Here's a not unrepresentative story from junior high school. A friend of mine's father was dying of cancer. Money was also really tight, so his Mom had to work at the same time. It was pretty rough emotionally for him. During the same time period the bullying (faggot! geek!) of the other kids in junior high kept getting worse and worse. The shell-shock from his Dad's dying, combined with the fact that my friend had an overbite so bad as to be disfiguring (he's since gotten corrective surgery), made him a pretty obvious target.
As a result of all of this my friend was able to experience what still seems to me to be the canonical junior high school day. His father was on the downward slide to incontinence and actually shat himself during the time when my friend's mom had already left for work and the school bus hadn't arrived yet. So my friend had to change his own dad's diaper. It was upsetting. Then, when the bus got to school but before school started, a group of popular athletes held him down and shaved my friend's head. It was one of many terrifying and humiliating ordeals he was subject to during what would have already been the lowest point of his life. The whole world seemed like this cruel, humiliating place. I think if his Mom didn't need him, my friend probably would have killed himself. Luckily, he stuck around long enough to learn that there is a lot more to the world than junior high school. These days he's a walking advertisement for the canard about success being the best revenge.
The head shaving day perfectly encapsulates what is so awful about junior high school and much of life before and afterward. We all have to deal with immense natural evil as a result of our fragility and the fragility of those we love. As moral agents we could respond to the fact that we all live in such a horrible dungheap with understanding, sympathy, and mutual assistance. But instead we respond in all the wrong ways, taking joy in other people being further down the dungheap than us, kicking down to get to the top, masochistically embracing our own subjugation as we kiss up (and that's part of how it works), etc. etc. etc. In this manner, junior high bullying and the cliques involved with that strike me as an almost pure distillation of moral evil. Just at the age when we start to become aware of natural and moral evil we turn everything into the Lord of the Flies.
My friend and I found that things can get better. If you're lucky and fight hard you figure out a way to say no when people tell you to get with the program. You can work through the nihilism of distrusting all programs and intuit something beautiful on the other side.
When my kids get old enough (before junior high school) I'm going to bribe them to learn to recite Bukowski's The Laughing Heart. I hope it helps them always see darkness as darkness and also see that there are ways out of it. I also think that the kind of communities one finds in liberal mainline Protestant churches can work as a bulwark against the false values of the world. We've also enrolled both of them in martial arts classes. Audrey and Thomas are only four and seven, but both can kick as high as their heads. It's pretty cool.