at least one person wanted a fight, and, as we know statistically most people do not want to be in fights (Because otherwise we’re have more fights!) it then follows logically that, on average, that the other person did _not_ want a fight.

    As I said in my previous post, with all the cameras in schools, which student is which should be _trivially_ able to be determined. One student is seeking out the other. The other is not. Simply put the equivalent of a restraining order on the student that is instigating things, saying he can’t talk to or remain near that other student, and if he does so and problems start, he’s going to be assumed to be at fault.

    Granted, rarely the problem actually is both students, but that’s not actually ‘bullying’ and I don’t really care about it. It should be clear enough on the cameras that both students seek each other out, anyway.

    While I don’t agree with you generally that the causal but non-condemnation-worthy behavior of other people (aka #4) is unworthy of attention, I do agree with you that the particular flavor of #4 you quote here is usually reprehensible.

    I wasn’t trying to say it was unworthy of attention. Just that we shouldn’t ask people who aren’t doing anything morally wrong to change their ways, _regardless_ of how big a target that makes them to assholes.

    Especially not in schools, where bullies pick on whoever is most vulnerable  and all making one person less vulnerable will do is cause them to shift to someone else. That is not any sort of solution to bullying at all.

    But we shouldn’t do it _anyway_. People should not have to change their perfectly legal behavior out of fear that someone is going to illegally assault them.

  • GDwarf

     

    It was always my understanding in school that “I don’t care who started
    it” was a way to reinforce that if someone is bullying you, the response
    is to get an adult, and not take matters into your own hands
    just because you felt righteous. If you didn’t go through the proper
    channels to take care of your problem, you were in the wrong too. Which is, in my opinion, a good lesson for the real world. If someone is breaking into my house, I need to call the police and focus my efforts on shielding myself from harm, not confront the burglar.

    Sure, but what if you’ve gone to the teachers a dozen times and they never do anything?

    I’ve been on the wrong side of “Everyone else was doing it” and “I don’t care who started it” many times because they’re tools that are commonly used to silence victims. I’ve only very rarely seen them used in legitimate situations. I got bullied plenty in elementary school, and “I don’t care who started it” was used to make it clear to me that going to the teachers was a waste of time. It didn’t matter if I’d been minding my own business reading under a tree and gotten punched while not resisting, there mere fact that I’d been in proximity to the bully’s fists meant I got punished too.

    Are they sometimes-necessary phrases? Maybe. Though I think Chris the Cynic has the right idea on making it clear that who started it is important eventually, just not right now.

    Plus, of course, in the real world “Everyone else was doing it” is often a valid excuse, even in courts of law. If a law hasn’t been enforced for long enough then it no longer applies, and punishments for something that’s illegal-but-common are generally much lower than illegal-but-rare, with the exception of drug crimes. Even if it isn’t a valid excuse, it really should be: If other people can do something without punishment but you can’t, then that’s the law giving them an advantage over you on the basis of selective enforcement, which is all kinds of wrong.

    So yeah, I get the original purpose of these phrases, but the message they actually send and the ways they’re actually used make them much worse than doing nothing at all.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

     It was always my understanding in school that “I don’t care who started
    it” was a way to reinforce that if someone is bullying you, the response
    is to get an adult, and not take matters into your own hands just because you felt righteous.

    Except, of course, that this never, EVER works. If you get an adult, their response is always “you need to stand up for yourself”.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Except, of course, that this never, EVER works. If you get an adult, their response is always “you need to stand up for yourself”.

    Or, “what did you do to make them do that to you”?

    Seriously, has anyone ever gotten an adult who helped? Ever? The only people who helped me were other teenagers, and all boys. The girls also would say, “what did you do to make him do that to you” or “stop being so mean”. The boys would see red and threaten to kick his ass.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In my case, I had no idea how to explain that I really didn’t like being called (nonsense name that was nevertheless constantly used day in and day out) and that it was being purposely used to annoy me.

    I mean, I knew the most likely response from a teacher or a vice-principal would be something along the lines of incomprehension that a name was being used as a hurtful tease.

    So I just never said anything. But it got to the point where I was seriously considering asking to be put in a different high school.

  • Carstonio

    My family moved across town when I was in middle school, and it didn’t take long for my new classmates to give me a hard time. My mother said, “We thought the problem was just those kids at the other school, but this means you brought it on yourself.”

  • AnonaMiss

    My teachers helped when it happened in front of them – it being general name-calling/teasing. I was actually never sexually harassed in school. (In my first school district, honors students were effectively segregated from the rest of the population starting in 6th grade. Harassment still happened within the honors population, but generally was on geeky grounds, like if you were terrible at diagramming sentences, or had to join the general population for math, or if you played the viola*.)

    At my second high school, a friend of mine told me about a time when a guy sexually harassed her in front of a (male) teacher, and the teacher told him that was unacceptable – and later told my friend that if she had punched him, he would have lied to administration to cover her. 

    But then, my second high school was crazy liberal. You should have been there when popular-guy-with-two-moms gave sexual-harasser-from-earlier-anecdote a “that’s not acceptable” speech for calling something “gay”, and the whole room joined him. This was in 2003, for context.

    * What’s the definition of perfect pitch? Throwing a viola into a dumpster without hitting the sides.

  • AnonaMiss

    None of which is intended to lessen the validity of y’all’s pain & experiences. I just feel like the thread could use a positive testimony.

  • Hexep

    I have tried for half an hour to compose some sort of response to this, but it’s beyond my power. I have no meaningful reply of any sort to this statement.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

     Not to mention the cases where it’s just not possible. Kinda hard to get a teacher while two kids pin you to the ground, for example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    The thing about the message that a child is supposed to go get an adult is that message fails, amazingly, when adults prove not to be the help that we (as then-children) are expected to believe they are.

    When I went to Junior High School, I was repeatedly harassed by people getting in my face and saying “Duh”, suggesting I was stupid.  This happened in classrooms, in hallways, at times right in plain sight of teachers who had their attention only slightly elsewhere.  One time, after a couple years of this, I finally went to one of my teachers to ask for some help putting a stop to this.

    Her response was, and I quote “You should learn to accept constructive criticism.”

    Now, what she might have been focusing on was that some of the harassment I had been dealing with was the girls repeating the word “scribbles” in mockery of my handwriting…  I want you to think about that.  I really want you to consider that said teacher considered this “constructive criticism.”  She said that with a smile.

    I responded by informing her that “walking up to people and saying ‘duh’ is not constructive criticism” and walked away, justifiably angry.

    It was later on, the next school year, when there was one physical incident of bullying, the teachers then decided to get involved because word got to them.  It didn’t get to them through me because, after so many years of teachers not acting despite harassment happening in front of them, despite my asking for help, despite my, at times, breaking down crying on the stairs.  Now, they’re quite curious as to why I didn’t go to them for help?  And, if I had been able to respond with physical violence, they would have wondered why I would have chosen that over going to them for help.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you don’t get to tell kids to find a teacher/grownup to help you out unless you actually live up to your end of the bargain, as hard as that is.

  • AnonaMiss

    I guess what I’m saying is, you don’t get to tell kids to find a teacher/grownup to help you out unless you actually live up to your end of the bargain, as hard as that is.

    I’m really sorry that y’all had such bad experiences with your teachers in school. I knew that I had a great deal of privilege in education, but I hadn’t thought about how that would extend beyond purely academic matters and into how they would deal with bullying etc.

    /cookies and tea for all

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    It’s worth noting that my school at the time… was privileged.  It was a Catholic Junior Highschool for the gifted.  (They patted themselves on the back for being so accepting as to allow other Christians into the student body.)

    It had the smaller class sizes, the activities, and all that “good Christian” morality to it.  But, what it also had were teachers that, when looking at me, saw a kid that forgot assignments, didn’t pay attention very well, and wasn’t Joblike enough when it came to the harrassment of other children.

    The privilege you dealt with, I can’t say what all of it was.  But, I garuntee you that part of it was that the teachers around you were willing to view you as not-a-burden and, if someone was harassing you or assaulting you*, they were probably willing to step in and help as though that was, you know, part of their job.

