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"It all started when he hit me back."

It's often been said that the lessons learned on the playground translate surprisingly well to the real world. (I know I've said it before.)

One thing that has come about to be "common knowledge" and I happen to disagree with is that fighting is the worst possible outcome to a disagreement. It seems that as soon as the fists start flying, the teachers step in and administer discipline equally to all involved parties.

I think this is exactly the wrong approach. It apportions blame equally, when often the responsibility isn't even. In many cases, there's a clear aggressor and a clear defender, and the school system is treating them as morally equal.

In my opinion, one thing worse than fighting is unchecked aggression. In a fight, both sides take their lumps. But when the aggressor is the only one using force, then only the innocent gets hurt. And we shouldn't be teaching our children to respond to imminent threats to simply seek an authority figure -- they might not always be around.

There's a cliche' among the left that goes along the lines of "what if they held a war, and nobody came?" It's simple and appealing, but extremely unlikely. A far more likely outcome would be "only one side came," and then there is no war, either -- just brutal, unchecked aggression. Witness Germany's expansion into Czechoslovakia and Austria before the invasion of Poland triggered World War II. It was that unchecked aggression that encouraged Germany to keep going. The lesson learned was that there was no price to be paid for aggression -- a mistake that ultimately cost millions of lives to correct.

Yes, fighting is bad. And yes, war is horrible. But sometimes it's the least worst option available. And the world isn't a playground -- there aren't any teachers to run to, and the United States is the biggest kid around.


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Comments (23)

I completely agree--and I'm... (Below threshold)

I completely agree--and I'm a teacher!

I told my own kids when they were in elementary school that I never wanted them to throw the first punch, but they could throw the last one. I also told them the consequences (suspension) even if they were defending themselves, and that we'd accept it.

My older son is very quick verbally and so far has used words to defend himself from bullies (most fights start with trading insults). Once, though, the other kid (who started it) punched my son, who chose not to tell the teacher.

I took my child to the guidance counselor and asked that he mediate a resolution between the other kid and mine. This is the diplomatic approach--solve the problem and not worry about punishing the early skirmishes. It worked, and there haven't been any other problems.

My point is that NOBODY should endure being a victim of verbal or physical bullying. There's no disgrace in getting help, but sometimes you just have to fight back.

Show me a country where pea... (Below threshold)

Show me a country where peace is valued above all else, violence is abhored and shunned, crime is non-existent, and love for fellow man is rampant----and I'll show you a country ripe for takeover.

I have become something of ... (Below threshold)
Dan Patterson:

I have become something of a bore by repeating the theme you so ably posited in your essay. History is littered with the burned hulks of appeasement policies and pronouncements of "Peace for our time", but more sadly with the bodies of people who proved those theories wrong. The flower generation created the concept, or at least the most recent edition of it, that war is caused by aggressive tendancies of imperialistic Americans. No sweetheart, let me explain: War is the result of defense against aggression, usually by tyrannical and evil despots. There are too many examples to name here.

Peace is not ensured by diplomacy nor by fragmentary efforts at 'working together'. Peace is more likely ensured by fragmentary grenades and the understanding that party A will use them against party B if said party doesn't keep it's damned forces to itself. Superior firepower is a better foreign policy than superior talking heads, and though it is a sad fact it is a fact.

Dan Patterson
Arrogant Infidel
The Holy City of Winston-Salem, NC

I think I've told this stor... (Below threshold)

I think I've told this story before- but I'm not sure if it was here. When I was a sophmore in highschool, there were a couple of twins who were after me. No explanation, I hardly knew them except what their names were, but they had it in their heads that they were going to gang up on me at some point and kick my butt. Now- for the past five years, I had gotten in one type of fight or another at school. This year I had resolved to avoid them at all costs. So I went to our school guidance counselor to let her know what was going on. I named names, I told her everything. I asked that she do something, talk to the other girls, find out what the heck was going on in their wee little minds.

Her response? Wear a whistle around my neck. That's right. Should these girl gang up on me, I was not to fight back or try to defend myself under any circumstances. I was to blow a bloody whistle.

Right. I learned real quick that the people in authority were unreliable, and didn't really care about "keeping the peace".

Couldn't agree more, Jay. ... (Below threshold)

Couldn't agree more, Jay. I believe some of our greatest military leaders detested war itself, but realizing that wars will always litter the history of mankind felt the best deterrent is a well-trained, well-equipped armed forces. The pacifists have the easy job of sitting self-righteously on the sidelines tallying up the destruction war causes. Like they are telling the average guy something he can't see for himself. The pacifist is in the enviable, self-rationalized position of never having to feel responsible for the suffering and death promulgated by unchecked tyranny.

