Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

September 15, 2011

With Whatever Tools We Have: Battling Bullying

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 3:07 am
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There is a place in suburban Michigan where a great deal of attention has been paid to insure that teachers will not talk about  students’ sexual orientation.  The harassment and humiliation of students with suspected or actual homosexual orientation, however, receives no attention.  In fact, it is ignored.  In this same school district, eight students have committed suicide in the past two years.  Gay or straight, I don’t think this is a place I’d want children I cared about to spend any amount of time.  There may be no talk about sexuality, but here is plenty being communicated – “you can’t count on adults for protection”, keep your head down and mind your own business”, “membership is our community s by no means guaranteed”.

There are some who will explain the issues in Anoka, ichigan as a power struggle between church and state. Others will discuss crtical civil rights violations.  In ther towns, and with other high profile bullying news stories, other issues such  technology have been trotted forward as the central problem.  The way I see it, we miss the boat when we  view bullying in too small and too limiting a wa, about only a particular type of child, a school related issue, a result of the latest invention.  Bullying is an issue that is about the state of our world, and our place in it, and bully prevention is, in my mind, the critical test of our humanity.    How we deal with bullying reveals the nature of our humanness and either the darkness, or the power of our soul.  And our children are watching whether we will stand up as heroes, or remain in the shadows.

There will always be those with religious beliefs that label others as evil and unworthy.  History, including the 9-11 anniversary so recently celebrated, provides too many examples of such beliefs serving as excuses for terrorism and mass murder.  Yet the Judeo-Christian heritage has at its core the recognition of man’s duty towards his fellow.  What does it say about our schools and our nation if we shirk our duty?  And what kind of future leaders of our nation and our world can our children become if we walk away from this challenge and opportunity?

Pastor Martin Niemoller, opposed to the actions of the Nazis, said it best:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me —

and there was no one left to speak for me.

If we stand idly by while teenagers are bullied, in Anoka, Michigan, or Boston, New Jersey, every city, town and school district in the country, then we create a citizenry of social ignorers, who will not speak for us.  I would argue, that if we, the adults who are charged with the protection of children do not speak, yell, scream, at the top of our lungs at the inhumanity of bullying, of anyone, anywhere, anytime. . . if we don’t put our money, energy and hearts into this battle . . . then I’m not sure we deserve to spoken for at all.

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