    Really, if we want to do something about bullying, in America or anywhere, we should start with stopping two things that we do.  We should stop forgiving the bullies on the basis of their youth and we should stop forgiving their enablers on the difficulty of their jobs.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    It was always my understanding in school that “I don’t care who started
    it” was a way to reinforce that if someone is bullying you, the response
    is to get an adult, and not take matters into your own hands
    just because you felt righteous. If you didn’t go through the proper
    channels to take care of your problem, you were in the wrong too. Which is, in my opinion, a good lesson for the real world. If someone is breaking into my house, I need to call the police and focus my efforts on shielding myself from harm, not confront the burglar.

    Well, except that the adult will say “Sorry; I didn’t see it, so there’s nothing I can do.” And they will go away and you will get it even worse than before for being a snitch.

    The actual thing here is that the teacher behaves the way the teacher behaves because the teacher is not a cop or a judge or a laywer. The teacher’s job isn’t to find out what’s fair and see that justice is served. The teacher’s job is to teach, and the disruption is the problem. Who’s at fault isn’t any of the teacher’s concern.  Which sounds harsh, but I’m not entirely sure that it’s worse than if the teacher actually was empowered to see to it that justice were served. And then the bully would just use their psychopath charisma to convince the teacher that you were really the one at fault, and then you’d get it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It occurs to me that a potential solution might be to make teachers not have to be responsible for classroom discipline. That’s the classroom monitor’s job. An adult, possibly a teacher trainee or law enforcement trainee, I don’t know…’course if there was money to give every thirty-kid classroom a monitor as well as a teacher, there’d be money to instead make every thirty-kid classroom two fifteen-kid classrooms, which might be of greater benefit in the long run.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Farmer/719444296 James Farmer

     The one effective “solution” to this I ever encountered was the one the
    Army used when I was a trainee; “collective punishment”, the idea being
    that you succeeded or failed as a unit.   So if your sergeant caught
    everybody goofing off or horsing around EVERYBODY did pushups, because
    you had ALL failed; the originators because they started it, and the
    followers for going along and not reminding everyone else to knock it
    off.

    This probably works well in the army but at schools, not so much.  Back in my schooldays, I can’t count the number of times a whole class was kept back in detention because a few kids were misbehaving.  It always struck me as unjust; what was I supposed to do about the bad behaviour of other kids?  Tell them to stop?  Even assuming I wouldn’t get punished for yelling “OI, SIDDOWN AND SHUDDUP” across the classroom, they weren’t going to listen to me.

    Obviously the idea is that the disruptive kids friends exert peer pressure to improve their behaviour next time, but if you weren’t a friend of whoever was to blame, then it was purely arbitrary and undeserved punishment.

  • Launcifer

    I’m kind of wondering where some people are getting the idea that “I don’t care who started it” or some iteration thereof is either a sensible or reasonable response, but I do know that I wouldn’t want them within one hundred yards of a classroom filled with my hypothetical children.

    While I appreciate the line about anecdote and data, I can tell people what happened in my case when teachers pulled that crap: the other kids figured out – though not in so many words – that their teachers had designated an acceptable target and responded in the manner that most people would probably expect. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but classroom disruption became less about actual disruption and more about getting it to the point where Launcie – being a bit slow on the uptake and rather obviousin his involvement – would get involved and invariably cop the blame for it.

    Once this had been going on for a while and I’d developed a “disruptive” reputation, I wasn’t aware I had too many options when it came to dealing with this issue. Teachers weren’t too interested in listening to me since they had largely bought into the notion that I was a problem child. Meek and mild didn’t cut it because the some of the other kids would simply move into outright bullying in an attempt to force the desired outcome and I didn’t really enjoy being disruptive: I actually wanted to learn for the most part. Turned out I was much sharper than anyone – including me – had realised, though, so by the time I was in double figures I had become very good at asking the kind of questions and setting up the sort of situations that can trash a teacher’s authority in front of the entire class depending on how they deal with it. I’m sure the teachers among us know the sort I mean. And I won more than I lost.

    I only ended up there because I realised that any teacher who pulled the “I don’t care” excuse  out their arses” and still picked me out of the crowd more often than not was telling me the truth: they obviously didn’t care about the actual business of teaching-as-education and they certainly didn’t care about correctly  (or justly, if you’d prefer) enforcing the rules. All they gave a shit about was enforcing whatever they perceived to be peace so they could get right on with meeting their targets or whatever. All that really did, in the end, was damage my education and make my time at school far more difficult (I mean, seriously, it took the headmistress of one of my schools knowing I was off school and ill while teachers were blaming me for shit before anyone figured out that this was going on at all), as well as quite possibly making certain teachers’ professionals far more difficult than they needed to be. I accept now that most of the people who pulled this on me were simply trying to do a job, albeit very badly. I wasn’t entirely capable of rationalising this back then, being in the middle of it all and, since I perceived myself to be the target of a lot of unfair treatment, I really could have cared less about Mr whomever’s working life. 

    I don’t really mean for it to come off as a long-winded rant, so my apologies if that’s the case. I’m simply trying to point out the fact that, if you’re pulling this crap as a teacher in a classroom then, if you’re not careful, you will be setting up some poor kid to take shit from all sides as the other kids spot what’s happening, stories go around the break room and the labels stick. That kid might one day work out how to give as good as they’re getting in some form or another – and that does absolutely no one any good, least of all them.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Collective punishment doesn’t work in schools, which leaves the problem of those who figure out how not to get caught getting away with things.

    If everyone is speaking out of turn the teacher can look to see who’s speaking and maybe catch most of the culprits, but not the one’s savvy enough to keep an eye on the teacher, shut up when the teacher is facing them, and never speak loudly enough for their voice to be recognized.

    If someone is punching their victim in the back* in the halls when no teacher is looking it’s only going to come to teacher’s attentions if:a) The teachers are notified, but then they can’t do much beyond posting a guard, which they can’t do with every student.
    b) The person finally has enough and fights back.

    a) is an unsustainable response.  Not every student can have a bodyguard and if their victim did they’d probably just pick a new victim.  If the bodyguard was moved to new student then original victim could be returned to.

    b) is a situation where everyone is in the wrong, thus all those there present get punished.  (Or at least should be.)  Bullying is treated the same as breaking down have nonstop bullying.

    Thus the problem.  Teacher’s shouldn’t react to every claim of bullying as if it is proof of bullying because then bullies could just accuse their victims of bullying and get to them that way.  Teachers can only really respond to what they see/hear, and what they see is often only when the victim breaks down and fights back.  At that point everyone gets punished because the fighting back is usually disproportionate and it’s likely to be impossible to tell whether the person was responding to an attack and just going overboard with the self defense, or whether the person was beating someone up for no good reason.

    As time goes on I’m more and more of a mind that schools should have security cameras in the halls and possibly the classrooms as well.  It feels Orwellian but teachers can’t be everywhere at once.  What could however happen is for someone to review the tapes to see what’s happening when the teachers aren’t there.  It would only work for physical things (push, shove, punch, steal) not verbal ones and in the classroom might work for seeing who is talking so you don’t just catch the ones who are less sneaky than the savvy trouble makers.

    And it would lend to the oppressive atmosphere a lot of American schools  have anyway.  And it would just mean that bullying was pushed to entirely verbal and/or outside of school things, rather than stopping it.

    But, in spite of all that, at least it would make it so schools could be a place where students were physically safe.  And that seems a bare minimum.

    * This is something that did happen when a student went to his locker, more or less every time he went to his locker so multiple times a day.  After the first punch he still couldn’t be sure he was in the clear because, sometimes, double punch.  Finally he reached the breaking point and turned around and started throwing his own punches at whoever did it that time.

    Most or all of the bullies got away with what they had done.  I don’t think the original victim actually did much to hurt the person he was punching at because they weren’t particularly good punches.

    Victim turned attacker was suspended, which actually ended up being a relief for him because it meant days he could go through without being repeatedly punched.

    Was victim turned attacker in the wrong?  Absolutely.  Did he deserve to be punished?  Yes.  Does it matter who started it?  Yes.  Those last two yeses do not conflict.  Just because victim turned attacker was in the wrong and deserved to be punished doesn’t mean that the people who made him the “victim” part of “victim turned attacker” shouldn’t be considered in what happens moving forward.  They deserve to be punished too, but the trouble is no one who cared knew who they were.  Or at least no one could prove it.

    The victim was back-to for the punchings and, until he decided to spin around and fight back, had no way of knowing who was involved.  (Multiple people apparently.)

    And that’s all from memory so the facts might not quite be right, but I think the general idea is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    I’m going to disagree.  Was victim turned attacker in the wrong?  No.

