No, bullying doesn't build character

The BBC reports that a child in Australia has been given compensation for prolonged, severe bullying that the school authorities did nothing to prevent that may end up totalling in excess of A$1m (around £420,000).

Particularly galling are the comments from an education officer:
When she reported the abuse to the police and the school authorities, Mrs Cox said she was told by a department of education officer that "bullying builds character".
Now, while it was nowhere near the scale that this boy suffered, I remember being bullied at school and being told it 'builds character'. I still acutely remember a couple of particular incidents that happened to me when I was seven - eighteen years ago - and issues from school crop up from time to time with my psychiatrist (who I see regularly on a different matter). I remember the unofficial fagging system, whereby older boys at my school made younger boys do tasks for them being something that 'built character'. I remember the pupil head of a boarding house using violence to enforce discipline and 'fining' people for bad behaviour - demanding money with menaces, in essence - being something that 'built character' and I remember my contemporaries, who complained of the attitude of older boys to them, doing exactly the same to their juniors because 'it built character', 'it was done to us' and 'it never did us any harm'. I'd say that if it made you think attacking someone half your size (literally, sometimes) is OK behaviour, it did you a lot of bloody harm.

Perhaps it did build my character - it gave me a loathing of idiotic tradition and any assumption of power by right of inheritance. I still, sometimes, see the frightened seven year old being kicked against the side of a building in myself. Both things bother me - that, even now, I can't fully escape them and that while they probably don't think of me I still, periodically, think of them. It bothers me that there were and are teachers who let this go on because 'it builds character'. Ha. I remember - and I'm not naming names because I wouldn't be able to prove it and so it would be libellous - a teacher at one school I went to throwing a pupil into a patch of stinging nettles as a punishment. I hope that the official who said that 'bullying builds character' above and missed the opportunity to stop the ruining of this boy's life is summarily fired.



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