Students bully each other because they feel powerless


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Anti-bullying campaigns often worsen the underlying conditions that lead to bullying

An entire industry has recently emerged to exploit bullying. Filmmakers, politicians, lobbyists, corporations that sell in-school programs, authors, social media marketers, and others, hawk their wares—they all promote themselves under the guise of fighting the problem. In New Jersey, for example, anti-bullying policies cost school districts more than $2 million in 2012 just to implement a law that involved little more than extra staff. One consistent element is that "solutions" such as this one never explicitly regard bullying as a symptom. As such, when causes are discussed, they are couched in terms of character defects. They insist that bullies feel bad about themselves, have deep insecurities, and crave attention. In some instances, the culture of the school is said to play a role, but only to the degree that it allows for bullying to thrive as opposed to contributing to its creation.

Solution: Give students more opportunities to make decisions over their learning

Children are confined in schools, often against their will, and deprived the capacity to make choices that affect their lives, yet policymakers ignore these conditions when analyzing their behavior. Responsible scientists who study animals are keenly aware of the possible impact of the captive laboratory environment on their subjects, which includes the capacity to foment violence. Yet, inconceivably, the captive environment of school is rarely, if ever, taken into account by researchers or faculty when assessing the behavior of students.

The most widespread catalyst for bullying is when adults render children powerless and subject them to an environment from which they cannot escape. As much as some people might try to deny this blatant reality, many students have absolutely no power in schools. The law requires children to be in a place many of them do not want to be, where they must associate with people they do not like, and where they must take arbitrary orders in a docile manner.

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Category: Education


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Article by: Dave

Dave Cannon is a Seattle-based entrepreneur and consultant to nonprofits and small businesses. He loves Thai food and takes terrible photographs. You can follow him on Linkedin.
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