I completely agree with you... (Below threshold)

I completely agree with your comments! As the mother of three boys, two of them in elementary school, I have struggled to explain the difference between being the agressor and simply defending yourself. The problem is that we have taught our boys to obey the teachers, etc. at school. So when they tell them hitting and fighting is wrong under ANY circumstance, they are confused when we encourage them to defend themselves when physically or verbally attacked. I finally told them that they have a right to defend themselves from bullies, and that the only thing bad that will happen as a result is that they will get taken to the office, and we will be called in. I assured them that we, as their parents, would defend and protect them...so they need not fear the consequences...so long as they WERE the defender, and NOT the aggressor.

Jewels, except for the deta... (Below threshold)

Jewels, except for the details your story could be mine.

It takes one to make war an... (Below threshold)

It takes one to make war and two to make peace.

I was raised that to throw the first punch at school was wrong, but once someone threw that punch, it was ok to defend oneself. I even had a principal that recognized it. Course I was in his homeroom at the time and he knew I rode the interracial bus on the way in, and since my group got on LAST, it was always a problem just getting seats.

Were you EVER involved in a... (Below threshold)

Were you EVER involved in anything remotely resembling a fight in school ? I was a couple times and from experience, your suggestion that there is a clear agressor and a clear defender and that school administrators have a snow balls chance in hell of getting that right are preposterous.

School administrators in such situations can't find their own ass with both hands.

No, fighting is bad, period. Once it comes to that, discipline is needed on both sides. Where administrators need to get a clue is in sorting out differences BEFORE they come to fisticuffs - an area where they are also clueless.

And your attempt to turn th... (Below threshold)

And your attempt to turn this into a justification for war, and though you don't say it, a justification for the Iraq war is unsettling.

Especially when you consider that, in this case,there was only one aggressor: us.

"No, fighting is bad, perio... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

"No, fighting is bad, period. Once it comes to that, discipline is needed on both sides. Where administrators need to get a clue is in sorting out differences BEFORE they come to fisticuffs - an area where they are also clueless."

I don't think you can say this.

Sure fighting is bad. But there are some situations, where there is a real aggressor, and punishing the kid who is defending themselves is pretty unjust. Shoot even legally you have the right to self defense.

Fighting is one of those things that should move from the idiotic zero tolerance policies into the use of plain old common sense and figuring out what happened, and who is at fault and punish those who deserve it.

In this day and age, while we seem to have hit on a good idea to stop bullying, we have also decided that those being bullied share equal blame as the bullies, and that is pure crap.

As our author here often me... (Below threshold)
spelling assassin:

As our author here often mentions I have a 8 year old daughter. Now as of tuesday I am at work I get a call from the principle ( OH GOD WHAT NOW) first line. .Everything is ok.. next time.. your daughter was walking down the hall and was being taunted by a boy.. who she turned around and scratched.. he scratched back.. she left no mark.. she has a slight welt. the principle tells me that he is handleing it and I am not dissapointed in that he understood both sides but my inital reactions was YOU GET HIM SWEETHEART . She knows not to start a fight. but Damn.. my daughter will stand up for herself if pushed.. of course I have tell her that she can't fight at school..and I told her I was proud that she didn't start it

What if they gave a war and... (Below threshold)

What if they gave a war and nobody came?

What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why then the war will come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid Battle,
since not to fight for your own cause really means
Fighting in behalf of your enemy's cause.

(courtesy Jerry Pournelle's fine Chaos Manor website)

Ranten,While I lik... (Below threshold)


While I like your version of the use of the saying, it originally comes from a quote by Carl Sandburg in 1936, "Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come". Which was then, and has since then been used a a rallying cry for anti-war activists and has been incorporated into dozens of songs and poems -- even a DVD.

Dylan - wanna see someone r... (Below threshold)

Dylan - wanna see someone really make the case for the Iraq war with a playground analogy?


My kids know that they have a right to defend themselves, both verbally and physically. They cannot depend on the teachers or administrators to protect them if some kid decides he's going to break the rules badly enough to attack. It's kind of the same as adult self-defense and the police. You can't depend on the gov't for your safety, because they're neither omnipresent nor omnipotent.

