American Book Classics
ISBN 1-58982-066-5
While studying the life patterns of various species, and in particular their adaptation techniques, Charles Darwin noted that physical fitness is one of the requsites of survival. Darwin also observed that only those species that are strong enough to meet and adapt to challenges survive; the weak perish.
         We have no evidence today to suggest that when Darwin issued his famous scientific dictum on survival of the fittest might have considered the problem of bullying. Yet he predicted the phenomena in its entirety.
         Playful bullying among school children often culminates in impulsive acts of violence. As a result, educational institutions produce a shocking number of juvenile delinquents. Only those students who are fit enough to meet and adapt to the challenges thrown by the bullies survive emotionally.
         Marilyn LaCourt’s The Prize reviews the relationship between the bullies and victims from a new angle. Sydney Schuster, a survivor of bullying, wonders if something can be done to prevent the bullying of weak children by the strong. One of Sydney’s casual discussions with his chauffeur-servant leads him to the evolutionary theories of Darwin. Eventually, he discovers a curious fact: If someone can pull others down, he can as well lift them up!
Sydney is as ambitious as he is affluent. He decides to bring the bullies and the victims together under a small umbrella and leave them on their own without adult supervision. They will be free to organize things by themselves and to do as they wish. How wonderful would it be, Sydney imagines, if the children learn something in the process. Sydney is aware that the success of the project depends on whether the bullies in the group are willing to promote weak peers instead of bullying them. Sydney wants to know if the freedom he is prepared to grant them can alter their basic tendencies.
         To ensure cooperation among the selected students, Sydney announces an inducement--The Prize--which he assures will be awarded at the end of the project provided they follow “the rules”. If they do, they all win; otherwise they all lose!
         The chapters race as an odd bunch of seventh grade students--the curious, the mischievous, the brilliant and the incredible--take the stage and begin their interactions.
         The Prize is recommended to educators, counselors, students and their parents and is an excellent choice for school libraries.