Institutionalized Torture

I don’t want to recall their suffering but I also can’t pretend it never happened. They were tormented daily, over extended periods. I can only hope and pray that they recovered.

They were children being abused… tortured if we’re to put it bluntly… by other children. And it’s still going on.

    • Carly was tormented mostly by other girls. They would surround her, laugh at her, point at her, and mock her… over years. She was told, loudly and publicly, that she had an ugly face, ugly hair, ugly clothes, and that she was stupid. This happened five days per week, nine months per year.
    • Ron was tormented by the boys. I still have images in my mind of him being forced to play baseball, surrounded by at least twenty boys who laughed at his every move. They laughed so loudly that you could hear them from the far side of the field. This was not limited to sports, and it forced his entire family to move.
    • Debra was humiliated with purpose and malice. Both boys and girls called her “dog” to her face. This went on for years, until her family moved.
    • Martin was surrounded by other boys and slapped around by them, one after another.
    • Deirdre was chased down by a group of boys who held her down and pulled off her underwear.
    • Stanley had his physical appearance ridiculed on a daily basis for many years. He was occasionally slapped around and was criticized continually.

All of this, if you haven’t guessed, happened in or around school. I made a quick count of my schoolmates (at fairly small schools) and found ten who were tortured this way in my early years. In rough numbers, that means that for 3-5% of my schoolmates, walking into school meant walking into abuse. The rest of us had momentary torments, but nothing like what these kids experienced.

And I want you to understand something about this:

I went to the very best public schools in the city of Chicago, with some of the best children in the city of Chicago. Our neighborhood approached being a Pleasantville. Nearly all of us had stable homes and families, plenty to eat, family vacations, and so on. Nearly all of us went on to have stable and productive adult lives. 

And yet, everything recorded above is true; these torments were applied hundreds of times per year, to children.

What It Did to Them

In cursory searches, I’ve found little information on these victims. (I didn’t want to violate them by digging further.) So, I can’t really say what happened to most of them. But please pay close attention to the lists below: On the left are the effects of Abu Ghraib style torture, courtesy of Wikipedia. And on the right are the effects of “school bullying,” also courtesy of Wikipedia:

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder









Memory lapses

Excessive stress

Guilt and shame

I can tell you from experience that “guilt and shame” should definitely be included in the school bullying list, as should, almost certainly, nightmares.

So, yes, these children were tortured. To call it “teasing” or “bullying” is to injure them once again.

People turn away from seeing this because “school” has stood in a position of worship. Combining the words “torture” and “school” is unacceptably painful to them… it is a concept that must be expelled. 

That pain, however, is not something adults can bow to. We must see the truth of this: For millions of children, walking into a school building is walking into certain abuse.

Why It Happens

On this point, I will again be blunt: The proximate cause of this is the forced grouping of compulsory schooling. Normal kids behave abnormally within that environment. 

Forced grouping breeds bad conduct. When you mix that with hierarchical domination, it gets worse. And that is precisely what mass schooling does.

Governments force children to attend these institutions, where they must submit to authority. Learning from this example, children apply the same type of domination to others, seeking the top in the all-important order of hierarchy.

So long as these systems continue, a large number of children will be persistently tormented. If a half-century of reform efforts haven’t changed things, more reforms won’t either. The structure itself spawns the problem, and that problem is beyond obscene.


Paul Rosenberg