no walk of life is more subject to fads and sudden profound bland moral commitments than education. this year, it's bullying. it is a very slippery notion of course, though there are egregious cases about which any institution would want to do something. but no one can make even a decent notion more meaningless or irritating than a school administrator. my daughter jane (who started middle school today! first two days canceled by power outages in baltimore) is so tired of the whole thing that the mere word or any sort of depiction on a tv show or the psa's make her actually angry, as many a student in the previous cohort was mighty tired of drug education. her objection is simple: it's everywhere, all the time; it's insanely repetitive; it's an obsession; maybe we could talk about something else for a bit? her school is wallpapered in anti-bullying posters. there are assemblies. every teacher talks about it etc etc. that's the only idea these folks really have about changing the way kids behave: a barrage of non-stop propaganda until you can't hear it anymore, or are tempted to bully someone or do drugs just to defy these people who so evidently despise your intelligence and moral insight. this is no way to approach or persuade human beings; it's more like training pigeons. i tell her not to worry. by the time high school rolls around there'll be another obsession.