When I first heard about the relatively recent all-out effort to eliminate bullying/humiliation/ridicule from schools, I thought it was understandable, but hopeless and a little over-the-top.

"Boys will be boys," is the old saying, or, more accurately, "Kids will be kids," because girls can be just as nasty as boys, and sometimes more vicious. (Can you imagine Lord of the Flies with girls? One shudders.)

While I still think it is impossible to "legislate compassion," or to force children not to be cruel - and I am old enough to include college students in the category of children - I no longer think it over-the-top to try to somehow make cruelty seem less attractive to them.

I have known victims of burglary at gun-point; a victim of rape; a son whose mother shot and killed her husband, his father (who was, incidentally, so depraved, that the jury found the mother not guilty); another son whose father regularly beat the living bejeezus out of him with a belt; and a childhood friend whose baby sister barely survived having her trachea fractured when she was thrown against the wall by their mother.

Too much information? I could go on, but you get my point. You don't grow up on the South Side of Chicago and hang out in Minneapolis without coming into contact with survivors of some pretty brutal stuff.

So I must admit, I have a higher (or sicker) standard as to what constitutes "abuse" than most people, and somehow, children enduring the pillory and humiliation of public ridicule, for the casual amusement of their obnoxious peers, never seemed to make the grade, in my book.

But when I see the damage that it has done and can do - some kids even going so far as to seek escape by way of death - I think I may have to revise that book of mine.

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