Today in the Science of Obviousness: Bullying Causes Kids to Arm Themselves


Kill her! Kill them all!
"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm"

When children in school are subjected to bullying by their peers, they often make a logical but potentially dangerous choice: They arm themselves.

Researchers used a poll to calculate how frequently such behavior occurs. Twenty percent of high school students reported being bullied. They were twice as likely as the non-bullied to admit to having brought weapons to schools. The base percentage is small, 8.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent. But the likelihood the student carries a weapon increases the more different kinds of bullying the student has to deal with, from violence and intimidation to property theft. Researchers estimate based on the poll that 200,000 teens being bullied are bringing weapons to school.

The response from the researchers has a strong whiff of "Somebody do something!"-ism. From Science Daily:

"With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to high school, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified," [principal investigator Lana] Schapiro added. "The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened."

But if all these students are carrying weapons and yet there aren't hundreds of thousands of incidences of school violence by bullying victims every day, what is the actual extent of the problem versus the fearmongering? Schools already have their terrible zero tolerance rules that have resulted in all sorts of twisted outcomes for stupid reasons. It's easy to imagine misguided, indifferent school administrators responding to the study by exposing the bullied students to increased scrutiny, all in the guise of protecting student safety. That could have the additional impact of causing students to be even less likely to report harassment.

The scientists are using the study to push for more school responses to bullying. Nick Gillespie asked whether Americans' fears of school bullying are a bit overblown back in 2012. Interestingly, based on the numbers Gillespie quoted back then, it appears there might have actually been a drop in the number of students reporting problems with bullies. Numbers Gillespie reported from 2009 had 28 percent of students reporting being bullied. This study found 20 percent. But this is a different kind of study with probably different definitions.

(Hat tip to Mark Sletten.)

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  1. The revised scientific method:

    Step 1: Observation
    Step 2: Conduct Research
    Step 3: Formulate Hypothesis
    Step 4: Experiment
    Step 5: Collect Data
    Step 6: Analyze Data
    Step 7: State Conclusion
    Step 8: Formulate Government Policy Proposal
    Step 9: Make Case for the Necessity of Increased Funding

    1. Very nice.
      I might combine 8 and 9 into Make case for continued and ever increasing funding by proposing government policy/regulation.

    2. Close, but not quite. The policy proposal comes first, and the science is used to justify it. The better the justification, the greater the chance of increased funding.

      1. Wait, I thought it went more like this:

        1: Observation
        2: Devise method for stealing money from taxpayers to make yourself rich
        3: Formulate hypothesis to support aforementioned theft
        4: “Experiment”
        5: State Conclusion & Recommend Government Policy Proposal
        6: Repeat as many times as you can get away with.

  2. I have to wonder if the focus on bullying comes from an actual prevalence of bullying, or whether it’s just a hobbyhorse of the douchebags who populate the media, probably because they were bullied themselves and they have a hard-on for the issue. It’s the perfect “oh poor me I’m a victim” issue that has come to represent social cache in the modern era.

    1. I wonder that too. And given the levels of maturity, wisdom and intelligence (or lack thereof) in the media, it is totally not surprising that they would still be pissed off about shit that happened 30 years ago and have no sense of perspective on the experience.

      1. My guess is it has more to do with their kids than themselves. They’re not “telling the victims of this to remember that they can some day you can flash them your watch as you drive by,” as my (our) parents did. They’re teaching little Johnnie never to fight back and then wondering why he comes home sad every day, or something dumb.

        1. I think that is why kids are killing themselves more. Society is in some ways killing them with concern and kindness. Kids, since they don’t have a lot of experience, lack a sense of perspective. When you are 11 getting beat up at school or really picked on is a really traumatic experience. It is not however a life ending experience or something that you are or should give a flying fuck about as life goes forward. It sucks, but it is not getting cancer or watching your mom die or something like that.

          It used to be that parents viewed imparting a sense of perspective to their kids as part of their jobs as parents. Now it seems some of them are so obsessed with concern and kindness that they have even less perspective than their kids.

          1. I have a similar take on this. I think smothering these children basically teaches them that the only correct action is to let Authority handle the situation, which, later on in life, leads them to vote for more authority.

