It is not an exaggeration to say that bullying in our schools, particularly in North America, has become an epidemic. Despite all the attention and news coverage, kids continue to be bullied, and unfortunately, many are driven to take their own lives.
There is no need for this to continue. With a workable short term strategy and cooperative long term plan we can put an end to this plague.
In the short term, schools can do three things:
First, they can implement a zero tolerance policy on any form of mistreatment, not just bullying. This includes any manner of harassment, teasing, making a joke at someone else’s expense or laughing at another’s misfortune. This applies to students, teachers and anyone else involved with the school.
Wait a minute, you say. Teasing is harmless, everyone does it. Nonsense! That’s like saying smoking filtered cigarettes is harmless. It’s simply not true. Any behaviour that hurts another person is harmful and therefore, inappropriate.
Second, there must be intense supervision in every corner of the school and schoolyard. Supervision must be visible anywhere students congregate, including classrooms, lunch rooms, washrooms, hallways, stairwells, gymnasiums, locker rooms, buses, bus loading areas and so on.
Third, there must be remedial programs (not punitive) for students who mistreat others. Such students need to be removed from the main student population and given proper counseling. When they demonstrate that they understand the inappropriateness of their behaviour and prove that they can treat others with respect, they can be reintegrated.
If we really want end bullying, though, we need an effective long term strategy. We need to change the priority of our education curriculum that presently focuses on academics in order to foster economic gain. Instead we would be better served with one that focuses on helping children to feel good about themselves. In order to accomplish this, families, communities and government need to get involved.
In a recent article, David Suzuki spoke about how in 1971 the country of Bhutan, which is situated between India and China, changed its measure of progress from that of gross national product, to one of gross national happiness. We need to take a similar approach with our schools.
Rather than measure the progress of students or the success of our schools using grade point average, we would be best to measure it on how good students feel about themselves, how well they treat one another, how happy and healthy they are.
It matters a hoot that our children know how to speak a particular language or know about the WWI, if there is bullying and obesity happening in our schools.
Government sets the education agenda and school boards establish the curriculum. We need to ‘encourage’ them to create a curriculum and education mandate that makes helping children to feel good about themselves the number one priority.
Schools need to create a genuine culture of love, compassion and acceptance. They need to teach kindness, helpfulness, gratitude and forgiveness with students, teachers and families alike. They need to embrace the value of wisdom rather than wealth … and wisdom doesn’t come from books.
Schools need to work hand-in-hand with parents. Each has an equal stake. Too many parents are bringing children into this world, then absolving themselves of their parental responsibilities. Teachers, schools and the education system cannot mend the broken heart of a child whose parent is no longer in their life. It is essential that parents make raising their children to feel good about themselves their number one priority.
It has been said that the measure of a society is how well it treats its elderly. An equally important measure is how well it raises its children.
When we welcome these ideals we will end bullying!
One last comment on this matter. Well known Canadian actor, Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease, recently spent three weeks in Bhutan. While he was there, he experienced no trembling or other Parkinson’s symptoms. There is something to be said about making happiness your priority!
Have an awesomely happy day!