The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Opinion

February 3, 2014

When is it adult bullying, or just dishing out discipline?

An Editor's Notes

- — I fully understand the horrific situation when a child is bullied by other kids – especially when that badgering takes the form of cyber bullying, which is nearly impossible to resolve.

It’s different than a case of physical bullying, which is a great deal easier to control. The sad consequences of children being bullied by others are well-documented, which have included emotional breakdowns that have at times led to suicides, and to a lesser degree, poor performance at school.

But I’m a little tired of the rampant use of the term bullying throughout the country. We have managed to extend its use to politicians, coaches, teachers and other adults.

Adults can be bullies from time to time, but we’ve managed to grossly expand the definition of bullying. When is it bullying, or just plain old hardball, backroom politics? Or daily old-fashioned discipline aimed at a student who needs it?

When I reflect on my days in the Farrell Area School District, we lived under the heavy-handed discipline of two terrific educators – the late John Sava and Anthony Paulekas. Both at one time served as the dean of students at Farrell High, and while their discipline extended to all students, they had their “favorites.” I was one of them, because I liked to talk a lot. In a cafeteria filled with students who were told to shut up, I was most times the focus of their attention – even when I was keeping my mouth shut.

I was singled out and ordered to stand numerous times while I was read the riot act and humbled in front of my friends. Some people today might say that Sava and Paulekas were bullies – how wrong they would be.

They were simply real tough guys who no doubt used intimidation to control the school. Their legacy is responsible for setting the tradition of discipline at the school that is alive and well there today.

I really believe some of our country’s greatest coaches couldn’t coach in today’s environment, because parents would complain that their child was being bullied, often confusing relentless tough discipline with bullying.

I was reading a story the other day about New Jersey  Gov. Chris Christie being called a political bully. If Christie’s a bully, what does that make former Chicago boss Richard Daley? Politics is a rough game and not for the weak at heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that at times adults can be bullies. But we as a society are crying “bully” far too often. Similar to results of crying wolf, the real acts of bullying are getting lost in all of the rhetoric and finger-pointing.

Shivering in The South

I find it amusing when I hear from friends and relatives in the South, telling tall tales every winter about “how cold it is down here.”

It has been unusual in the South this winter, because the “cold” has been extended, not just a two snap out of the blue.

“No, it’s really cold down here,” a friend told me last week from Florida. I replied, “No, it’s really cold up here. I bet your water pipes aren’t freezing.”

What’s funny about these annual conversations is that they involve transplanted Northerners in Florida, who seemingly have forgotten what real cold is. What’s not funny is the folks who scoff at the notion of global warming should take the idea of climate change seriously, as the bizarre weather patterns are becoming more prevalent in the South and other parts of the country.

Jim Raykie is the executive editor of The Herald and his column is published on Mondays.

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