on bullying, Casey, and guidance

I noticed this story out of Australia screaming around the Internet earlier this week. Apparently Casey, the bigger boy who finally retaliated, has become a bit of a cause célèbre.

What the video depicts is horrible on every level, from the attitude and actions of the boy who began taunting and hitting Casey to Casey’s response, but to me most especially the casual attitude to the whole thing by the onlookers. Clearly they regard it as a normal aspect of their school life, something acceptable for recording and broadcast.

No one is defending the bully, Ritchard. Rightly so. Casey has a fan page on Facebook, a web domain, and the animation (!) of the story done by a media company in Taiwan. That’s troubling, if understandable. People less enamored of the narrative of the put-upon victim reaching the limit and striking back with irresistible force are pointing out that Casey’s better response would have been to involve school authorities. Perhaps.

Unfortunately, even without Casey’s father’s depiction of conditions his son has faced at school over a long period of time, it’s all too easy to suppose with a high degree of confidence that this is not the first time something like this has gone on, that Casey has in the past involved school authorities, and that no effective action was forthcoming. Read the depiction of school life in the first few pages of the C. S. Lewis book, The Silver Chair.

Golding set Lord of the Flies on an uninhabited island because in his era that was the only way school children would find themselves in a situation devoid of adults who understood their role as providing guidance and who were willing to exact painful consequences on those who behaved in ways that would destroy human society. In the 21st century West he could have set that story in any number of schoolyards without appearing completely implausible. The question for our day is, “Where are the adults willing to provide the guidance necessary for functional human society to endure?” If Casey’s school is indicative, they’re harder to find than they should be.

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