Posted by: cornvillenutmeg | May 24, 2012

Bludgeoning Bullying

Bullying is now among the social ills which Public Education is charged with curing and/or eradicating.  Don’t understand that?  Think about drug use and the signs that declare a school to be a Drug Free Zone.  Think about sexually transmitted diseases and the state departments of education mandates that make the study and prevention of HIV/AIDS a constant curricular inclusion in Health classes from Kindergarten through high school graduation.  Think about the laws that prohibit the carrying of firearms within x number of feet of a school.  You might call them Gun Free Zones.  Think about the now vanished but once ubiquitous butt rooms where teenagers with parental permission could smoke to their lungs content while sparing the non-smoking majority the reek ,stink, and manifest health hazard of stale cigarette smoke, these days now exclusively exhaled in student bathrooms.

Weigh for yourself how well these mandates have worked.  Guess how much money each has cost since its inception, then multiply that by twenty  or more to get the real figure, divide by the number of teens you see smoking, gunned down by other teens, infected with one STD or another ,or pregnant;  and you will end up with an idea of the individual costs of failure.

We have not yet declared war on Bullying, as in War on Drugs, but I guess that has as much to do with how silly it would sound as the fact that we’ve got all those real wars where people actually are killed and do the killing which seem to show promise of lasting as long and being as successful as the Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs, now forty some years long and counting.  Besides, there’s something oxymoronic about linking War and Bullying where the former is a cure for the latter.

Here’s an interesting thing to give passing thought to:  the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) gives two archaic definitions for bully.  The first is a fine person;  the second, a sweetheart.  Etymologically AHD suggests that the word itself is derived from “Middle Dutch boele, (meaning) sweetheart, (which is itself) probably (an) alteration of broeder, (meaning )brother.”  Of course, the prime definition is one we are all mostly familiar with,  “A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.”  And the verb form is consistent with that – “To force one’s way aggressively or by intimidation.”  Curiously, to me at least, AHD suggests no archaic verb form meaning other than “to act like a bully,” which would be a good thing only if one were acting like a fine person or sweetheart.  Still, there is the adjectival meaning of excellent and splendid.  What I can’t find because I’ve lost track of my two volume miniaturized OED is any examples of a good bully, if you will permit me, or how or why the meaning shifted so contrarily.  Unless, of course, the difficulty Able had with Cain applies.



Cornville Nutmeg

In the near future, I shall offer a closer look at what resulted from the local high school’s efforts to put into place a policy on bullying prevention.


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