Archive for January 2010

The Deadliest Art?

January 30, 2010

I can’t remember laughing so hard.  Enjoy.

An A+ In Fantasy & Gibberish

January 22, 2010

From Seacoast Online ( http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100122-NEWS-1220321)

Brianna Hartford, a sophomore at Littleton High School, sees change in New Hampshire schools. She sees all students being welcome, their differences embraced and accepted, and every student has friends and a sense of belonging.

Okay.  She’s a kid.  A hopeful, trusting, idealistic kid.  I get it.

“Bullying is an issue that undoubtedly exists in every school, but with awareness, effective policies and communication among educators, parents and students, it is an issue that is far from being unpreventable,” said Hartford, the student representative for Bully Free NH.

And she’s bright, too.  Sure can put together a string of words.  Probably has a good future ahead of her in politics.  She wants to make a positive difference. So I understand where she’s coming from.

And I also understand the motives of state Reps. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), and Nancy Stiles ( R-Hampton).  They’re co-sponsoring House Bill 1543- comprehensive legislation that defines various forms of bullying and cyber-bullying,  mandates policies forbidding harassment, intimidation, etc,  establishes programs for student awareness, staff training, and reporting procedures.

It all sounds very impressive.  Anything this thorough (convoluted?) has got to work, right?  After all, every state that has instituted anti-bully laws  (43 as of this posting) has solved the problem. All across the country, children are holding hands and singing together in harmony. Everyone has put aside their differences and now respects one another.

Oh, that hasn’t happened?  Wait – it’s never happened?

So why would elected officials spend so much time and tax payer money on passing laws and creating programs that do not (and can not) work?  I can think of a few reasons.

  • Its popular! An easy flag to rally around.  After all, no one is in favor of bullying, are they?
  • It makes them look busy! We sent them to Washington to do something, right?  Forget about working to solve real problems – that’s hard, and besides, for every tough choice made, some voters will get angry.
  • It’s lucrative! Mandates require funding- so they can generate money by raising taxes!  Don’t want your taxes to go up?  Hey, wassa madda with you- are you some kind of pro-bully cheapskate?

A starry eyed child who wants to heal the world is innocent, naive and beautiful.

Adults should know better.


4 Myths About Bullying & 1 Important Truth

January 15, 2010
There are as many opinions about bullying as there are about politics. And everyone certainly has the right to their point of view.  But opinions that aren’t based on solid information, empirical facts, or significant personal experience are worthless.
  • Violent video games & Violent TV causes bullying

Over the years, the number of television shows and video games that have been tagged as ‘violent’ now number in the hundreds.  Millions of children have been exposed.  If there were a causative effect, no one would have the impulse control to reign in their aggression. While there have been several studies that purport to demonstrate that watching these shows and games causes kids to act out, another equally viable conclusion is that its the frenetic action that gets children stirred up.

  • Bullying toughens you up

No sensible person would argue that being assaulted, harassed or discriminated against ‘makes you tougher’. Kids experience chronic bullying show symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and frequently carry the damage inflicted on them into adulthood. Bullying is corrosive.

  • People who get bullied are wimps

Children who are targeted for a campaign of social cruelty are often intelligent, creative, and empathetic. Bullies, on the other hand, exhibit traits such as: skill in deception and manipulation, sadism, and aggression.  Picking on a kid who can’t or won’t fight back isn’t a sign of toughness… its very much the opposite.

  • Ignore a bully and he’ll go away

This is terrible advice from every perspective.  Primarily because it’s impossible to do.  (Could you ‘ignore’ someone who belittles you, or actually beats you on a regular basis?)  Anyone who repeats this ludicrous cliche is  out of touch with reality –  and the kid on the receiving end of this nonsense gets the clear message, “your crisis isn’t important… don’t bother me with your problems in the future.”  It’s a great way to shut the lines of communication. Besides,  you cant “ignore” your way to success!

  • Bullies have been around forever .  Since you cant eliminate them, concentrate on empowering the victim.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to solving the issue of bullying. One states that its the responsibility of society to fix the problem.  Yes, bullying has been around before recorded history, but in an enlightened age, the covenants of society dictate that everyone follow certain rules of behavior – it’s everyone’s job to act appropriately and its everyone’s job to enforce the covenants.

Another perspective is that each person, as an individual, is responsible for their own thoughts, feelings and actions. Trying to change the heart or mind of another person is as futile as trying to change rush hour traffic – however, we CAN alter how we deal with the challenges in our lives.

