The modern approach, the one my German friend is struggling with, simply doesn’t work. Further, the system is resistant to anything that actually might work.
I may have to expand this later, but there is an ethos in certain professions in the US and a lot of countries. Germany right now. Teaching is one of those professions. The ethos has a lot of tenets. One of those is that violence is wrong. That any use of force is a moral failure. This tenet is clearly wrong, as I’ll try to show later. The only way to understand this ethos is to see the entire thing as a religion, a state religion, with sins, original sin, heretics, dogma, missionaries, prophets… the whole bit. That’s the only explanation for rejecting things known to work and insisting on processes that we know fail.
As parents, we see the travesty that the victim is punished for an act of violence. We often don’t see that the teacher will also be punished for any effective intervention. Not only will any active intervention, or even direct, personal communication likely violate policy, but it would be an act of heresy, with all the guilt and punishment inherent in that.
So the teacher does nothing.
The kid, the bully, is not stupid. He learns the teacher does nothing and he doesn’t attribute it to any kind of moral superiority on the part of the teacher. He rightly understands it as cowardice, fear.
Remember the teacher is bigger, stronger and, theoretically, has the authority of the institution or even the entire state behind him or her. The bully learns quickly that it doesn’t matter how much power someone has if they are afraid to use it. The bully can bully the teachers as well.
I should say something here about helicopter parents and how any intervention can be punished. Absolutely true, but it only works because of the cowardice of the target, whether that cowardice is personal or, more often, institutional.
Because kids are never protected and they are forbidden to work things out for themselves, all kids—bullies, victims and bystanders alike, never learn a mature understanding of violence. When bad words and fistfighting and assault are all equally forbidden, what’s the distinction when it comes to shooting up a school? When you don’t know the difference between a “friendly” fight, an “attitude adjustment” and murder, why not bring a knife to a minor disagreement?
Get this— under this system, there is no incentive for the bully to mature out of bullying or to develop a healthy relationship with power. The bully becomes a permanent bully.
*And that, thepunishing of the victim either through victim-blaming or the gruelling cross-examination** are a primary reason for the under-reporting of sex crimes.
** (Is this the equivalent of a fourth wall break within a fourth wall break?) As unpleasant as this is, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, due process, and the rights of the accused cannot be thrown out the window just because an assault was sexual in nature.
*** To be fair, if your parents found out you were being a bully and picking fights, you would get in trouble, but unless you came home with black eyes, they’d never know, hence no punishment.