School Bullying And The Power of Power
It was Lord Acton (1834-1902), a British historian, who originally wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. I don’t know if I believe that all great men are bad men, but I have seen first-hand how power can corrupt and how it can begin at a very young age.
How do school bullies get their power? They get it from everyone who joins them, supports them, or ignores them. Once the tyrants realize they have this power, there seems to be nothing to stop them. What bothers me most is how young the bullies seem to be to realize their power. I was at a conference on harassment of girls or assault in relationships, and one participant told us about a young woman in her class who celebrated her birthday in such a way that the other girls in the class knew absolutely that she was not part of the crowd. The birthday girl’s mother took her and her three best friends shopping and bought the four matching outfits, including accessories and shoes. When school ended, the four girls were picked up by a limousine and taken away for an afternoon and evening of fun. The next day, of course, they returned to school with pictures and stories of the party. As they relived the celebration, these girls made sure to remind the other girls in the class that they were not there because they were not part of their group. The class teacher gently expressed to the mother how this made the other girls in the class feel, but when the mother complained to the principal, the teacher was reprimanded for interfering with something that was happening outside of the school.
When I told this story to a group of secondary school girls and expressed my outrage at this blatant exclusion, one of the girls spoke up and asked what the problem was. Her mother had done the same thing to her sister in the third grade, and it was none of the teacher’s business. This is my position on this: Injured girls can’t concentrate in class, so it was the teacher’s decision. Where does the power begin? I think it often starts at home. Now, these young girls know that they can show their power and that Mom likes that. This is definitely the beginning of tyrants. Exclusion is one of the most powerful means of tyranny. These girls knew in the third grade how powerful they were in their ability to let the other girls know that they were not cool and that they were not part of their clique.
The power the bullies feel is gaining momentum right now. For the girls, middle school seems to be getting the upper hand. These girls are very aware of their power to make others unhappy and enjoy it. The meaner they are, the harder it is to stop them. One reason for this is that no one wants to confront them. The other girls want to be part of the clique or avoid the tyrant. Either way, everyone is afraid to stand up to these bullies. The bullies know it, which in turn gives them even more power.
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