Saturday, 12 November 2022

Bullying? Are we all guilty? Hmmmm...

Some thing that has bothered me for a long time. I have been a school governor for quite a number of years and I have always wondered about something called bullying. From my own time in Amsterdam I did experience bullying because for some reason I did not belong to a small group in the same class. As a ten year old you do not really know why that is but it seems it is about family life and how you are brought up. Meaning how you view aggression. How your parents communicate, rows in the home, have loving occasions. Such as get-togethers with the family. St Nicholas in early December was always a highlight when the whole family sat around sharing presents, drinking chocolate milk and hearing stories about how ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Peter) would come if you were naughty! Today, the whole shebang, and here in the UK it is not ‘Zwarte Piet’ but Santa who might not be happy if you are a naughty child, is different. But how many families are still keeping to those old traditions? It seems more like getting as many presents as possible and bigger and better than anyone else. You just have to have the latest Nintendo rubbish. 

The question is – has this any bearing on how children behave with others? I think it does. Even in the ‘nice’ school where I am a governor there is still bullying. It might not be as bad as some schools experience but nevertheless the school has ALN (Additional Learning Needs) and operates something called ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistance or Assistants). The idea that all pupils who are either bullied or affected in any way by bullying and have learning difficulties, are being picked up and hopefully helped. But what about the bullies? How are they dealt with? I believe they are not really. 

When I was Chair of Governors in another school in a much less affluent area my actions in liaising with the Head of School were to exclude bullies or any who would not conform to the rules. We very quickly ran into opposition from the local council. It seems that local councils are in denial. Except for the most pupils who are delinquents, stealing, using knives etc, run of the mill bullying does not happen according to the Councils. It is the school who is at fault. So, you can see here the dichotomy? In my view bullying by pupils stems from the family they belong to. I am sorry to have to say that. I suppose you could argue there will be exceptions, well yes, there are always exceptions but generally speaking... Even in the most affluent families where you would think there are no problems, there are problems unseen and unspoken. There can be loss of involvement by parents because of our wonderful 24/7 lifestyle, there can be the things seen on TV or mobile phones (TikTok!) all have some bearing on how we see the world, how we experience the world. Not an easy answer I suppose, only for parents to understand their children are copies of them. Although added with modern influences the parents themselves never experienced.

How to deal with all of that, is the question, as Shakespeare humbly stated.

I don't want to be called a racist about mentioning 'Zwarte Piet'. It is a historical name and idea in the Netherlands. You may be of the opinion that it is related to slavery. Perhaps, but I do not care for such talk because it is rooted in history. I can't change history. I know one thing, Zwarte Piet was not a slave but a highly regarded assistant to do good works by keeping children happy as much as possible.  

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