School is starting in a few short weeks, and while many parents are happy to get back into the routine, just as many kids are dreading the coming school year. These kids may like learning, may even get good grades, but still hate going to school.
These are the kids who spend as much time thinking of ways to get through the day while avoiding their tormentors as they do about the content of their classes. Some spend so much mental energy in fear they don’t have enough left over to pay attention to the reason they are in school.
Bullies and bullying is something that has been going on since the dawn of time. The difference is not that there is simply more of it, which I do believe is true, it is how it is dealt with by teachers, administrators, parents and society in general. While most school districts tout their various programs and policies aimed at reducing and even eliminating this scourge of the school day, it is obvious that not only are things no better, where they are not the same as always, they are in fact worse.
According to District 202 however, a report released in 2011 states fewer students reporting feeling bullied or threatened than expected.Sharon Gronemeyer, District 202 Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, presented the findings of an anti-bullying task force to a committee of the Board of Education. In it she states, “Overall,…this initial data is encouraging. Still, she cautioned, the numbers may be slightly misleading because children are often too frightened or embarrassed to report being bullied.” Interestingly, the report goes on to say “elementary students have a hard time understanding and identifying real bullying.”
To me, this report simply states the school district is doing what it is supposed to and doing it right according to the prevailing notions on how to address bullying. Ask any statistician and they will tell you how a survey is designed will directly impact it’s results. To see the entire survey, go here: http://www.psd202.org/Distnews/1011/BullyingSurveyPresentation.pdf
The Chicago Public School District has a seemingly comprehensive policy, one in which each student is asked to commit to certain core principals which include the statement “I will not bully others”. This policy then goes on to make other statements that clearly show this Board of Education, too, buys into the current model of education theory. Please pay special attention to the words “asks…to commit to the following principals”. This is the most telling statement of all, in my opinion. Children are asked for their cooperation, not flat out told this is what they will do, what is expected and required.
In the section of the policy titled “Imposing Consequences”, the first sentence is “Many Peer Conflicts can be resolved immediately and do not require reporting or creation of a Misconduct or Incident Report.” The second paragraph includes the sentence “Schools should avoid using punitive discipline (detention, suspensions, and expulsions) if any other method or consequence can be used with fidelity.”
The only ray of common sense in the entire document is near the end, under the title “What Not To Do”, in which the first bullet point states not to “Solicit an apology from the perpetrator to the target, use peace circles, victim/offender conferences, or any form of mediation that puts the perpetrator and target in contact with one another in an immediate attempt to resolve the bullying.”
To see the entire applicable section of the Student Code of Conduct, follow this link:
These are just two school districts, but are fairly representative as one contains both suburban and rural populations and the other is a major metropolitan area. Yet, their approach and tone are eerily similar, indicative of a subscription to the same models and methodologies of educational theory.
Of course the true fault and blame resides first and foremost with the parents of the bullies, secondly with the bullies themselves. However, the schools are to blame also because they are following society’s lead in fostering an atmosphere of a naïve “Why can’t we just all get along” attitude, coupled with the fear that if you tell a child what they did is bad or wrong, you may damage their fragile self-esteem.
We must always be careful to distinguish between the behavior and the child, we are told. I don’t disagree with the idea of this principal of child development and discipline; it is just gone about backwards.
Tell the child that what they did was bad. Tell the child it is not allowed. Tell the child if they do it again, there will be consequences. Tell the child that if they don’t want others to think they are bad, don’t do the bad thing again and that will be the proof for themselves and the world that they are not bad inside. Everybody makes mistakes, does the wrong thing sometimes, but good people learn from the experience and become better people.
This is how I was raised, how I raised my children and it is based on the life lessons my grandparents were taught by their grandparents. It incorporates the single most important character trait, personal responsibility. When we tell children that they aren’t bad, only their actions or even maybe just the perception of their actions are bad, we are telling them they are not responsible for their actions. We remove them and their fragile self-esteem from the equation to such a degree, they are no longer personally connected to the action, the result, the motivation or the consequence for themselves or others.
This is how we have bred a generation of bullies as well as dependent victims who are at the mercy of society; who have no part in the state, direction or failure of society, and certainly no responsibility for their own failures.
