A recent bill introduced in the Michigan state legislature suggested a path to legalizing bullying. I engaged a dear friend and have reproduced the exchange here to save space. My friend's contributions have been italicized.
"I like the ontogeny reference because it reminds me of my freshman botany professor, but maybe what we have to do IS become sensitive to bullying on a personal level first. When we see ourselves in others then maybe we can see others as ourselves. At any rate, as human beings, pretending to be civilized or really being so, we have to do what we can. We can't do much about the past, and the present is what it is. We can only try to prepare for the future. I know that you are not arguing in favor of allowing bullying in classrooms to continue; I can't quite figure out what you are saying. Are you expressing surprise that I should be surprised about it? I think we are more sensitive than the originators of the manifest destiny idea who saw the people already occupying land they wanted as no more than the animals that made the lands dangerous or the trees that stood in the way of wheat fields. Those people our forbears destroyed sometimes annihilated their enemies and definitely displaced them from their lands as well. We are surely beyond that. I pray so."
I had an anthropology teacher who used to say that man was a bad cat and if you didn't believe it, pick up the newspaper. We're not born angels, we're animals born with an innate drive for social dominance hierarchy which has been shown to reveal itself as early as two years old (Frankel et al, Int. J. Behav. Devel.3, 287,1980). A recent paper in Science has related dominance hierarchy in mice to synaptic connections in the medial prefrontal cortex (Wang et al., Science, 334, 693, 2011). We're hard-wired for bullying.
I know that you are not arguing in favor of allowing bullying in classrooms to continue; I can't quite figure out what you are saying.
As a professor I am wired for provocative statements, designed to make students say, "Hey, wait a minute, that can't be true, can it?" I enjoy the privilege of assuming a devil's advocate position on any topic anytime I choose. I was renowned in my days as a computer science professor for making outrageous statements about the criminal corporation, Microsoft. Why? I felt it was my responsibility to make students think about how one corporation has affected (ruined?) the software industry.
Are you expressing surprise that I should be surprised about it?
Yes, knowing we are animals with severe dominance hierarchy tendencies and recognizing that we (U.S.A.) have been bullies for most of our existence (even long before we became a country). Combine these features with the fact that what we learned in our history classes when growing up glossed over facts, such as: (1) Columbus was nothing more than a cruel purveyor of genocide; (2) MANIFEST DESTINY was an unquestioned reason (justification?) for genocidal actions against Native Americans; (3) We do just about anything we please with God on our side. The arrogance is pitiful and now we're surprised our children are bullies? huh?
I think we are more sensitive than the originators of the manifest destiny idea who saw the people already occupying land they wanted as no more than the animals that made the lands dangerous or the trees that stood in the way of wheat fields. Those people our forbears destroyed sometimes annihilated their enemies and definitely displaced them from their lands as well. We are surely beyond that. I pray so."
We are beyond that? Wasn't Osama Bin Laden's main bugaboo our air force bases in Saudi Arabia? Actually, nobody really knows how many military bases we have around the world. It's over 500 and some say it's over a 1,000. Why are we in Iraq and Afghanistan killing people? Why were we in Vietnam? the Phillipines? What was the Spanish-American war all about? Why isn't Texas part of Mexico? How was Guantanamo established? What was the meaning of the Monroe Doctrine? It seems I could just go on and on with examples of our "sensitivity."
As a Unitarian Universalist, my first principle is to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. It is natural for children to bully and they must be taught otherwise. It's the parent's and teacher's responsibility to take this on. These parents and teachers have been desensitized to the proclivities of our barbarism in the name of "greatness." No, I'm not surprised by anyone wanting to legislate the "AMERICAN WAY."