Bullying in the Schools Will Not End Until We Change Our Pragmatic Strategies.

Marcos Karel Miranda Director of Educational Programs at Columbia Educational Designs

During OPB's Think Out Loud Program, a student from the Student Government at Grant High School in Portland, indicated that students are afraid to be alone in the locker rooms.. Further, the Principal Vivian Orlen shared that due to an incident involving the basketball team, the issue of hazing, bullying, and harassment has become a topic of conversation n and concern. Bullying has become an epidemic in Oregon! A surveyed conducted in 2009 by the Oregon Students of Color Coalition found that, “ 41% of eights graders in Oregon reported being subjected to name-calling, bullying or other embarrassment at school with the highest rates among the students of color, girls, and gays.” The problem come to the attention of the federal government, and President Barack Obama in a white house conference to deal with the phenomenon of bullying in the United States declared that, “ As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps—all of us-to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong.”
The phenomenon of bullying is a problem that has existed since the schools were created, and it is not going to improve from one day to another. Many solutions directed to prevent bullying focus in raising awareness, school policies and procedures, mediation, and short term training. These approaches are too pragmatic, and they don't work.
Research that from emerged from the Center of Behavioral Research from the University of Stavanger in Norway in the 1990s ad later from several Universities such as Clemson in the United States support that the best known solution to preventing and eradicating bullying is the whole-school approach. From this perspective there needs to be a systemic change where students, teachers, school management, parents create a plan with attainable objectives, and activities directed to achieve the reduction of bullying. Whole-school approach programs are about 12-18 months, and both human and financial resources are needed. The main objective is to create an environment where everyone is confident that bullying will not be tolerated and the creation of an emotional environment conducive to learning and the development of healthy relationships. On a 2009 report, Experts from UNICEF argued that positive emotional environments tend to increase academic performance. It is only when we decide as a society that education is a real priority, and we allocate the resources accordingly that issues such as bullying will disappear from our schools.

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Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

Frustration and decision making

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I think we all share Mr. Hauck's frustration at the changes in attitude displayed by students today. But we must be cautious and resist allowing our frustration to guide our policy.

More states allow corporal punishment today than not. If the decline in corporal punishment really was responsible for the decline in our society's civility we would expect to see an increase in such statistics as youth crime and delinquency. If anything, the trend is opposite, and has been ever since Dr. Spock published. Parent lawsuits did not cause the shift in public perceptions about the efficacy of punishment as a teaching tool, and in states that still allow schools to use corporal punishment, they are still often dismissed as ungrounded.

It doesn't make sense to me to use threats of violence to help students understand that using violence to get their needs met is wrong. Aren't we just bullying them into behaving?

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: It doesn't make sense

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It doesn't make sense to me to use threats of violence to help students understand that using violence to get their needs met is wrong. Aren't we just bullying them into behaving?

Let's put it this way ... societies around the world prospered and progressed for centuries quite nicely by using corporal punishment as means of behavior management with children. But, since WW2, a bunch of know-it-all boomers and their allies in the medical professional decided that it's no longer a good idea. The negative impact of psychological theory since the beginning of the 20th century can't be discounted, either. Your hero Maria Montessori is just one who ran with these theories regarding child development. Interestingly, most of my family were raised in very strict convents or priests' schools in Italy the 40s and 50s that believed in corporal punishment and guess what? They turned out fine.

And of course, the harm of building child "self-esteem" to an absurd proportion creates kids who think they are too "special" and therefore, beyond reproach.

Let me say again that I am not a proponent of random or vicious punishment. It has to be properly motivated, consistent in when and how it's done, and explained to the child why it's being done.

Indeed, Mary Kate! It's like

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Indeed, Mary Kate! It's like shouting to get silence (or using the death penalty to deter murders); it sets a double standard based on hierarchy of power, which children are all to eager to recreate within their own pecking order. I have taught in a classroom where corporal punishment was allowed/encouraged, and found that the practice had the effect of removing responsibility from the child for their acts. Furthermore, that sense of personal responsibility which should have been cultivated was clearly replaced with resentment and distrust. This topic relates very closely to the one on rewards and punishments, in that dependence on external rather than intrinsic motivation denies full development of a person. It's been my experience that kids who bully are bullied themselves. Often are seeking power and acknowledgement; we can give them other opportunities for these goals, and building school community is a comprehensive, healthy way to do that. Admittedly, it takes more collaboration and patience than a sound whack on the seat of the pants...

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: (or using the death

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(or using the death penalty to deter murders);

The death penalty works every time it's tried.

Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

A reasoned debate

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Mr. Hauck,

Will you speak to the ideas I have presented about the crime and delinquency rates in locales where corporal punishment either occurs or does not?

Please explain your reference to "The negative impact of psychological theory..." Is there a particular theory you'd like to discuss? There have been an awful lot of confilcting theories put forth in the past 115 years.

I'm willing to engage in a reasoned debate about the efficacy of punishment as a teaching tool, but I think we ought to be systematic in our approach.

Sound Social/Emotional Learning approaches (and I include discipline under that heading) neither punish students nor "reward" them with unrealistic expectations of themselves and the world around them. Those approaches to creating positive school culture which seem most promising (and the research on this is still very new) are those which use cognitive strategies to build communication skills while working with stakeholders (parent/child/teacher) to establish basic procedures for handling conflict.

You can learn more about the latest research in this area by consulting the CASEL website. They serve as a clearinghouse for information on the best approaches to combatting bullying in schools (as well as other SEL topics).

I find your last post particularly inflammatory given the certainty that the death penalgty has gone terribly wrong in the past. DNA evidence has clearly demonstrated that we have executed people who were entirely innocent of their crimes.