Yep, many of our school adm... (Below threshold)

Yep, many of our school administrators are ill suited for their jobs. Case in point: the ominous threat of rape directed at my daughter by a group of three boys on two occasions, and the reply I got from the principle? "Well, it's her word against theirs and we have to respect their rights too." They refused to even address the young men in question. My response? "You have 24 hours to respond to this in a more appropriate manner or I'm suing the school and you personally for endangering my child." That got his thumb out of his butt. He questioned the boys, who of course denied it, but it took a threat to get anything done at all. Then I immediately yanked my daughter out of that hell hole we call government schools.

Roland's link is most excel... (Below threshold)

Roland's link is most excellent.

THINK ABOUT THE REST OF THE... (Below threshold)


"And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat."

Oh the joy! Oh the poetry! Oh why aren't you in Iraq Ranten Raven?

I know you have a busy life and kids... but so do those guys getting hit with stop-loss orders and second tours. And now's the time. The army and the reserves aren't meeting their recruiting goals. Join up son! We support you!

Oh..before I relate my stor... (Below threshold)

Oh..before I relate my story

Ben? Sit on it and spin, buster.

School adminstrators are, by and large, cowards who substitute policy for commonsense and judgment. (kinda reminds me of lectures from Leftists who don't think about right/wrong, only legal/illegal). #2 daughter, Erin, was a junior in HS, her soccer teams #1 goalie, in the lockerroom, sitting on the bench, and changing for a practice. A girl she knew who was mad at her jumped her, grabbing two handfuls of hair and trying to yank 'em out. Erin reacted instinctively, grabbing the girl's forearms, bringing up legs to wrap around the girl and flipping backwards off the bench...the girl letting go of Erin's hair to break her fall. She continued to try and grapple with Erin, trying to kneel her, scratch her, etc...Erin just clung until other teamates and the coaches came and broke it up.

I got a call from the VP that Erin was suspended for 3 days due to being a "co-combatant."

I asked the a**hole what he expected my daughter to do, not react? to let the girl tear out her hair and stomp her?

He answered in a word "Yes." That Erin's actions had caused "red marks" on the girl's forearms and there was "zero tolerance" for any physical altercation, and they did not care who started it....add some nambly pambly stuff about "who are we to judge? we can't tell who started it..yadda yadda."

I told him in no uncertain terms it WAS his job to judge. Hell, he had a "Dr." before his name and a PhD afterwards, what did he do to get that, give up his brains and commonsense?

He gulped like a goldfish.

Erin still got the 3 day suspension, and I took her shopping and out to lunch every day of it.

Ben,I'm retired US... (Below threshold)


I'm retired USAF. We were really peeved when the Grenada operation kicked off without us. The retards at HQ USAF didn't know how to task us, our unit was too new at the time. Remember Grenada? There was a miracle there: 500+ of Castro's finest engineers beat their plowshares into AK-47s in an instant. But I digress.

You support the troops? Somehow, I have my doubts. And don't call me "son." Odds are I'm older than you. I was on the net in the 1980s. Where were you--in diapers? Now, similar stuff seems to be flowing out the other end!

Ben:Too bad the rese... (Below threshold)
TJ Jackson:

Too bad the reserves wouldn't take you. Something about a morals charge wasn't it?

I do hate moonbats. Better to take the fight to the enemy than find out that he intends to do in our schools and shopping malls. The mentality of these people will enable them to do anything. I do not understand why people cannot understand you deal with them as you would a mad dog. You can't reason or negotiate with a mad dog.

Stonewall,Nor with... (Below threshold)


Nor with Liberals, sir, nor with Liberals.

Ranten, buddy! Thanks for... (Below threshold)

Ranten, buddy! Thanks for serving! All the paratroopers and Rangers I talked to when I was at Ft Benning back in 1988 said Grenada was a cluster. Sheesh, if you want ground combat done right, send Ranten Raven and the Air Force.

When you have a minute, address my point. We're in a recruiting crisis. If guys like you and your buds, who support the war and think it was well-planned and don't feel that we should've finished off Osama before moving on to Iraq, aren't willing to go, why should Joe Sixpack? Especially when he sees the Pentagon trying to cut back on imminent danger pay and fighting against giving Reservists health care?

Jonah Goldberg of the National Review says, "As for why my sorry a** isn't in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give -- I'm 35 years old, my family couldn't afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few -- ever seem to suffice."

Is that a good reason? I know you're too old to go, but you could bankroll the income loss for guys like Jonah.






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