    After repeated punches, repeated teachers not helping out (even if due to perfectly understandable lack of capacity in the situation), the victim is still being victimized and has only one means of stopping the victimization.

    I’m sorry to the authority figures in this case, but they failed.  In the face of their past and present failure,  it is entirely reasonable to conclude that said failure will continue.  Thus, the option of stopping this bullying comes to one of three, either A. the bullies to just suddenly decide not to bully, which never happens, B. the victim to turn and attack, thus creating some consequence for the action which authority figures are either unable or unwilling to do themselves, or C. some peer to do so for him.

    These are the three options when the authority figures fail.  You may argue that the failure was not their fault, for whatever reason.  You may argue that the failure was understandable.  But, his turning and attacking his attackers was not a punishment for said failure, but a necessity due to said failure.

    If you don’t want victims to become attackers, then what needs to happen is those with the power to stop the victimization need to successfully do so.

  • Figs

     I was just coming in here to say something like this. I saw it suggested early on in the comment thread that in a situation where things start at name-calling and then escalate, that blame/fault/responsibility is shared equally between both parties because just as one shouldn’t have started calling names, the other shouldn’t have responded to it.

    I surely hope I’m not the only one who realizes how messed up that is.

    This doesn’t just imply, it flat out says, that intentionally provoking someone is morally equivalent to a failure to maintain zenlike calm at every provocation. That is flat nonsense.

  • Otrame

    As Bill Cosby said, parents (and we can add teachers) aren’t interested in justice. They just want QUIET.

  • LA

    …yeah, this is why I got out of teaching. Trying to get 37 kids to behave AND learn about a subject maybe 1/3 of them care about doesn’t happen without some “it doesn’t matter who started it, you’re both escalating it and causing a disruption.” Please, adults/parents who haven’t tried to teach in a classroom, try your own hand at handling that many kids and see how long you go before those words come out. And then imagine dealing with 5 to 7 separate classrooms of 30+ kids, all with their own personality dynamics, 5 days a week for 10 months of the year…AND teaching them. It might be more feasible if we were just babysitting, but we’re also supposed to, you know, teach.

    I’m a human being and I’m not perfect, even though as a teacher, everyone expected me to be perfect 100% of the time. Any time I could see who started what, I addressed it, but there’s A)very little I can do as a teacher anyway and B) kids are extremely good at bullying out of sight. I know this because I was bullied as a kid and throughout high school–I know what to look for, and so do a lot of the teachers. But we can only do something if we’ve seen it ourselves/have proof.

    Peer disapproval has very limited success. Suspension, in or out of school is even worse, because usually the kids causing the problems are the ones who most need to be in class (but it’s the one I resorted to the most, if only because removing those problem students did improve the classroom experience immensely).

    The best way to fix the problem would be to get class sizes down again, because A) few kids means the teacher can more easily keep an eye on all students at all times, B) kids get more one-on-one interaction with the teacher, and C) with fewer personalities in the classroom, there are fewer clashes between students. It would not only cut down on bullying, it would improve learning outcomes. But getting class sizes down would require more classrooms and a lot more teachers, and that costs money, so it’s not going to happen, no matter how much administrators and politicians talk about reducing bullying and improving student learning outcomes.

    Parents and other people bitching about how teachers suck certainly isn’t going to help anything. It just makes people like me flee the second we can find a better job.

  • GDwarf

    LA: But there’s a difference between someone using these phrases because they don’t see any other reasonable way to resolve things or need to get on with the lesson, or whatever, and having it used chronically and be touted as a good thing, which is more what Fred’s on about.

    It probably counts as a failing to use them, most of the time, but no one expects anyone to be perfect. What we want is for people to try.

  • LA

     No, seriously, I was expected to be goddamn perfect all the time. Maybe not by everyone, but by a majority of parents and administrators and even students. I am in no way exaggerating.

    And I totally get where people are coming from on the “this is not the right thing to say most of the time” because it’s not. And it’s not what I said most of the time–but as some have pointed out, a lot of the time, it’s not a one-way thing, and that’s what that phrase should be reserved for.

    The whole “Teachers don’t care” coming from Fred really stuck a bad chord with me. It was very triggering–but I know it’s not Fred’s job to manage other people’s triggers, because that would be an impossible task.

    But we *do* care who started it; hell, we care MORE because we want it to stop. It’s just that figuring it out is often just as impossible.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    You are not the only one who’s bothered by Fred’s massing all teachers together. I think his experience in a fundie school as a child is coloring his opinions, and he doesn’t realize that his experience is far from universal. I can’t remember what he describes ever happening in any of my classes. When the teacher wanted to punish the class, she’d punish the class — unfair to the few who weren’t acting up, but fairer and far less likely to lead to bullying than singling out one kid.

  • We Must Dissent

     

    It probably counts as a failing to use them, most of the time, but no one expects anyone to be perfect.

    Never been a teacher, have you?

  • Quixote

    Never been a teacher, have you?

    The point of this statement is what exactly?  I’m pretty sure everyone in this discussion has at least witnessed teachers.

    I’ve also never been a doctor, preacher or CEO, but I’ve certainly voiced opinions on all of those professions recently.

  • AnonymousSam

    The second half is “it’s harder than you seem to think.” And sometimes it is. I know a lot of teachers who are being given orders from on high to basically let bullies run rampant, because stopping bullying takes time and attention away from what’s important: giving the rest of the class an education which satisfies national standards enough to continue receiving funding.

  • Quixote

    I read the statement as one that was attempting to shut down discussion.  Is that how We Must Dissent meant it?  I don’t know, but I know I’d have called them on it if they did it face to face.

    Your clarification at least tries to aid in understanding and furthering discussion.

    I have little sympathy for teachers who just want their job to be a little easier, when the result is someone who will have mental scars for the rest of their life as a result of their apathy.  Someone like me.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s not always apathy. Sometimes it’s just as much helplessness, or learned apathy from resisting the urge to have empathy for kids they’re not allowed to save. It’s a broken system and pretty much any attempt they make at fixing it is going to cause them to lose their job.

    At the same time, I’m a person who has continually said “You know what? Fuck my job, then. Either help me fix the system or I don’t want to be in it.” And now I’m unemployed, so take that for what it’s worth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Doesn’t that suggest that our response to the problem of bullying should, you know, admit that the system is broken and, even at its best, very flawed?

    The fact of the matter is that there are children in schools who are dealing with bullies but don’t have the resource of a faculty that is both able and willing to help and support.  The other fact is that we keep telling them that they are obligated to act as though they have that support, even when all experience and reason has informed them that they do not.

    Let’s admit to kids what they already know, so at least they don’t think we’re liars.  Yes, there are times where going to a teacher for help is not actually going to help.  And, when that has happened, the teachers lose the right to for failing to get the help they did not provide?

    If not to the students, at least to the teacher’s selves, so that when this happens, they have the good moral sense to appologize to the victimized student for letting the issue get this far?

    You know, some anti-bullying response that is not hobbled by the need of power to protect itself.

  • AnonymousSam

    I think that’s been kind of a thing for the last several decades, actually. Certainly getting louder and more noticeable over time. The problem is, at some point recently, the discussion got switched over from “Our education system has serious flaws” to “Our education doesn’t have enough money to take care of its serious flaws,” and now it’s all about the moneys.

    And who knows, maybe that’s true. Maybe if we had the money to build more schools and employ more teachers, this wouldn’t happen. I’m stuck for either a short term or long term solution, although I kind of like the idea someone proposed about using group incentives instead of punishments. I’d just be afraid of it turning into a group punishment by default, with the same inherent problems. “Oh, Roger caused trouble in today. No pizza for anyone. Everybody be sure and give Roger your personal thanks after school.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    It’s not always apathy. Sometimes it’s just as much helplessness, or learned
    apathy from resisting the urge to have empathy for kids they’re not
    allowed to save. It’s a broken system and pretty much any attempt they
    make at fixing it is going to cause them to lose their job.

    At the same time, I’m a person who has continually said “You know
    what? Fuck my job, then. Either help me fix the system or I don’t want
    to be in it.” And now I’m unemployed, so take that for what it’s worth.

    That’s pretty much how my last real job ended. I was dealing with people’s prescription benefits, and the company met every stereotype you’ve heard about evil health insurance providers. I had to suppress my empathy for people in life-or-death situations, and was having full-blown panic attacks 5-6 times a week. I quit after having a major breakdown and realizing that the job was turning me into a worse person.

