Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Formation of Character

Darling Mitzibel has produced a remarkably perceptive piece about Possible Responses to Bullying; Pretty Lady is deeply impressed.

Because most of us geeks, those of us who were bullied and tossed around, eventually grow up to be some pretty nifty folks. Something about that isolation from the herd during a formative period teaches us that it's just fine to think our own thoughts and hold our own beliefs, and not need constant approval from our peers. It's liberating, if you survive it. And a suprisingly vast majority do.

So instead of having a youth of adversity overcome to look back on with a little pride, Benjamin is instead going to look back and see that he gave up without a fight, and that his reward is a long quiet life full of bland vanilla failure. He'll never have to leave his house, or talk to another person, or debate ideas, or have his character tested, or exchange witticisms over over-priced cocktails, or get in a barfight, or get some chick's number, or build sets for a play, or be inspired by a classmate, or find himself singing along with the music in the grocery store.
Pretty Lady herself never made a direct link between those unfortunate third-grade incidents in the back seat with the fingernails, and the fact that she currently suffers from no untoward psychological burdens imposed by Needing To Conform. But now that she considers it, the overall portrait rather hangs together.

This is not to say that Pretty Lady is in favor of throwing one's undersized, geeky or socially unskilled children to the wolves without backup. But teaching a few pragmatic skills, whether it be aikido or basic social interaction technique (eye contact and facial mirroring, ahem!) appears to her to be a better investment of one's parental resources than the filing of lawsuits.


Anonymous said...

Why, thank you. I am honored!

Anonymous said...

I must partially disagree. I went from a small town school to a "diverse" school system in a small city with a major race problem in the late 60s and early 70s. Aside from the fact that several of my tormentors were much older (held back) and built like men rather than boys, they would also attack in packs. The knives and chains didn't help either. It only takes one episode of having a knife drawn on you by a classmate who also happens to outweigh you by 50 lbs and who has a half dozen friends ready to jump in to persuade the intelligent soul not to resist.

In current news, my wife (the doctor) took care of a girl who was pulled into a classroom by a gang of girls and beaten severely because she wouldn't join their gang. The school expelled HER "for her own protection". That'll look good on her college application.

In today's public schools a student in a fight will be expelled, no matter what the cause or provocation, or even if it is in self defense (unless you belong to a gang, then all is forgiven apparantly).

With apologies to Mitzibel, it's not always quite that simple.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Papapete. Different situations require different responses. I think racial animosity in the 60's & 70's was especially difficult to deal with as an adolescent. In my schools, the black kids (not all of them, but enough of them) basically terrorized the white kids and the teachers, administrators and even the parents looked the other way.

Judge Well Ye Wolves said...

I "came up" in a time when there were no racial issues, since there were no minorities of any kind in our existence. I grew up in a factory town. The packs were white, and they were vicious. Chains, knives, pipes all were wielded in their turn. Think "Gangs of New York" in leather jackets. Bullying was a finely honed weapon. There were many emotional casualties. Those that could fight, did, by any means possible. Those that could not did not have their parents, nor the school administration behind them.
Mitzibel is right about Benjamin, but PL- can parents without those skills really help their children? It seems those without enablers to sue their way out of the school system are doomed to fight or flight, just as when I was younger.

Pretty Lady said...

Let it be known that Pretty Lady does not advocate sending any child to a public school, period. She realizes that this is a draconian attitude; furthermore, she has occasionally heard of the rare public school where children are not beaten up wholesale in classrooms while the faculty and administration pretend not to notice.

However, based upon a large amount of anecdotal evidence, plus an honest assessment of the level of basic literacy achieved by the average public school graduate of her acquaintance (present company excepted, of course) she feels that just about any option is better than that. Home school, private school, International School--whatever it takes.

Nobody said that a parent has to have mastered every useful life skill before breeding. This is why there are libraries, and night classes, and community colleges, and friends and neighbors.