How Vocab Gets In the Way of Common Sense
I understand the importance of political correctness — I do. I never want to see anyone’s feelings hurt. I hate to think of kids being made to feel badly about themselves or pressured into doing dangerous things. I think bullying, hazing, intimidation and harassment are very real, deplorable things. I am not denying their existence, and when they occur, the perpetrators should be punished.
However, is it possible these words are being used too lightly? Is it possible we are throwing around these words to get an issue we think is important, the attention we think it deserves? Is a child not getting invited to a party or two really bullying? Is a bunch of teenagers doing typically stupid teenage things really hazing? Most intelligent people would say it depends entirely on the circumstances. Not every carried out dare is the result of hazing. Not every hurt feeling is the result of bullying.
Herein lies the problem. School officials are no longer able to use common sense, perspective and circumstance if they are presented with a problem and the the words bullying, hazing or harassment are tied to it. The words may be used lightly, but the consequences for the kids may be grave. Punishments must be doled out. Because of the sensitivity of our culture — much of which is a wonderful thing — a lot of credence is placed on words which are often a gross misrepresentation or exaggeration of the truth. Scream “witch” in Salem, and people were burned at a stake. Scream “bullying” and “hazing” in suburbia, and if it was attention you wanted, it is attention you will get. Let us be mindful not only of the consequences of real HIB actions, but of the consequences of tossing these words around carelessly. Sometimes feelings will get hurt and kids will do stupid things, not because of evil, cruel intentions, but simply because they are kids.