In other words, some people will look out at the ocean, see a storm, and decry the injustice of the weather.  They will demand that it’s everyone’s responsibility to build more safe harbors.  Other people will commit themselves to building stronger boats.

South Jersey Jihad

January 15, 2010

http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20100104/NEWS01/1040325/1006/Bullying-policy-long-overdue

It seems as if the Garwood family of New Jersey is going through some problems.  Tariq, age 12, is being teased and roughed up at school. They have retained an attorney to represent them against the local school board.

In response, the city of  Camden has approved a beefier anti-bullying policy and has mandated that school staff undergo additional training in prevention and reporting.  Everyone seems to be running around, installing new systems and procedures to address the problem and making special accommodations. All of the committee members seem exhausted from all the self-congratulatory back slapping.

No child should endure psychological torment or physical abuse.  That’s a given.

It’s also noted in the story that Tariq and his family are devout Muslims.They abide by strict codes that regulate every aspect of their lives, including wearing traditional Islamic clothing.  They stand out.

America- The Melting Pot. E  Plurbis Unim – “Out of Many, One”.

You know.  Just sayin’…

Out-Smart A Bully? Good Luck!

January 15, 2010
Your Brain- On Stress

Your Brain- On Stress

If your child is being teased or harassed, there are several  strategies they can use to shut their bully down.  Of course, some are more effective than others.

“Outsmart the bully” is a piece of advice often given by well meaning parents to their distressed kids.  On the surface, it seems like a good plan of action.  In reality, this formula has some problems.

Being picked-on is extremely stressful.  Being threatened or publicly embarrassed creates such high anxiety that it triggers an instant flood of powerful hormones into the blood stream. This ‘survival mode’ has profound effects on the body and thought process, causes a person to fight, flee, freeze or submit.  As you can imagine, this state is not conducive to clear thinking; the laws of physiology prohibit it.

Forget about ‘outsmarting’ the bully at this point -more than likely, the targeted child probably wont be outsmarting anyone.

That said, through the practice of visualization, mental rehearsal, and relaxation techniques, a person can prepare themselves for a confrontation.  If your child can stay cool when they face an antagonist, there is a way to undercut the bully’s power and take the wind out of his (or her) sails.

Let’s say Richie is the mean kid and he loves to belittle Jeff in front of his classmates.  It’s a regular occurrence,and Jeff is expecting it.  As Richie makes his approach, Jeff announces, “Hey  everyone, pay close attention to Richie, because he doesn’t get enough attention at home. Okay, we’re ready.  You can make fun of me now.”

Suddenly Richie doesn’t feel so good.  Instead of getting upset, his intended victim isn’t bothered at all.  And the group dynamics have shifted, too- instead of being amused by his antics, they’re looking down on him.  His game has been reversed, and his ego has been deflated.  This technique isn’t just for kids – it can work for anyone, regardless of age or situation.

Of course, there is a chance that instead of skulking away, the bully might get so flustered that they get violent.  Now the targeted child has a fight on their hands.

Before advising your child how to deal with peer-abuse, you’ve got to sort the useless cliches and gimmicks from practical game-plans. Giving a bullied kid the wrong advice can be disastrous.

Nuttiness From Austrailia

January 15, 2010

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/please-dont-send-me-back-to-school-begged-young-jade-reardon/story-e6freuy9-1225817865250

The story from the Daily Telegraph opens:

A WEEK after student Jai Morcom was fatally bashed over a lunch table at Mullumbimby High School, 13-year-old Jade Reardon was begging her mum not to send her back to school.

She had spent two weeks at home terrified of a bully at Gorokan High, on the state’s Central Coast, who had been making her physically sick with stress.

The following Monday, Jade caved in to her mother’s pleading and returned to classes. Just a few hours later her mother was called to take Jade to hospital after a vicious assault by her tormentor, a bigger girl from the same year.

Jade was treated for a black eye, cuts and bruising to her face and had a patch of hair pulled from the back of her head.

The article goes on to explain how the police strongly dissuaded this mother from swearing out an AVO (the equivalent of an order of protection), and how the school’s solution was to offer to ship the victim off to another school.

*Now get ready to hold your jaw so it doesn’t drop.*  The paper got their ‘expert opinion’ from a man with some impressive credentials ( Cambridge-educated scholar, child psychologist and author) John Stewart.

