Bully Culture in American Schools

ranalin wrote:

People actually think that bullying can be prevented? Minimized to a degree sure but i dont see how it can completely be eliminated.

I would guess that it can minimised it to the point of seldom occurring and when it does it rarely rises past the point of the odd kid being lightly picked on. Rather than the current situation of everyone accepting it as an inevitable reality.

DanB wrote:
ranalin wrote:

People actually think that bullying can be prevented? Minimized to a degree sure but i dont see how it can completely be eliminated.

I would guess that it can minimised it to the point of seldom occurring and when it does it rarely rises past the point of the odd kid being lightly picked on. Rather than the current situation of everyone accepting it as an inevitable reality.

Can we ever prevent the initial bullying? No. Can we set up a reasonable system where excessive and/or repeated bullying is not tolerated? Most certainly yes.

ranalin:

Bullying can be prevented this way: complete 24/7 surveillance and supervision of child activity.

This is expensive, but not impossible. Every child interaction is supervised and corrected when appropriate. You do not leave the kids to blindly grope about and use their own immature and ignorant selves to figure out how to interact. You teach them how and you keep on forcing them to do it that way until it becomes second nature. Works for arithmetic. Works for manners. Should work for hierarchy establishment.

In general, kids do not resist instruction of this sort. A lot of the time, they act the way they do because they don't know sh*t. As Paleocon says, providing context for interaction gives children directions and expectations. They generally respond well to that. They want to learn - this is perhaps the singlemost common characteristic of children.

In my own educational life, I was under direct visual supervision by adults all the time until I was 13. Every conflict could be brought to an adult's attention for summary judgement, and no "snitching" beatdown was possible because everyone was under the same supervision all the time.

My own children have not been outside an adult's range of vision when awake for more than a week taken together as a lifetime value, and they're 7 and 5 now. Part of that is behavioral supervision, but part of that is just common sense. Even 5 year old kids can be dumb enough to drown themselves in 6 inches of water if you let your guard down.

LarryC wrote:

ranalin:

Bullying can be prevented this way: complete 24/7 surveillance and supervision of child activity.

This is expensive, but not impossible. Every child interaction is supervised and corrected when appropriate. You do not leave the kids to blindly grope about and use their own immature and ignorant selves to figure out how to interact. You teach them how and you keep on forcing them to do it that way until it becomes second nature. Works for arithmetic. Works for manners. Should work for hierarchy establishment.

This goes too far toward the police state thread and suspect has other effects on behavior that could be just as bad as bullying.

They're kids, ranalin. They don't know what they're doing. Like, literally, they don't know what they're doing.

We're not talking about politics here. We're talking about education. The military is not a democracy. Neither is a school.

LarryC wrote:

They're kids, ranalin. They don't know what they're doing. Like, literally, they don't know what they're doing.

We're not talking about politics here. We're talking about education. The military is not a democracy. Neither is a school.

I'd rather have kids learn on their own (with guidance) instead of knowing that someone is constantly watching. It's what people do when they dont think they're being watched is where it matters the most, and if you grow up constantly being watched i fear what happens when they finally think they're not.

I think there's a fine line there, ranalin. I might play with the age where constant supervision could be lessened - say, 11 or 12 - but I don't think Larry's wrong.

Seth wrote:

I think there's a fine line there, ranalin. I might play with the age where constant supervision could be lessened - say, 11 or 12 - but I don't think Larry's wrong.

Well i assumed that we were talking the 10+ range. That seems to be where the majority of the bullying starts. Sure it happens younger sometimes but it's generally caught and dealt with due to the fact that up to that point they're almost constantly supervised anyway.

I wish i had more time to type more than snippets because there's a lot more to this. I just dont think i'd want to deal with a generation that was supervised 24/7 till they were 16-18 which is where i thought LarryC was going with his suggestion.

Look, just because we know we can't 100% eliminate it doesn't mean we shouldn't even bother to do anything.

You don't have to fear. I can tell you firsthand what happens.