            1. I think there is something too that. It is part of how we seem to be instilling a general sense of hopelessness in children. The idea that they can bear a burden themselves or solve a problem without running to authority never seems to be taught. One thing “buck up and bear it” teaches is a sense of independence.

              The flip side of course is when the authority figures don’t solve the problem, which they almost never do, the kid is left with a total sense of hopelessness and powerlessness since we have taught him that only authority can handle this problem.

              1. Yeah, it’s actually quite a clever trick these progtards have devised. “If Government doesn’t fix your problems, who will?”

                1. Yeah, it’s actually quite a clever trick these progtards have devised. “If Government doesn’t fix your problems, who will?”

                  And if you do give an answer, they will shoot it down because corporations, teh rich, and profits.

              2. Which is why The Boy has standing orders to get the last punch in. That will get him suspended as well, since you’re supposed to curl into a ball until you can tell a school administrator, but fuck these people. We’ll handle this ourselves.

                Fortunately, he’s easy going and gets along with just about everyone. No bullying problem through middle school.

          2. Along these lines, a couple years ago my kids were playing little league. In our league, they didn’t keep score. At any point, in any game I’d been to, you could ask any of the kids what the score was. They knew. The rules are really to coddle adults, they ain’t fooling the kids…

            1. “Kids who get trophies for losing grow up to be useless adults.” I saw that somewhere, I forget where.

    2. …”a hobbyhorse of the douchebags who populate the media,”…

      1) “Living wage”
      2) “Mother Earth”
      3) “Medical Care”
      4) “Food Insecurity”
      5) “Bullying”
      6) etc.
      Run with one until boredom sets in, blame obstructionist right wingers, reach into the hat, select another.

      1. It is just a coincidence that every one of those things serve as a justification for more government control and criminalizes more behavior.

    3. I think it has to do with Columbine-style school shootings. The popular narrative is that outcasts are driven to shoot up a joint because they are pushed too far by bullies. There’s a grain of truth in that, but it clearly doesn’t explain all of the mass shootings we’ve seen in the past 20 years or so.

      It also doesn’t hurt that the natural conclusion is to further empower the bullies that work as school administrators.

      1. In the world I grew up in, there were very few people who were never bullied, and a slightly larger set who were always the victim. Most “bullying” exists in a complex social strata. They act like everybody in these bullying things is the same age/grade/sex. Usually — not always — but usually, there’s an underlying relationship. You don’t just all show up for 9th grade, sort into bullies in victims, and start in on each other.

      2. I think you’re on to something there, Hugh. We observe that the kind of people who gravitate to being, say, a police officer, are the worst possible people for the position. It would make sense that the same thing happens with another government job, that of school administrator. Why wouldn’t someone obsessed with bullying or having been bullied go into school administration? It would be the perfect way to “get back” at people. You’d have power over the bullies, the prom king and queen, everyone. You’d move into the position of prime bully. And you could point to zero tolerance rules when you made horrible decisions that fucked people.

        1. Wait, they justify their actions now?


      3. Don’t forget Hugh that the myth that the Columbine shooters were victims of bullies who snapped was a complete lie. The Columbine shooters were both violent sociopaths and some of the worst sorts of bullies.

        1. Right. They were driven to it by video games, trench coats, and gayness, or something.

          Point is, it doesn’t matter why anyone does anything. If only we can tighten the screws the exact right amount on everybody, we can prevent bad things from ever happening.

          1. The part that weirds me out is nobody seems to remember that bullying isn’t new. If it isn’t, then why is everyone in such a panic that it might turn one of their little snowflakes into Dexter Morgan?
            I was bullied in school. One of the later times, yes I carried a weapon at school. It was a bandanna with $5.00 worth of dimes in the middle. Grab the corners sticking out of my pocket and it made a good sap. Pull one corner and it dumped most of the dimes into the pocket. I used it to beat the snot out of a huge wrestler who enjoyed picking on band members, then dropped the change into a donation collection box.

      4. The Columbine shooters weren’t bullied. They were Loeb-and-Leopold-style assholes who thought of themselves as superior beings entitled to trample on their inferiors.

        It cheeses me off that the crimes of these people is used as an excuse to look on bullied kids as potential mass murderers.

