As a general rule I trust the Wall Street Journal only for their “a-heds” — the quirky fun stories — and their car reviews, where Dan Neill makes it more entertaining to read about cars than to drive them (seriously, I’d rather take the train and read his review of a Bentley than be stuck in traffic in a Bentley, or try to find a parking space for one). But sometimes the other writers come up with something that actually makes sense. Not, of course, on economics or science or public policy. There, they are refreshingly, consistently, insane.
But seriously: Bullying.
Yes, bullying is bad. But it’s worth questioning why it’s the cause du jour. WSJ columnist Nick Gillespie:
I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse.
Similarly, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nahesi Coates points out that the bullying discussion is largely about what Twitter would call #whitekidproblems:
That aside, worth thinking about the unspoken racial component. If you are a black kid growing up in urban America, as I was, you can expect to have a consistent and enduring relationship with violence. You can expect to find yourself ambushed by packs of children simply for walking down the wrong street. You can expect guns to intrude upon your world. And should you be perceived as “weak” in any way, you can expect all of these forces to fall upon you with an exponential fury.
I am glad to see Lady Gaga and Oprah combating bullying at Harvard. It would have been nice to see them in Harlem.
But yes, bullying is terrible. I was bullied for… oh, a long time. Eight, ten years? I was an odd kid, a nerd, a nose-picker, easily provoked to tears, and I didn’t immediately understand which toys and games were for boys and which ones were for girls. So, yeah. I was disliked widely by my peers. And it was unpleasant.
So that leads me to ask: How will these new policies and rules actually help?
More importantly: Is bullying necessary? It’s true, nobody should be cruel. But people are. And while it is almost certainly a good thing to reduce the suffering of children, I wonder whether we’d make more trouble for ourselves if we eliminated it entirely. Not that we could, but imagine if it happened.
Grownups lie to children about Santa and the Easter Bunny, and discovering that lie prepares them for the fact that adults are not always to be trusted. Having a beloved pet die prepares them for the eventual loss of parents and siblings and friends and lovers. Just as rote drills and homework and standing in line teach our children to put up with the inevitable pointless and unpleasant tasks of the rest of their lives, don’t the petty cruelties of childhood prepare them for the greater cruelties of adulthood?