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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

school bully « Previous | |Next »
June 22, 2008

Most of us can remember one teacher from our school years who stands out as being the one all the others should have been like. They're not always the nicest or the least strict. Mine was Mr Duffy in sixth grade who inspired a standard which got me into a selective high school. My daughter's third grade teacher, Mrs Smart, was another one who could spot exactly what would inspire each kid to learn. She even managed to get the class elective mute to speak.

Most of us can also remember one teacher whose sole purpose in life was bullying students. They'd appear out of nowhere and make some dreadful comment with the kind of contempt that withers and belittles the victim in front of their peers. We feared their arbitrary punishments and had nightmares about them. Roger Waters wrote about them for Pink Floyd's The Wall:

When we grew up and went to school There were certain teachers who would Hurt the children any way they could By pouring their derision Upon anything we did And exposing every weakness However carefully hidden by the kids But in the town it was well known When they got home at night, their fat and Psychopathic wives would thrash them Within inches of their lives.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives - Roger Waters - 1979

Anecdotal evidence suggests there is one of these at every school. Maybe they're compulsory.

Back in November last year boy child was doing his level best to join the ranks of the 'at risk'. Skipping school, not doing his work when he did go and practicing what educators call passive resistance. His family, some of his teachers and the school counsellor put a lot of effort into turning things around. Eventually it was his friends who convinced him to stay at school and over the past few months he's been gradually taking his work more seriously.

Right now is not the ideal time for the Freddy Kruger of teachers to turn his gaze upon the boy. But as Waters noted, the Mr Krugers of this world have an uncanny knack when it comes to sniffing out the vulnerable.

It turns out that Mr Kruger has a substantial reputation accumulated over years. There are people, ex-students now in their early and mid-twenties, whose faces still whiten and collapse at the mention of his name. Other teachers sympathise with his victims. A few years ago when he was teaching Italian, students of that language flocked to sign up for Japanese. Now he teaches English.

This is how we solve the problem of Mr Kruger's empty classroom - we make him compulsory.

Mr Kruger is the result of many contributing factors, rather like the continued existence of inept surgeons or corrupt police. His personal foibles are the most obvious, but the other factors are systemic. The notion of bullying for instance, assumes students bullying one another. Other school staff know he's a problem, but don't speak out. It's entirely possible that they're as intimidated by him as the kids.

His behaviour violates sections of the Code of Conduct, but the complaints procedure pits a single complainant against a whole system. And it's not going to make his victims' lives any easier when Mr Kruger finds out they've complained.

We need some kind of eBay reputation solution here, where people can remain anonymous but collectively rate teachers. Universities routinely gather course feedback from students including opinions on teaching staff. Why do schools not do the same?

Eventually, and inevitably, kids will put their MSN, MySpace, text messaging, YouTube, twittering networks to use and the whole world will have access to sound and vision of Mr Kruger in action. Mr Kruger may be cruel and scary, but he's got nothing on a pack of angry kids with video recording mobile phones and internet access.

| Posted by Lyn at 3:11 PM | | Comments (4)


professionalism means closing ranks against the stirrers (kids) who challenge the authority of the professional.

The solution is to go public on the internet and so shame the school into action. That's easier than bringing in performance standards. The latter is being resisted by the professionals.

It certainly seems that way Nan. It's stupid really, because vengeful kids will be much nastier than a more civilised solution.

Out of about 30 teachers I must have had over 3 schools I can only think of about one or two who weren't active bullies.

Hardly a week went by for a few years when I didn't get strapped by vigorous enthusiasts.

Mostly its much much better these days

FXH, thank goodness, societal norms have also changed. If anyone dared hit my kid I don't know what I'd do, but it wouldn't be nice.

I guess the strap enthusiasts have found other ways to torture.