The Obama Administration has declared war on school bullies. The Department of Education recently issued guidelines to prevent what Secretary Arne Duncan called bullying’s devastating impact on schools. Conferences have been called, grants awarded, at least eight other federal departments have joined the crusade, and 45 states have already passed anti-bullying laws.
No matter that this enterprise is blatantly unconstitutional and guaranteed to fail given the nation’s 100,000 K-12 schools with 55 million students. Countless schools struggle to impart basic literacy. No matter that this project will generate more noxious, nearly impossible-to-implement rules and spark yet more litigation. And who cares that financially pressed school districts will have to hire more drones to create thousands of little police states called “schools”?
So where’s the conservative outrage? After all, the anti-bullying campaign embodies every aspect of government gone wild. Silence.
Today’s conservatives are terrified of opposing policies that ostensibly rescue any officially certified victim. What sort of Neanderthal wants to live in a world where classmates taunt an effeminate little seventh-grade boy who dresses as Elizabeth Taylor? No modern conservative is that heartless.
Cowardice acknowledged, let me suggest a more practical “conservative” anti-bullying campaign, one that will be just as virtuous (and politically alluring) as Obama’s scheme but will promote self-reliance and individual initiative over Washington’s heavy-handed intervention. Here are the key elements.
Begin with the premise that the first and most effective line of defense against the schoolyard bully is deterrence: “Hit me and you’ll be sorry.” To this end, the Department of Education should suggest that schools K-12 instruct students for at least 100 hours (with a tough certification) in self-defense, a policy that will also provide weight-reducing physical exercise for millions of sedentary kids. This is the Karate Kid strategy. Programs might include boxing and wrestling plus more exotic martial arts such as aikido, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and judo. Schools might outsource this responsibility by awarding scholarships to local martial-arts academies. No need for a million Bruce Lees (or young John Derbyshires); rather, bullies will now realize that their victim has been trained in self-defense, so they’d better be careful.
The next step is an updated Big Brother (or Sister) program so victims can invite ferocious outsiders to level the playing field. This idea came to me years back when a lawyer friend who specialized in petty criminals asked a client (the local drug kingpin) to help protect his often bullied son in a diverse junior high school. The very next day the school toughs conspicuously kowtowed before the mild-mannered, pint-sized, “defenseless” Jewish boy.
The Big Brother program easily matches victims with feared protectors. Using a sort of craigslist system, young at-risk homosexuals would tap into the extensive network of “macho” gay organizations such as the Lesbian Avengers. Why initiate sensitivity training when calling in some butch dykes would suffice? Harassed Asians might hire the local chapters of Asian Boyz or the LVM Gang. Surely there must be tens of thousands of retired ex-Vietnam vets happy to rescue some picked-on Vietnamese child. In a pinch, victims’ parents could collectively employ some edgy local sociopath as a don’t-mess-with-me bodyguard. Those who are regularly bullied would wear badges acknowledging their protector. After all, not even the dumbest urban criminal would dare rob a “mob protected” store.
Next comes the old Wild West “equalizer.” The National Rifle Association has the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program which since 1988 has reportedly instructed 21 million children in all 50 states on gun safety. In their words:
The program may be readily incorporated into existing school curriculum, taught in a one- to five-day format, and used to reach both levels or simply one or two grades.…The purpose of the Eddie Eagle Program isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children.
Since NRA membership is not required and there is no actual gun use, the anti-gun folk need not worry about funding gun nuts.
For those a bit older, the NRA has some 65,000 certified instructors offering a wide variety of programs (including some just for women) that teach everything from gun safety to marksmanship. The aim is not to kill bullies but to deter them, to make them question whether today is their lucky day. Protection may consist merely of wearing NRA insignias or forming a school club for regular small-arms training. (Competitive shooting clubs were once common in New York City high schools.)
What makes deterrence effective is the well-known fact that down deep nearly all bullies are cowards. That’s why they pick on the vulnerable rather than somebody their own size. Teaching deterrence would be far more effective—and less expensive—than trying to train bullies to “respect differences.”
Everything here is accomplished without Washington’s unconstitutional intervention, without employing yet more bureaucrats, yet with zero anti-hate sensitivity training. There will be no litigation, no task forces, no anti-bullying conferences, nor all the rest so beloved by the Obamaites. And everything is cheap, too. Surely a putative conservative or two can endorse this program.
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