English sociologist and radio presenter originally from Liverpool shares his bullying experience.
At my schools, it was the teachers. Some cultivated an atmosphere of fear. When children bully other children, in many cases they take the lead from the teachers, who pick on a kid to get cheap laughs. All through my school career, there were teachers who put pupils down, and the boys who were bullies were never as bad as the teachers.
My parents sent me to a Catholic boarding school, when I was six or seven. I think they thought that I would find my vocation in the priesthood. I was a thin, gangly boy, and one of the teachers nicknamed me Boney - it was the Latin master. We were going through the forms of bonum, the word "good" in Latin. One of its forms is bone. The teacher said, "Now, boys, you'll never forget this: think `boni' and think of Laurie Taylor."
And there used to be what we called a tickling hierarchy. The attractive boys would be tickled and cuddled by one of the Fathers. But there was this unattractive crowd who never got a tickle or a cuddle. There was nothing avuncular about this tickling priest. The tickling probably had all sorts of unpleasant overtones, and I was probably very lucky not to be a favourite of the tickling priest, but, at the time, there you were, at boarding school, feeling homesick, thinking, "I wish I could have a cuddle." Some of the other boys and I formed an alliance of the weak. We'd meet before class and hope: "Perhaps he won't shout at me today ..." Afterwards, if you'd been picked on, the other unpopular boys would try to cheer you up.
At the age of 11, I went to secondary school in Liverpool. Although there was strapping and caning at this school, too, I recall I got myself adopted by a gang of working-class Liverpool boys, and they gave me some protection.
Of course, teachers can also be the victims of bullying by pupils, and it's often the libertarian teachers who come in for this. The teachers who didn't bully us and cared the most came off the worst because we kids saw them as a soft touch.
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