“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
- Andrew in the Breakfast Club
The jock, the brain, the criminal, the princess and the basket case. In 1985, they met for the first time during a Saturday morning detention session, and by the time their parents picked them up at 4pm, they had broken down all the barriers between them, seen through all the stereotypes, and become fast friends.
Ah, the willing suspension of disbelief. This is why we love movies – they show us the version of reality we wish we could live in. Unfortunately, it appears that while millions of people have watched and fallen in love with the Breakfast Club over the years, very few of those people made any meaningful connection between its lessons and their real lives.
Bullying has been in the news unceasingly in the last year, and a rash of teen suicides this month has narrowed the spotlight even more. What makes a child susceptible to bullying, and what drives a child to become a bully? On Larry King Live last night, several prominent celebrities took a shot at answering the question, and settled on the explanation that bullies have low self-esteem, and their victims possess various qualities that set them apart from the “average” student.
While this may be true, the situation is much more complex than that. Last night’s panel touched on the idea that in some cases, bullying is sanctioned by the relevant authorities, as a method to draw outliers back into line. Their example focused on gay and lesbian students, whose lifestyle is condemned by some as wrong, but unfortunately, many other types of students provide targets for bullies as well. This is the true crux of the matter: the perception of what is right and what is wrong, and how to fix what is wrong.
Students are bullied for possessing many varied qualities, including acting “weird” being too short, being shy, having a lisp, answering questions enthusiastically in class, having trouble connecting with other kids socially, or just being quiet and sensitive. Why in the world would any of these traits be seen as wrong or in need of fixing? Somehow, these bullies have identified all of this behavior as “wrong, ” and feel that they are just the person to “fix” the problem.
What drives these students to believe as they do? Could our authority figures in schools be sending the message (unconsciously or not) that using social pressure to make students fit the “average” mold is appropriate? Could allowing this pressure to occur in so-called “less important” situations be the breeding ground for the more violent bullying that has been leading to these tragic suicides?
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Here's a popular quote from "The Breakfast Club". Richard Vernon: You're not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.