Here's a NYTimes story about one bullied kid in Arkansas.
I hope the school district is dealing with this story how it should -- not with denial, but action. Can you imagine worse publicity?
Here's my contention: the inability of elementary, middle, and high schools to address bullying strongly reflects the problems in those levels of the education system. "Oh, he deserved it," some "educators" said in reference to Billy getting punched in the face with no warning.
My wife and I have witnessed this kind of craven perversion of leadership in middle and high school. Jess was active in PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and one "conservative" teacher placed her around "Christian" students in the seating chart and began a lecture on the "evils of homosexuality."
I'm using the scare quotes to show how one's label can be so wrong.
In my experience, two "guidance counselors" expressed dislike of a student born with especially gay attributes. He couldn't help it; that's who he was (and is, now). But these people -- Kris and Russ, for the record -- actively encouraged bullying with these expressions which dismissed a person. Of course, this was the horrid polar opposite of their jobs as "guidance counselors." Russ's Missouri-style racism also bothered me; what was I to do at age thirteen?
There are times when a person's soul lies bare, and these were their colors. The rule is clear: love your neighbor as yourself. Problem is, everybody is your neighbor -- no labels allowed ("gay"; "black"; "Mexican").
Krishnamurti writes in Education and the Significance of Life:
My students that explain their patriotism and love of country usually believe this about 90%. Now, right now, I don't feel comfortable explaining to them how the above quote relates to patriotism. My belief is that George W. Bush and all the elite leaders of nations don't believe in a patriotism, except as a way to motivate people to serve an end. In the current context, the end or goal is war, and we can see what good that is doing.
The constantly repeated assertion that we belong to a certain political or religious group, that we are of this nation or of that, flatters our little egos, puffs them out like sails, until we are ready to kill or be killed for our country, race or ideology. It is all so stupid and unnatural. Surely, human beings are more important than national and ideological boundaries.
As pertains to the recent Barack Obama speech about his pastor, the whole thing is racially tinged, and I do believe couching Obama and his pastor's remarks has a bit of racism. The assumption is that if Obama is black, he must believe similar things as his pastor, because Obama and his pastor are black. Any thinking that limits the assumed subjectivity of a group of people by skin color is racist.
Krishnamurti goes on:
In other words, if an educator has prejudice in his or her heart, he or she teaches that prejudice necessarily. Makes sense.
To enable the child to grow up free from prejudice, one has first to break down all prejudice within oneself, and then in one's environment -- which means breaking down the structure of this thoughtless society which we have created. At home we may tell the child how absurd it is to be conscious of one's class or race, and he will probably agree with us; but when he goes to school and plays with other children, he becomes contaminated by the separative spirit. Or it may be the other way around: the home may be traditional, narrow, and the school's influence may be broader. In either case there is a constant battle between the home and the school environments, and the child is caught between the two.
So, if the school system cannot address bullying, or chooses to deny or ignore it, what are children being taught? Forget the reading, writing, and arithmetic -- content and the spirit of an educator intertwine.