Everything old is new again. That saying applies to just about everything, including the behavior of students. That old “game” of Playing the Dozens is back in style. I put game in quotations because although it is seen as a game by those engaged in it, it has lasting and sometimes permanent consequences. Like all old things brought back, this is newer, edgier and has new a hipper sounding name, it is called “Bucking” by students today.
Bucking, or Playing the Dozens can be traced back to slave house auctions. Two male slaves, or Bucks as they were sometimes called, would go head to head in a series of insults until one of them had no comeback. The winner was proven the smarter specimen. Bucking is a contest of personal power—of wit, self-control, verbal ability, mental agility and mental toughness. Each put down, each “snap,” ups the ante. Defeat can be humiliating; but a skilled contender, win or lose, may gain respect (Saloy, 1998). The same is true for students today. Their social status can many times be seen in how well they buck. It can be seen in the movies that students watch as well. The premise of 8 Mile is a rap battle, which is one way of bucking.
However, like any verbal insult, a lot of the time the damage is not seen until it is too late. What we need to get students and staff to understand is that there is nothing good natured about bucking. It is a form of bullying. Period. Many students will argue that point, saying that they mean no harm, that it is just a game or that the other student bucked back. The student doing the bucking may mean no harm but it is not always received that way. This is one reason that a majority of fights we see in school today start off from bucking. As for the other student bucking back, many times they feel as if they have to. Some do it so they do not lose status, others because they feel if they buck back the person who initiated, it will move onto another student if the victim defends himself. Victims of bucking have low self-esteem and can lead to self destructive behaviors such as poor school performance, isolation, self-injurious behaviors and even suicide. The effects of bucking and bullying can be devastating to a victim, regardless of the intention of the person doing the bullying. This can be seen in the video below.
What staff need to do is change the mindset of the students who engage in this kind of behavior. We need to get them to understand that social status is not dependent on how well you insult your peers. We need to make them understand that even though a person does not let the hurt show, bucking, or any form of bullying hurts. We need to make them understand that bucking is bullying and bullying will not be tolerated.
How do we do this? If I had the answer to that, I would be on the lecture circuit making money and not writing this blog. There are some very obvious steps that we can take however. We can intervene in a positive way anytime we witness this behavior. We can spread the word that bucking is bullying. We can have their peers give brief presentations about how bucking hurt them or how they hurt someone through bucking. We can start support groups for both the victims and the bullies. All of this can be done with little or no cost to the school. There are also many outside agencies that offer free bullying resources such as Stop Bullying Now, Teaching Tolerance or A Thin Line. The bottom line is that bucking needs to be stopped.
Saloy, M. (1998, May). African American Oral Traditions in Louisiana. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from Louisiana’s Living Traditions: http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creole_art_african_am_oral.html