Stewart’s sage wisdom?  Just talk it out.  Quote:

“About 95 per cent of bullying can be resolved through mediation, and many times these kids go on to become friends.”

I’ve got to wonder… If  one of Stewart’s co-workers had been harassing him for months, and one day crushed his face with steel pipe, would he follow his own advice?

If his wife were raped, would he advise her to sit in mediation with her attacker and try to ‘work things out’?

School-Based Anti-Bullying Programs – The D.A.R.E. Example

January 15, 2010

There are scores of different anti-bully programs being run in schools throughout America and hundreds more competing for a share of the market.  Which ones have the winning track record of proven results?

Before we take a look at the record, let’s take examine the  D.A.R.E. program for a parallel example.

  • The anti-drug movement was at a flash point in the 80’s, the anti-bully movement has been gaining momentum and is a hot topic now
  • There was a wide base of political and popular support for any law or program that promised a solution (DARE seemed to fit the bill). Anti-bullying legislation and school programs make identical promises.
  • Both DARE and school-based anti-bully programs are created / presented by ‘experts’
  • Media attention helped create and intensify an anti-drug mania.  Similarly, news coverage of  multi-million dollar verdicts in anti-bully law suits, and the portrait of spree-killers rampaging through schools as ‘troubled, bullied outcasts’ helps to fuel the anti-bully campaign.

The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program features ‘friendly police officers’ who warn young students about the dangers of illegal drugs, as well as tobacco and alcohol and is now taught in over 75% of US school districts.  Its preposterously simplistic philosophy (“just say no!”) and lame curriculum (scare tactics, positive mantras and student pledges) raised questions since from its inception in 1983. Today, numerous studies have provided hard statistical evidence that DARE is an abysmal failure; the program has zero impact on its graduates rate of drug usage as compared to peers. The data revealing DARE’s complete inadequacy is so overwhelming that the General Accounting Office, the Department of Education and the Surgeon General’s Office have all   labeled the program as a gargantuan flop.  (A stunningly expensive flop, too – its squandered over $200 billion!)

Back to the anti-bully programs infiltrating school systems across America and around the world.

Dr. David Smith, PhD, of the University of Ottawa, conducted a meta analysis of all available research studies regarding the effectiveness of whole-school anti-bully programs.  His results, published in the School Psychology Review (2004 issue) are  clear:

  • 14% of victim outcome reports showed a minor positive benefit
  • 86% of victim outcome reports were negligible or negative
  • 100% of self-reporting bully outcome reports demonstrated negligible / negative effects

In 2007, another meta analysis out of Texas A&M  International University reviewed school-based bully prevention and intervention programs and came to the conclusion that overall, they showed “little discernable effect.”

Vreeman and Carroll published a review of 26 school-based anti-bully programs in 2007 issue of the Achieves of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.  Only 3 could point to consistent reduction in bullying.

Dr. Wendy Craig, author, researcher, speaker and professor of psychology at the prestigious Queen’s University in Canada, reports in her study that in 15% of schools with comprehensive anti-bullying problems  actually experienced the problems get worse.

There are several anti-bully programs that testify how fantastic they are, and claim to have the documentation to prove it.  Where does this evidence come from?  Not surprisingly, from the very same companies that produce and market those programs.  This kind of back patting self-assessment is a little shady, and might be viewed with the same wariness as a child who grades his own report card or employee who writes his own performance review.

The results are in, folks.  SCHOOL ANTI-BULLY PROGRAMS DO NOT WORK. And of course, they’re more popular than ever.

Just like the avaricious politicians, hysterical crusaders and uninformed ‘feel-good’ supporters who continue to champion the DARE program in spite of its losing record, the anti-bully movement is happily marching into the same ocean.

No one is in favor of bullying, just like no one is in favor of arson, or reckless driving, or dumping toxic waste.  Supporting school anti-bully programs would seem like a no-brainer.  But the picture changes when you dig a little deeper.

First, consider private schools.  Along with a better reputation for academic achievement, there’s an air of prestige, and a considerable tuition obligation.   Such institutions are understandably reluctant to there’s a bullying problem, as that would damage their perceived status.  And if there’ s no problem, there’s no need to find a solution.

Next, let’s take a look at the public school system.  The embarrassing reality is that American students rank far below their peers in other developed countries – in benchmark areas such as science and mathematics, US children are in the bottom third.  Our nosedive to the bottom is accelerating, too.  Government teachers are incompetent of imparting the basics.  What possible hope is there that they can be trusted to successfully execute a complex, social design experiment?

