From Friday’s Telegraph:
“The head teacher of a girls’ secondary school has suspended 40 pupils after what she described as an ‘absolutely frightening’ case of bullying.
“Pamela Orchard took the action after viewing CCTV footage of the incident of ‘mass intimidation’ in which the large group of girls formed a circle around one 15-year-old pupil and threatened and verbally abused her.
“‘In 36 years of teaching I have never seen anything like this,’ said Mrs Orchard, of the 900-pupil Glenmore School, Bournemouth, Dorset.”
Well, you haven’t been looking very hard, love.
Just as Eton has its Wall Game, the unofficial school sport at my illustrious alma mater, Wilnecote High, was “Murder Ball”. The rules were simple. Every male on the concrete school yard chased after the eponymous ball (usually some squishy lump that had previously been a dog’s toy). From the moment you caught the ball you were considered to be “fair game”. Once you had the ball, you then had to hang on to it for as long as possible while everyone else was free to kick you. The longer you could cling to it, the “harder” you were. Since most of the boys were spineless fucks, when someone who was generally acknowledged to be “well hard” was in possession, no-one was too heavy with the blows. There might have been consequences.
I would stay uninvolved, away from the scrum, wearing my hooded “Parka” coat, hating the cold, yearning for some girl, worrying about The Bomb or my homework. One day, one of the little thugs decided to involve me more directly, by shoving the ball down into the hood of my coat to render me a legal target. This soon became a standard variant of the canonical form, like Australian Rules to Association Football: stuff the thing into Damian’s coat; kick the shit out of him.
Eventually one teacher (Mr Scoggins, Geography) decided not to turn a blind eye to this recreation, piled in, peeled me off the playground surface, and pulled the usual suspects in for a bollocking. It stopped them doing it to me for a few weeks. During the attacks, my mind would shift from maths or nuclear holocaust to speculation about why the flock felt it necessary to construct this abstract excuse around their collective desire to destroy me. Why invent a stupid game and pervert it? Why not just march onto the playground and jump on me en masse? Probably something to do with their spinelessness. Yesterday evening I smiled as a harmless looking middle-aged woman stood her ground in the face of an advancing hoodie-wearing, knuckle-dragging teenager, forcing him to step down off the pavement. She told her husband within the kid’s hearing, “I don’t see why I should always have to make way for them.” It probably helped that hubby was about six-three and looked like he could once have played for the All Blacks.
Every time some poor little bastard in this country is stabbed or beaten to death by his “schoolmates”, every time some child is found hanging from a rope in his bedroom or chokes on her own vomit after administering an overdose to herself the media go into “soul searching” mode and wonder how it could have happened here. It’s as though they have no memory of their schooldays, no insight into the lizardoid brains of their own spawn, are completely blind to the casualty cruelty all around them.
Yeah, children are cute and lovable aren’t they? Bull. Male or female, they are born instinctively selfish, intolerant, vicious shits. After a few years they learn cowardice and conformity too. Many, if not most, British schools (fee-paying, or not) are host to chronic, petty violence. Amongst the inmates, both inside and outside the gates, might is always right—just as it is in prisons or barracks. If you are a parent or a teacher with the necessary time and patience you can love, educate, and discipline children out of their inherent evil, but it’s much easier the majority of the time to pretend that it isn’t there or suppress temporarily its worst manifestations when you can’t.
I am mostly a happy adult. This is partly because, many mornings, I wake up and remember that I don’t have to go to school and spend the day being addressed as a “black bastard” by my peers (and on one occasion referred to as “that coon” by one of my teachers), that chavs are sufficiently physically intimidated by me these days that they back off before trying their chances, that I don’t have to depend on bored, indifferent, weak-willed “authority” figures for my personal safety.
Today I have exactly no friends from any of the schools I attended. On the whole, I like it that way. They remind me of a time I’d rather forget. Why do so many other people find it so difficult to remember?
Yeah, School was nasty. I always thought that friendreunited.co.uk
was a very poor choice of domain name.
There was some joy for me though because we had a very strong
prefect culture at my school where the prefects could dish out
real punishments and were untouchable.
I worked hard to get the tie and after I did I used it against
the bullies to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately most of those that made my life difficult had not made it as far as sixth form but a few were left. Indeed, everywhere I saw bullying I and the other prefects did what we could as often as we could.
It was my first taste of power and I want more. More I tell you.
Thank Goodness I am not the only one who remembers school as at least ten years of misery. I considered doing my PGCE at one point and teaching science – but then sanity prevailed and I thought, “Why the hell would I want to go back?” And may I just say, how annoying was it when people told you to make the most of it because they are the “best years of your life”. As I child I didn’t know what I feared most, growing up or going to school!
Well said Damian. I particularly liked the bit about media memory
or the lack of it – lack of memory is the media’s defining characteristic.
One reason for being emotionally predisposed to
favour the overthrow of tyrannies is being able to imagine how it would be if all the bullies of one’s schooldays were running the country.
My school days vastly improved after I eventually snapped when attacked by the one of the gang bullying me. I beat the crap out of him. I don’t remember much of the fight aprt from my decision to stop playing pig in the middle with the gits who were throwing my Kappa trainers backwards and forwards, and to charge the last person who threw them. I’m told it required two PE trainers to pull me off him. The boy concerned was taken to hospital. I remember coming round in the head teacher’s office, sometime later.
I distinctly remember the head teacher ringing up my father telling him a very serious incident had occurred; the previous week I had been knocked unconscious after being pushed backwards onto the corner of a table by the same gang. Nothing was done about this. When the teacher explained what had happened this time, I heard my father shout “Tell him, bloody well done.”