  • We Must Dissent

     You can certainly voice your spectator’s opinions, but that doesn’t mean they’re worth anything, especially when they contradict the experience of actual participants.

    If you had been a teacher, you would know that it is common to have simultaneous and contradictory expectations placed on you, often *by the same people*. Heck, one of the books we read in teacher training stated outright that as teachers, we would have more expectations placed on us than we could possibly fulfill and that the only way to deal with that is to accept it and decide which things you’ll do and which you won’t.

    The “no one expects anyone to be perfect” line shows that you are talking out of your ass. Teachers are often given impossible tasks, like giving every student in a class of 35 or 40 the educational, social, and emotional support and care they need. Often, the solution to a problem, like removing a bully more than temporarily, is unavailable. The bully is a also student who has a legal right to an education and parents who will complain to administrators. Nor can we often address the root issues that cause misbehavior, though often we’re expected to as the only other institutions that can–law enforcement and whatever Health and Human Services is called locally–only get involved when behavior is criminal. (Or their involvement, especially of law enforcement, generates a crime by definition.)

  • AnonymousSam

    I appreciate that the position of a teacher is one with a lot of contradictory demands, some from parents, some from students, and many from the administration. I understand teachers’ wish to defend themselves as they are (most of them) doing the best they can.

    I fully understand this, have people who are in the teaching profession (one of whom is even on the verge of being sued for doing his job the way it’s supposed to be done). I understand you not wanting to be vilified. It would just be nice if the defenses offered not imply that we are snotty and demanding for not wanting to grow up with emotional scarring, let alone have our children wind up the same way.

  • Quixote

     

    You can certainly voice your spectator’s opinions, but that doesn’t mean
    they’re worth anything, especially when they contradict the experience
    of actual participants.

    I was an actual participant, or do you not consider the experience of the student to be valid?  Certainly you don’t seem to *care* about their experience, but do you simply ignore it’s existence too?

    The “no one expects anyone to be perfect” line shows that you are talking out of your ass.

    Here’s another opinion from this spectator: Don’t blame me for the perfectly reasonable statement made by GDwarf. You can go back and confirm that you screwed up, but why would you? You’ve already decided that my opinions aren’t worth anything.

    To reiterate: No reasonable person expects teachers to be perfect, but they do expect you to treat your own job with a degree of professionalism that includes not making things worse.  But by all means.  You seem to have decided that, because the job is difficult, you should simply have an array of excuses handy.

  • Fusina

     I am so sorry about your experiences.

  • hidden_urchin

     Unfortunately, smaller class sizes and more teacher attention don’t necessarily equate to reduced problems. I spent 12 years in a private school and bad behavior was cultural and endemic despite top quality teachers and class sizes of around 20. 

  • Mi

    Yeah, this is why I got out too, though not before I ended up in the worst depression of my life.

    I did care who started it, but I cared more about making it stop. At the risk of sounding extremely obvious–educators are really, really only people and cannot see it all or do it all or stop everything to attempt to find out who started it each time. Sometimes there aren’t enough minutes. Sometimes you just do triage. Sometimes you just want to cry but you can’t because you’re the teacher and it’s all you can do to keep standing there. It’s not good, and that’s why it won’t ever be me again.

  • Hexep

    TW: Ultra-violent fantasies.

    Oh, lawd, I don’t want to remember this.
    I was picked on constantly as a lad. My skin was the wrong color, and I was a fatso, and I had a funny accent… and the worst part of it was that I was, well, big. Not just fat, though I was, but I was big. If I wanted to, I could snapped any of those little bastards in half. A flick of the wrist, and I could have cracked open their spinal cords and drank the juice from them. Or so I dreamed, at least; I never got in an actual fist-fight until I was an adult, and have no idea how I would have done back then. But I knew, I knew in my heart, that I was big, and they were small, and in a fair and just world, had it come to tooth and claw, I was ordained by the Gods to win. I was made that way.

    That was what tore it, for me. That was what ruined my heart. If I just sat and let myself be the victim, then there’d be nothing to it; I just had to wait for them to leave, and then I could go home and dream about how they would look in a cloud of mustard gas, their eyes turning to jelly and weeping out of their sockets. But I never hit back. That’s the absolute shame of my life, the supreme sadness, is that I never hit back. I’ve never hit back in my goddamn life. I wish I had hit them back, because I can only believe that I’d win. I wish I’d pushed them down and stomped someone’s head with both feet, and watched their brains splatter all over my shoes. They could extradite me to the mainland and rain me and have done with it, and then at least it would all be over, and I could get on with whatever came next and start my ten-million year career as a hungry ghost or something.

    But I was big. I was big, in a dozen ways – economically, culturally, racially, and especially physically – and they were small. And a confrontation between big and small was always an act of oppression, and I would have been the villain, and I would have been wrong and they would have been right and then who knows what would have happened next? I never found out, because I never tried it.

    I haven’t seen them since primary school, those old enemies of mine. But if I saw one of them drowning… I’d let ’em die. As long as they could look me in the eyes and recognize me first, and know that I could help them if I wanted but chose not to. If they wanted me to have a merciful heart, they shouldn’t have beaten all the mercy out of it. A poor choice of long-term investment, really.

  • Quixote

     Hexep – I could have written what you’ve just written (both the ultra-violent fantasies and the Rhonda Byrne quip).  I feel exactly the same way.

    But still, it’s best not to feed those thoughts because they’re poisonous.  I won’t say forgive them, because forgiveness is a state you recognize, not something you turn on or off.  Hell, I haven’t forgiven my bullies (and I haven’t been bullied since the 80’s) yet and I probably never will.  But wishing them ill only hurts me.

    Therapy gave me some tools to fight these feelings.  Your comment snapped me out of the violent fantasies *I* was having due to being triggered by this thread and allowed me to wield them.  For that I thank you.

  • Carstonio

    I don’t wish ill on my bullies now, and oddly I don’t frame the issue as forgiving them or not forgiving them. Probably what I really want is to turn back the clock and either scare them off, or plumb their brains to figure out what I was doing that made them want to harass me. They weren’t really people to me, in the sense of having wants and needs that I could identify with. They were more like hazardous chemicals or explosive devices, like school was a minefield and I lacked a map to avoid the mines.

  • Hexep

    Bawwww, don’t thank me. I wasn’t even trying to help.

  • flat

    Okay Hepex, I don’t know you but if |I were you I would be more careful what you wish towards your primary school enemies: because it might come true.

    Oh and don’t blame them for your own problems

  • Hexep

    If it comes true, it’ll do so regardless of my wishes. If you’ve given Rhonda Byrne any money, you did so unwisely. Unless it was for cleaning out your rain gutters or something.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Oh and don’t blame them for your own problems

    Look, I’m not big on the death revenge fantasy toward people who were little kids when they were awful. But I find it very likely that those people were in fact to blame for many of Hexep’s problems. I was terribly bullied in elementary school too (emotionally, not physically), and I won’t get justice for it. I don’t care about justice for it from the people who were children at the time. Children en masse are naturally nasty little creeps, and it can legitimately be said that it’s because they don’t know any better. But if I saw that the teacher who participated in the bullying was drowning, I’d throw her a rope, but I wouldn’t jump in to save her. 

    Same with the guy who sexually harassed me through high school. He fucked me up, and he was old enough that he knew exactly what he was doing. My fantasies about that, when I had fantasies about it, tended more toward him apologizing and explaining why he did it to me. I will never get any kind of satisfaction from him, or from the teachers who enabled him, never get any kind of justice, and I’ve finally accepted that enough that I don’t have fantasies about it any more. It took escaping from my Christian belief system (for me, it was an escape) to get that far, to realize I didn’t have to forgive that shithead and that I did not deserve what he did to me. I’m better than I was, but there will never be a total cure. I still sometimes cringe away from my husband when he calls me beautiful.

    People can, and do, hurt other people beyond repair. All the time. Stop blaming the victims.

  • flat

    I am sorry it wasn’t my intention to blame hepex for all his problems, especially not those which came from bullying.

    But I was shocked and disturbed about his revenge fantasies, and thought those are his biggest problems right now.
    and he wrote that he is still angry about his school days but mostly because he said he didn’t fight back then.
    I don’t know how he got bullied I am not in a position to judge his remarks objectively and I do know what consequenses of bullying can be.
    But I was very disturbed about what I just read and thought his behaviour only made his own problems worse.

    you are right about people hurting other people and that I shouldn’t blame the victims, but what I wrote was more out of concern that Hepex might hurt himself.

