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Links of the Day:

– Did anyone else think of Lord of the Flies while watching the video of the Greece school bus monitor getting bullied?

Many people are asking what would make children behave so cruelly toward an elderly grandmother. Bob Lonsberry says the inmates were running the asylum. Nestor Ramos says the students haven’t learned the Golden Rule. The Democrat and Chronicle editorial board views the verbal assault as a sign of our “coarsening culture.” Others say the incident points to the need for cyberbullying laws.

There’s no doubt these kids should be punished and taught a lesson about treating people with dignity and respect.

While the video was heartbreaking and disgusting, it’s not a sign of a new cultural phenomenon. This is a classic case of groupthink. That’s when the desire to belong to a group outweighs protesting something wrong and offering alternatives. Intelligent people cede their moral responsibility to the group. Individually, these children were taught by their parents to be kind to others. Collectively, they turned into a mob.

The boy who took the video told 13WHAM News he felt peer-pressured.

Groupthink is often used to describe the Holocaust, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Penn State child abuse scandal. Extreme college hazing and bad business decisions can be attributed to groupthink. You may have seen groupthink play out in a meeting at your own workplace. This week, we saw groupthink play out on a school bus.

When we ask how could these children have been so terribly mean, we have to look at the psychology of groupthink. We have to teach children individuality, courage and the ability to speak up. That’s not as simple as teaching them to be nice.

Syracuse will be broke in a few years, the mayor said.

– If state lawmakers don’t reach a deal limiting the publication of teacher evaluations, they will be made public. (Update: A deal was reached.)

The Chicago Tribune looks at the winners and losers when casinos came to town.

14 Responses to Lord of the Bus

  1. June 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm Chris Grattan responds:

    This didn’t just happen on one day at the end of the school year. Clearly good order had not been established or maintained over the course of the school year. I wouldn’t want my kids (I’m the father of four and grandfather of four) to be riding a bus that had been this badly supervised. The school district should pay some grownup to ride the bus and keep those kids in line. Maybe somebody from the Teamsters.

  2. This opinion piece is complete BS….how the hell can you say that these kids were taught by their parents to be “nice”? What the basis for that statement?……my guess is that if you look at their records, most of them have disciplinary/behavioral issues. The collective group made it worse, but the individuals cannot be excused in the least based on some psycho-babble about “group think”

    • June 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm Rachel responds:

      Going by what the father of one of the kids told 13WHAM. One of the hallmarks of groupthink is that otherwise nice and smart people get sucked into group mentality.

  3. I think that saying these kids were pressured into doing something like this is a crock! These kids knew exactly what they were doing and what they were saying. This in my opinion is on the parents and their inability to teach RESPECT. If I ever found out that my Son acted or treated ANYONE this way he would be doing as much community service I could think of with me by his side making sure he understood the meaning of Respect! At any time they could have walked away from the situation but none of them did. Everyone of them thought is was a joke and funny. This is classic bullying and just because it was to an older person still means it is Bullying. When I saw this video and saw where these kids were from I have to say I was embarrassed to call myself a Rochesterian. To think that these kids are our future is appalling!

  4. June 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm Genevieve responds:

    I want to give you a big hug for showing that kid’s face in the picture. When you allow yourself to be filmed and displayed publicly (YouTube), I feel the media no longer has the responsibility of hiding your face, regardless of age. The fact that these “animals” have been blacked out in the video on the news bothers me. Actions have consequences and if you want to show the world how horrible you are, what comes is what comes. In no way do I want these kids harmed, but they should have to look people in the eye who think their behavior is horrible. Shame is sometimes the best punishment.

  5. June 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm Kate Fall responds:

    I agree with you, Rachel, but unfortunately blaming parents for all of their older kids’ actions (even if they’re 20) is the new mantra. I don’t care what their parents said or did, these kids are old enough to know right from wrong independently. But look at how many people see no problem shifting the blame off of them as individuals instead of victims of bad parenting, and don’t see any connection between that and teens not taking responsibility for their group actions.

