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Hazing in school and college has lately been reported extinct, or at least obsolescent. But "Tom Brown's School Days" seemed recently to have been resurrected, when the news came of a suicide in an English school as a result of too much bullying. An over-sensitive boy, "ragged" by his schoolmates to the point of desperation, flew into a rage and stabbed himself.
The ethics of "Stalky and Co," and its "moral suasion" has been much discussed. Even now, with so startling an effect of the fag system set before them, the English papers are still battling over the question. The opponents of the custom have good support in the news of this suicide; their antagonists lay stress on the "over-sensitiveness" of the boy in the case, an uphold hazing as being generally wholesome and corrective. Both sides, incidentally, agree that hazing is not nearly so prevalent as it was fifty or a hundred years ago.
At all events, it has long served as the sovereign remedy for all personal "humours", biasses, and quirks of character. From time immemorial boys have used this method in bringing their "queer" companions up to normal. To them the customary has meant perfection, the conventional has been their idea of the correct. Unfortunately this view and the habit of trying to force everyone to "do what the crowd does", has been the means of crushing many an extraordinary personality when it was in the formative stage. Shelley's classmates did their best to force his queerness into the average path, but fortunately for posterity, his will was he stronger and they were unsuccessful. The normal while often more desirable than the abnormal is not always the best rut to travel. Smothering the individual, making him subject to the caprices of the majority, is the trend hazing takes; the "queer", but possibly the best traits of a boy in the stages of development may be twisted into perversion or cut from his nature altogether through his possible reactions to such customs as hazing.
In this country, especially the larger colleges, hazing and bullying seem to be extinct traditions, though a feature of them is preserved in certain forms of initiation. It is true that the recent case, at a western college, of a student who was ridden on a rail, tarred and feathered because he cheered for the opposites team, shows that individuality is not yet regarded wholly as a virtue. But the better fashion, now for those who fail to conform, is to let them completely alone. The old English practice of sending a man to Coventry worked better than hazing: the latter only made for sullenness and stubborn reaction, while the former at least encouraged thought and reasoning self-correction. If the horse that has been led to the water will not drink, it is no one's concern but his own. And beating him is such a tiring job anyway!
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