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Bullying is Not a Rite of Passage

Posted by Scott Heydt on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 Under: Bullying and Its Effects

RefinED Friends,

Yesterday, my Google Alert daily digest for 'bullying' included a link to a Fox and Friends broadcast discussing Rebecca's Law, potential Florida anti-bullying legislation named after a 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick, that committed suicide after repeated bullying.  In this short clip, the anchor referred to bullying as "almost a rite of passage sometimes for kids."

This is an all too common statement--one often found alongside, "kids will be kids", "boys will be boys", and "she'll grow out of it."  

A rite of passage, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood."  Scholars divide a rite of passage into three stages:  Separation, Transition, and Incorporation.  Well, if bullying truly is a rite of passage, then let's see if withstands analysis by definition.

Is bullying a ritual or ceremony?  In short, no.  It's not formalized in any fashion.  Bullying isn't directed by someone in a more advanced life stage than the target.  In other words, children who bully can't guide their peers through a life stage they have yet to transition through.

Does bullying involve Separation?  Yes, bullying's intent is separation.  But rite of passage Separation is meant to sever someone from his/her old status.  Doesn't bullying oppose this, then, as often those who bully intend their targets to remain in a particular status, not transform beyond?

Does bullying involve Transition?  Well, Transition involves trials and tests.  It's where the person undergoing the rite loses the old identity but has not yet been re-introduced to the society or community.  I suppose you could argue this is where bullying does match the definition, as it seems an endless cycle of trials and tests, forcing someone to question his/her identity while making no effort to re-introduce the target into the community.

Does bullying involve Incorporation?  Here's where any connection between bullying and rite of passage falls apart. When 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick leaped to her death, she was not foregoing a community celebration spurred on by her perpetrators.  There was no large communal meal, festive dancing, or ceremonial jewelry awaiting her. Those that bullied Rebecca made no attempts to Incorporate her back into the community.  They left her "out there."  They wanted her "out there."

The verdict?  Bullying is not a rite of passage.  It's a problem facing our young men and women everyday.  But if you agree with the individual from Fox and Friends, then how about less rite and more right?



In : Bullying and Its Effects 

Tags: bullying "rebecca sedwick" "rite of passage" ritual ceremony separation transition incorporation