Slate isn’t being as reassuring as it thinks when it points out how bullying depends on the context:
When students see bullying, they tend not to report it. Surveys indicate that they usually believe nothing would be done if they did tell about what they saw. Bear in mind that about 85 percent of bullying happens in front of others, usually peers. The event is institutionally invisible, but there are typically witnesses. These peers intervene only about 10 percent to 20 percent of the time, but when they do, they can stop bullying. Even when the child who steps in is considered weak in the group’s hierarchy of power, the bullying stops within 10 seconds in more than half the instances of intervention by peers.
So half of the times, any student who has the courage to stand up to a bully has to hold his or her nerve for 10 seconds. Even then, there’s a 50% chance that they’re added to the Harrington pogrom. I don’t like those odds. Alan E. Kazdin and Carlo Rotella come across as eminently insightful and sensbile educationalists. But they’ve lost sight here of how long those 10 seconds can be, or how poor those odds are. Noam Chomsky’s one admitted act of cowardice occurred in this phantom zone — in Manufacturing Dissent he talks about how he tried to stand next to a child who was being beaten up, but lost his nerve and walked away. Kazdin and Rotella’s solution No. 3 to bullying — “problem solving” — is fascinating. Their solution no. 4 sounds like a Sam Jackson movie when he is wearing his social-issues hat. That said, it apparently worked in Norway!