In 2006, two rural Nova Scotia boys organized a high-school protest by handing out pink t shirts to all the boys in their school to protest a fellow student who was being bullied. This wonderful act has prompted a national anti-bullying campaign, this year to be held on February 29, 2012.
Rhodes College has elected to be part of the massive anti-bullying campaign. We have purchased pink T shirts to promote this. Most of us “hate bullies” and are dismayed by the dramatic effects of bullying on children.
The fact is I would suggest, most of us have been bullied and have been bullies. When I was in grade two, a neighbourhood boy followed me home from school most days of the week threatening to “pound me” unless I cried. (To my credit, I never cried). I spent hours of classroom time thinking of elaborate schemes to avoid him (leaving school late, stopping at a neighbour’s home, finding my older brother before he left the school ground). In grade six, my best friend and myself spent every recess period for an entire month taking turns beating up a younger girl. All the kids in my grade five class regularly tortured an orphaned boy from the neighbourhood who was sent to school in a bow tie. He was reported to have “fleas”.
I don’t deny that there are ‘bullies”. These kids and adults usually grew up in a home where bullying was modeled for them as a way of handling conflict situations. Sometimes children are given too much power and they don’t have the moral capacity to handle it appropriately. Think of the coach giving the captain of the football team the authority to berate his team mates. Perhaps the screaming toddler was not dealt with in a firm but kind way and grew up knowing how to gain authority over his or her family. Then there are the Psychopaths. They walk among us. They are the folks who (arguably due to faulty brain development) don’t experience empathy. These are the truly scary people.
We cannot cure the bullying problem by hating the bully. Just like the professional victim, the professional bully learned that he or she can gain power by behaving in a particular way. If we are going to solve the bullying problem, it is through education and skills training. Teachers and parents need to demonstrate to children how to handle conflict in an appropriate way. It could be argued (and I am not making this argument) that bullying cannot happen without the cooperation of the victim.
For more information on how you can get involved in the anti-bullying campaign, visit www.pinkshirtday.ca.