They act according to how they've been trained to act up to that time.

The point of supervision isn't to instill fear of punishment. That's the entirely wrong idea. The point of supervision is so that WE know that they're learning the right things. The primary mode for teaching children how to interact will be perfectly traditional: verbal instruction, demonstration, and repetition.

Supervision, instruction, and feedback do not generate an atmosphere of fear. Rather, it generates an atmosphere of security and fairness.

The appropriate comparison is to that of an athlete in training. His entire life is closely observed, monitored, and instruction is provided so that he knows what he needs to do. If he needs help in doing that, help will be provided. When he deviates, feedback is provided and he's expected to correct himself. There is no fear in this system.

Once a child is instructed in the proper way to behave, and the behavior is reinforced through repetition for the better part of a decade, the probability is that he or she will continue to behave in the manner taught, simply because he or she doesn't know anything else.

The danger isn't that the child will suddenly revert to behavior he or she has long discarded in his or her childhood. If nothing else, the overwhelming desire to be "grown-up" will prevent that from happening, especially if bullying behavior is characterized as "childish." The danger is actually that the teenager may become unable to act contrary to training, even if the situation calls for it.

LarryC wrote:

You don't have to fear. I can tell you firsthand what happens.

They act according to how they've been trained to act up to that time.

The point of supervision isn't to instill fear of punishment. That's the entirely wrong idea. The point of supervision is so that WE know that they're learning the right things. The primary mode for teaching children how to interact will be perfectly traditional: verbal instruction, demonstration, and repetition.

Supervision, instruction, and feedback do not generate an atmosphere of fear. Rather, it generates an atmosphere of security and fairness.

The appropriate comparison is to that of an athlete in training. His entire life is closely observed, monitored, and instruction is provided so that he knows what he needs to do. If he needs help in doing that, help will be provided. When he deviates, feedback is provided and he's expected to correct himself. There is no fear in this system.

Wasnt talking about fear of the system but the results if it was done long term.

I stated earlier that the majority of the problem was bad parenting. It becomes apparent when a child is left to their own devices and dont think they're being watched on what type of parenting the child has had.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Look, just because we know we can't 100% eliminate it doesn't mean we shouldn't even bother to do anything.

This.

ranalin wrote:
Seth wrote:

I think there's a fine line there, ranalin. I might play with the age where constant supervision could be lessened - say, 11 or 12 - but I don't think Larry's wrong.

Well i assumed that we were talking the 10+ range. That seems to be where the majority of the bullying starts. Sure it happens younger sometimes but it's generally caught and dealt with due to the fact that up to that point they're almost constantly supervised anyway.

I wish i had more time to type more than snippets because there's a lot more to this. I just dont think i'd want to deal with a generation that was supervised 24/7 till they were 16-18 which is where i thought LarryC was going with his suggestion.

That would probably not work very well. The reason we "let go" at around age 13 is because that is the common age at which children start to get into self-determination conflict. In common parlance, it's the age at which they start to become adults. Strict enforcement of rules will simply backfire at that point. We must trust them to carry out our programming once the teen years get underway.

That said, it is not unproductive to continue to provide guidance and feedback. It is understood that every granted freedom comes with an implied responsibility, and an acceptance of any possible consequence of the action.

Violent behavior in the schools I've been is dealt with extremely harshly. Past 13, I had hours of basically free time, but I was expected to spend that time studying, pursuing sports, and other such productive activities. If my grades failed, well, that was on me.

Even so, the school boards in my locality are very down on any sort of violent behavior - even pushing another student is frowned upon. You punch someone, you're looking at an expulsion hearing. Harassment is similarly not tolerated. You do that too many times and you're stuck under a teacher's nose for essentially the rest of your school term and then some. That's no fun, of course.

There are exceptions. I know of at least one high school where the administration basically doesn't care about student interactions. Bullying and physical conflicts are predictably common.

Wasnt talking about fear of the system but the results if it was done long term.

Aside from lack of flexibility, what possible harm could come of long term, consistent, and intensive behavioral training?

