Saturday, June 23, 2012
Bullied Bus Monitor: A Sign of Our Narcissistic Society
We have all heard and probably seen the viral video of Greece, N.Y. school bus monitor Karen Klein's vicious verbal bullying at the hands of several 7th grade boys.
We now know that outraged folks who watched the pitiless taunting of the 68-year-old grandmother have donated almost $600,000 to her on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.com.
And we also know that at least two of the boys and their parents sent her written apologies for the episode aboard the middle school bus.
My question, after watching the video and seeing the many stories about this unconscionable incident, is why it happened in the first place?
In case you haven't seen it, here is the youtube version of the taunting video:
How could 7th graders behave in such a merciless and heartless way? What kind of parents are putting kids like this on our streets?
It doesn't take an expert in child rearing to understand what is going on in our country. Listen to the violent music (if you can call it that) being produced by "gansta rappers" and other no-talent thugs who call themselves musicians. Look at the vicious and sadistic video games and movies that venerate carnage and bloodshed.
Is it any wonder when children are exposed incessantly to this kind of violent behavior that a few might become inured to the very violence they see on TV and in movie theaters or listen to on their I-pods?
Yes, I know. There are always those who point to studies that say watching violent or aggressive behavior doesn't mean a child will imitate the conduct they see.
I don't buy it. I never have.
Think about the themes that are contained in the products created by the multi-billion dollar gaming, movie, and music industry:
· the killing of people or animals
· the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol
· criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law
· sexual exploitation and violence toward women
· racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes
· foul language, obscenities, and obscene gestures
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: "studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they can become: immune or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior with greater exposure to violence. Some children accept violence as a way to handle problems. Studies have also shown that the more realistic and repeated the exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children. In addition, children with emotional, behavioral and learning problems may be more influenced by violent images."
Are we to ignore such evidence simply because the entertainment industry is earning billions of dollars by producing blood-soaked video games and films and the dissonant vicious racket called rap?
The academy also points out that "a concern to many interested in the development and growth of teenagers is the negative and destructive themes of some kinds of music (rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, etc.), including best-selling albums promoted by major recording companies."
The following themes, which are featured prominently in some lyrics, can be particularly troublesome, the Academy points out:
· Drugs and alcohol abuse that is glamorized
· Suicide as an "alternative" or "solution"
· Graphic violence
· Sex which focuses on control, sadism, masochism, incest, children devaluing women, and violence toward women
I grew up in the 1950s when Rock 'n Roll was pretty tame by current standards. The themes of that music, for the most part, had to do with teenage relationships, dating and going steady, etc.
Overt sexual activity was not something we saw on American Bandstand or anywhere else for that matter--certainly not on TV or movie theaters. The most shocking sexual conduct in high schools and junior highs was a forbidden dance called the "dirty bop" or perhaps Elvis Presley's pelvic gyrations. (That's why he was called "Elvis the Pelvis.")
"Making out" in the hallways got you in deep doo-doo with the principal and smoking anywhere near the campus could get you suspended. Today, both of these activities appear to be commonplace in American high schools where the concept of discipline has gone the way of buggy whips.
Today high school students shout down teachers and in some cases even attack them physically. And middle school students humiliate and bully bus monitors and other forms of authority.
Is this simply because kids watch too much violence on TV and in video games or listen to venomous music?
Only blaming the entertainment industry is wrong. While it is indeed culpable for some of the behavior of out of control middle-schoolers and teenagers, I think a larger part of the blame needs to be laid at the feet of parents.
Ultimately parents are responsible for the behavior of their children. But too many seem to have abrogated their responsibility to schools and teachers. Then, when there is a problem, too many parents side with their children and contest whatever punishment is handed down by the school.
Teachers seem unable to establish any form of classroom discipline without incurring the wrath of parents blind to the bad behavior of their offspring.
"You can't discipline my kid," parents will shout, "that's my job." If that's the case, then why are so many kids undisciplined today?
In a society that glorifies celebrity and fame beyond any normal parameter and elevates aberrant behavior because it is "cool," why are we surprised when kids emulate famous, but dubious idols?
In a society where civility and plain old-fashioned good manners are almost totally extinct and aggressive behavior is the new norm, is it any wonder that 7th graders can bully a 68-year-old woman on a school bus?
I wonder what kind of punishment these boys will receive from the school they attend or, for that matter, from their parents?
I know what would have happened to me if I had behaved toward an adult the way these brutish brats behaved toward Karen Klein--and believe me, it would have been a hell of a lot more than a severe tongue lashing or a (heaven forbid) grounding.