Ask anyone and it’s likely they will have a story about some kind of bullying they or someone they know endured in their schooling, oftentimes coming to peak around middle school and early high school. In my high school, a pretty mild place as far as bullying goes went, I recall being on the receiving end of profanities, thrown trash, and occasional tripping. I was not an outlier; these were occurrences that happened to a majority of students and was accepted as a culture within the school. However, none of the light bullying and teasing that my friends and I experienced was anywhere in comparison to other schools.
For example, the recent death of a 13-year-old Californian student at the hands of school bullies has shaken the nation this week and it is a wakeup call to the severity of the issue of bullying. The victim, who received support from teachers and administrators in his school, was still helpless due to the bullying he received at the hands of his classmates.
When facing bullying, it seems like something that will never be able to be nipped in the bud. Even our current president has been regarded as a bully for how he speaks to those categorically under him. Bullying is seen on any sports team, in any workplace, in any club. It almost seems as though in our culture, bullying appears in any context which requires ambition and a strong work ethic. The cycle seems never-ending. Once you have paid your dues by being a victim of bullying, you will earn the position and power of the official bully yourself.
The question remains, is there a way to get rid of the culture of bullying all together and if so, how? As deeply ingrained as bullying is in our school systems, athletic teams and organizations, the solution lies not in replacing principles or getting rid of Division 1 sports or Greek life, but rather in an entire societal change, something that is not able to happen overnight. We need to hold our leaders responsible for conducting a climate of respect and support to all, not just those above us. We need to teach our children to be just as kind to the garbage man as they are to a CEO and that there’s no shame in being a little slower, a little quieter or a little weirder. In order to make such enormous changes to the world that we want the next generation to grow in, we have to take a look at ourselves and how we treat one another, and if we consider success a process that requires stepping on others to get to the top.