Society is to blame because we have allowed ourselves to be snowed by the pop psychologists and pseudo-experts into caring more about the motivations of the bullies, what must be their horrible home lives which causes them to act as they do than we do about the victims.
We have been told how we must promote a culture of understanding and inclusiveness; we must learn about, accept and embrace the differences in each of us that make up the whole that is society; we must empathize with the plight of those who feel marginalized and lash out with their feelings of low self-esteem. When we do this, bullies will see the errors of their ways and simply stop. And then we can all sit on a rainbow, eat ice cream, share the chocolate sauce and live happily ever after in our self-cleaning homes with our personal robots and buzz around town in our flying cars powered by reclaimed gray water.
These social scientists have been using us all as guinea pigs to prove their theory that if we only could embrace the hurting child, understand their plight and do all we can to help them overcome their difficult circumstances, their behavior would change and the world would be a better place. There would be no more crime of any kind as well as an end to bullying, as those who are disadvantaged, disenfranchised and underprivileged would be given the tools and opportunities to better themselves without resorting to antisocial, illegal or other negative and self-destructive behaviors. We’ve been listening to and buying into this ‘offender as victim’ ideology long enough to see the Empirical evidence that is the current state of society disproves this theory in total. The premise is at best faulty, the methodologies a complete failure and the ones paying the price are the ranks of victims who are growing exponentially.
I’m not going to bother addressing the parents of these miscreants, because they are either in complete denial about the behavior of their precious offspring, or they are offenders themselves who have taught their spawn, by example, how to bully. At the very least, they are culpable for not having taught their little darlings enough manners, civility and respect not to bully others.
There are three “R’s” to schooling, as the old adage goes: Readin’, Riting and Rithmatic. There are also three “R’s” to ending bullying: Rules, Responsibility and Respect. It really is that simple.
Those with advanced degrees in the social sciences, mental health and school administration complicate it all, I think in part to prove how smart they are and how only those like them with the proper learning, education and understandings are able to address, much less correct this problem. Since they have completely and utterly failed, I guess that means they aren’t that smart after all. It seems that somewhere along their journey to all those degrees, they forgot the old fashioned, tried and true common sense that their grandparents’ generations, many of whom weren’t educated beyond the eighth grade understood as simple, obvious facts of life.
There will always be mean people. The best way to handle mean people is to ignore them if possible, shun them if not, and stand up to them always. The saying “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” certainly wasn’t universally followed even back in the day, but how society reacted to those who violated this basic civility was handled very differently.
You have a bad home life? Too bad for you, but that doesn’t excuse your behavior.
You’ve been picked on yourself? Then you should be even more ashamed, knowing you are doing to someone else what you hated having done to you.
You don’t want to be a victim yourself? Then stop supporting those who victimize others.
Each and every school year is a new beginning, for the kids, teachers, parents and by extension, society as a whole. That means, we have a another chance each and every year to set the tone aright.
When are we going to stop coddling the bullies and start protecting everyone else? When are we going to look at a kid and their parents and simply say,
“Your kid did this bad thing. We don’t care why. The punishment is expulsion until you and your child get the message that the rights of one child’s access to education do not trump the rights of all children not to be a victim. If there are extenuating circumstances, here’s a list of resources to help, things that are and have been available to every parent, child and family for decades. Go take advantage of them.”
Of course, there is another part of this equation that I’ve yet to address, and that is the spectator, those who stand back and either actively encourage the bully or fail to defend the victim. I understand that many are afraid to step in, lest they become a target themselves, and with the way society sympathizes with the tormentors all too often, they have a valid fear. This is all the more reason that those who bully need to be dealt with harshly by those in authority, whether it is a teacher, an administrator, or just a random passing adult.
Those who actively encourage the bullying should be punished as harshly as the specific offender. These are the ones for whom I reserve the most disdain. They are the ultimate cowards; not tough enough to do the deed but still there, relishing the act. Because after all, you have to be really tough to pick on another person, to humiliate someone publicly and make them live in fear of your awesomeness.
As I said, another school year is about to begin, and once again we as a society have an opportunity to change. Sadly, I don’t see it happening. But, I will do all I can as an individual and a parent. Hopefully, there are enough others out there who feel as I do.