Let's look at what the Bellmore-Merrick School District (on New York's Long Island) has to say: (district picked randomly from Google search)
Ralph vs. JackWhen Lord of the Flies is taught this way, it encourages the adults in school to continue to behave as they do, and blames children, and their inherently evil nature, for all that is wrong in society. This, of course, is the tack taken by administrators such as Anthony Orsini who claims to run the Lord of the Flies Middle School in Ridgewood, NJ. And it lies at the heart of how bullying is usually combatted in our schools.
Ralph represents order and composure in society. Eventually Jack grew tired of Ralph being in charge. He let the barbarism inside of him transform him into a savage-like creature and he went on a rampage, destroying the makeshift civilization the boys worked so hard to create.
Boys vs. Nature
The boys went hunting many times to try to keep themselves alive. At first, Ralph was afraid to kill the sow. Towards the end, Jack's warrior identity brutally murdered the sow and hung his [sic] head on a stick.
Boys vs. Piggy
Piggy represents the weak who are often victimized. The boys tortured him because he was fat and needed such thick glasses. His torture can also be considered a lack of understanding, because the boys had likely never met anyone with problems like his. This can be seen in the boys lack of understanding of asthma, or "ass-mar".
Jack vs. Society
The barbaric quality that arises in Jack throughout the book is really a rebellion against society. He grew tired of taking orders from Ralph and participating in the democratic system that they had. This sense of anarchy must have existed inside of him before the encounter on the island began, but his experiences served to bring it out of him.
The Need for Civilization and Order
Laws and rules are definitely necessary to keep the darker side of human nature in line. When all elements of civilization disappear on the island, the boys revert to a more primitive part of their nature, and they turn into savages and anarchy replaces democracy. Society holds everyone together, and with out civilization and rules, the boy's ideals, values, and basic ideas of what is right and wrong are forgotten, and the evils of human nature emerge. Bellmore-Merrick School District
But what if we asked different questions about this book?
Who organized the choir? Who suggested to the choir that they were superior to other students? Are there any groups in our school organized like the choir? Who organizes those groups?
How did the boys learn that Piggy was fat? That fat is bad? How did the boys learn that spectacles or the inability to run fast are signs of weakness?
Where did the boys learn how to humiliate other boys? Is this innate?
Who taught the boys about the idea of uniforms, and the value of looking the same?
Are the boys "turning into savages" or are they recreating the hierarchy of the British Public School? (and, of course, here you will have to explain what a British Public School is...)
|Public School products Cameron and Clegg are|
leading the effort to move education funds from needy
students to wealthy students and profit-based school operators.
What might that suggest about school-based anti-bullying efforts?
I've blogged about this before. I've suggested that when we see bullying in schools we are usually seeing the results of adult labours. Adults create the hierarchies which create bullying. Adults decide which students will be deemed as superior, and which will be seen as inferior. From [American] football teams to cheerleaders to honour rolls and band camps, school and community adults divide children up and assign them a status position. Parents verbalize intolerance of differences - especially social class differences and body-type differences - and children learn these. Teachers humiliate students who are different: via homework, via calling on students, via grades, even via papers returned publicly ("please pass these back..."). Schools add to this through Special Education designations and methods of dealing with free and reduced lunches. Community members all across America tell football players and basketball players that they are more valuable than, say, soccer players or the drama club, or the kid interested in abstract art or maths. And, everyone else, from our news media to our political leaders, demonstrate daily that bullying is the way to behave.
And then, when children imitate those adults, and demonstrate that they've learned the important lessons, we blame the kids, or their phones, or Facebook.
"During the late nineteenth century the new imperialism had taken hold as European nations competed for new' lands, particularly in Africa. Indeed, there was very much a feeling of superiority amongst Europeans; the idea that the races of other nations were inferior to their own, and that they therefore had a right to claim these lands as their own and attempt to civilise' the people.Golding, the non-public school attending son of a socialist headmaster, writing in the aftermath of the World War that had seen educated Europe descend into a nightmare, probably made his characters "public school" students for a specific reason. He was all too aware of how "the best brought up" children of his continent had just behaved.
"This was very much the ethos of British public schools in which the notion of a muscular Christianity' was regarded as the ideal. Following Christian principles was regarded as important, as was a masculinity characterised by great physical strength. Thus sports, such as rugby, formed a great part of the curriculum and helped embody a sense of team spirit in the boys." Michelle Wilkinson
So as you read Lord of the Flies with your students this coming year, ask them to ask different questions. And when you see bullies in your school, ask where they have learned that behaviour.
Children do learn, after all. And mostly, they learn by watching us.
- Ira Socol
Two Williams College profs tackled the same issue in today's New York Times.