Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 6, 2014

STUMPTALK: Solving the bullying problem

By Phillip Chesser
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Discussions about bullies and bullying make news these days, and the conversation often focuses on public schools as if bullying is a new phenomenon there. Conversations also involve online bullying, about which I know little. I do know that like radios and television sets, computers have on-off switches and also a way to move easily from one site to another. Given that, one wonders why anyone would visit and then linger on a site where he or she is being mistreated. 

But bullying is not a new phenomenon in the schools, and here I broaden the definition of bullying to go beyond mere verbal or physical intimidation. Bullies are as common in public schools as gum chewing and girl watching. In fact, just as your vegetable garden provides a great environment for weeds, so public schools provide fertile ground for bullies. Lord of the Flies pecking orders spring up in public schools like Cumberland Plateau crab grass. However, unlike the weeds in your private vegetable garden, bullies cannot be removed. They must be allowed to choke off good growth, that is, learning; otherwise, the question is always asked: “What will we do with them?” That’s because to the questioners it’s better to have bullies choking the life out of learning than to remove them and allow healthy and productive scholarship to develop.

Allow me to interrupt my gardening metaphor here to insist strongly that I am not blaming teachers or principals for bullying problems. Like workers and supervisors everywhere they must perform in the environment provided for them, or else quit, which many do.  Check the turnover rate for teachers.

But back to bullying: since many schools will not deal effectively with bullies, one must ask, “What then is the purpose of public education?” Current evidence strongly suggests that it isn’t primarily learning. So what is it? Well, public schools exist first to provide employment for teachers, administrators, counselors, coordinators, and bureaucrats; second, to provide custodial care for children so their parents can work to provide the tax money needed to pay teachers, administrators, counselors, coordinators, and bureaucrats. And of course the custodial function answers the other vital question asked above about the failure to exclude bullies from the school environment, and that is “What are we going to do with them?”

In the old days apathetic and disruptive children — elements of the bully population who interfere with learning and teaching — were allowed to quit school and go to work. Once at work they learned more about how to earn a living than they do now in school. These days the president records PSAs about dropout rates, as if staying in school creates better educated citizens. Fact is, and this is true of college as well as high school, many young people spend years in high schools and colleges without learning anything at all of value. And that’s the biggest problem with American education: while many do learn in school, many more graduate with diplomas and little else. As one advocate of traditional education puts it, “High schools used to teach Latin and Greek; now colleges teach remedial English.”

But back to solving the problem of bullying. If learning were the primary focus of the public schools; and by that I mean true, rigorous, and disciplined learning devoid of bullying political correctness, anti-human social engineering, and anti-democratic, coercive multiculturalism, which in its current incarnation is anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-American, and anti-male; bullies would disappear because learning is the last thing they want to do.

Here I am reminded of the convenience store owner who had a problem with thugs loitering in his parking lot, disrupting his business, and driving away customers. After trying many things he installed large outdoor high quality speakers that played Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven around the clock. Miraculously, the loiterers soon disappeared. It seems that some people dislike beauty and excellence so much that they run away whenever they appear. Aesthetically challenged, bullies are cultural vandals. Provide a rich, rigorous, disciplined, and classically focused learning environment and they will vanish.

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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at