Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feel-goodery from Witmer

I've received numerous invitations to participate in today's announcement by former education minister and Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Elizabeth Witmer regarding the creation of an anti-bullying week in November.
The press release is full of endorsements from anti-bullying coalitions, teachers' federations, etc. If it passes through to its eventual end, it would create an awareness week in the third week of November and mandate that activities take place in every school across Ontario during that week.
So what?
You can wear pink, label a week and parade against bullying all you want. It'll make you feel great -- particularly if people who bully get behind it and add their weight (imagine being bullied into anti-bullying activities?). But what does Witmer's resolution do to actually improve the social conditions in our schools?
Does it direct any increased funding to safe-school programs?
Does it encourage adults in schools to use their common sense and step in when they see any signs of behaviour that lead to someone being bullied?
Does it teach parents how not to make bullies of their children?
Does it change our society as a whole to reward the meek and punish the aggressive?
Does it do anything to address the deep-rooted sentiment of not "ratting out" bullies?
Does it eliminate the bystander? You know, when we stand by and watch it happen but do nothing?
If it doesn't move any closer to answering yes on any of the above, then this resolution is just empty platitudes.
Bullying is a societal problem that extends well beyond schools. I always hesitate to join the masses slamming schools and school boards for 'not doing enough' to stop bullying. Ending it requires more than just teachers and principals. The first place to look is in the home, then in the peer group. Solve that conundrum first.
To add to this, I always cringe at media coverage of bullying. Those who are most successful in media are type-A personalities-- aggressive, dominant, stubborn. Read: bullies. So someone whose bully qualities have been honed to the benefit of their craft is now writing about someone who was bullied. I saw journos I respected bully a school board through coverage and public opinion into taking unprecedented steps to address why people weren't reporting what they witness.
I cringed when I read this today, almost a repeat of what happened in Dec. 2004 and I do hope we're able to take a breath, count to 10 and consider the bigger picture prior to blaming any school involvement.


HBO said...

Has any anti-bullying program addressed how a bullied child should react? What I mean is during the first few times when the bully is kind of feeling out a 'victim' (and is this a conscious decision/action initially?)to see what will happen, is there any recommendation to the victim on how to nip it in the bud, beyond the 'laugh it off' statement. Do you know what I mean?

Interesting to hear your comments on media folk - I was thinking my son should look into journalism but now I think he would get eaten alive. Video game tester is his first choice anyway.

Bullying is rampant - stand in line at the grocery store and read the insulting, degrading, judgmental headlines on every magazine cover. Read anonymous comments on blogs ripping people to shreds. Listen to the dialogue between our elected MP's and MPP's. We've become so rude and inconsiderate as a society, and the kids see and hear it all, because nobody tries to hide it, so of course the kids are going to think it's ok to act in the same way towards each other in, or outside of, a school setting.

Sorry - late night coffee leads to ranting, apparently.

Anonymous said...

Talk is cheap ER. Every day should be anti-bullying day.

If this is first and foremost on the minds of the opposition ed. critic then McGuinty's got nothing to worry about in 2011.

All fluff. No government has ever had the scones to do what's necessary.

HBO said...

"Does it change our society as a whole to reward the meek and punish the aggressive?"

This statement stood out to me, and my brain has been working on it for awhile now. I need some more input to help me understand why.

It seems like it should be a very important consideration when trying to find resolutions to the bully/victim problem.


Education Reporter said...

Thanks for the comments so far-- I also received a lengthy e-mail on this post.
The person felt I was being too flippant, and perhaps insulting with my comments.
Flippant? Yes. That was the point. We can talk about bullying until we're all blue in the face, but I don't see it getting to the root(s) of the problem.

Having said all that I've said in the post however, I must commend the Free Press' treatment in the Feb. 19 paper. Articles by Kate Dubinski and Jen O'Brien that acknowledge the difficulty in knowing the young man was facing troubles and frustration that it wasn't noticed prior to his tragic death. Kudos to those two for reporting on a very difficult, complex matter and hitting some of the right notes.