Thomas Hughes 5 made comment in the 19th century in reference to the bullying at Rugby public school in his preface to the sixth edition of Tom Brown's School Days. The book is a sorry tale of the misery caused by bullying as a regular part of school life:
I received the following letterfrom an oldfriend soon after the last edition of this book was published, and resolved, if ever another edition were called for, to print it. For it is clear from this and other like comments, that something more should have been said expressly on the subject of bullying, and how it is to be met.
My Dear –,
I blame myself for not having earlier suggested whether you could not, in another edition of ‘Tom Brown’ or another story, denounce more decidedly the evils of bullying at schools. You have indeed done so, and in the best way, by making Flashman the bully the most contemptible character; but in that scene of the tossing, and similar passages, you hardly suggest that such things should be stopped – and do not suggest any means of putting an end to them.
This subject has been on my mind for years. It fills me with grief and misery to think what weak and nervous children go through at school – how their health and characterfor life are destroyed by rough and brutal treatment.
It was some comfort to be under the old delusion thatfear and nervousness can be cured by violence, and that knocking about will turn a timid boy into a bold one. But now we know well enough that is not true. Gradually training a timid child to do bold acts would be most desirable; butfrightening him and ill-treating him will not make him courageous. Every medical man knows the fatal effects of terror, or agitation, or excitement, to nerves that are over-sensitive. There are different kinds of courage, as you have shown in your character of Arthur.While we have come a long way since the 19th century in recognising the harm that bullying can do, we must be sure that our “modern” responses are not counter-productive. Does changing the way we respond to bullying, then, seem like a tall order? We now understand that punishment doesn’t work. How else can we do it?