Dammit, the NPR website hasn’t been updated with today’s Morning Edition. I’m trying to remember the name of the woman who had a commentary on adolescent bullies and the attention they’re getting in the ripples from Columbine. She pissed me off, and I want to write in to NPR with a response, but until I can read about her commentary and do a little research I’m going to seem ignorant. But I’m going to rant here first to at least get the core ideas down.

She was talking about, The Little Rock Nine. They were 9 black students who were escorted into Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School by members of the US Army on September 25, 1957. Her introduction was that, of any kids who have attended high school, these kids knew about bullying and fear and persecution and being outsiders in school. And I don’t dispute that fact for one minute. These kids could well represent the kids of all races who are, right now, suffering in school halls.

Then she came to her lessons from that history: When being persecuted, learn to deal with it. She said that seeking to correct the bullies’ behavior was “impractical.” And her advice to schools was to councel the bullied and “weak” to learn better solutions to dealing with it. Right now, this counceling is leading to very intelligent and promising students being expelled from school for wearing trenchcoats or expressing anger or playing computer games.

Was this the attitude that drove the Civil Rights Movement? Bear it, don’t fight it? From the sounds of it, had they taken the strategy that she recommends, we’d likely still have segregated schools and separate drinking fountains to this day.

Bullshit. As far as I’m concerned, the recent rise in “nerd” violence is a sign that one can bear it only so long as a class of people.

The commonality between the Little Rock Nine and today’s high school outcast is difference. Human minds work on principles of similarity and difference, compare and contrast. While an efficient cognitive approach, it unfortunately often leads to my tribe against your tribe.

So take the high school geek. Dresses different, thinks different, talks different, moves in different circles. The bully sees the geek. The bully forms impressions, contrasts the geek from the others the bully compares him or herself with. The geek gets slotted into a mental category outside the bully’s own familiar group. So begins you against me.

But there are two tragedies here:

  • The system encourages this. School spirit, school team sports, esteemed group activities. Nowhere in this is a real reward for independence, for innovation, for “thinking out of the box.” If you’re not part of the group, you’re not rewarded, you’re nothing. And since the system doesn’t reward you, you must be pretty low. And so you must be fair game.
  • These qualities of innovation, independence, and creativity are the forces of human self-evolution. These are the things that move us forward, and are the things most desperately needed in any civilization. Especially in a technologically advanced and dependant society.

The system needed to be changed in the 1950’s. It still needs to be changed now. Against societal problems like this, there must be no simple acceptance.

(Bah, this rant is still too long. I need to edit it down further)