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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

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

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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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M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Permit schools to once again adopt a sensible and purposeful corporal punishment policy.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger

The research is clear on negative reinforcers. They work as long as the subject has a reasonable expectation that they will be applied. As soon as the reinforcer is discontinued, the behavior begins to extinguish.

But our students have a genuine reason to forgo bullying behavior, it is maladaptive in creating the sort of environment that they want to be part of. I agree that only whole school approaches can hope to improve conditions, but there are many more efficacious strategies that threatening those who don't follow the rules with bodily harm and humiliation.

We need skill building responses to misbehavior. There's a reason corporal punishment was discontinued and it is not becuase of Dr. Spock. Punishments don't make good teaching tools.

ADina Bloom Lewkowicz's picture

It is also helpful to help students understand and reframe the core beliefs that can lead them to bullying as well as help them find effective, pro-social ways with which to get their needs met.

Carolyn's picture

There very well might be a connection with a student who will see, think, feel and learn the core beliefs...I still contend that unless a student's home life supports and unless there is a parental/community understanding and connection to what the school is promoting, these skills could become isolated, perhaps,not carried over.
But, it is a start.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger

Hi Carolyn,

I agree that the very best scenario involves reinforcing social communication skills at home and at school. However, even without that consistency, most children will adjust to the expectations of the different situations they have to navigate. They are already used to managing their behavior situationally, evidenced by the fact that they act very differently when around adults than they do when only children are present.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

[quote] There's a reason corporal punishment was discontinued and it is not becuase of Dr. Spock. Punishments don't make good teaching tools.[/quote]

Clearly, you didn't grow up in the age when corporal punishment was implemented in schools and it worked effectively. You learned to respect and yes, fear adults a little bit. Before you did something very wrong, you thought about how much trouble you could get into as a consequence.

Kids don't have that fear anymore, because most parents are now wimps.

Corporal punishment was actually discontinued because people learned that the legal profession is all too willing to file suits against anyone to earn its 1/3 cut. Today, most every warning or regulation with products or services are designed to insulate people from lawsuits.

"WARNING: Beverage may be hot" is an absurd yet accurate example of this madness. This is the kind of society people have allowed to be created. This same sense of over-protectiveness affects how kids are raised. This whole punishment issue is an extension of that.

Hence, bullying has increased because kids know they can get away with it. They have been artificially empowered by too much pampering and too little of good old fashioned discipline.

Kathy's picture

I can relate to Mr. Hauk's obvious disgust at the disintegration of respect for in our culture, and I attribute much misbehavior at school to a widespread lack of boundaries and lax discipline at home. As one who works with very young children (K-2) who have daily exposure to older ones (3-8), the fact that children learn primarily by imitation is unavoidable to me. The violence, both subtle and overt, that is inherent-- even celebrated-- in our national culture encourages bullying. Clearly, the behavior meets some need for those who use it. How to meet those needs outside of the cycle of pain is our task.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger

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?

Kathy's picture

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...

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