Thursday, October 10, 2013

Anti-Bullying Programs Promote Bullying

Why are we not surprised?

Everyone knows that bullying is bad. Everyone also knows more and more children are being bullied. The pusillanimous leaders of our educational institutions have failed to take direct, punitive action against bullies. Thus, it continues, unmolested.

You will certainly not be surprised to learn that these same administrators have decided to fight bullying with increased self-awareness and consciousness-raising. They have instituted anti-bullying programs that make bullies feel bad about themselves and tell their victims how best to defend themselves. They seem to believe that empathy will solve the problem.

It’s almost as though they are trying to cure bullying through group therapy.

The result: more bullying. Not only that, more effective bullying.

University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000students from all 50 states.

He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite.

Jeong said it was, “A very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.”

The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be more likely to become a victim of bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.

The results were stunning for Jeong. “Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact — some positive impact.”

In anti-bullying videos children are shown different types of bullying—presumably you don’t know you are being bullied until you’ve seen a video—and constructive ways to respond.

The result: the bullies are learning new and better ways to bully.

Amazingly the videos also teach bullies how better to get away with it:

The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and eveneducate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.

Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it.

According to Jeong, some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind. “This study raises an alarm,” he said. “There is a possibility of negative impact from anti-bullying programs.”

Consider this: if you show victims how they can respond, sensitively, you are telling the bullies that you, as an adult are not going to protect their victims. You are saying that no adult authority will intervene forcefully to stop the bullying. It's open season for bullies.

The moral of the story: as long as there are no real sanctions against bullies they will continue to do as they do. Appealing to their empathy for their victims just makes things worse.


Anonymous said...

Shocker. It's like saying anti-breathing programs promote gasping.

I had a difficult time with a bully in high school. Awful stuff, but I grew from it. Yes, there have been negative consequences, as I am a more protected person than I might otherwise have been. That said, I toughened-up and learned a lot: about who my real friends were, that human beings don't often stand up in the face of injustice, and that people in authority often turn a blind eye to cruelty. And this was at a private school (that I left after I'd completed that academic year). Again, it was a growth experience.

I've been very interested in watching this whole anti-bullying phenomenon. Like global warming, it kind of came out of nowhere. I'd love to learn more about the genesis of this movement, who the players are, and how they are motivated.

I remember reading David Brooks' "The Organization Kid" in The Atlantic years ago and being struck by how children weren't doing anything unless it was organized by some institution or association. Is that what it's come to? We can't deal with a perennial part of human life like bullying without institutionalizing it? What about the community? And I'm talking about the REAL community, not the institutionally-imposed community.

Do they not read "Lord of the Flies" in school anymore? I suspect not. It's not bizarre nor nice enough...


Anonymous said...

I grew up w/it. A fat child/adolescent, many called me "Larva". I engaged in countless fights. But bullies got bigger than me.

At 13, I was knocked out 3 times, & roused myself for a 4th Round before an adult stepped in. I was nearly castrated by a huge brute.

That's when I decided it was time to retire from MMA activities. There were still bullies in HS, but I managed to finesse them.

I protected younger kids from bullies. But again, the yokels grew too big for me.

As an adult, it was more subtle. E.g., a supervisor forged documents to get me fired. I managed to expose her plot. SHE was fired.

IMHO, there are v v many people who Enjoy inflicting injury and distress. I call them Sadists (not to include those in consensual relationships w/Masochists).

It's one of the Dark Sides of Human Nature. Get used to it. Fight it if you can. -- Rich Lara

JP said...

The guy who bullied me in elementary school ended up killing his father and then immediately committed suicide in his 20's.

So, some of these bullies have issues that these programs certainly aren't going to resolve.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this is the paper for more details
"A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools" Seokjin Jeong and Byung Hyun Lee

Bullying seems like a hard subject, hard to label, or even bad to label, to separate victim from perpetrator in a simple way. Is teasing bullying? Is reacting aggressively to teasing bullying? I had more intense fights at home with my siblings than classmates.

The report doesn't mention sports, but competition seems a way of directing aggressive energy, especially for boys.

I remember Coach played by Tom Hanks in "A league of their own", yelling at one of his players until she cried, and then he got mad and said "There's no crying in baseball." So that illustrated two sides to me - stupid aggression, and victim response.

It reminded me of a bike accident in middle school scraping up my hands and instead of crying, I started swearing at myself, and felt stronger, more able to not wait for someone to save me, but planning how to limb my bike home.

So bullies are real, and yet we can all be bullies in different circumstances when we feel aggressive and self-righteous, so outside of physical harm, its really hard for me to see the line, where and how interference happens, when all my life lessons came when there were no adults to label and punish the aggressor.