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Links of the Day:

– Is there really a crisis over school bullying? A columnist in the Wall Street Journal says there’s no data showing bullying is more of a problem now than in years past. Nick Gillespie suggests the fixation on bullying is a result of the era of helicopter parenting:

But is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim? I don’t see it. I also suspect that our fears about the ubiquity of bullying are just the latest in a long line of well-intentioned yet hyperbolic alarms about how awful it is to be a kid today.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses. The antibullying movement is already conflating serious cases of gay-bashing and vicious harassment with things like…a kid named Cheese having a tough time in grade school.

In Western New York, legislation is popping up to prosecute bullies. The Erie County executive reluctantly signed legislation that he doesn’t think is enforceable. Monroe County has pending legislation. We’ve also seen at least one local lawsuit related to bullying.

This issue came to the forefront because of social media use. But it exploded when several  teen suicides were linked to bullying. I think it could be dangerous for the media make the connection between suicides and bullying. Sensational media coverage could “normalize” the idea of teens killing themselves because they’ve been bullied. When a Spencerport girl killed herself, people immediately blamed bullying, despite repeated police assertions there was no link and requests for privacy from her family. Suicide is extremely complicated and we should resist the temptation to find simple explanations for these tragedies.

I interviewed a University of Rochester psychiatrist who is adamantly opposed to legislating this problem away:

“I agree we have to do something. But I think that doing legislation of that sort isn’t the effective solution,” said Dr. Eric Caine, who has studied suicide and bullying. “We need to put a tremendous amount of focus on bullying. But that isn’t the same thing as preventing suicide.”

(snip)

Dr. Caine says bullying is common, but suicide is rare, especially among high school students. He said suicide is a complex problem.

“While there may be an occasional suicide where bullying has been a central issue, there are many other factors, typically. There are often family issues, substance abuse issues, school problems, interpersonal and peer problems, sometimes the emergence of major psychiatric disorders,” he said.

(snip)

He said teaching values is important.

“I think people have to be realistic that passing a law isn’t the same thing as changing the community,” he said. “And that passing a law isn’t the same thing as having people be responsible adults or responsible kids.”

I endured terrible taunts in 5th grade that included “Orphan Ugly,” a reference to my frizzy red hair. It was relentless and humiliating. One day I couldn’t stop crying in class and my teacher asked me what was wrong. He called my parents and the parents of the bullies that night. It got a lot better after I stopped suffering in silence.

People can be very mean. They’re mean as kids. They’re mean as adults. Part of growing up is learning how to cope with mean people. (It’s never easy.) Part of growing up is also learning how to treat others nicely. Are children being taught these things anymore?

– The mentality of gated communities contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin. An op-ed in the New York Times discusses the “bunker” mindset in enclosed housing complexes.

– Casinos are not the answer. A longish read from Financial Times looks at the impact of casinos in Gary, Indiana.

A New York State senator needs to put his pants on.

4 Responses to Bullying Overblown?

  1. April 1, 2012 at 7:45 am Ben C. responds:

    My people came to America in part to escape the “bullying” prevalent in Sicily around the turn of the 20th Century.

    Little did they know that in the ethnic pecking order of the then 10th Ward – that would be the modern Maplewood neighborhood, ya know the Kodak bedroom community before Greece and now, no neighborhood – Italian Americans in the ’50’s would be at the butt- end of the Irish and German Americans before them.

    It was common sport to kick dago arse in the 10th. See, they thought we all had stilettos hidden in our waistbands. Well, we did, just in case we came along a piece of provolone we would have something with which to cut it.

    So, what do you do when confronted with being the first Italian-American family to dare move from S. Plymouth Ave. in the 9th Ward to Bryan St. in the 10th? Not much to, it, really:

    1. Walk on the other side of the street when an older bunch of Irish hoodlums were on your side.

    2. Make friends with a couple of older bigger Irish guys by buying them a personal pan sized pizza at Veltre’s on Dewey every so often.

    3. Wear an extemely offensive, greasey DA to re-inforce the stereotype among neighborhood “minicon” parents and say things like “dees” and “don’ts” a lot when spoken to.

    4. Never ever get an adult mixed-up in the matter for they will mess it up more than the original problem.

    5. For revenge, beat the crap out of them academically at school. Besides, it made the IIrish nuns go nuts figuring out how to put an Italian American name at the top of the raw spelling test score list.

    6. Use your grandfathers address in the 9th Ward for Little League because if you played in 10th Ward Little League it was for certain that you would play right field for the bottom 3 innings of every game.

    7. Learn to love the Irish. After all, their homeland was converted to the Faith by an Italian and they have inherited the dark (black) Irish look from the many Roman conquerors who invaded their lands and took their woman.

    Nah, you don’t need some adults to make laws about bullying.

  2. What exactly to these laws entail? I have to admit, I haven’t been following it very closely because like many, I assume that they are attempts to criminalize bullying, which for all my experiences on the not fun end of that relationship I am adamantly against. I am more for improving education, and if that is what these laws are doing, improving resources for parents, teachers and mental health professionals to deal with it, then I have no problem with it.

    Yes, bullying has always been around and I don’t think it is any more prevalent than it was when I was younger, but this new, more connected world can paradoxically leave a bullied child more isolated. When we were kids we could still imagine someplace we could go that we wouldn’t be. It is harder for these kids with the cyber-bullying, especially if the bully pulls “friends” from distant places into their fun. This makes it easier for the victims to think they really are the one with the problem.

  3. April 1, 2012 at 9:16 am Ben C. responds:

    Sometimes it’s the parents that are the woest bullies. I used to coach Little League and they would start out on the lawn chair somewhere to the side of the bleachers and by the third inning they’d be in the 3rd base coaching box yelling at their son to follow-thru and throw down and over the outside corner.

    Gradually, the kid would turn into a mass of jelly and go catatonic on the bench.

  4. Pingback: The Tradition of Bullying | Hand of Ananke

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