Is a Lopsided Score Bullying?

Football Bully Charge

There’s an interesting case in the news and it’s really not something I’d normally write a blog post about because everyone is pretty much in agreement.

However, I do want to make a point about something in this story that bothers me. First the details.

A powerhouse Texas high school football team defeated another school 91 – 0 in a recent game. The teams play in a division which is the second highest in the state so there are no mercy rules. Usually such rules are designed to stop or shorten the game to prevent such blowouts.

The coach seems to have taken any number of steps to keep the score down but rightly refused to tell his backup players to ease off. I was a backup most of my sports career and when I got in the game I wanted to impress the coaches with my play. By all accounts there was absolutely no attempt to run up the score or to get personal records for the players involved.

Everyone seems to agree the charge of bullying, which came from an email, is unwarranted. So, why the blog?

State law requires an investigation after any charge of bullying. Coach Tim Buchanan of Aledo in the great state of Texas had to go to the superintendent’s office and explain his actions. The school is performing a mandatory investigation and a written report is required within a certain period of time.

The reason these sorts of laws come into existence is because when real bullying occurs, no one takes responsibility. If a responsible person who witnessed the bullying took immediate action there would be no need for laws of this nature. If parents stepped up and disciplined the bully there would be no need for laws of this nature. If the person being bullied socked the bully in the nose there would be no need for these laws.

The problem is that administrators are afraid to step in because parents will file lawsuits. Parents refuse to critically examine their precious child’s actions. Children cannot sock one another in the nose without risk of imprisonment.So, we end up with a state sponsored attempt to prevent bullying.

We have all these laws to prevent bullying which get the state, the school district, and the coaches involved even when the charge is clearly ridiculous. After witnessing the turmoil caused by this one report what will stop agitators from filing bullying claims constantly? It’s quite possible the claim in this story was an example of trolling or a joke gone awry.

Don’t mistake my intention. Bullying is wrong. Running up a score for personal glory is wrong. I’m just not of the opinion that getting the state involved solves much of anything, and generally ends up doing more harm than good.

I’m certain from what little I’ve read that I can call Coach Buchanan a “stand-up guy” without any chance of being mistaken. If he thought one of his players was taunting a badly over-matched opponent, well, I wouldn’t want to be that player. He’s not the sort of man who causes these problems.

Let’s pretend for a moment we have raised a society of critical thinkers who stand-up and do the right thing all the time. When a bully picks on a helpless opponent someone immediately steps in and explains that what the bully is doing is wrong. Generally we’ve stopped the problem right then and there. Let’s say the bully continues and now faces punishment from the school and the parent agrees, extending the punishment to the home. The bullying generally stops. But, let’s say it continues. Now is the time to look for legal and state sponsored remedies.

There’s a case here in Missouri where a girl was allegedly raped but the charges were dropped apparently because the school administration sided with football players. It was a fight but the case has been reopened. The Trayvon Martin case was originally dropped. I’m not suggesting that bullies don’t exist. That discipline sometimes fails to work. That bad people get away with crimes. I’m just saying that with critical thinking and personal responsibility there is need for only limited state sponsored action.

When we become a nanny-state we absolve people of responsibility and open ourselves up to institutionalized corruption. We’re better off leaving these sorts of things in the hands of those closest to the problem. If they fail in their duties then there is a responsibility for the district, county, state, and federal government to become involved.

Greater power to the state means less to the individual. Small problems become big problems. Everyone becomes paralyzed with fear.

There are no easy solutions here. People must learn personal responsibility. Lawsuits against people exhibiting such responsibility must be dismissed by a jury of their peers. People who act responsibly must be praised. The weak must be taught to stand up for themselves. The strong must be taught to behave politely. People must learn to disagree with civility and come up with compromise solutions.

Eat moderately of healthy foods and exercise and you’ll lose weight. No one wants to hear it, but the real solutions don’t fit into sound bytes.

Tom Liberman

Teachers as Bullies

BullyThere was a heartbreaking story on Yahoo recently about teachers  as bullies. I don’t want to spend time talking about how awful the teachers are and express my moral outrage because it’s going to be difficult to find anyone who disagrees. Never accuse me of taking the easy path! What I do want to talk about is how it happens that people are hired for certain jobs.

This one is going to be difficult for my audience to swallow but sometimes people take jobs because it gives them a chance to act out on their sadistic nature. We like to think that people pick a career they enjoy but there are a number of self-loathing people out there who enjoy hurting others, this is how we get teachers as bullies. I know it seems strange to call them self-loathing but generally people who hate themselves are the ones who are most sadistic to others. An interesting idea but a topic for another day.

What I want to explore today is how to avoid getting sadists in positions where they can take advantage of their desire to hurt other people. I think most teachers, police officers, soldiers, boy scout leaders, animal husbandry employees, and others who work at jobs where there is power over other people or animals are in it because they want to help. But, there is a sizeable minority who take jobs like that simply to hurt others, to be teachers as bullies.

There are two hugely important factors in preventing sadists from getting into positions like this. The most important is management oversight. Anyone who manages positions like that needs to be constantly vigilant that people they hire might be sadistic. The second thing that must be done is careful evaluation of people who apply for such jobs. The police force and the army are well aware that sadists apply and screen for them. Finally, and this is an absolute must, people who use their position of power to abuse other people must be immediately punished or removed. If this behavior is allowed then it simply emboldens sadists and causes good people to leave.

This is something that seemed to be strategy of the George W. Bush administration. Abu Graib, Pat Tillman, Brownie. The first instinct was to cover-up the wrong-doing because it embarrassed the people in power. The cover-up just emboldens sadists to be more brazen in their actions and inhibits good people.

I have absolutely no doubt the teachers in the case that I mentioned at the top of this article were at some point reported by teachers whose sense of decency and love of children motivated them into action. I’m just as certain no action or minimal action was taken to avoid scandal and embarrassment. Thus good people were driven away and sadists thrived.

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.

Thank you Edmund Burke. Of course, he never said it. What he did say was this:

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

So, the next time you encounter sadistic behavior, even in mild form, step up and take action. Particularly if you are a supervisor. It’s hard to confront people sometimes but the consequences of allowing such behavior are too terrible to tolerate.

Tell me what you think.

Tom Liberman