This goes too far toward the police state thread and suspect has other effects on behavior that could be just as bad as bullying.

Well, how about this: the school records everything, all the time, everywhere but the actual stalls in the bathroom. But they don't review or use the tapes unless a student wants them to. So if Billy is bullying Jimmy, Jimmy can give written permission to review the tapes. But he can't be punished for not granting permission, and the school can only use evidence based on what the student is complaining about... so if Jenny is caught on camera doing something bad, and the principal sees that while looking for evidence of Billy/Johnny fighting, he can't punish her.

In essence, that becomes the students surveilling themselves.

Of course, keeping that from being abused, in our ridiculously overwrought climate of fear, would probably be difficult. The tapes might have to be archived and monitored by a third party or something.

LarryC wrote:
Wasnt talking about fear of the system but the results if it was done long term.

Aside from lack of flexibility, what possible harm could come of long term, consistent, and intensive behavioral training?

You answered your own question up above

That would probably not work very well. The reason we "let go" at around age 13 is because that is the common age at which children start to get into self-determination conflict. In common parlance, it's the age at which they start to become adults. Strict enforcement of rules will simply backfire at that point. We must trust them to carry out our programming once the teen years get underway.

Well, let's consider the context. ranalin, you asserted that it was impossible to stop bullying. I said that it wasn't and laid out the requirements based on what I know from first and second-hand information, since I had not suffered much bullying in my own educational process. Certainly nothing as severe as even being stuffed into a locker.

This is what you said:

It's what people do when they dont think they're being watched is where it matters the most, and if you grow up constantly being watched i fear what happens when they finally think they're not.

As I answered, you need not fear. I can answer that with some degree of certainty. When children trained not to bully stop being supervised, they keep doing what they've been trained to do: not bully. They do not need to resort to that sort of hierarchy conflict because you teach them other ways to establish hierarchy, to which they will devolve even outside supervision, for the simple reason that they don't know any other way.

Altered approach to behavioral training in adolescence does not constitute a less intense, less dedicated, or less effective approach. It is still long term, consistent, behavioral training.

LarryC wrote:

Well, let's consider the context. ranalin, you asserted that it was impossible to stop bullying. I said that it wasn't and laid out the requirements based on what I know from first and second-hand information, since I had not suffered much bullying in my own educational process. Certainly nothing as severe as even being stuffed into a locker.

This is what you said:

It's what people do when they dont think they're being watched is where it matters the most, and if you grow up constantly being watched i fear what happens when they finally think they're not.

As I answered, you need not fear. I can answer that with some degree of certainty. When children trained not to bully stop being supervised, they keep doing what they've been trained to do: not bully. They do not need to resort to that sort of hierarchy conflict because you teach them other ways to establish hierarchy, to which they will devolve even outside supervision, for the simple reason that they don't know any other way.

Altered approach to behavioral training in adolescence does not constitute a less intense, less dedicated, or less effective approach. It is still long term, consistent, behavioral training.

??

As i answered i thought you were discussing that process to apply all the way up to 16-18. You and i both agreed that it probably wouldnt work beyond 13.

Even so i dont agree it will completely elimnate bullying because i have seen first hand as well with kids in that type of situation branch off and essentially become a monster of a child.

It will, because such children under this system WILL be kept under close supervision and management until age 16-18 and possibly beyond. The system might have failed them, but it won't allow them to affect the student body at large.

LarryC wrote:

It will, because such children under this system WILL be kept under close supervision and management until age 16-18 and possibly beyond. The system might have failed them, but it won't allow them to affect the student body at large.

Well like i said above... i dont agree and would hate to see a generation of kids brought up that way. I'll leave it at that.

LarryC wrote:

It will, because such children under this system WILL be kept under close supervision and management until age 16-18 and possibly beyond. The system might have failed them, but it won't allow them to affect the student body at large.

