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Let's Be Real: No Respect

10:38 PM, Jun 25, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - Donations keep pouring in for that 68-year-old school bus monitor bullied by seventh-graders outside Rochester, New York.

Now the fund is up to $650,000 after video of the merciless attack on Karen Klein went viral.

Perhaps it's because people were shocked that 7th graders could be so mean.

But I'm not, because I saw the exact same thing happen 40 years ago when I was a 7th grader in DC public schools. We once had an elderly substitute teacher clearly in over her head, and a few of the kids were brutal. They taunted that poor woman to the point of tears. I can even remember one classmate saying, look at the bags under her eyes, look like potato sacks.

It was awful, but not so very different from what was said to poor Ms. Klein. Are today's teenagers just different? Psychologist Dr. John Grohol says not as much as we might think.  And many of the factors involved in incidents like these haven't changed at all.

Number one: the adult in question is vulnerable. Teenage bullies are great at sensing weakness. It's like sharks with blood in the water. Number two: the adult is a senior. How long since American culture has re-inforced any respect for getting old, much less older people? Number three: the adult has no real authority or ability to discipline.

In other words, no one on that bus was afraid of Karen Klein, or for that matter, that substitute in my class. And of course there is the mob mentality, and typical poor teenage judgement.

Remember: The only reason we saw the video was because one of guilty teens was foolish enough to post it online. And Let's Be Real, the ability to do that may be the only thing truly new about this story. Sure, there may have been a time when teenagers just wouldn't do this sort of thing. Sadly, I'm not old enough to remember it. 

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