There’s been a lot of attention to the subject of “bullying” lately. You would think that there was an epidemic of bullies running around in the schools. If the bullying problem has gotten worse over the past half century, I’ve got an idea of who to blame.
When I was a 7th grader in an Omaha, Nebraska public school, there was a kid in our gym class. I don’t remember his first name, but his last name was Daniels. Daniels was a short, stocky guy, but he had one of these “V” shaped, muscular backs, and a six pack of abs. When we went to the showers, looked at our bodies and compared them to his, it was obvious that he was a man among boys. We were skinny and his muscles bulged; we were growing peach fuzz and Daniels was shaving. Daniels also had a chip on his shoulder. No one, and I mean NO ONE, messed with Daniels.
Our gym teacher was a fellow named Mr. Wagner. Wagner, who was probably 35-40 years old, was in good shape, but a very humble guy. Then, one day, Daniels started pushing around this pudgy fat kid. The kid was horrified; he looked like a mouse in a snake cage.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, came Wagner. In a nano-second he had grabbed Daniels, lifted him up by his gym shirt and pinned him to the wall with his feet off the ground! I don’t remember exactly what Wagner said to the bully, but I remember that Wagner was yelling at him in a loud voice, making it clear to Daniels that this better not happen again. Daniels had a surprised look on his face and was in obvious discomfort. The whole confrontation took about 30 seconds. Daniels had been humiliated in front of 50 kids, and Wagner had replaced him as the new “Alpha Male”. After that, Daniels never bullied anyone again.
If this event happened today, Wagner would have been vilified by the school board and would have been fired. Daniels’ mother would have sued the school district for child abuse. Daniels, emboldened by Wagner’s firing, would have little incentive to discontinue his bullying.
We’ve tied the hands of teachers in our public schools so that they cannot discipline their students. School boards are “bullied” by political correctness and threats from parents. Bullies are encouraged because no one will fight back. Parents are also responsible in that they’ve forgotten to teach their kids that little “sticks and stones” rhyme ending with “names will never hurt me”
Occasionally, in private schools, some progress can be made. My daughter found herself in conflict with a classmate in the 7th grade. This kid wasn’t a physical bully, but he had been calling my daughter some uncomplimentary names. Finally she took matters into her own hands and used her fists. They both ended up in the principal’s office. Sister Mary Donald interviewed them. She correctly ascertained that my daughter had been the source of his bloody nose. She also confirmed that the boy had been calling her names for over a year. Catholic school justice prevailed. She told them both to stop it, and that she better not hear about any more name calling or fist fights from either of them. That was the end of it. Both of the combatants grew up to be responsible, caring adults.