Yes, it happens and it happens a lot! Often it’s disguised and often times justified away by the adults or otherwise, usually in the form of behaviour management. In any case, this form of bullying is wrong and it needs to be stamped out along with all its other ugly forms.
The best way to proceed is to highlight the instances where Mark suffers bullying from adults. It starts almost at the beginning of the story with his fifth grade teacher. She often humiliates him in front of the entire class and justifies it with things he’s supposed to have done wrong. It gets even worse when he is reported to her by a safety when he loses his temper and throws his glasses in frustration after he’s being bullied by a gang of fourth graders. All she cares about is that her perfect playground record is now blemished. She singles him out when the whole class is guilty of making too much noise and uses the incident to make him sit with his desk in a large box. Even when she announces his new name she does so buy saying getting him in front of the entire class before declaring, “I don’t know how we’re going to get used to this but Marvin is now Mark.”
This teacher’s bullying of Mark gives the other children in the class the green light to bully him as well. After all the teacher thinks he’s trouble so they probably feel that they are carrying out the teacher’s bidding. The situation is further aggravated when she appears to do little about the bullying and even hints that it’s Mark’s fault because he “invites trouble.”
The second instance is far more direct and harrowing. It ‘s referred to as “The Smiley Incident.” Smiley is a substitute gym teacher one day who finds instant amusement by calling Mark “Coordination Plus.” But that isn’t the worse thing; when playing basketball, Smiley comes up behind Mark and pulls his shorts down in front of the entire class, totally humiliating him. Mark does report it and eventually Smiley is brought to book before the law, (although many readers believe he got off way too light), however, the incident is seen by Mark’s classmates as just a joke and therefore take reprisals against him for getting Smiley in trouble. It’s probably no wonder that Smiley believes he can get his sentence reduced after Mark commits his atrocity.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in regards to adults bullying children. There are many more and one form I must mention here, because it happens to Mark quite often, is non action. Adults who don’t take action against children bullying other children are, in my mind and hopefully yours, just as guilty of bullying as those children who were doing it. It gives those children the confidence to carry out further acts.
Adult bullying children is something that needs to be dealt with because when I think about it in “He Was Weird,” some of those were as guilty of sending Mark over the edge as the children who bullied him. If adults stop, then children would be more inclined to stop as well.
Next post: Children Bullying Adults
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