Children no more need 24/7 visual supervision than adults do. What they do need is better guidance on how to construct their social interactions. No one in this thread is going to go back and read the book I suggested but it gives a really good account on how adding simple rules can completely alter the way kids interact and construct their social relationships, and it didn't require continuous contact. I don't doubt for a second that you can force good behaviour with constant supervision but I don't think it's a solution for the actual problem.

I forget where I read it (maybe in Alyson Schafer's 'Honey I wrecked the kids') but time spent alone to do whatever it is that kids do is integral to their (our) development.

DanB:

I don't think you're picking up the right idea from what I've been saying. Supervision is not the same as intervention. Just because you're looking doesn't mean you're constantly interfering. And yes, young children DO need constant supervision. You take your eyes off them for 5 minutes and they do stupid crap like walking off a 5-storey ledge, plunging headfirst into a bucket of water, or drinking cyanide.

I hope to God that you never be visited by any of these tragedies, but I encounter these pointless deaths often enough to believe that supervision is essential for young children. Unless, of course, you think that a random child death here and there is perfectly acceptable.

The fact that we can use the same surveillance to monitor and correct behavior is actually just something of a bonus.

LarryC wrote:

DanB:

I don't think you're picking up the right idea from what I've been saying. Supervision is not the same as intervention. Just because you're looking doesn't mean you're constantly interfering. And yes, young children DO need constant supervision. You take your eyes off them for 5 minutes and they do stupid crap like walking off a 5-storey ledge, plunging headfirst into a bucket of water, or drinking cyanide.

I hope to God that you never be visited by any of these tragedies, but I encounter these pointless deaths often enough to believe that supervision is essential for young children. Unless, of course, you think that a random child death here and there is perfectly acceptable.

The fact that we can use the same surveillance to monitor and correct behavior is actually just something of a bonus.

Exactly. Much like adults.

We, mostly, allow adults to work out their differences as well, but we don't simply allow them to engage in assault and racketeering and then tell their victims to "suck it up". That's precisely what we do with kids.

DanB:

I looked back at the book you suggested and I'm going to read it. It's intriguing. There's a comparable thing to local experience. My culture strongly encourages inclusiveness, to the point that immigrants who don't intermarry by the second generation are viewed negatively. It can get tyrannical and it has its downsides.

That said, it is not acceptable in the local zeitgeist for a group of children to exclude one of their fellows. This is viewed as a failure of the collective, and specifically as a failure of the group's leadership. When you lead, you are considered head of that collective, and it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is okay. In the absence of adult supervision, the eldest becomes the voice of adulthood, with all the attendant responsibilities.

Lessons of fairness and inclusiveness are taught from a young age - something like 3 or 4, when children start interactive rather than parallel play. By the time late grade school age is reached, the impetus is so strong that classes generally view loners as failures of class social dynamic, and could plausibly force inclusion on the loner if all other measures fail, in extreme cases, in the absence of adult intervention.

Okay so this issue became very real for us this week.

As some of you may know, we adopted our 9 y/o son last year. He is the most amazing, loving, kind and toughest kid that I have ever met. He's also been through a little of every type of horrible out there. As a result of that abuse he is emotionally delayed somewhat and can be, emotionally, anywhere from 5 y/o to 9. He also has some anger issues (justifiably so).

Well, over the last two weeks he has had behavioral issues at school. His teachers asked us to remind him to keep his hands to himself. It progressed into a full blown tantrum last week and another this week. There was word that another student was afraid of our son and that the kid’s parents had to email the teacher because the kid was fearful.

Now the last thing we want is for our son to be a bully so we spent a lot of time talking to him about these issues and what was expected of his behavior. He lost privileges, didn’t get to go to his lacrosse practice as well as other consequences for his behavior. He even got written up at school with the threat of a suspension should it happen again.

So on Thursday day night he’s at lacrosse, I’m watching him practice, when my wife calls. She was informed by our son’s therapist, that she has information that she needs to share with us. We had informed her of the goings on as we like to keep the lines of communication open with both her and the school. As it turns out, she is the therapist of a number of other kids in and around our son’s class. She was able to share, without breaking confidentiality, that several different kids said that it was our son getting bullied. And that the kid that was “afraid” of our boy was more likely than not the perpetrator. The school never told us about any of this and the word from our therapist was that several incidents had to be broken up by school personnel. The bullying that was done to our son was not reported, or addressed by the school and when it appears that he did stick up for himself, he was the one that got in trouble.

