Today, all fifty states in the U.S. have passed some form of anti-bullying legislation, and many school districts and colleges have extensive campaigns attempting to reduce it.
Bullying is an unfortunate rite of passage that many of us have been subjected to at one point in our lives. But in the past two decades, the response to bullying has become much more institutionalized. Not too long ago, the prevailing wisdom was that you must personally stand up to bullies; now it seems to be that bullying must be dealt with and reduced through systemic measures.
As one piece of evidence about how much things have changed, I was reminded the other day of this famous Charles Atlas full-page advertisement in comic books for decades beginning in the 1940s. Based on Atlas’ own story, it depicts a skinny boy who has sand kicked in his face by a bully. Tired of being picked on, the boy orders the Charles Atlas strength-training program, beats up the bully shortly afterwards, and receives the admiration of his girlfriend.
You would never see such an ad today, not only because it’s dated and simplistic, but also because societal attitudes toward bullies have dramatically shifted. Modern children are rarely given the advice to stand up to bullies, and even more rarely, to physically stand up to them.
Do you think that’s a good thing? Are children today better off for not having to personally stand up to bullies?