True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country. – Kurt Vonnegut
Imagine yourself as 13 year old boy sitting in the classroom when whole class is full of chatter and squeaking, waiting for your English teacher to enter the class. You are busy with the boy next to you, telling him about your neighbourhood stories from last evening about the eccentric man you saw who kept looking at the sky counting the stars in broad day light. It’s a funny story to tell. All of a sudden a paper ball hits on your neck, it’s not painful, but you look back in anticipation for what’s coming next. As soon as you look back, you hear the boy from the rear yell at you “what are you looking at as***le?” You want to say something but you know you are not in control of situation. You look around. Almost everyone is looking at you, their expressions vary from hysterical laugh to empathetic pity. You have no idea which expression is most extreme to your own feelings. All of them make you feel disgusted. You want to go back and hit him hard but he is surrounded by couple of others, who look equally hostile. You plan to report it the teacher who is about to enter the class, but you decide against it because you know it will only make the matter worse. The story you were telling is lost and with it enthusiasm and excitement of telling the story. All you want is the day to get over.
Bullying has been much ignored subject and taken for granted in schools. Harsher forms like ragging has been banned and govt regulations has been put in place to counter them, but bullying continues in school like it has always been. We shrug the incidents off by saying “kids will be kids”. It is actually factual that we can’t bring in laws or penalise these incidents for simple reason that children responsible for such behaviour are below the legal age for any action. However time has come to accept what severe repercussions it can bring for the children who are bullied for a long period of time. School becomes an eerie place for them, and they loose focus on things which they are supposed to focus on. It’s has been reiterated many times that children subjected to bullying generally suffer from low self-esteem, lack confidence and hesitate to take initiatives in class.
I tried to look at statistics and it has been found that 1 in every 3 children in school are subjected to bullying, a lot of them on every day basis. Much worse is the situation in boarding school. No matter how expensive the school is, the story for these kids don’t seem to change. I am not trying to put schools in categories of quality, but we generally assume that in these high end schools teachers are more attentive to individual child’s need. This is not a matter of discipline or regulations but the general environment in which children are being raised. It’s more about the environment we have created for them to grow up and incessant need to compete. Competitions are good, they bring about more desire in child to do better, and perform better. The problem starts when this competition comes burgeoning in every aspect of child’s life. The child I am talking about is the one who is a bully by nature. His environment is teaching him that power is good, making fun of others makes him feel superior about himself. No matter how demeaning it is to others. It’s useful or not is not anymore his concern. All he is seeking is more attention and feeling of being considered important.
The problem most important to be understood is that convict is as naïve as the victim, and this environment makes the future worse for both of them. Children who get bullied on regular basis mostly are able to deal with these incidents outwardly, they generally are able to pass school with no severe problems. What we don’t realise is what’s being piled up in his subconscious. It’s a simple case of negative reinforcement. Adolescent age is when we learn most of the skills, which are vital for our life and career in general. If during those years, a lot of what you get is undeserved criticism, it’s more likely to think of the world as unfair and loosing hope for excelling in certain things which you weren’t that bad to start with. Life sometimes can throw you in situations which ideally would require you to boldly stand your ground, which you were never given a chance to learn. Outcome of such encounter is irrelevant, but if you can’t handle such situation steadfastly, the feeling of self loathing comes back creeping with unnerving emotional pain. Isolation, aggression, trust issues are equally common traits which are hardwired in the brain by the time severely bullied children reach their adulthood. They are awkward in work places, keep their ideas to themselves, make bad team players, and for obvious reason lack certain skills like delivering a speech or outdoor tasks. People affected more severely can become bully themselves assuming that this is how one is supposed to behave once given power and all the aggression comes out bursting on people around them. There are people who are able to deal with past demons in better ways and actually come out as more empathic and compassionate but they still lack confidence.
For the children who wield this superficial power in school, end of school is end of their power, and it’s like burst of a bubble, new environment around them is perplexing at best, and end of a sweet dreams in worst cases. Anxiety, unintended anger can be few outcomes. They may have a feeling of being cheated and behave in certain situation like a child throwing tantrums when their favourite toy is taken away. Life suddenly turns into an uphill climb to them which used to be a sail with the wind in school. Needless to say that it might take them years again to really understand that what they have been enjoying these years is just rejected by the vast new world. The whole concept of power seems to have changed upside down, very different standards and scales for being popular and desirable. They feel indignant for the joke played on them by society. They realise that, a face in the crowd is all that they are.
As I have asserted before that this is not a problem which can be solved by rules or discipline. What really is required is stimulating an environment in school in which unjust attention is not given to everyday competition, we need to make children understand that compassion and empathy is more desirable a trait than being strong or being good at a certain outward skill. Having good looks is not the measure of how better human being you are and it is rather something that alienates you from the others than it makes you popular. Most important of all, life is full of ups and downs and they should get prepared for the journey that life is, rather than fastening their ropes for the current sail assuming wind will always flow in same direction. As Dalai Lama rightly Said “When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.”