April 21, 2012
Who Is The Bully?
I just watched "Bully" in a movie theater in Baltimore. I expected it to be brutal. I expected it to be bleak. However it surprised me in one respect- School administrators were displayed in a very critical light. It wasn't hard for the filmmakers. All they did is let the cameras roll, and the administrators appeared to be just as ineffective, self-important and delusional as I remember them as a child.
I felt vindicated by that. I've always hated school. School sucks. Everyone ought to remember that. But they mostly don't. Matt Groening(The Simpsons, School is Hell) and Bill Watterson(Calvin & Hobbes) are the only artists I can think of who try to represent the absurd and brutal nature of school. Most other people have some combination of selective positive memories, amnesia and self-doubt about their experience in school. When I was a kid I promised myself to never forget how much I hated school.
After I got a couple years distance from school, however, I mostly forgot about it. I figured a lot of my being a 'troubled' child probably had more to do with my personality than the nature of school itself. After all, I was just a kid, I couldn't've known shit right? As it turns out my perception of school as a child was fairly accurate. You have no choice, you have no power, you are all alone, and it lasts forever. The only thing you can do to take the edge off is make friends and interaction with them is highly policed and discouraged.
While the footage seen in "Bully" of how kids treat each other is shocking, it's also not surprising, really. Who is honestly surprised when a kid bullies another, starts using drugs, or shoots the place up? School is a jail for kids. I'm more confused about the good kids who claim to enjoy school as opposed to the bullies, bullied, or 'wierd' kids.
Bully ends with a pretty simple message: stick up for the bullied. Make friends with them. You might prevent a lot of mob abuse and maybe a suicide. That's all well and good. Though when I take it to it's logical conclusion- the entire school system is the bully. Adults quietly condone, and occasionally participate in the bullying, throughout the documentary and I'm sure the entire country. Besides that, it's 2012! Is there any compelling evidence that our public schools provide a better education than wikipedia?
Of course, a few intellectuals have championed "deschooling" and "unschooling" kids but it's largely fallen on deaf ears, because the public schools are such an entrenched part of society. If kids aren't in school then they're free to annoy their parents, burden society, and possibly play! Imagine the horror.
Better to keep them institutionalized. It's too hard to figure out what's better for them. Just like it is for our friends in prison.