    I admit in hindsight  the ‘Oh and don’t blame them for your own problems’ part has been to rude I will remove it now.

    My apollogies for making you angry

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    My apologies for making you angry

    You obviously have good intentions, so I have some advice. This kind of apology is commonly called a fauxpology. It reads as you apologizing for my feelings rather than your actions. 

  • Hexep

    You can’t even get my name right, hoss. It’s H-E-X-E-P. You’re supposed to read it like it’s Cyrillic, in which case it sounds more like N-U-Kh-U-R.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ugh these kinds of entries where everybody’s correct about an aspect of the problem.

    As a rather mild-mannered individual with an obvious disability (hearing impairment) I came in for my share of people being jackasses to me for the sake of being jackasses to me. It was unfunny, and I occasionally had some rather violent wishes regarding the people who did such things, but I never acted on them because they were so obviously fantasies.

    But what WOULD have helped is a perceptive adult nipping that in the bud. The name I was being called was complete nonsense in and of itself. But it was annoying, and teenagers being teenagers, the people doing it picked up on that and kept it up and it got to the point where at one stage, a guy managed to get an ENTIRE P. E. LOCKER ROOM calling me that name in unison.

    Thank God for summer vacations, because that was the only thing that broke the day-in-day-out chain of this ridiculous name-calling.

    But had someone in authority picked up on it and nipped it in the bud, it would have made my life a lot easier.

  • VMink

    The scenes you describe aren’t exactly triggering… but they are seriously damn familiar. :(

  • rizzo

    You’re talking about bad apple theory, which is the root of who started it.  Bad apple theory is lazy thinking no matter what.  The jumping off a bridge thing is always good to teach kids, it helps them learn to think and make decisions for themselves rather than succumbing to groupthink.

  • Memcdivitt

    We really expect teachers to be arbitrators of justice now?!  Seriously?  Isn’t it enough they are blamed for the demise of western civilization and everything else we hold dear?

  • Foelhe

    If we’re considering them authority figures and allowing them to give punishments, yeah. Justice does fall into their purview.

    I have a lot of sympathy for teachers. They’re expected to do the impossible on a shoestring budget, and the ones who make a good go of it are going to be criticized for how they did it. But because they have power over kids, we have to watch how they handle that power.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Heaven forfend they use their authority to be authority figures, indeed.

  • Memcdivitt

     I.N.  …I read your comments of the treatment you endured in school without intervention from any of your teachers.  This is a tragedy that should not occur to any of our kids.  My comment wasn’t designed to make light of your experience but rather to push back on the meme to blame teachers for the ills of our youth.  Teachers are often ridiculed/blamed for many issues beyond their control.

    As with most problems in our society, there are complex factors driving the problem which require complex solutions.  Can teachers be part of the solution?  Certainly they can and often are.  The negative is typically reported…the positive rarely gets mention. 

    Teachers are asked to achieve Herculean feats; why are we surprised when they fall short?

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    You know what?  I’m right there with you, but only up to a point.

    Yes, we expect a lot from teachers and, using perfect CEO logic, we expect them to keep doing the same with more burdens and less money.

    But, I’m only with you up to a point.  That point is this, the failure to stop victimization has a consequence.  We can repeat that it isn’t their fault, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the failure is there.

    When I worked customer service, the company I worked for (a phone company) had partnerships with a satalite TV company and with a celphone company.  Sometimes, the bill from one month of the TV or the celphone wouldn’t show up on one bill so, as a consequence, it would show up on the next along with that month’s bill.  After explaining this, I would often get customers telling me that the charge not showing on last month’s bill wasn’t their fault.  I would advise them that, no, it wasn’t their fault, but it is still what is.

    So, no, the failures to which we reference aren’t 100% the fault of the teachers who are failing to stop victimization from happening.  But, those failures are still happening.  And, just like domino 2 doesn’t care who’s fault domino 1’s fall might be, students who are being victimized don’t care who’s fault their lack of support from authority figures are.  It is what is and they have to deal with it.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Teachers are asked to achieve Herculean feats; why are we surprised when they fall short?

    It doesn’t take a Herculean feat to step in and say to a kid, “stop doing that right now or leave my class forever,” or to see who is doing what to whom. I know this because I had one teacher who did exactly that. Even though the guy who sexually harassed me was in that class (three years of it), I knew I would always be safe. I could even have a normal conversation with him in that class when we did group projects — an impossibility in any other class. The teacher wasn’t some kind of superhero; she was just a good person and a good teacher who lived up to her responsibilities rather than avoiding them.

    We need to make it easier for teachers to do this. Absolutely class sizes need to be reduced and teachers need more support. But there is a problem of authority figures avoiding responsibility in this country, and a problem with blaming the victims, and most teachers do in fact share some of the blame.

  • We Must Dissent

     

    It doesn’t take a Herculean feat to step in and say to a kid, “stop
    doing that right now or leave my class forever,” or to see who is doing
    what to whom.

    Except that expelling a student from your class is not possible. At all. Not in any school I’ve worked in or any I’ve heard of below college. The most a teacher can do is have them removed for that period, and if that’s for anything less than violence or a *severe* disruption that makes learning impossible, there’s going to be a “conversation” with administration.

  • Memcdivitt

     I.N.  ….I would also add to my previous comment that too often teachers aren’t seen as authority figures anymore.  It is becoming more common for parents to question the teacher first rather than the veracity of the honesty of their child.

  • Tapetum

     Sorry – I have reason to believe in the veracity of my child, while I have no experience of his teachers. Am I willing to believe that my child is sometimes at fault? Sure. He’s no more perfect than anyone else.  But having had teachers either blatantly lie to my parents, or have views of what happened that were diametrically opposed to what was actually going on, and having had my parents side with the teachers and school every time*, I’m not going to make that same mistake with my kid. If you’re going to accuse him of lying, you’d better have some evidence, and/or it had better fit with my understanding of his character.

    *This uncritical acceptance of everything any teacher ever said about me ever, no matter how little it looked like the daughter they knew, was naturally followed by incredible hurt and bewilderment that I didn’t go to them for help when a teacher started molesting me. Why on Earth would I have gone to anyone? My entire history was that the adult would be believed and I would not be.

  • Carstonio

    And that never made sense, as if the adults viewed the world in High Noon terms.  It was VERY reasonable to assume that the only way the bullies would leave you alone was to hurt them, and I’m not arguing that this is true or false.

  • jamesprobis

    I’m willing to bet many of the unfortunate horde of gay kids driven to suicide by bullying have heard “I don’t care who started it” on repeat for their entire school careers. I know I did and it’s just luck that I’m still alive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    This post and whole discussion are just hammering in for me why I really don’t want to have children, and why I fear for my nephew and impending niece/second nephew (due in ~6 months). Because we are a geeky, nerdy bunch in this family (even nephew’s mother is, though not quite as much as the rest of us), and we are often pushing those geeky interests onto the kid, both intentionally and unintentionally. And my siblings and I were all bullied pretty strongly for how we were. Combined with some undiagnosed emotional problems (start with depression, add anxiety or anger management issues to season)…

    My nephew’s school life is going to be a nightmare, I just know it. I wish I knew how to prevent him from repeating what happened to us, but we’re really not armed to deal with it. I know that if I was somehow transported back to school but with the full knowledge and maturity (hah!) of my current age, I’d still end up someone’s target like before. There’s no way in hell I can help prevent it for him.

  • AnonymousSam

    I appreciate that teaching is one of those jobs where sometimes it just seems impossible to win. I saw this chart recently and it didn’t surprise me one bit-

    http://pre.cloudfront.goodinc.com/posts/full_1303763027teacher.salary.hours.worked.jpg

    I still have memories, however, of having pencils go flying across the room and land directly inside the teacher’s space, watching her purposefully affect not to notice the students get up and fetch their pencils, and soon see them go sailing right back in front of the chalkboard again.

    The only way not to know who to punish in these instances is to pretend it’s not happening at all, and that’s exactly what often happens.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    You don’t find the distinction between aggression and self-defense worth considering in evaluating the situation?

    In my experience, they care. They care because they want to punish the person defending herself and let the aggressor off the hook. This is particularly noticeable when the attacker is male, the defender is female, and the attack is sexual in nature.