    My teen daughter and I watched as much of the video as we could take together. I have no illusions that she hasn’t seen similar situations at school, no matter how “well bred” her peers are. I attended school in a high income, stay at home mom Long Island suburb where this kind of thing happened in the 1980s. Everyone knows it’s not just Greece and not just now. When I asked my daughter what she thought these kids had in common, she said low intelligence, a need to be feared and respected as “bad” by the other kids, and a need to be left alone–the bullier, not the bullied. Just in case anyone’s interested in a teen perspective.

  6. June 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm Stephen M responds:

    Thanks for writing this. Some other commenters seem not to understand basic psychology, but I think you’re dead on.

    I can remember back to my days in middle school, and this sort of thing is very familiar. One or two kids start something, and all the other kids jump right in, taking turns escalating the situation, trying to earn the respect of the group. Kids that age don’t have a fully developed capacity for empathy, but they do have a need to fit in with their peers. What they did was clearly wrong, but especially at that age, totally predictable. The only thing unique about this situation is that it was an adult being harassed.

  7. As I watched the video, one question persisted throughout the day: Why didn’t the driver intervene in a responsible way, such as pulling the bus over to the side of the road and calling the police? This event went on for 10 chilling minutes. A simple 911 call certainly would have helped.

  8. June 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm Catherine responds:

    Groupthink? Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly is a tragic testament to what kids find to be acceptable behavior in these strange times. Then again, with all the reality TV shoved down their throats, where insults and bad behavior are celebrated, it may not be so surprising. Parents are abdicating their roles and kids are becoming more and more unruly. However, before we place ALL the blame on parents and reality TV, let’s take a look at at the news media and how they’re portraying behavior right at the top of our government. Our president has been subjected to fingers pointed in his face, reporters heckling him, a congressman shouting “you lie!” during a speech and a celebrity buffoon challenging his citizenship. The powers that be could show a great deal of leadership in condemning these actions as well, but perhaps it’s the groupthink of the media that keeps it going. Hmmm… quite a lesson that is trickling down from the top. Our kids are absorbing it all.

  9. June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm lynn e responds:

    Just wait until students find out more about being able to publicly humiliate teachers by threatening to do poorly on tests or on other evaluations. It could also be that teachers could be forced to inflate grades due to potential punishment for the kids not fling well. Wait that was the plan to destroy public education by pitting people against each other and bringing a lack cooperation among parties that honest and real.

  10. June 22, 2012 at 10:31 am Peking Humonculous responds:

    Hey, I’ll just bet “Groupthink” is what’s responsible for the fast ferry, the Sibley building tax fiasco, the Mid Town crater, and the abandoned Ren Square project!

  11. June 22, 2012 at 10:40 am Peking Humonculous responds:

    On a more serious note, I’m actually surprised school districts aren’t installing cameras in school buses. The technology is relatively inexpensive and, for insurance purposes alone, probably makes sense. Plus if students know they’re “on camera” how likely are they to behave like this? We have cameras everywhere else, why not put them where they actually might do some good?

  12. June 22, 2012 at 10:54 am Edward Richards responds:

    This disturbs me beyond belief. I’m furious!

    These kids are not probably bad kids per se. However, they made very, very bad/ruthless decisions against a kind, defenseless elderly woman. What did she ever do to deserve this? It’s not as much as groupthink as it is mob mentality, a gang assault of sorts. More. More. More.

    The psychology of it all is it gives the bully a “rush”, a feeling of euphoria. Sort of like an addiction. The feeling it has for them is intoxicating. Can you imagine how good that must feel for a kid who has yet to reach puberty?!

    Theses kids (thoughtless punks if you ask me) are poor leaders who are probably the same kids who talk during class and who don’t play sports. I am assuming poor students as well.

    I am very sorry Karen was publically humiliated like that. What a gracious person she is. Things will get (even) better. Stay tuned….

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