Friday, April 02, 2010

Anderson Cooper takes on school bullying, real world more than cyber

On Wednesday and Thursday, March 31 and April 1, Anderson Cooper’s 360 program covered the problem of school bullying.

The point was made that today the Internet and cyberbullying makes the possibility meaner than it was a half century ago, when the attitude was that everyone had to learn to take some hazing. But many of the incidents in the recent past, particularly in Massachusetts, involved “real world” bullying outside of cyberspace.

Anderson Cooper interviewed Gus Sayer, a superintendent a Phoebe Prince’s school district, last night. Anderson seemed to express a degree of personal outrage at what had happened in two or three recent tragic cases.

The New York Times today (Apr 2) has a front page story on the problem by Erik Eckholm and Katie Zezima, "Extent of the torment was not known, officials say," link here.

I was “bullied” somewhat in junior high school in the 1950s (then grades 7 to 9). I lost my own bearings and in 9th grade made a very inappropriate comment to a classmate who had experienced a seizure in another class. I certainly heard about it afterwards, as I should have (actually, the school nurse called me in and balled me out, starting with “I want this stopped” when I didn’t at first know what she was talking about). I think teenagers (boys and girls both, but in different ways – with girls it is more “relational”) develop a certain callousness, a certain idea of “survival of the fittest” which, as we know, sometimes explodes into history or politics with tragic and globally cataclysmic results.

When I was substitute teaching, there were a couple of bullying incidents in my classes that were beyond my ability to control. One occurred in a special education class (middle school), and I had to call security. Another incident occurred in an eighth grade science class, generally good (80% of the kids did their work well and a number of the kids surely became academic stars in high school and college later – I could tell), but a boy wrote an anti-Semitic comment on a Post-It stickypad and stuck it on a girl. I could not see it happen, but I was banned from the school (it might have happened in the call). Another teacher showed up the next day and said he was there to “protect” a few of the students. The insinuation was that I did not “connect” with a few students enough to serve as an authority figure.

Anderson’s report focused on why the administration looked the other way for so long in these recent cases. Regular teachers in practice have difficulty with the demands of the most troubled students, but in practice some administrations want to “pass the buck” onto subs. I’ve talked about this before, particularly on my “BillBoushka” blog July 25 2007 (use Blogger Profile to navigate).

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