    The guy who sexually harassed me throughout high school never got in trouble for it. I got in trouble for telling him to go to hell, though. I saw this happen over and over again with other girls and boys. 

  • Leum

    The message we explicitly received, as in, we were literally told this, is that self-defense against physical attacks was non-justified and would result in an identical punishment as the one the aggressor received, or a worse one if the teacher catching the people involved only saw the act of self-defense and not the act of aggression.

  • Foelhe

    The joys of the Zero Tolerance policy.

    I can kind of sympathize with teachers here, because it can be hard to figure out who was doing what after a fight ends. But if there are physical fights going on, someone needs to figure out what’s going on. And the problem with ZT and other “I don’t care who started it” policies is that, once teachers have decided all the fighters are equally to blame, it can be really hard to convince them to look for the underlying issues.

    I spent a decent amount of time in trouble for fighting. I don’t begrudge the teachers for that too much. But anytime I tried to explain why I jumped into a fight, I got the same “You should talk to a teacher instead of fighting,” pretty much ignoring the fact that that was what I was doing right then. Eventually I just gave up and learned to handle things myself. And hell, I was one of the lucky ones.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I have a lot of sympathy for Zero Tolerance Policies, because I grew up right before they became The Big Thing, and my experience is that the alternative was usually “Arbitrary and Discretionary Enforcement” which always seemed to favor the bullies.

  • Foelhe

    Like I said, so do I. At least I think they can work – in my school punishment was still pretty damn arbitrary. But if there’s physical fighting going on, there’s some major problems under the surface. And a lot of teachers hold up ZT so they don’t have to find out what’s actually going on, why the fight started in the first place.

    I don’t doubt for a second that ZT is better than what we had before it, my problem is that it’s treated like the only rule teachers need to deal with fighting.

  • EllieMurasaki

    My problem with ZT is there’s no room for using judgment. Squirt gun? Probably not a thing to have in school, but absolutely not deserving of the same punishment as having a handgun. Ibuprofen? Yes, technically a drug, but better to let the kids have it to take when necessary than to require them to miss class and go see the nurse (or worse, go see the nurse and require parental authorization) every time they need a dose, and certainly not a thing to punish as though it’s cocaine possession.

  • hidden_urchin

    Also, there’s evidence that ZT is actually arbitrarily applied in some schools which results in discrimination against minority students and students with learning or behavioral challenges. Which would mean it was more likely to protect bullies.

  • GDwarf

     

    I have a lot of sympathy for Zero Tolerance Policies, because I grew up
    right before they became The Big Thing, and my experience is that the
    alternative was usually “Arbitrary and Discretionary Enforcement” which
    always seemed to favor the bullies.

    ZT favours the bullies, too.

    See, the thing about being the bully is that you get to pick your time and place, and so you just wait until no one in authority is looking. Meanwhile, victims, if they’re to fight back, have to do so after the bully does their thing. That means bullies still don’t get caught unless they’re stupid or the fighting back gets someone’s attention, in which case, thanks to ZT, both get punished.

    What’s more, there have been several cases where ZT has been interpreted to mean that reporting bullying gets you in trouble, even if you didn’t fight back, because having someone else’s fist hit your face means you were fighting.

    ZT policies are also disproportionately used to suspend minority students.

    So yeah, enforcement is just as arbitrary and selective, but now they get to claim that they’re just being fair.

    What we really need is some way for teachers to be able to verify if someone was bullied out of their sight, because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Bullies attack when they know they won’t be caught, but if you complain you get told that teachers can’t do anything if they don’t see it happening.

  • DavidCheatham

    It doesn’t help that a lot of ZT policies are around prima facia nonsense, about things that _are not actually a problem_.

    What, exactly, is the rationale with banning with over-the-counter medicine? You know, the sort of medicine that we happily _sell to children_ at drug stores? What possible hypothetical problem even exists with children having something at school they can _lawfully purchase and ingest as much of as they want_ by walking into a drug store? (What, is there a black market selling aspirin to children of Christian Scientists who carefully monitor their kid’s purchases in drugstores?)

    And the same applies to 90% of prescription medication…I can see some sort of rules about commonly abused prescription medication. If some ADD kid is on stimulants, fine, we keep those locked up. Even some OTC stuff like cough medication (Which kids *can’t* freely buy), yes. But who the hell is abusing asthma inhalers or antibiotics?

    Are we just assuming that kids are so damn dumb that they’ll buy aspirin from each other and claim it’s an illegal drug? Firstly, I am baffled as to how this is an actual problem we need to solve in the first place, and second might I suggest that sort of nonsense is _encouraged_ by treating any and all medication like it’s cocaine?

    And then there are times ZT gets incredibly outside its scope and starts doing shit like expelling students for drawings of guns or, as mentioned, squirt guns. Uh, no.

    So a lot of ZT makes no sense to start with, because it is an attempt to stop things that shouldn’t be stopped in the first place!

    ZT towards bulling, OTOH, has an entirely different set of problems. A school wants to  _actually_ stop bullying, they should enforce a ZT policy against any sort of bullying…and then they should check those _damn cameras they have installed everywhere_ when any bullying even slightly appears to have possibly happened.

    I’ve often said what schools need is an actual justice system. I fully understand this cannot happen in real time, during a class, and often all the students need to just sit down and shut up, and if they can’t do that, they need to be kicked out and sent to the office, regardless of who is at fault.

    But I have to wonder how much disruptive shit would keep happening in class, and how much bullying between classes, would happen if adults actually _checked the tapes_ afterward to see what actually happened, and then confront students with it later, saying things like ‘Every single time you and him have had a fight, _you_ have walked up to _him_ and said some stuff, and gotten in his face, and at least hit him with your shoulder as you walked past. From now on, we will conclude fights between you two are _your_ fault.’

  • AnonymousSam

    Hell, there was a case I heard about on the news awhile back about a zero tolerance school who expelled a student and had her arrested on criminal charges — for bringing a party favor to school for the last day of class. Said party favor looked like this:

    http://www.lulusoso.com/upload/20120309/Party_Confetti_Disks_For_Gun_Party_favor.jpg

    Which meant, they said, that she had brought a firearm to class.

    If I recall, the criminal charges were dropped, but she was forced to repeat the entire school year.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    What, exactly, is the rationale with banning with over-the-counter
    medicine? You know, the sort of medicine that we happily _sell to
    children_ at drug stores? What possible hypothetical problem even exists
    with children having something at school they can _lawfully purchase
    and ingest as much of as they want_ by walking into a drug store? (What,
    is there a black market selling aspirin to children of Christian
    Scientists who carefully monitor their kid’s purchases in drugstores?)

    And the same applies to 90% of prescription medication…I can see
    some sort of rules about commonly abused prescription medication. If
    some ADD kid is on stimulants, fine, we keep those locked up. Even some
    OTC stuff like cough medication (Which kids *can’t* freely buy), yes.
    But who the hell is abusing asthma inhalers or antibiotics?

    Are we just assuming that kids are so damn dumb that they’ll buy
    aspirin from each other and claim it’s an illegal drug? Firstly, I am
    baffled as to how this is an actual problem we need to solve in the
    first place, and second might I suggest that sort of nonsense is
    _encouraged_ by treating any and all medication like it’s cocaine?

    And you trust the school to determine whether those unmarked white pills are asprin, ritalin, or MDMA?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And you trust the school to determine whether those unmarked white pills are asprin, ritalin, or MDMA?

    Oh, for God’s sake.

  • DavidCheatham

    And you trust the school to determine whether those unmarked white pills are asprin, ritalin, or MDMA?

    I’m not ‘trusting’ the school to do a damn thing, because schools are clearly often operated by complete idiots.

    I am, however, in favor of _mandating_ that schools actually, you know, read the name that all medication has printed on the pills. This does assume school administrators know how to read, which admittedly is a fairly large assumption at this point. They’ve already demonstrated a complete lack of reasoning skills.

    Incidentally, unmarked white _tablets_ are MDMA, or possibly Altoids. Unmarked white _pills_ are, uh…badly counterfeited medication? Some sort of ‘alternative medicine’ non-medication designed to look like medication? There really are no such things as illegal drugs that come in _pill_ form, and all legal pills are marked. Pills are designed to dissolve and release over time, which is sorta the opposite of what people want with drugs. So if someone’s bothered to make them in a single dose solid form, it’s almost always a chewable (Or one that just dissolved in your mouth.) tablet, not a pill to be swallowed.

