The Elk River School Board meets tonight to discuss the fate of five football coaches put on administrative leave following a hazing incident last month. According to police, the incident involved members of the football team poking and hitting other players in the legs and backsides with broom handles. Four players have already been kicked off the team and five others were suspended. Something in that story sparked a memory and an old question in the mind of Morning Edition essayist Peter Smith.
Smith: There was this day at the beginning of 7th grade when I saw a couple of kids from my class pushing a sixth grader around the playground at lunchtime recess-establishing the pecking order for the year, I guess.
Being one of the larger kids-way too big for even the eight graders to haze-I told them to cut it out or I'd cream them.
They cut it out. The sixth grader slipped away. The bell rang. No one got creamed.
The next day at lunch, I came around a corner of the school and found the sixth grader and a couple of his friends pushing around a wild-eyed little fourth grader.
So I told them to cut it out or I'd cream them. And they did. But the moment has been with me ever since.
What is it that turns people who've been hazed into hazers? How can they put experience and conscience aside and perpetuate this stuff? All these years later I still don't get it.
It's a testosterone-addled guy thing, I guess... A primitive socializing mechanism maybe... Bullying as ritual... Everyman's chance to be the alpha dog for a few minutes... And a time-honored tradition too.
First you're hazed. Then you haze someone yourself. Is this great or what? Pass it on.
Pass it on in the locker room. Pass it on at the frat house. Pass it on on the job or down at the club.
And most days, it seems foolhardy to try to make guys stop it. I mean what's your problem? You can't fight human nature. It's just boys being boys.
My seventh grade classmates probably turned out to be fine men. The shifty little sixth grade hazee-turned-hazer is probably an okay guy too.
I'd like to think, though, that sometimes at night, just before they go to sleep, their consciences tweak them just a little; that they think back and wince about the hazing they took part in.
If, at this stage in life, their consciences don't bother them, I hope a voice from somewhere deep in their memory speaks up and tells them, "Cut it out or I'll cream ya."