Exploring America's Bullying Epidemic


I find it interesting that the NY Times published this article about bullying at school and then published this one about workplace bullies. I thought that this meant that the Times was doing a series, but unfortunately, they’re not. Which is too bad, because I think bullying is an interesting area to explore. It’s like there’s two worlds in America—the officially recognized one where people are kind and polite, and the one lurking right underneath where bullying happens.

The article about Billy Wolfe from Fayetteville, Arkansas is really the sort of feature story that the Times still excels at. It really captures the essence of bullying. The kid selected is picked for reasons lost to the mists of time, or most likely for arbitrary reasons that were rationalized after the fact. The abuse is back-breaking and non-stop. Most school officials look the other way, because, let’s face it, there’s almost something biological in people that makes them dislike the unpopular even if the unpopular are unpopular for no reason at all.



But what I really liked about the article was that it really clues you in to why bullies bully. Let’s face it; they’re proud of their behavior. Picking on other people to make yourself feel more powerful has this ability to make other people believe that you’re something special, at least for short periods of time. I got bullied in school a lot, but it really petered out in high school, and I think it’s because kids grow up and the social rewards of being brutish start to peter out as kids get more sophisticated. But Wolfe is 15, and so he’s in the thick of it.
A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he's going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.
The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.
The aggressor heads to school, to show friends the video of his Billy moment, while Billy heads home, again.

And how the school officials side with the bullies over their victims, a facet of bullying that few people like to discuss:

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