On Bullying Part 2: Stop Calling Everything Bullying


bullyThis morning I wrote about bullying – specifically the difference between real life bullying and cyberbullying, the overreaction of administrators to some cases of bullying, and the means to prevent terrible outcomes due to “cyberbullying” that is easily stopped with the push of a button. I also mentioned that I felt that the term ‘bully’ was being overused. I explained how I thought that cyber harassment is a better and more accurate term for most cyberbullying cases, and how some people take accidents (accidental bumps), single outbursts or insults, every day arguments, or imposing the rules of games at school as bullying. Several individuals – my son being one of them – think that being forced to play in a certain way is bullying, and I have heard from two different individuals that I am “bullying” them when we get into arguments (most of which I think are friendly and cordial). I explained how yes, there are serious cases of bullying, but there are also milder ones. I explained that no, not everything that a person doesn’t agree with is ‘bullying’. And so, the logical extension of this is that the term “bullying” is being thrown around randomly to the point where it’s becoming meaningless.

When I went to school, there were bullies – 100% certified abusive jerks who would round up “the fat kid” (me) with a couple of friends and start attacking. Now, if one kid screams at another and the kid who was screamed at starts crying, well, that’s bullying. The word is losing its meaning, and there is no clearer example of this than the recent Aledo High School versus Fort Worth Western Hills football game, where Aledo HS won 91 – 0 in their rivals’ home field. One of the parents from Western Hills, appalled at the loss, claimed that this was an example of bullying.

Note: My post from here on changes to a tougher, slightly frustrated one. I am well aware of this and I did it with full intention of showing the level of absurdity that the claims discussed bear.

Using the term ‘bullying for cases of cyberbullying can certainly be argued for – specially in cases where the victim doesn’t have the option of stopping the verbal attacks (my mom would call it teasing). However, saying that the other team bullied your kid because your kid’s team lost is not only an enormous linguistic overreach, but also a proposal that is… I’ll be gentle and say unreasonable. Sports are about competition, and like in any competition, there will be winners and there will be losers. As Ben Mankowitz said in his analysis of the issue in a youtube clip (I can’t find the link right now), “when a team of 9 kids faces off against another team of 9 kids, hey, guess what? 9 kids are going to lose.” This is true of ANY competitive affair. More importantly, even IF we were to accept this trouncing as bullying, when one looks at the coach’s actions, it becomes clear that the coach wanted to help out. The Aledo coach allowed for the timer to keep running during halftime. After 27 plays, the Aledo coach took out from play his starting lineup and replaced with the school’s “B-team” (they are still better than most starting lineups in the state). Supposedly (I heard this from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy) the coach even said to his players “take it a bit easy”, although from what I’ve read from the coach he doesn’t seem the type. And still, even if the coach had told his team “DESTROY THEM” and even if the coach hadn’t allowed time to keep running and even if the game would have ended 200 – 0, it still would not have been bullying. It was simply an instance of one football team, which happens to be one of the best football teams in the state, outperforming a team that simply isn’t one of the best football teams in the state. This is by no means bullying. If we allow this to stand, then what’s next? Kid lost his baseball match – bullying. Kid lost at chess against his cousin – bullying. Kid at an arcade loses in a game of Dance Dance Revolution? Bullying too. The machine needs to be taught what bullying is. This is just ridiculous.

Luckily, the state decided in favor of Aledo HS.

The term ‘bullying’ had serious connotations when I was in school, and, I think, it should remain so. Why? I think that as a society we should all agree to what a specific problem is so that we may better come to solutions that work. A solution to true bullying may in fact involve expulsion or a harsher penalty, but should there even be a penalty for “sports bullying”? Absolutely not.

As for myself, as a parent, heaven forbid that I ever receive such a call, but if a school administrator ever calls me and tells me that “my son was the victim of bullying”, I will want to run to be by his side and tell him that everything will be ok. But then, when I get there, I don’t want to find out that it was just some enormous overreaction and that someone is getting suspended because of “bullying” that was really some kid calling another names for two days in a row.

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About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on October 26, 2013, in Education Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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