    Of course, it’s worth pointing out that pretty much the sole illegal drug that comes in solid single-dose form like that, MDMA, is _not_ made to look like legal medication, but is instead made to look like _candy_. So there actually is nothing stopping students from keeping it in Altoid containers, or Tootsie roll wrappers, or, you know, in any sort of candy container. Because this entire thing is stupid from top to bottom. (And why the hell would a kid waste their Ecstasy on _school_? A damn rave with flashing lights and pounding music isn’t enough stimulation for someone on Ecstasy, they need damn glowsticks and to keep dancing. I can just imagine how painfully horrifically boring sitting _in class_ on Ecstasy would be. It would be they gave themselves super-ultra-ADD. Sooooooooooooo bored.)

    All ZT catches is responsible teenagers who carry around aspirin or PMS medication, and the only people it ‘helps’ are people with asthma who can’t carry an inhaler or bad allergies who can’t carry an epinephrine stick. Kids who carry around _illegal_ drugs aren’t stupid enough to take them out of their pockets in front of teachers. Okay, _some_ kids are that stupid, but kids that stupid are going to get caught anyway…although possibly not by that, considering it looks like candy.

    Obvious conclusion to all this nonsense: Ban candy. Also ban clothing so they can’t keep it in their pockets.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Thank you for saying it better than I can. :)

    This notion that schoolteachers and administrators become the bubble wrap around The Kids* to protect them from themselves to the extent of going to absurd extremes of limitation of basic rights of privacy and mobility is utterly ridiculous.


    * Just like anti-abortionists defend an abstract idea of The Bay-Bee, and right-wing misogynists defend an abstract idea of The Family, I’m going to suggest that self-appointed moral guardians defend an abstract idea of The Kid as opposed to real live breathing adolescents and teenagers who have working brains and can speak up for themeslves as they darn well please.

    It’s interesting that in all three cases the abstract ideals are used as a way to silence those actual entities that the ideals are only tenuously related to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    (And why the hell would a kid waste their Ecstasy on _school_? A damn
    rave with flashing lights and pounding music isn’t enough stimulation
    for someone on Ecstasy, they need damn glowsticks and to keep dancing. I
    can just imagine how painfully horrifically boring sitting _in class_
    on Ecstasy would be. It would be they gave themselves super-ultra-ADD.
    Sooooooooooooo bored.

    So MDMA is basically the Mark of Slaanesh?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ha :P

    If anything I suspect teenagers would be prone to taking Valium or Codeine to help pass an hour or three in a boring teacher’s class.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     I had a college professor whose voice was the most powerful tranquilizer ever. Didn’t matter how well-rested, alert, or caffeinated you were going in – within ten minutes half the class would be trying to prop their eyelids open.

  • jamesprobis

    Anyone who thinks Fred is just talking about teachers here needs to get a clue.

    Yes, this is a problem that can be seen in the schools, but victim-blaming sure as hell doesn’t stop when you get out of school. How about the insistence that Dan Savage is horribly mean to anti-gay bigots because he speaks up? How about the endless complaints about those of us who boycotted Chick-fil-A. How about the fact that every single goddamned time those of us who are spit on stand up for ourselves we are told to sit down and shut up, and we’re being terrible people by not “forgiving” those who spit on us?

    “I don’t care who started it” is a fucking shitty thing to say to people defending themselves in any situation. Some of us have learned that no one will ever stand up for us, but we’d still appreciate not being shit on when we stand up for ourselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    There’s a flip-side to “I don’t care who started it” which is “they’re all the same.”

    That “they’re all the same” comes in, often, when we’re talking about some level of power and our ability/responsibility to use our own, relatively minimal power, to do some basic controlwork.

    “All politicians are the same.”  Congratulations, just as you have divested yourself of all need to examine the actions of politicians, you’ve just taken away that much reward for any politician doing anything right.  “I don’t care who started it!”

    “All labels are the same.”  No more need to look into who’s using child-labor to make their clothes, and thus is putting pressure on their competitors to do the same, and no more reward for keeping up ethical business practices.

    This is why we have to care who started it, when we’re dealing with the less powerful, even though it’s difficult.  Because we want them to care where they have power.

  • cjmr

    In Girl Scout meetings I tend to say, “It doesn’t matter who started it.  It needs to stop now.” instead of “I don’t care who started it.”  Then once everyone is calmed down, we discuss it and get to the bottom of the issue.  Of course, I have a 1:8 adult:child ratio, which teachers usually aren’t lucky enough to have.

  • http://www.balancingjane.com/ Michelle (Balancing Jane)

    When I was in elementary school, I had a teacher who was a big fan of collective punishment. If someone in the class misbehaved, we all had to stand on the fence for recess. It always seemed incredibly unjust and I don’t think I learned anything positive from it. 

    Now, as a teacher, I’ve had students use the “but everyone else was doing it” defense when I confront them about inappropriate behavior. I try not to say “it doesn’t matter” (because it does, as you point out), but I also can’t let that become an excuse for not discussing the issue at hand. Instead, I turn to “right now we’re talking about you.” Since I have these conversations individually, I hope that strikes a balance between recognizing the behavior of a group but placing individual responsibility on individuals. 

  • cam_l

    “Teaching kids that aggression and defense are morally indistinct is wrong.”

    This particular life lesson is a power and control lesson. The teacher has the power and the teacher is in control. Are you saying that power and control is wrong?

    (I hope you are ; )

    I was always the kid that got singled out. I was always at the top of my class (at a very much below average school). And I always, always argued.. still got singled out though.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Are you saying that power and control is wrong?

    Like Zoot, I prefer Power and Chaos.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iain-King/514746942 Iain King

    Not to undermine your point (which is fair), but the “Would you X if all your friends did it?” line isn’t generally a teacher’s line: it’s a parent’s line.  The parent can’t disciple all the other kids, even though they most probably deserve it, but they can discipline their own child.  The idea is to get the child to think for themselves, instead of being a sheep or caving to peer pressure.  Doesn’t really work for a teacher, who is in a position to discipline everyone.

  • Anonymous

    During our last anti-bullying training, we were told a story that the presenter claimed had actually happened at a school near her home town.  Two fathers at a high school wrestling match were arguing about their kids and it came to blows.  During the fight, one of the men fell badly against the bleachers in such a way that his neck was broken and he died.  When the surviving father was tried, he claimed that he was acting in self-defense because the other man had thrown the first punch and he was only defending himself.  The judge threw out the self-defense claim.  The man could have walked away or gotten the attention of the security guard standing at the door to the gym.  He did not have to fight back.  A blow for a blow is not defense, it’s revenge.

    That’s what we’re trying to teach the kids.  It’s not OK for Jimmy to shove you, nor is it OK for you to do it back to him.  You can’t control what he does, but you control your own response and as long as you have other options (i.e., as long as there is an adult in the room, even if he or she hasn’t noticed what’s going on yet), you must use them.  Revenge is not defense is not OK.

    (Also, you won’t believe this until you’ve been in a classroom yourself, but it is incredibly difficult to get kids who hate each other to avoid each other.  They would rather sit with their worst enemies than their best friends.  It’s insane.  “Ms G, Timmy’s making fun of me again!”  “I know that you’ve been having problems with Timmy.  That’s why, when you told me about it five minutes ago, I moved him all the way across the room.  He has not moved from his new seat, but I see that you have now crossed the entire classroom to be next to him again.  Why is that?”  “…”)

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Counter-example.  Man abuses wife for years.  Wife kills husband in planned act.  Wife pleas self-defense and is acquited because, in the absence of ways to leave or help from authorities, she was effectively in a constant state of clear-and-present-danger.

    The victim of bullying doesn’t have the means to leave, unless they just stop going to school entirely.  So, the faculty has to have a record of stepping in.  It has to be reasonable, from the student’s perspective, to conclude that the teacher will help and will do so effectively.  Otherwise?

    I know I’m being a nudge on this topic, but every time I hear someone say that the victim shouldn’t have fought back, what I hear is “You have an obligation to believe I’ll help whether I actually do or not.”

    Don’t tell me about what the victim of bullying is obligated to do or not to do.  Show me what has already been done to help victims of bullying.

  • GDwarf

     

    That’s what we’re trying to teach the kids.  It’s not OK for Jimmy to
    shove you, nor is it OK for you to do it back to him.  You can’t control
    what he does, but you control your own response and as long as you have
    other options (i.e., as long as there is an adult in the room, even if
    he or she hasn’t noticed what’s going on yet), you must use them.
     Revenge is not defense is not OK.