    4. The definition of bullying also seems to have expanded to include social ostracism and being mean. I’ve always thought of bullying as involving violence or at least the threat of violence.

      1. Yeah, I would never have thought of myself as “a bullied kid” in school, even though I definitely went through the requisite amount of teasing, ostracism, etc. There were cliques. Sometimes they didn’t want to be friends with you! There were kids who made fun of your clothes! OMG!

        1. I definitely went through the requisite amount of teasing, ostracism, etc.

          To the typical progtard, there is no acceptable amount of these actions, and the Government must step in to stop it. Because Children.

        2. Exactly Nikki. Yet, these people are telling kids that yes those things are horrible and unbearable crimes. When you think about it that way, it is really cruel. Some kids don’t know any better and will believe this and suffer all kinds of pain and suffering that wouldn’t otherwise have suffered thanks to these assholes telling them what a big deal this is what victims they are.

          1. OT: These guys always drag out the random kid that committed suicide “Because bullying!”

            Never do they consider that perhaps the kid was overwussified which led to his/her suicide.

            1. They never do. Worse, they never consider that by making such a big deal about these cases and even trying to jail the bullies they are just telling every other kid thinking about suicide that committing suicide will ensure their tormentors finally get theirs.

              1. Wow, I didn’t consider that, but it’s the perfect bully tactic.

                “I know, I’m going to kill myself and get that motherfucker locked up for life.”

                1. Anon,

                  That is the kind of stupid shit kids think and troubled kids sometimes act upon.

    5. Considering the amount of press and political talk about “cyber” as opposed to IRL bulling I think the technological illiteracy of journos and politicos plays a big part.

  3. Perhaps making bullying such a priority is a bad idea? Making “bullying” some kind of national problem does two things; it tells the bullies what they are doing is really really bad and hurtful and tells the victims what is happening to them is really bad.

    Am I the only person who is not surprised that such a message cases the bullies to want to bully more since they now know what they are doing is having its intended effect and makes the victims even more upset because any thought they might have had that the experience is not that big of a deal and they can get through it was ended by society telling them the opposite?

  4. I went to school in a middle middle class neighborhood full of some pretty lousy kids. I most certainly got bullied. As an adult looking back, two things strike me. First, I wasn’t always the victim. When I am honest with myself I sometimes gave as good as i got. Second, the kids who were the bullies were kids too. They mostly bullied out of jealousy and an overall sense of hopelessness and frustration about their lives. Life handed me the winning lottery ticket. I had a good family, I was smart, I knew I was going to go to college and do okay in life. The kids who were bullies didn’t come from good homes (it often did no good to stand up to them because whatever beating you administered was nothing compared to what they got at home), were not smart and didn’t really face a very good future. No matter how unfair my treatment at their hands was, in the grand scheme of things I still came out on top.

    My question is whatever happened to just telling the victims of this to remember that they can some day you can flash them your watch as you drive by? And also, maybe we should remember everyone involved here is a kid and perhaps “bullies” are not the monsters popular culture seems to want to portray them to be?

    1. I asked my grandkids if bullying is the big deal that it is made out to be and they both said it was but neither could really tell me exactly was so earth shaking about it. The only difference between bullying now and when I was a kid is how kids and parents handle it. When I was a kid my Dad told me not to start anything but I had his blessings to end any problems that came up. Kids are victimized more these days because they aren’t allowed to standup for themselves and handle their own problems. Those delicate little snowflakes turn into adult snowflakes who never learned to handle the normal day to day crap that is just a part of life.

      1. Kids are victimized more these days because they aren’t allowed to standup for themselves and handle their own problems.

        Government Education, creating a perfect world of slavery where the slaves are happy to be enslaved.

      2. My stepson got suspended for three days because a bully punched him in the head. The bully got five days.

        1. Fuck, punch someone in the head and get more time out of school? That sounds like a future cop’s wet dream.

        2. I am not surprised by this and I shouldn’t ask, but what was their justification? What did they say he did?

          1. Zero tolerance. Everyone involved in a fight gets suspended. Period.

            1. I know you don’t have the time to make the effort, but they need to be sued for that. They are saying that we are going to suspend victims of assault. That would never stand up in court, even our courts.

