Bullying and Burke
Edmund Burke (1729-1797):
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
The little boy was in kindergarten. The bigger boys were in 6th grade. The girl was in 4th.
The kindergartener suffered from hydrocephalus, a condition that affected his appearance. He had a larger than normal head and his eyes were far apart. He knew he looked different. It probably took courage to go out on the playground. He had other health problems.
The two sixth grade boys made cruel remarks about the little boy. They made their cruel remarks from the top of the slide, having climbed the ladder, but staying on the top of the slide, blocking its use by other children. It was their podium on a stage. They could tease from on high. They thought they were funny.
The kindergartener naturally did not find them funny. The teasing made him sad.
The fourth grader was skinny and small. No match for sixth graders one might assume. Wrong.
The little girl quickly climbed the steps to the top of the slide. She got behind the two sixth grade boys. That was unfortunate for them. The little girl was outraged by the cruel teasing. She knew the kindergartener as a family friend. She knew his parents. She knew his older brother. She knew it was wrong to pick on him. She knew what to do.
Behind the boys on the top of the slide, the girl kicked them. Hard. They started sliding down. Their hands lost their grip. They landed on their backs at the bottom of the slide. Together, in the dirt. Hurts, don’t it?
A teacher on playground duty saw only the kicks and the resulting difficult landing suffered by the bullies. She grabbed the little girl and told her it was wrong to kick those boys. She should have been patient while waiting her turn to slide. She lost her playground privileges. She was a bad girl. She needed to learn her lesson. The lesson was not the one the teacher intended. The lesson was one she had already been taught.
At home, the girl told the story. Her father told her how proud he was of her for sticking up for the little boy. He promised to back her 110%. A lawyer, he valued sticking up for the weak. He valued fighting bullies. He encouraged it. He had watched too many cowboy movies. So had the heroic little girl. And don’t think the kindergartener missed what happened. He was grateful to have someone stick up for him, even if it was a girl.
That was back in the 90s. Bullying seems to get more attention now. I don’t judge the poor victims of bullying. I do wonder about the kids who fail to protect their peers. Sometimes there might be no friends around or no friends period. But I will say this, the ones who fail to stick up for the victims of bullying are part of the problem. They should be ashamed. Not everyone has the strength to take on bullies, at least not alone. But there is strength in numbers. And there is strength in being right.
P.S. Later in the year, there were Student Council elections. The little girl ran for secretary. The staff told her that traditionally sixth graders are the officers. Upon advice of counsel, the girl asked where that rule was written down. Turns out it was not an official rule. She ran. I expect that she had the kindergarten vote. Her little sister in first grade campaigned for her too. (She explained her strategy to me. The sixth graders would split their votes as all the other candidates were in sixth grade. “I think the little kids will vote for me.”) She won the election. Her father was proud, again.