You might be asking why he didn’t talk to us about it? Well, he has suffered through so much abuse early in his life that he states that he just ignores it and moves on. Except while he may be able to do that intellectually, emotionally it builds and builds until he explodes…thus the tantrums we had over the last two weeks.

My wife and I are so hurt, sad, and pissed right now it is hard to see straight. We can’t even talk to the school right now because spring break started yesterday. We will be having some conferences with the school to get this straightened out when the break is over. It will be a good ol’ fashioned “Come to Jesus” meeting. I want to grab the little punk by his hair and give him a taste of true fear. I want to (and have) hug my little boy to make the world safe for him. It is so frustrating.

I understand your visceral reaction, but I think wanting to grab the kid by his hair is not the right frame of mind. I imagine your son would be better served seeing his father calm and collected, whilst still being resolute. If he imagines you're thinking violently, it might remind him of things.

1Dgaf wrote:

I understand your visceral reaction, but I think wanting to grab the kid by his hair is not the right frame of mind. I imagine your son would be better served seeing his father calm and collected, whilst still being resolute. If he imagines you're thinking violently, it might remind him of things.

Agreed. It also provides an opportunity to both teach your kid properly adaptive behavior and alter a broken system. If on the other hand the school system still f's it up, you might need to show your kid how lawyers are used.

No, you're right and I have thought about that. Just as I don't blatantly curse around my son, my position is, as you say, calm and collected...and loving. When he's not around, however, the term "motherf*cker" gets thrown about liberally.

Nevin73 wrote:

stuff

Good luck, man, and give 'em hell. Paleo says lawyers; I say to mention that given the recent negative exposure educators in DE have gotten, it'd be a damn shame if The News Journal had to get involved...

Bullying cannot be actually eliminated without eliminating all social interaction between students, and even then it would only postpone bullying until the kids are out of school. Bullying is a maladaptive behavior that manifests as part of a child's (or adult child's) learning how to interact in society. It may be a symptom of many things, but chief among them is a misunderstanding of what is an acceptable and healthy way to interact with others. Bullying behaviors should certainly be addressed promptly and not be allowed to continue, but they shouldn't be treated as some sort of pure malevolence or perversion. These are still kids, and they're kids showing symptoms that they're having trouble dealing with things and/or with figuring out how to deal with others. They need help. They need guidance and instruction.

Nevin73 wrote:

several different kids said that it was our son getting bullied. And that the kid that was “afraid” of our boy was more likely than not the perpetrator.

I don't think it's ever so clear as we want to think it is. TV shows are all about the good kid becoming the unwitting victim of bullying, but I know that the nerds weren't exactly sucking up to the jocks in my schools. We picked on them right back, and it wasn't (in retrospect) a huge shock when one side would blow up and overreact. We always played it like any wrong we did was merely as a reaction to the other party's greater and "unprovoked" wrong, but that was never really the case. Everyone in those classrooms made fun of everyone else, and we stunk at being able to tell when we were crossing the line. Thankfully (?), I think Columbine made a lot of my peers and me take things much more seriously.

I can think of one guy who picked on me where I didn't have a hand in escalating things. Dude, it turns out, had a messed up home life, and knew he was going to have to drop out of high school in a couple of years to take up full-time work for his family. All his social worth was wrapped up in being the biggest kid on the bus. When I moved to town, acting hard and also hailing from a worse neighborhood, but at the same time being a nerd with a vector towards college, that was really hard for him. I didn't intend to step on his toes, but I can now understand how he felt threatened by that. And it would have taken a very special sort of authority figure to help mediate that and walk him through all the crap he was having to deal with. Me helping him lose a tooth wasn't going to help anyone.