Film Review: “Bully”

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to screen “Bully” –  a new documentary that talks about bullying in schools. While I haven’t heard too much from conservatives regarding the film specifically, I have heard discussions about bullying in schools that amount to “it’s apart of life – get over it.” To the extent that I think cruelty is apart of human nature and there will always be kids who prey on other kids, I think that’s good advice. But the problem is that our culture has so instilled the “every kid gets a trophy mentality” that kids feel absolutely powerless when they fail at something or they’re criticized in any shape or form. And that’s what was absolutely fascinating to me, as a conservative, about the film. It’s absolutely brilliant, unintentionally perhaps, in that it highlights major problems in our culture that stem from the fact that the first generation of the great American “everyone wins” experiment now have children of their own and are having to deal with raising them in a culture that is increasingly ran by people with this mentality.

I sensed no political bend in this film. One of the kids highlighted is a lesbian, but all she was really pushing for in the film is to be respected as a human being and some of her experiences she describes would, I hope, make the most ardent social conservative cringe at the behavior of some of the people in her world. I don’t think anyone would approve of the way she was described being treated in the film. Overall the films message was to kids to take a stand for kids being bullied and I really hope the MPAA allow it to be PG-13 or the director edits some of the language out, because I think it’s very important for kids to see – because of the culture we live in, what we say to people can have a real serious effect on them. And it’s important to treat everyone with respect and stand up for people who are being cruelly teased. That is the only real “prescription” the film provides, but there are some real problems it revealed that will be of no surprise to conservatives:

1) Our highly federalized centralized education system instills the idea that parents subjects rather than partners in creating a safe environments for our kids. One of the essential reasons I support more local control over education is that it gets the parents more involved in the decision making for creating a safe and flourishing learning environment for our kids. There’s a scene in the film where parents of a child interviewed for the film are shown the footage the director has compiled of their son because the director feared for the child’s safety. The parents meet with the principle who informs them that he can change bus routes, but can’t guarantee the children on the bus will behave. The parent brings up the fact that when she was a kid there was little stopping the bus driver pulling over until kids behaved themselves and sat down. The principle then told the parents that she had taken a ride on the route their son was on and that the kids where behaved on it.

2) Administrative officials seem more interested in CYA on their own part, than taking responsibility for their kids. Between this film and “Waiting for Superman” I’m seeing that a lot of the problem in schools aren’t teachers – it’s the union bosses and the lazy administrations in schools. When the Principal asked a Vice Principal to investigate the situation above, the VP interviewed various students, including the student who’s parents complained. The bullied student mentioned that he did not let authority figures know because nothing was done previously when a bully lifted a seat cushion put the kid’s head underneath it and sat on the cushion. The VP proceeded to defend herself rather pathetically and asked the bullied kid if the bully ever did that exact thing ever to him again. The kid responded, “Yeah, but he did other stuff.” The parents of that school system should be able to work with the school system to make sure discipline policies are in place that protect their kids from behavior like that.But I can see how difficult that is with lazy self-serving administrative officials like that.

2) The “Self-Esteem” project of the last forty years has failed miserably. I’m 25, so I don’t know for sure, but something tells me kids were not killing themselves after being bullied 25, 30, 40 years ago. Every kid through the ages struggles at some point or another with insecurity. It’s apart of life, everyone goes through it. I remember insecure times in my life as a kid (and now as a young adult trying to find a way to make it, I’m having to work through some insecurity as well). Liberals believe the answer to insecurity is “feeling good” or “self-esteem” In the midst of failure tell your kid how great they are, the theory goes, and they’ll be awesome. The problem with this is that it ignores reality and truth because the truth is, being a last place baseball team is a failure on behalf of the the team of kids – but it should not and does not define their worth. Those kids may not be good at baseball, but they’re probably good at other things. “Self-esteem” sends kids running off focusing on things that just waste their time rather than helping kids find their life’s purpose and what they are good at. The anecdote to insecurity is security. It’s instilling real confidence in the kid in who they are. It’s really challenging to do as a parent, or pastor, or teacher, but it’s worth it. There are too many kids, and it’s not their fault by the way, it’s our culture’s, who welt away at any sort of criticism. It’s up to parents and the adults kids have in their lives to instill that security that prevents terrible things from happening.

Any thoughts on this subject? I highly recommend seeing the film, prepare to be heartbroken as you’ll hear testimonies from parents who’s children have committed suicide and see some really sweet kids being absolutely tortured at schools. They deserve a better culture and a better outlook on life  than the one we’ve allowed to be given to them.

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