Saturday, March 6, 2010

Good News on Bullying

Every now and then the newspaper contains good news. Such was the case this past Thursday, March 4, when the Los Angeles Times carried an article with the headline "Fewer children bullied or beaten up" (page A16).

A study funded by the Justice Department (our tax dollars at work, in a useful way!) and published recently in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine revealed a significant decrease in physical bullying of children between 2003 and 2008. Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, cited as a cause the proliferation of school-based programs to combat bullying following the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

I jumped on the Internet and quickly located that CACRC site -- a great source for anyone interested in additional background information. Among other things, I found a paper on school-based Victimization Prevention Programs (VPP), which detailed the conditions under which such efforts seem to demonstrate success. Among those conditions are: 1) intervention at young ages (if possible, before undesirable behaviors have a chance to develop); 2) active, systematic, and specific skills training; and 3) intensive programs exceeding 20 hours, repeated if possible over a multiple-year period. (Are you surprised by the latter? I'm not. We study English, math, history, etc. every year!) Lecture presentations alone, and the use of fear tactics, tend not to be successful.

It is difficult for me to contemplate anyone arguing that bullying is a useful or healthy activity. There may be some disagreement, however, about the philosophical justification and the logistical feasibility of including VPP in K-12 schools.

In regard to the former, it could be argued that schools are not the proper venue for "social engineering." This is the parents' function, some would say. Well, of course it is! But with 22% of children reporting bullying in 2003 -- and clearly many more subjected to the phenomenon but not reporting it -- maybe the parents need some help. (And some parents, victims of all kinds of negative childhood experiences themselves, are simply not equipped to provide positive role models.) School is a great equalizer, and it is the one social environment that practically every child experiences. Given the negative consequences of bullying on its victims, it seems a shame to me to pass up a proven opportunity to ameliorate a devastating and all-too-common behavior.

Can schools really implement such training effectively in an era when standardized tests have achieved near-deity status? Apparently some of them can, because they do! What's required is funding, teacher training, well-developed instructional modules, and a philosophy that values appropriate social behaviors as well as pure academic knowledge.

What are the consequences of not providing mature social learning environments for our children? Just observe the overgrown children who populate our legislative bodies!


  1. Very interesting topic and post, Ron. This is not a topic I have thought about much admittedly but its importance is very evident given the long-term repercussions of not providing youth with positive, healthy, and mature social learning environments as you point out. And I think you have made one of the funniest and most accurate comparisons/statements of the year relating to our legislative bodies! That could not have been said better.

  2. Given that a person's success in life is dependent upon social/emotional, as well as cognitive/academic intelligence, it seems only fitting that schools can be a place where children can be educated in BOTH areas. Of course, training, selection, & evaluation of teachers would have to be upgraded, accordingly. This would be no easy project. As of now, the prevailing attitude in this area is well known. Wow, it would really be considered crazy even to raise the question as to whether schools should teach mental health & social relationship skills, & leave most cognitive/academic development to the parents! Actually, I believe it's most sensible to view people "wholistically," so that these two intrinsically interrelated areas can be attended to both at home & at school. And yes, the current political situation is surely reflective of the social ills resulting from emotionally undeveloped people. Marty

  3. I challenge you to look up how Ireland's economic growth far outpaced the Scandinavian countries because it decreased the tax burden on productivity and made the system more efficient. It won't support your ideology but what's more important: the truth or the liberal "truth" (Truth is just relative right?)? You've got the Dems controlling the White House and both Houses of Congress and you still do nothing but complain! Maybe it's because your hopes for a liberal paradise are simply unattainable. Destroying productivity and subsidizing mediocrity hardly contribute to a more healthy society. Interesting too how much you rely on the importance of social engineering because if left-wing ideology contained all the self-evident solutions for the problems of the world, maybe people would just turn to it on common sense! But liberalism defies common sense, ignores reality, relies on failed models again and again. There's a good reason most people don't call themselves liberals (and it's not because they're too stupid as the self-righteous left would like to dismissively say), it's because practically speaking, there's no place for liberalism in making a productive society. There's just an illusion that it works because it's hijacked public education, higher education academia, the media, the film industry, etc. But people with more common sense learn to question all the propaganda and shameless distortions to perpetuate the myths of liberalism. Society works best when people accept personal responsibility, don't have the government interfering with every aspect of their life, people understand the importance of having moral values and not this b.s. politically correct relativist worldview-- but of course, all of this is anathema to the left. You say more government, more taxation, and more social engineering! No where in the world or in the history of the world have these dangerous fallacies ever proven to be anything more than hopeless pipe-dreams that only lead to authoritarianism and collective misery.

  4. There's no surprise that a hard core liberal such as yourself would eagerly embrace this notion of using the schools for "social engineering". It's the left-wing dream to radically transform society by instilling (or perhaps brainwashing) people with the "correct" ideas. You have obviously become so wedded to the intransigent fallacies of your ideology that the way reality actually works is irrelevant and perhaps politically incorrect. You say that what's required is more "funding", no surprise at all. Just waste $ on problems and it always works right? If you think most problems in the world are due to underfunding, underregulation, and improper social engineering, you're what we call a liberal. I've read a number of your blogs and I don't find anything attractive about your views. I just hear endless angry ranting and diatribes against everything conversative which you obviously hate with an irrational passion. There's no shortage to your litany of complaints, unfortunately you offer no viable solutions. Just more government, more bureaucracy, more laws, more regulations and more social engineering. Capitalism works, plain and simple. When you're stuck in an ivory tower of elitist daydreaming, I understand it's hard to see the truth. But the left's tactics for condescension and Big Brotherish "I know better than you" has always done little more than expose you guys for the angry, arrogant snobs that you are. I'm sorry that truth is so painful for you and all your buddies in academia to swallow. If you look at FACTS (not just slanted news found in beloved left-wing media) you would notice that capitalism is the only system that has ever promoted the most successful and productive societies. You'll probably say, No wait, look at all the poverty here in the U.S.!!! Unfortunately the U.S. is not even a true laissez-faire capitalist system due to the heavy increase of government intervention over the last half century which certainly hasn't been enough for you or the other utopian dreamers on the left. Not only that, how do you know that anyone in poverty is going to do more with the money that is redistributed to them? You don't. You just blindly think that every social ill is due to poor social engineering and not enough liberalism. It's just an endless social experiment of redistributing wealth to perfect society that never works and only undermines productivity and negates any motivation a person might have to improve. The end result is mediocrity, complacency and bloated government that will always find a justification for expanding its power. There'll always be another liberal complaint that needs to find a remedy through the instruments of government. There are a number of countries with more economic freedom than the U.S. And economic freedom is what empowers people. Overloads of taxation and regulation always drive down motivation to produce and productivity suffers. Look at Scandinavia and see how little job creation there's been there, when the average tax burden is over 60% and the public sector consumes about 50% of the GDP. Does this confuse you? I'm sure there's always some sly left-wing sophistry to distort the facts. Your blog is full of them. And yet you spout the same usual rant about how we need more government here, more government there.