    I went to good schools with good teachers. I was still bullied, and even if I went to teachers *as soon as the bullying started* they couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything.

    Most of these kids really don’t have any other viable options. You don’t get to say “Don’t fight back, go to a teacher” unless teachers are willing and able to do something when a kid comes up to them saying they’re being bullied.

    I also loathe anti-bullying strategies. I can still remember an anti-bullying video we watched in grade 7 (so this is 13-year-olds) that claimed that the best way to stop a bullying beating you up and stealing your homework was to be nice to them and offer to help them do the homework themselves. That’s the sort of advice we were given. Not only were we not to fight back, but we were to roll over and suck up to the bully, and we were to ask them nicely to stop and somehow convince them that the solution that involves more work for them (and you) rather than just taking what they want was the one they should use.

    Still, that was probably the least-ridiculous advice we got. The rest were the standard chestnuts of “Just ignore them/walk away” or “Cower in fear and stay in sight of teachers 24/7” and other such nonsense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    I think that you’ve shown two parts of the problems with most anti-bullying strategies.

    One part is that they rely upon the victims to be perfect/christlike/perfect chess players that are never vulnerable.  It blames victims for not being Christlike/Joblike, while placing no onus on the bullies themselves.

    The other is that people keep expecting this silver bullet.  Or rather this silver bullet that they, themselves, don’t have to fire.  “You just do this and your problems will go away and your teachers/other authority figures won’t have to lift a finger more than they are obligated to.”

  • Carstonio

    The man could have walked away or gotten the attention of the security
    guard standing at the door to the gym.  He did not have to fight back.
     A blow for a blow is not defense, it’s revenge.

    The bleachers fight is not really applicable to bullying, partly because the latter is not about two people having an argument that escalates. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I perceived myself as not having other options. It was reasonable for me to fear retaliation if I told a teacher at the school. Fighting back is not about a blow for a blow – it’s about trying to hurt the bully to the point where he gives up or is too injured to fight.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

     The judge threw out the self-defense claim.  The man could have walked
    away or gotten the attention of the security guard standing at the door
    to the gym.

    This seems entirely applicable to the case, but I have never experienced or witnessed a case of bullying in a school where it was possible to escape the bully short of transferring to a different school.

    And that also ignores the fact that some bullies, not all by any means, travel in packs specifically so that they can surround their victim and prevent escape.  It’s sort of the opposite of uncommon so unless the guy who died had two of his friends strategically arrayed to prevent defendant from getting away/ getting to a place where he could be seen/heard by authorities, I’m not sure how the case really applies to bullying that well.

    Are students supposed to stand up and walk out of school, never to return, if they’re bullied?  If not then they can’t walk away.  Are they supposed to magically gain the ability to pass through solid matter when they’re bullied by a group and thus not be stopped by bullies blocking avenues of escape with their bodies?  If not then they can’t walk away.

    And given that teachers can’t act on a claim of bullying in a meaningful way without evidence, and that bullies tend to be good at only bullying in ways that don’t produce such evidence (words spoken too quietly for the teacher to hear, altercations always chosen in locations where teachers can’t see) even if the student does manage to become incorporeal and walk away through the bullies trying to cut off escape, there’s not much to stop the bullying from resuming the next day (or the next period) after it’s reported to a teacher.

    I do agree that revenge is not defense, which is why Charles Scott and I disagree on whether or not the victim turned attacker I described was in the wrong.  I see what he did as revenge, not defense.  The way he was victimized made any defense short of armor impossible.  What he did wasn’t, in my opinion, defense, it was finally reaching the point where he could take no more attacking and switching into revenge mode to deal with the fact he had reached his limit and needed to respond.

    Where I don’t agree is in your apparent belief that kids (or even adults) are magically able to exit situations.

    The victim turned attacker couldn’t escape his bullies without dropping out of school because they came after him when he went to his locker, something he needed to do in order to participate in school.

    The person I described in my first post is someone I couldn’t get away from without dropping most of my classes.  (Because dropping most of your classes is a great way to get through university.)

    Generally speaking, students are trapped.  Because they’re students.  They need to show up, day after day.  If they don’t they fail.  That means that they can’t walk away.  Or rather, they can walk away (assuming we’re talking about a single bully rather than a pack) but:
    1) They’ll be punished for it if they don’t show up for class/walk out of school in the process of walking away.
    2) They have to walk back regardless, unless the walking away was a prelude to dropping out.

    They could, one supposes, map all of the possible routes from any given point A to any given point B within the school and use a random number generator to determine which one they’ll use at a given time which would, presumably, make it harder for the bullies to locate them outside of a teacher’s sight but most school children wouldn’t think of that, and wouldn’t do it if they did think of it.  Also there’s a good chance that most of those routes would take longer than optimal leading to them getting to class late and being punished for that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    “I do agree that revenge is not defense, which is why Charles Scott and I disagree on whether or not the victim turned attacker I described was in the wrong. I see what he did as revenge, not defense.”

    That presupposes that his only motivation was to cause pain for its own retributive sake, rather than, say, to disuade his attackers from attacking again.

    And, it rather puts the onus on him to, lacking help from anybody else to stop the harassment and assaults… just let them keep happening.

  • Hexep

    Revenge is not okay? /Revenge is not okay?/ From whence come ye, Martian, and wherefore come ye to Earth? Revenge is the meaning of life!

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    A wise man once said “If someone slap you in the cheek….SMASH him upon the other!”

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I got my bachelor’s degree in education (then I decided I had enough of that and became a paralegal) , and I had a class clown in my student teaching class.  I always found him to be a sweet kid one-on-one, but he got very little positive anything in his life and so when he’d misbehave and the kids would laugh at him, you could see on  his face that he considered this as close to anything positive as he’d experienced, which just doomed him to more clownitude.

    I had read about a collective reward system, where for every X amount of time everyone in the class behaved themselves, the kids would get a small reward, for every X+Y amount of time, the class would get a larger reward, and for every X+Z amount of time, they would get a big reward.  The idea was that the amount of positive reinforcement that this student and one of his friends, who also had behavior problems got from their misbehavior would stop and that they would start cooperating and might even, as a result, get actual positive reinforcement from their peers. 

    I would, of course, not have said, “If Derek (not his real name) behaves himself . . . .”  I would have said “If everyone behaves themselves . . . .”

    When I brought this idea up to my “cooperating” teacher (who wasn’t very cooperative — she actually told me that she didn’t want a student teacher, but only agreed because one of her friends was in my class and she hoped to get that friend), she told me that I was clearly misreading the way the other kids responded to Derek .  I obviously, she thought, didn’t see that they hated him and only laughed because he was amusing.  I tried to explain that I did, in fact, see that, but she kept telling me that I didn’t.  I don’t even know.  So I never tried it. 

    My question is, have any of you had teachers who tried this approach?  Did it work?

  • banancat

    I really hated the “advice” from adults that boys only teased me because they liked me.  So what?  It’s suddenly ok to hurt someone just because you want to bone them?  It’s ridiculous.  But unfortunately that attitude continues into adulthood.

    Also, my brother used to tease me a lot and so many adults told me that he only did it because he liked to see my reaction.  They told me to stop getting upset and that would make them stop.  What I heard though was basically that I was just being whiny and annoying.  At least my brother teased my quietly and it was easy for adults to ignore, but then I had to go and ruin it for the adults by crying in my loud voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    I kinda get the bad advice.  I mean,  if you’re a parent and your child is dealing with teasing and the teachers aren’t helping, what are you going to say?

    “Well, if the teachers won’t help you, just give them a bloody nose and, if you get in trouble, tell the teachers that, if they’d done their damn job, you wouldn’t have had to get violent.”

    Really, that’s what the advice-givers are down to, in terms of anything that would actually get something done.  And, they’re not allowed to give that advice.  They’re not allowed to admit, to children, that the adults around them have failed them.  Of late, there’s been a different advice, to simply wait it out.  Grade school isn’t forever, then High school isn’t forever.  And, there’s some truth to it, but it doesn’t help right now, or for the next four years now does it?

    At this point, asside from having lawyers gather together for pro-bono class-action suits against schools that have a record of letting bullying get out of hand… what is there to do?

    Well, one thing to do is admit that, when a school fails to protect its students from bullying… it has failed and they have to go to other options.


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