Q: How do you stop bullying?

A: Treat children with kindness and respect and teach them to treat others with kindness and respect.

Massachussetts just passed a law that’s supposed to help schools crack down on bullying (or maybe force them too), but this morning’s New York Times includes an Op-Ed that wisely points out that bullying cannot be stopped by legislation alone. The piece is worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll quote my favorite bit:

Most important, educators need to make a profound commitment to turn schools into genuine communities. Children need to know that adults consider kindness and collaboration to be every bit as important as algebra and reading. In groups and one-on-one sessions, students and teachers should be having conversations about relationships every day. And, as obvious as it might sound, teachers can’t just preach kindness; they need to actually be nice to one another and to their students.

The only thing I disagree with, and at this point it’s a philosophical opinion, because I don’t think there’s enough evidence to decide one way or another, is their claim that “apparently, the inclination and ability to protect one another and to enforce a culture of tolerance does not come naturally. These are values that must be taught.” I’d suggest we need to avoid rewarding meanness to allow innate kindness to grow, not “teach” kindness as though it can only be learned through active teaching.

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One thought on “Q: How do you stop bullying?

  1. I very much agree.

    And unfortunately, too often attempts to legislate against fighting and bullying in schools only results in the victims being punished and the aggressors getting off unscathed. You can blame it on a lot of things, including many teachers being either invested in or simply inured to the status quo, parental and administrative monofocus on the wrong issues, etc.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m pretty sure anything that, practically speaking, punishes people for defending themselves while winking at the (very bad) status quo isn’t it.

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