Let’s say the schools outsource their anti-bully programs.  Who are the ‘experts’? There’s an incredible array to choose from, depending on a school’s needs and budget. The ranks include psychiatrists and psychologists, PhD’s, lawyers, martial artists, clergy members, former victims, activists for peace & love, and even extreme BMX stunt performers. There are individuals who’ll do a one day assembly, and organizations that specialize in comprehensive, multi-year, district wide contracts.  The men and women who create these programs are, with rare exception, good people with noble intentions.  Unfortunately, are also out of touch and completely misdirected.

How could so many people be so off target?

The biggest reason – Money.  Massive amounts of money.  Bullying is a ‘crisis’ and eliminating it has wide public support.  Administrators and politicians have an opportunity to tap into funding and raise their budgets significantly.  The anti-bully ‘gurus’ are competing for a slice of a very lucrative pie. It stands to reason that as smart business people,  they’re going to create programs to suit the requirements of the bureaucrats (who have the money) instead of for the children (who have the problems). As a result,  the programs being installed have nothing to do with empirically effective methods, and everything to do with cashing in. (Note: as a strong free market capitalist, I feel that making a profit on your goods or services is both necessary and good.  When you’re selling something of value.  But when years of evidence show that your product is defective, continuing to hawk it unscrupulous.)

There are lots of other reasons that school anti-bully programs have failed in the past and are doomed to fail in the future.

  • Educators are having a hard enough time trying to do their job.  By making them responsible for enforcing an anti-bully code, they’ll be conscripted into the role of monitor / cop / judge. This is a duty that teachers aren’t trained for, and don’t want to do.
  • When a child is caught and punished for  being cruel or aggressive, it virtually guarantees  harsh retaliation towards the target.  The bully will become resentful at the authorities who mete out the discipline, and get  furious at his (or her) victim for getting him in trouble.  Even if overt things like name-calling and physical intimidation come to a stop, the behavior will be driven underground.
  • While legislation and policy can be legitimately used to regulate conduct (like stealing, hitting or cheating), rules can not enforce thinking or attitude (affection, inclusion, compassion).
  • “Feel-Good” demonstrations are notoriously bogus.  Cheerful banners declaring “Violence Free Zone”,  bright friendship bracelets bearing messages like, “Be Nice, Not Mean”, and organized class hugs on the football field may affirm a persons altruistic intentions,  but they don’t address the causes of bullying or mitigate its effects.  But gosh, if it feels good, it must be accomplishing something, right?
  • The message doesn’t resonate with the offenders, because they are insulated in their peer group. Boys and girls who engage in bullying behaviors are frequently very popular and are much more likely to influence their classmates  to ridicule the message than they are to be changed by it.
  • “Zero Tolerance” = “Zero Thinking”. The hard-line, no nonsense zero tolerance approach to confronting a problem appeals to  demagogue politicians and  Deputy Barney Fife types, but leaves no room for the application of common sense and discretion required in the real world.  Typical (and outrageous) examples of zero tolerance include commercial airline pilots having their nail clippers confiscated from their carry on bag,  pre-teen students being suspended from school because they hugged each other, and an 11 year old who was ticketed and detained because he made an unapproved trip to the bathroom during lunch. If you want to turn relatively dull, harmless adults  into dangerous fascists, give them the clout of a “zero tolerance against bullying” policy.
  • The rule of ‘good after bad’ states that people are more likely to stay the course after they’ve made an investment.  You can see examples of this everywhere, from couples enduring unhappy relationships, or stock holders hoping the market will turn around, to Linus keeping his faith that the Great Pumpkin will appear, long after all his friends have finished trick or treating on Halloween.  If you were an administrator who’d publicly supported a program, and you’d devoted significant time, resources and funds to make it happen, how anxious would you be to admit you were wrong? Wouldn’t you be far more likely to try to find any measure of success, no matter how small? Even in the face of failure, wouldn’t you try to make adjustments instead of confess such a massive and embarrassing blunder? Is there a chance you would say things aren’t working out because there’s so much more work to be done – and the program actually needs to be expanded?

Bullying and social cruelty are very real, very serious problems.  They need to be addressed.  For all of their differences, school-based anti-bully programs have one thing in common – a jaw dropping history of failure.