Sixth grade math teacher from San Rafael, California

ending incidents of bullying

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At our school we are using a protocol that has ended bullying everytime we use it - Solution Team at NoBully.com. I run the teams at our large diverse urban school, and every time the incidents of bullying have ended. The protocol teaches empathy and responsibility. Check it out. The trainings are great and inexpensive, and the model does not take much time or staffing.

There are many desirable goals here

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For me, the problem with establishing a hierachy of punishment (whether through the rod or the record book) is that it removes personal responsibility from the individual and keeps the adage of "might makes right" alive. The goal for me is not just in securing a peaceful learning environment, but educating peaceful human beings. I'm interested in ideas for restorative justice, not punitive measures. Our school currently uses something like a "whole-community" approach, and it doesn't require any funding! Students who threaten or hurt others are made aware of how that behavior affects everyone- through class discussions outside of conflict as well as in meetings with families after an incident. Every situation is treated on an individual basis, which may require teachers to act as mediators if needed. However, many of the older students resolve their conflicts on their own. We have a "you break it, you fix it" philosophy in which the person responsible for the damage (to property or other person) makes the appropriate reparations (overseen by the teacher). I think the most successful strategy to reducing violent or taunting behavior though, is prevention: through honoring multiple intelligences, recognizing individual skills in mixed-age interactions, and an active, flexible curriculum. Especially in adolescence, students have challenging physical work that contributes to the school or wider community (building a picnic table for the playground, doing stream restoration, etc.). I don't have statistics, but my own observations have been that this kind of involvement creates true confidence, self-assurance and respect; this has a positive effect in the classroom. And when they see themselves as capable contributors to the world, there is no need to stand tall on the backs of others. I would be interested to hear what constitutes a "whole school" approach as mentioned in the article, and what the percentages are like at that Portland high school since 2009.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: Please explain your

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Please explain your reference to "The negative impact of psychological theory..." Is there a particular theory you'd like to discuss? There have been an awful lot of confilcting theories put forth in the past 115 years.

Yes, some of them have been helpful, others not. The ones that have not often muddy the waters further or exist to fulfill political agendas rather than adhere to hard scientific principle.

I won't discuss those for the obvious reasons. However, as far as punishments go, I know that your own training in the Montessori method impacts your personal philosophy and therefore, would be a a fruitless exercise in trying to convince you that punishments do work when properly applied. It would be as futile as trying to convince Sr. Helen Prejean that serial criminals convicted of multiple felonies deserve the death penalty.

The only way non-violent punishments really can work is if a kid is part of a residential treatment facility on a 24/7 basis for an extended period of time. There, they learn that actions have consequences and that privileges will be taken away if behavioral standards are not met. When you teach in a traditional day school, all the attempts at modifying behavior go for naught as soon as the student is dismissed back to whatever decrepit environment they hail from until the next morning. When those attempts fail, it's time for the legal system to intervene. It's not perfect but no amount of touchy-feely strategies as an alternative work on street-wise kids who respect nothing or no one, including themselves.

What I've described seems to occupy an entirely different world from yours, so naturally, the approach isn't going to be the same. It depends on the kid, their past record, the circumstances, the environment, etc. A kid who is nailed for drug possession and trafficking has to be handled differently from the kid in the classroom who is mouthing off to the teacher. Yet, the latter kid is more often than not the same kid who finds himself in similar circumstances as the former example.

Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

Show me

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Mr. Hauck,

Evidence which is recognized as such by authorities who specialize in evaluating such things would certainly convince me that punishment works. In my study of the matter, however, I have been unable to turn up such evidence.

Your misunderstanding of Montessori practice is quite clear. Above all else, Dr. M advocated the use of scientific evidence in guiding educational methods. We do have copious evidence to support the idea that non violent problem solving supports student learning goals. That's the reason Momtessorians are so gung-ho about non-violence.

Show me the studies that demonstrate that punishment produces robust learning.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Here's My Evidence

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My studies, Mary Kate? How about 17 years of direct experience classroom teaching Gen Yers and Millennials and observing their behavior, plus the behavior of their parents, combined with reading scientific evidence that refutes your own. You can copy and paste the link, I don't have the patience to write the html code.

http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS07K02

It's a Family Research Council article written by two MDs that pretty much shoots a hole in the anti-punishment argument based on their own metastudy of the available literature.

I could supply many more links but what would be the point? It's a highly debatable issue and Dr. M certainly had no corner on the real truth. The anti-punishment faction doesn't even have a consensus opinion.

My observations from 17 years in education, plus being a parent to two children of my own for 14 of those years, lead me to conclude this ... with all this allegedly superiorly permissive and laissez-faire philosophy regarding child-rearing, then why do we have so many more problems with child behavior compared to past generations?

By all logic, we should have a generation of near-perfect children endowed with fully-developed self-esteems who have no need to victimize others to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. A perfect raised child without the knowledge of any stern discipline should not have to feel inadequate and therefore, should not have to feel the need to bully others.

I'm sorry, but this whole advocacy seems weakly supported by a minority voice that can't account for how a lack of punishment makes for better behaved people.

Why not just eliminate prisons while we're at it? I'm sure the case could be made that incarceration doesn't rehabilitate, but only makes people want to continue to be lawbreakers.

This reminds me somewhat of the argument that Alfie Kohn and his adherents make about rewards. They so overrate the value of intrinsic motivation. People prove again and again that they are extrinsically motivated. Kids and grown-ups, in general, do not learn important lessons without dire consequences being imposed. We are an obstinate species who typically need to learn things the hard way. That's reality. I could live in the idealistic netherworld of the university classroom thinking about what mankind could strive to be but that would be a grand waste of time. It's better to acknowledge, accept, and proceed.

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