              What a bunch of pathetic slugs. They are so terrified of doing their jobs they would rather suspend victims of assault then have to make a judgement about who is and is not a victim.

              1. I disagree with your proposed course of action, because that’ll just lead to more cops in schools to “investigate” fights.

                It’s more authority, all the way down.

              2. Sad part is that he really thought he was doing the right thing by pushing the kid away instead of hitting him back. Sadder part is that his police officer father accepted the punishment because being a good enforcer means not questioning the rules.

            2. Zero tolerance. Everyone involved in a fight gets suspended. Period.

              They tried this on my son many years ago. We made it clear if legal recourse failed I would make it my favorite hobby to learn every last thing about him, join every club and be at every meeting he had and become his very loud best buddy.

        3. My grandson told me that is how it works at his school as well. I don’t understand how the school can justify suspending the victim.

      3. I think so. Some kids don’t have anything to lose and don’t care. If the standard is “we are going to come and arrest any kid who hits another kid”, we are giving the kids who don’t care if they get arrested (and some kids don’t) a license to terrorize all of the kids who do.

        Even when I was in school, in many cases the school would punish the victim of bullying who finally stood up and treat the bully as a victim. I got in trouble numerous times for beating the living shit out of a couple kids who bullied me. Had I been a kid today, I would have ended up in jail with a juvenile record for doing that.

        1. Back in eighth grade the principle’s son thought it would be fun to torment me. I still have a couple grey marks on my knee where he stabbed me with a pencil.

          I assume he’s still got a deep grey mark in his sternum from when I got him back. Funny, but he and his friends never spoke to me again after that.

          Today I’d likely have been arrested for attempted murder.

  5. Don’t be a bully. The government hates competition.

  6. Total Fucks Given: 0.

    1. Nobody likes a stingy fucker.

      1. I blame taxes. The Government spent all my fucks, so I have no more to give.

  7. Researchers estimate based on the poll that 200,000 teens being bullied are bringing weapons to school.

    Define “weapon”.

    1. My swiss army knife. Which I carried faithfully throughout high school. My mom would get pissed because I wasn’t supposed to. I responded by doing my own laundry. I think everyone was satisfied with the result.

      1. Today if you get caught with a swiss army knife on school grounds, even as a parent, you’re looking at some serious felony charges.

        1. Huh. I just went and read to a first grade class for the United Way. Didn’t even think to remove my pocket knife.

          OUTLAW COUNTRY!!!

          1. I’ve got a little lock blade on my key chain. One time several years back I was taking some adult ed class at the local high school, and for some reason pulled out my keys. The teacher gasped when he saw the knife, pulled me aside, and politely told me that if the wrong person saw that thing I could go to prison. I seriously wish I was joking.

  8. The revised scientific method:

    Nice, but number 8 should be first.

  9. Some of the focus on bullying is the idea of building a society completely free of judgement. Fat kids aren’t made fun of, ugly kids are left alone, poors and rich all jammed together and no one is ever better or worse than anyone else.

    You have to expand “bullying” to encompass all behaviors that disrupt the project to make the mutli-class, multi-racial and multi-sexuality and gender performance public school into a tolerant utopia where no one has “privilege.”

    They are building The New Soviet Man one hysterical over-reaction at a time.

    1. It’s called tolerance.

      You’re supposed to accept fatties and ugs and tards and such without question.

      However if they express ideas that go against the collective…

    2. That is really a depressing thought and probably a correct one.

      Of course no rules no matter how strict is going to stop people from making judgments. At best they will just get kids to pick on each other for something else or in other more devious ways. I am pretty sure the Progs have a few ideas about what those things should be and view the mob picking on the right kid for the right reasons as a good thing.

  10. They are building The New Soviet Man one hysterical over-reaction at a time.

    It’s Diana Moon Glampers’ world. I’m just a tourist.

  11. The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened.

    So, the authorities’ response to someone’s being victimized is to make them the target for the authorities. Welcome to a boot on your face forever.

  12. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. The most notorious bully in my high school decided to retire after person or persons unknown smeared dog shit all over his car while he was at a dance. It was his father’s car, too, and word was his date sat in the shit.

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