The headlines come almost daily now. Incidents of bullying, some of which result in death, are certainly on the rise. Just this week there is the news story of the Junior High student in Oklahoma who committed suicide that is being linked to bullying. There is even a story this week of a young Sikh woman at college being bullied, if you will, via a cell phone captured picture posted on the Universities' forum.
Google ‘bullying’ and you could read for days the various stories, mostly lesser reported incidents. Are today’s children meaner than years gone by? Some have floated the theory that today’s children are ‘softer’, less able to handle the ‘routine’ bullying that has occurred since the conception of brick and mortar schools. I thank the heavens that when I was growing up there was no internet – no facebook, Youtube, and the ilk for which my bullies could further wreck their havoc on my life. We didn’t have cell phones, capable of taking pictures, and so there was no such thing as ‘sexting’ either.
The young college woman responded beautiful to her ‘bullies’ and her story is one of inspiration. The 8th grader in Oklahoma is dead at his own hand. What is the difference? There is the fact that the young college woman has her faith, is in fact deeply devoted. I would think the fact that she was being mocked (bullied) as a result of that faith was in part why she was able to stand up so elegantly to her mockers. But there is another important difference between the two. The college woman is an adult. She has had time to develop her sense of self, her faith, and her place in the world. The 13 year old boy from Oklahoma had not.
Children are meant to grow *into* adulthood. They are *not* mini-adults. I’m often shocked, appalled, and saddened by the attitude so many adults have concerning children – ones with children and ones without. A seven year old, or even a fourteen year old, is not capable of ‘handling’ the stresses of adulthood. To believe they can is not merely absurd, but criminal – in my mind. Many, many children SURVIVE the horrors of school. In order to feel okay with what they endured they serve up platitudes, ones they may even have convinced themselves are truth, about why it’s ‘ok’ that they went through what they went through. “It made me grow up, it toughened me up, it taught me valuable life lessons.” And so on. However, if shown another way, a better way, not one of those adults (if honest) wouldn’t have said, ‘yes, I choose this other option.” I know I would have.
There is no reason a child of any age should *have* to endure what some – no, what many – endure in the public school setting. And do you know why? We don’t except adults to endure it in the real world! You take a job at a company and you are harassed because you are a woman, you are a person of color, you are gay, or your co-workers think you are weird, and there are laws in place to protect you, to help you, to stop the harassment! Why – because as a society we have determined it is WRONG for those actions to be perpetuated onto another member of society. A co-worker writes ‘slut’ across your chair everyday at work and what happens? There is an investigation and the guilty party is punished – fired from her/his job, sued by you, and so on. A co-worker gets upset with you, for whatever reason, and punches you in the face or jumps you from behind the bathroom door at work. What happens? He’s arrested for assault and battery. He loses his job. You do not have to continue to go to work and live in terror that you are going to get punched in this face by a bully.
Why do we offer less to our children?
Dealing with ‘difficult’ people is something that everyone has to do in life. But, here’s the paradox. Everyone is difficult. Yes, everyone! The only thing that makes someone not difficult for you is that you find common ground with that person. You have similar ways of thinking, or conducting yourself. You ‘click’ with people. Some are able to find common ground more easily, with more people, than others. The majority of the people, the vast majority, that are in the workplace today were public schooled. If public school were the Holy Grail of socialization, we would have a better society today, instead of what we do have. If surviving those ‘tough life lessons’ during elementary, middle, and high school years is a Beta test for the abilities of adults to thrive in society as an adult, would we grade society as having passed or failed? Saying that home schooling harms children is as ignorant as saying that public school ensures success for children. Saying that children need to survive the brutality of bullies inside the walls of public school is criminal. At the very least, if I’m at work and I’m harassed and no one will do anything about it, I can quit and walk away. We don’t even allow children THAT right inside the prison of public school.
Most Americans believe in freedom; the freedom to choose one’s path in life. Some want to take away the freedoms of those who are of a different religious position, political position, or even from those whose skin color or sexual orientation is ‘different’. Those Americans who believe those freedoms should belong to all, should be in total support of anti-bullying laws, the freedom to home school, and even the movement to tear down and rebuild the public educational system so that our children – the future of our society – are FREE to be who they are, in a setting that not only encourages, but protects, their rights to explore, to think, to learn, to grow without fear. With that pipe dream firmly in place, I say that home schooling is a completely appropriate answer to the question, “How does one avoid bullying at school?”