I was never bullied again, by anybody in the gang, and when I met the guy concerned 5 years later in a pub he bought me a drink.
Previous to that another bully used to threaten me on a bus, and I would have to fight him off every day with my legs, or try and get a different bus. He would watch to see which bus I got on though. Eventually he made an ultimatum that I should meet him on the car park of the local catholic church to fight him. My dad asked me what was wrong, and I told him. To my horror, he rung up the lad’s father, told him what was happening and suggested that we book a ring in the local YMCA in order to settle the matter between us. He didn’t take up the offer, thank god, and I was never bothered again.
In fact, this reminds me what a great dad I had when it came to things like this. I’ll ring him up and say thank you tonight.
Bullying wasn’t too prevalent at my north Herts school in the seventies, although I still have a bump on the back of my head from the time the school-psycho smacked me with a chair-leg. And we played murder ball in the gym (using a basketball) at the behest of one of the PE teachers. Pure terror for most of us. But what really sticks in my mind are the pitched battles outside our (catholic) school at the time of the IRA bombings in England and Bloody Sunday. These were on occasion battles between grammar school pupils. This latest episode all seems so tame in retrospect. The real worry now I think is the easy access to knives and firearms. Here in Holland a schoolkid recently put a bullet in the brain of a headmaster eating lunch together with other pupils. The headmaster’s “error” was to have suspended the culprit for misbehaving. Incredibly, the following day a number of pupils held a demonstration in support of the murderer. So perhaps we have a moral panic here (Britain, Holland etc.) caused by such truly serious incidents, which then results in media shock horror stories. I’m sure kids haven’t changed much since I was a little sod. Just the circumstances and the knee jerk press reports.
No friends from school? What am I, chopped liver?
“they are born instinctively selfish, intolerant, vicious shits. After a few years they learn cowardice and conformity too.”
I was bullied in school too, though it was seldom as physically brutal as your experiences were. For me it was largely emotional abuse: taunting, humiliation…it was very economical in that threatening violence and making me cower in front of my peers was sufficient, thus saving the exertion and potential trouble of actual physical assault (I suppose this implies that your school was more negligent since the bullies must have gotten the message that they did not have much to fear in the way of consequences).
For some reason I’m over it now but it certainly was torture then and has been part of shaping who I am and how I view the world. And I completely understand your conclusion quoted above; it’s a question I’ve struggled with for many years. I think that my conclusion is a slight modification on that. I think that most children are born with these awful instincts as well as genuinely good instincts all coupled with a still unformed capacity for empathy (which gets more stunted in some kids than in others). We’re all born sociotpaths I guess you might say. But that means it’s up to the adults around us to bring out the good and teach us about the bad. Any other animal will teach its young how to hunt and will punish them for using their hunting instincts to attack each other. We humans are too stupid to do the same for our children. Except we’re not literally too stupid, are we, so there’s no excuse for the failure to deal with this problem in schools. I almost think that wild dogs would do a better job of keeping peace in the schoolyard. They have much better intincts for when it’s ok to use violence and when it’s not (uh…though they do get it wrong sometimes). And dogs tend to understand that kids are supposed to be protected from predators.
Maybe the answer is that kids should be brought up by wolves. And yet…it shouldn’t have to be that way, should it? We ought to be able to do better.
“No friends from school? What am I, chopped liver?”
Uh-oh: “to-may-to”/”to-mah-to” alert. I meant “schools” in the English English, “pre-university place of education” sense of the word—and not the “place of professional instruction” sense of the word either, so medical school was out too. (Adrienne falls into the “university friend” category because the summer school where we met was at Sydney University, even if the accommodation was at Cranbrook.) No matter how I try, I still can’t seem to shake off my more recently acquired mates—especially all of you bloody foreigners 😉
It would be interesting to compare the childhood bullying experiences of readers of ‘blogs such as this, with those of, say, LGF readers.
After being bullied in 2nd grade — I was at an all-girls catholic school at the time — my mom had to put me in a different (and co-ed) school after the first semester. It was then that I surrounded myself with “enforcers”, early developers who would beat the crap out of anyone who so much as looked at me. Paid them off with profits from my t-shirt printing, term-paper/love-letter writing, imported candy retailing business… at least until we all hit puberty. That’s when bullying turns insidious. Fortunately I won a scholarship to a public high school for gifted kids in science and mathematics. It was nerd-topia, so bullying was not on the menu in the lovely buffet of adolescent vicissitudes.
LGF readers went to school? You live I learn I tell you.
Congratulations, you have discovered Original Sin !
Barry smashes Shirley’s dolly, Shirley’s eyes are crossed with hate,
Comrades plot a Comrade’s downfall “in the interests of the state.”
Not my vegetarian dinner, not my lime-juice minus gin,
Quite can drown a faint conviction that we may be born in Sin.
Sir John Betjeman, “Huxley Hall”
PooterGeek has been blogging about the nature of children.
Yeah, children are cute and lovable aren’t they? Bull. Male or female, they are born instinctively selfish, intolerant, vicious shits.
PooterGeek– a victim of serious childhood bullying– has some interesting thoughts on the matter, including this depressing conclusion: Yeah, children are cute and lovable aren’t…
[…] These words capture two of the most depressing things about domestic violence: that perpetrators get away with it and that victims (and others) let them get away with it. Campbell unfortunately then goes on to argue that kids have no interest in imitating the behaviour of their heroes beyond their respective fields of achievement, which just goes to show that, like too many people, Campbell has no real memory of his schooldays. If this were true then a lot of advertisers have been wasting vast sums of money in sponsorship. They haven’t. […]
I heard that Mr Scoggins died this summer ( 2013 ) of cancer. 🙁