Monday, September 10, 2007

Bully For You

Homophobic bullying is rife in Britain's schools. The government response is non-existent and the expansion of the faith school system is exacerbating the problem - presumably because religious teachers aren't doing anything about it. Johann Hari, as usual, is bang on the money.

I only knew one gay student at my school (although there may of course have been others who weren't "out" - either because they were afraid of the response or because they weren't yet sure about their sexuality). We were good friends - I'll call him Jim, not his real name, in case he doesn't want to be identified whatever he's doing now. Jim was definitely on the receiving end of some homophobic nastiness. And I think his parents more or less threw him out too, certainly I remember he lived with an aunt or granny, who I believe had taken him in sympathetically.

I suppose I was bullied at school too. Though I find it hard to really see what was and wasn't bullying when I was at school. I was being bullied and abused so aggressively at home that whatever happened at school paled into insignificance. I was certainly called a lot of names (various people), kicked a lot (Tim), punched a lot (Julia) and pushed into dog muck once (Bradley) but all I ever thought about was how much trouble I would get into if/when Dad found out (usually a couple of hours of being shouted at for having "handled the situation wrongly" - apparently I was expected to fight off my bigger, stronger assailants with some weird martial-art-style super-powers and of course I shouldn't have brought it upon myself by being so horrible/weak/lacking in confidence)!

Now I know not everyone has parents as horrid as myself and Jim but then I know some people whose parents were much worse. Here's my point - when we see bullying in schools we are rightly horrified, we insist on intervening. If bullying from our peers is so unacceptable how much worse for a child to be bullied by their own parents - who they look up to, trust and hope to be protected by. Yet we almost never intervene in families home lives. We don't even go in to observe the scale of the problem, we assume it would never happen.

Yesterday Mr Cru and I went for a walk along the New River in Islington. Along came a guy with his (presumably) young daughter. He was teaching her to ride a bike. His teaching method was to be angry and exasperated. The girl appeared to be trying her best, her fingers almost too small to reach the brakes, clearly terrified of him more than of crashing her bike into the road. "Hold the brakes", he screeched, "The brakes, yes hold the brakes. Come on now, HOLD THE BRAKES." And then he concluded, disgusted, "You're just like your mother."

If I saw kids treating each other that way in a school I'd be straight in to the headmaster/mistresses office making sure the situation was tackled. But who do I report this guy to? As Mr Cru pointed out, unless you saw him hit her, you can't really call the police. Parents in our society report to no-one, but they are themselves the worst abusers of our children. I have discussed before what I think could be done. I also think if we give kids the supportive home-life they deserve, we reduce the impact that bullying has on them, and also the likelihood of them becoming bullies themselves.

1 comment:

Stan said...

My Stanetta has just started her secondary school and it's hard to face the fact that in her time she'll probably have to face approximately as much ill-treatment as myself and her mother did when we were at school.

One bright spot is that it is a huge school (nearly 2000 pupils), so there is almost certain to be like-minded people she can hide with.

Good posting : I remember learning to ride a bike and my dad being FAR from understanding even though he was otherwise a good guy. Must be something inherrently stressful about the activity.