After the interruption of last week, I am back on track with part four of my series of whether or not teachers encourage bullying through fictional works. This week’s post is brought to you the probably the most famous of books on school shootings, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. Before I launch into it, I would just like to reaffirm that I felt last week’s post “At Last, A Victory for the Victims” was extremely necessary as I intend to keep all of my readers posted on events to do with bullying when they come to my attention.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is somewhat different to the other books in the series. You see, Kevin was never bullied in the story. In fact, his mother states that the other students at his school always gave him a wide berth. Other words, they were more afraid of Kevin. A conclusion could be drawn here that Kevin might have been a bully but this is never discussed in the story. Instead, this story takes on a different dimension in terms of bullying although there is some similarity with “Rupture.” In that story, we had an instance of students bullying a teacher and there is a small link here.
Introducing Miss Pagorski, Kevin’s drama teacher. Kevin and his sidekick Lenny make allegations against the drama teacher stating that she acted inappropriately towards them. Basically, they accuse the teacher of making sexual advances towards them. A hearing is called at the school where Kevin and Lenny are asked to state what exactly happened to the school officials and with their parents in attendance. Kevin gives his evidence first and he is quite convincing. His story stops short of any real sexual contact although he does say that he ejaculates. When he is finished, things aren’t looking too good for Miss Pagorski, who in my view was rather stupid in the sense that she did not have her union with her. However, things look a little better for her when Lenny gives his version of events. According to him, the teacher and he have a full blown sexual encounter and the way Lenny tells it, the whole story sounds very unconvincing. In the end, unconvincing or not, Miss Pagorski is placed on administrative duties and not allowed to teach.
Let me now introduce another teacher, Mrs Rocco, Kevin’s English teacher. She sees more in Kevin than what he allows people to see and genuinely wants to help him. Like many teachers, she actually cares for her pupils and wants them all to achieve their best. Kevin’s resistance to this only encourages her to try harder. While he is not openly hostile towards Mrs Rocco, she is the teacher he chooses when he hand picks his victims for the big day when he locks them all in the gym and picks them off with arrows.
While it might not be actual bullying like in “Rupture,” there is an odd equivalence here. In my own experiences of teaching, I have seen children make or threaten to make false allegations against teachers and I have been on the receiving end of both myself. In many of these cases of false allegations, it has been dealt with in a way that, even when the allegation has been proved to be false and at times malicious, it is still the teacher who comes out with a tarnished reputation. Meanwhile, the pupil now thinks (s)he’s cool among peers because (s)he got the teacher “done.” Some pupils even believe that they are untouchable and continue to make that teacher’s life hell. If the school moves the teacher “to prevent further trouble” the pupil still takes great pride in having got rid of a teacher. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been shocked when in 2008, I read an account from a fifteen year old pupil who stated that the last thing he wanted to do before he left school was to get a teacher fired. Why? Because he thinks he can and that it would be a funny joke to end a teacher’s career.
A major contributor to these instances is the way such things are handled. In Kevin’s case, he took pride in getting a teacher out of the classroom and he probably felt untouchable when he shot up his school. Investigations of allegations by pupils are often too weighted in favour of the pupil and not investigated fairly. Even when proven maliciously false, there is no action taken against the false accuser. It is little wonder why students like Kevin feel that they can do what they like to any teacher without any backlash against them.
Next post: My Own Book, He Was Weird go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418247564&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird