I’m trying to make sense of this:
I know the kids behaved monstrously, and verbally assaulting an elderly (apparently hearing-impaired) grandmother/bus monitor is indefensible. But I’ve got some questions, too. Why is an elderly, hearing impaired grandmother serving as a bus monitor, anyway? Go ahead, bring on the umbrage, call me “ageist,” tell me how wonderful it is that an elderly hearing impaired grandmother can earn a measly 15K per year as a bus monitor. I stand by my question.
Anyone who’s spent 30 seconds with middle schoolers knows that buses (and lunch rooms and playgrounds) are cesspools of incivility. They are also the sites where 95 % of bullying occurs — it almost never happens in classrooms – so why do schools (and families) continue to think it’s okay to turn kids loose like this without any meaningful supervision? Why do we place poorly trained and disempowered folks in positions of non-authority only to serve as red meat to these bratty, misdirected youth? Schools where teachers and students eat lunch together have lower (much lower) bullying rates. Ditto teachers who actually play games with kids at recess instead of just milling around in a group. (And this is where you really see the problem of gender imbalance in the school system, by the way. On average, male teachers are much more physically active with their students.)
But I know we’re supposed to blame the parents – not the schools. Fine, pile on; I can’t disagree. (I’m pretty certain that none of the nice kids I know would do such a thing.) But, even so, “good” people do rotten things in the right circumstances. Including, and especially, in crowds. Note: the bus monitor wasn’t monitoring. Yes, yes, she was on the receiving end of vicious, skin-crawling abuse. It made her cry. (And me, too.) But what was her role, exactly? And where was the bus driver in this? Why didn’t he/she just stop the bus immediately and tell the kids to shutthef-ckup? You could see in the video how these little Lordlings of the Flies were getting more and more revved up and – to my eye – just waiting, almost wanting - some adult to say: shutthef-ckupyoumiserablepunks.
I appreciate that this poor benighted lady was exhausted from such an emotional assault. (And I also read that she couldn’t even hear a lot of what they said.) But the two adults supposedly in control of the bus didn’t even report the behavior; the video was recorded and released by a student! If they had reported it, the kids likely would have been suspended from taking the bus — as happens in many towns – and you can bet the inconvenienced parents would have responded fast.
In any event, like clockwork, we get the chorus of liberal bashing: life in the “old days” was superior. People were so civil and respectful. Tell that to the mentally retarded girl on my bus in 1970 who was stripped naked by a bunch of cro magnon boys. And this was in swanky Weston, MA, not some yahoo place where people don’t know any better. (That was supposed to be a sly dig at the swanky Westonites who think they aren’t yahoos, but I don’t think it came out right.) It’s probably true that kids were (marginally) more “respectful” of adults but probably only because they were getting off on being so hateful to other kids. Bullying has actually decreased over the last two decades. Quite dramatically.
Like I said, I really don’t know what to make of this sad scene. It seems to capture the age-old academic argument about ‘structure vs. agency,’ ie WHO IS TO BLAME HERE, DAMMIT? The rudderless kids (and their crummy families) or a ‘system’ that puts kids (and hapless, utterly disempowered adults) at risk?