Ann Bednarski: The evolution of bullying in the 21st century
September 30, 2012
Have you ever been bullied in your life? Or maybe you were the bully who finally matured. In several recent years people known as bullies became notorious and receive continued attention. I watched entirely too much news coverage about the Occupy Wall Street people demonstrating, destroying, and disrespecting each other and onlookers as they came to many cities as bullies. It made me sick to see so much property destroyed and so many vile, disgusting behavioral maladies on display. There was no clear cause or goal; no message that I could discern; it seemed a mockery. It was saying, “Look what we can do with our freedom of speech and you taxpayers get the bill.” This is public bullying and a clear abuse of rights that deserved marginal or no news coverage.
Unfortunately the striking teachers of Chicago could easily be mistaken for bullies: selfish, greedy, demanding, pushy and not at all professional. These are the people who teach our children; role models. It is disgusting mob behavior at the expense of students and their parents. Tax dollars foot the bill for both their egregious behavior and salaries.
I was a teacher for many years, but I never wanted to join a teachers union. Certainly I did lose out on some positions. I was often pressured to join the union with threats of never being considered for an open position. My reasoning: If teachers could not think for themselves, how could they teach students to think critically? There was no desire on my part to join an organization that operates with bullying and is not genuinely interested in the education of children. Instead, the focus is on controlling teachers and schools through coercive collective bargaining.
I have been aware of bullying since I started my formal education. I wore glasses at the age of 18 months. No one else in my family wore glasses. I loved my glasses and everyone accepted my need for them. The most memorable thing about my early childhood was people, even strangers would say, “Poor little girl, she has to wear those horrible glasses.” I remember asking my mother why everyone talked about my glasses because without them I could not see clearly or walk safely. She asked if I wanted to go without them, and I said, “NO!”
In kindergarten, no one else wore glasses in the entire school. At 5 years old, I first learned to answer to what many people would call me, “Four Eyes.” Today that would not even be called bullying. I loved to read; I hated it if someone purposely broke my glasses. I became very good at protecting myself by carefully guarding my sight enhancers.
By fifth grade a few teachers wore glasses and so did my grandpa. One day this boy in my class asked if he could walk me home. He told he liked me and asked to carry my books. It was a very short walk but in that time he asked if I wanted to know why he liked me. Shyly he told me that first, I was the only one with glasses and then he said, “You are different from everybody else in our school. Everyone in the whole school has two eyebrows except you. You have one that grows right across your face. I like that.” I remember how surprised I was; I thought my thick glasses hid my eyebrows and no one could see them. Now I had another flaw brought to my attention. Happily we were at the door and I thanked him for walking me home. I felt like a bona-fide freak.
Upon entering I immediately solicited my older sister for the plucking of my ‘unibrow’. She looked at it, estimated restoring it to eyebrows would take several hours. I had to agree to do her homework for a month, a small price for freeing me from freakdom.
Therefore, when braces on my teeth, another “only one in the class,” metalized my mouth, I was seasoned to the cruelty by my peers. It didn’t bother me. I was keenly aware of individual differences and respected them. Today everyone is scrutinized by their peers and bullying is far more vicious. In my life I stood up to bullies who used intimidation and mockery, quashing such behavior in my classrooms. Sadly, these are almost insignificant compared to the disrespect for others championed regularly on the news.
Unfortunately, we watch, on a daily basis, nearly barbaric bullies whose behavior is praised and encouraged by our very out of touch government and media. It is difficult to differentiate what is happening in the Middle East compared to Chicago, Wall Street, or any other American city where mob behavior and destruction rule. WE, the people, must restore the rule of law and civility to achieve progress.
•-Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.