OK, let me start off by saying that if you don’t at least recognize the name Scut Farkus, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 or so years since A Christmas Story came out, and should rent it immediately. But to save time, I’ll clue you in; he’s the bully who terrorized Ralphie Parker and all of his friends at the Warren G Harding School.
That is…until Ralphie stood up to him and, in a fit of rage, beat the crap out of him, leaving him crying in the snow. Then it was all over, and as far as we know, Scut never bothered them…or anyone...again.
As I mentioned a while back in my piece about the Star Wars Kid, I’m a little old school about bullies and bullying. I don’t believe that someone is a bully just because they’re not nice to you, and don’t want to include you in their circle of friends. To me, a bully is someone like Scut Farkus, who’ll beat you up for your lunch money…or even worse, just because he feels like it.
But I’m also a little old school about dealing with bullies. Those of you who’ve seen the movie know that when Ralphie’s mother came to pry her son off of the now-vanquished bully, she didn’t make a big deal out of it. She mentioned it in passing at dinner to “the old man,” and that was about it.
We understood then that the way to deal with a bully was to stand up to him, and maybe even beat the crap out of him. We also understood that going and telling your parents, or your teachers just made it worse, because it showed that you were a little wuss who couldn’t fight your own battles. And with this in mind, parents and teachers turned a blind eye to situations when the Scut Farkuses of the world finally got what they had coming from the Ralphie Parkers.
The mantra of most parents when I was a kid was, “You should never start a fight. But I expect you to finish it.” Our parents knew that fighting was a fact of life for school-age kids, and something that their getting involved in would usually only make worse.
But something has gone wrong in the past 30 years. Somehow, in our well-intentioned, but misguided, attempt to bring non-violence to everything, we’ve handed over more power to the likes of Scut than they ever had before. Based on the idea that “violence is never the solution” (and if you believe that, let me tell you about a little thing called World War II), we try to make non-violence the answer to everything. When we create programs in our schools that emphasize talking it out, and bringing the information to the proper people, we forget Scut and his companions are just going to bully the poor kid even more for “being a wuss who can’t handle things himself.”
And when I’ve talked to middle school students about online bullying, I’ve asked them why they don’t just block the person who’s harassing them. Their answer has invariably been that blocking the person just proves that you’re a loser. Ah…see how easily Scut and his pals have manipulated the system?
What would I like to see? I’d like to see a modern day Ralphie Parker go up to a modern Miss Shields and say, “If he bothers me one more time, I’m gonna beat the crap out of him.” This alerts Miss Shields to the situation without him appearing to be a wuss. And I’d like for Miss Shields to be otherwise occupied when Scut, having been duly warned, finally gets his.
Today’s students have not been given the tacit permission to settle it themselves at an early stage, and I have to wonder if the powerlessness felt by those we’re trying to protect has been left to simmer until the point where it finally explodes in a Columbine-like show of violence.
I think that we should go back to letting Scut Farkus get his. And I think we’ll all be better for it.