Friday, January 06, 2006

Back to School Bullying

There's more on bullying in schools from Home Education in Victoria. OK, so we are familiar with much of this stuff. There is the almost incomprehensibly tragic waste of life:

"During the holidays Marie Bentham cried as she told her family of the relentless bullying she had endured at school. It was not the first time Marie had suffered in this way and her concerned mother had already contacted the school which had followed its bullying policy and fully investigated the incidents. The bullying had not stopped. The day before school was to resume, Marie flatly refused to go back. Her mother was unsure how to deal with the situation and sent Marie to bed convinced that children must go to school. Eight-year-old Marie Bentham strangled herself with her skipping rope that night - it was her only way to ensure she would never have to face those bullies again".

But there are still myths that need refuting, such as the fairy tale that school bullying policies are up to the task:

"school 'bullying policies' are unable to prevent bullying. The great majority of bullying is not reported to teachers or noticed by them. A Canadian study videotaped children playing in a schoolyard and found that teachers were aware of only 17% of the bullying observed by the researchers. Of the incidents they did see, they only chose to intervene 23% of the time which gave an overall intervention rate of 3.9%."

And what a relief to see that people can stretch their minds to this concept: "Teachers also bully children".

And crucially:

"The Kidscape survey concluded that 'contrary to popular opinion, bullying does not help children to cope better with adult life. In fact it has the opposite effect. Adults who were bullied as children tend to have problems with self-esteem, feelings of anger and bitterness, suicidal thoughts and attempts and difficulty relating to people. Many were afraid of new situations and easily victimised."

Sensibly later:

"Children need to learn skills which will enable them to cope with bullies in later life but school is not the best environment in which to learn those skills. 'The education culture highlights the difference between children who are aggressive and those who are not. Rewards and distinctions tend to go the former,' say Marr and Field. Children absorb values, beliefs and morals from those around them. They can learn these more effectively in the safe environment of their home and naturally widening social circle as they grow older. Ideally their parents will model assertive behaviour and conflict resolution skills in their interaction with others and family relationships offer endless opportunities to practice these skills. Children can learn to confidently communicate and stand up for their point of view in a supportive and safe environment. This is far superior to a school situation where bullying is endemic and the whole system is based on power and control".



merry said...

As someone who was bullied at school, i can only nod and relate. I went through a period of low self esteem before Christmas and during that time suddenly found myself wondering if i had imagine it all and actually allowing myself to be bullied had meant that my bully got a hard time she didn't deserve.

Then i woke up, smacked myself round the face and remembered that the little bitch ruined my childhood.

It never ends really :(

Ron R said...

The first story is tragic. A biger tragedy is the fact that such stories do not move enough people to cause change.

Carlotta said...

Oh Merry, I am so sorry to hear that. It usually takes quite a bit of strength to confront this, I think, which is why so many people either deny it completely or rationalise it as having been good for them, despite the fact that there is no observable reason why this should have been the case.

My guess is that these defences may be part of the reason that people do not take this issue very seriously, as you say, Ron.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Can you blame the schools alone for these tragedies?
There's something very fishy about the parents too.

Children have to be helped to not take bullying that seriously. That have to be helped to learn how to defend themselves, how to laugh at themselves and not take bullying as a judgement of their persons, to take bullying as a joke and bully the bullies back. If the bully picks on you because you're fat, pick on him because he has a big nose or is dumb or whatever.

Carlotta said...

I agree that the parents could take some of the stick in that if your child was suffering to this extent, you would think you would do anything to find an alternative, but this often boils down to the old problem of not taking your children seriously, and assuming that their problems are inconsequential.

And many parents still ascribe to the myth of compulsory schooling, so any compulsory school busting memes seem like a good idea to me.

And the reason why it is a bad idea to learn about bullying when you don't want to? Well, that, of course, boils down to the usual epistemological explanation about coercion...You will only learn very suboptimally in those circumstances because the theory that you are being forced to enact will not be active in your mind.

HE kids do learn about independence, tough mindedness, and ingenious ways to coping with thugs but they do it in their own time, with some concept of a proper range of possibilities.

merry said...

Leo, i think your point is the very thing that allows bullying to continue. What people don't see is that the very reason certain people get picked on, is that they are unable to fight their own corner. They just aren't able to stand up and fight, or shrug something off.

I well remember my mum trying to teach me to fight back - she held up her hands and told me to hit her, in practise for fighting my way out of a corner the next day. i just remember sobbing because i knew i couldn't do it. I didn't have what it took. And so, of course, it carried on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Merry. You and Carlotta have a good point. But I tend to think over-dramatising does not help either. I probably cannot explain myself very well.

I was lucky not to be bullied in childhood, but I encontered terrible people in my adult years.

I could sit here and whine - well, I do that more than often, but I am trying to get over it - and say that a certain person I lived with recently ruined my motherhood and damaged my child. But I will not allow him that. He was a wimp, nothing more, an unfortunate event, a mistake. He is gone forever from our lives now. Our lives will not be lived remembering such a low life, our lives will have no trauma from him. We are bigger than him. I am now learning to stand tall laughing at his wimpy attempt to destroy us.

We should build our lives so they are the now and the future and the past events that deserve to be remembered.

Carlotta said...

Dear Leo,

I greatly admire your strength in this regard and think that you are clearly choosing the best possible path in great adversity.

Making lemonade from lemons is the phrase that springs to mind!

Anonymous said...

I have no other path to choose.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied like all other kids and now I’m a teacher. If you want bulling to stop you’re going to have to hire a judge to come into a school and hold the parents responsible for raising irresponsible insensitive kids. If you’re willing to increase taxes and lower class sizes to a manageable level than do it. Otherwise don’t speak to issues you know nothing about. A child’s worst enemy is his parent! Talk about teachers bulling kids, you’d last a day in an inner-city school. I’m not impressed! Legislating morality and ethics is a futile attempt to change societal behavior and a waste of energy and time. We need to hold parents accountable for the actions of their kids. If a child bullies and the parent cannot handle the child, how do you expect a teacher to stop it? Do I have more power over the child than the parent? Do you think a detention or a suspension will undo the parental and intellectual neglect the bully has inured sense early childhood? If we think that public schools, given the current environmental conditions, are going to be able to fix what’s wrong with this society we may as well piss headlong into a hurricane. If you want to quadruple the counseling staff and create bully patrols we might have a chance.

* I would like to include that this speaks to the issue of bulling not to the suicide. My sympathy goes out to the parents.

Carlotta said...

Hello Anon,

Thanks for your comment.

There are a number of points that I would like to clarify, but will stick to one for the mo. If you look around this site, you would find my position on other issues that you raise.

I certainly would not suggest throwing money at a system that is so clearly woefully failing, despite already having extra money thrown at it.

Instead I would suggest that any parent who is worthy of the name, should be rightfully concerned about what is going on in schools. If their child is unhappy and is being bullied, say, the solution could be for them to take their child out of the system altogether and home educate them.

I have to admit that alot of other children would appear to be in deep trouble, unless they happen to cope with school very well...but the more that people realise that HE is a good and fully functioning way to go, the more desperately miserable children will be rescued from an outmoded system.