March 27, 2007

Bullying needs tackled, and not just in schools

Children The Guardian's education supplement carries a story stressing the need for bullying to be tackled better by schools, particularly Catholic education schools where bullying over homosexuality is not being openly tackled at all:

A report from the Commons education select committee singles out Catholic schools, which, it says, should be forced to make public their commitment to stop gay pupils being bullied. The Catholic church has refused to follow government guidelines urging schools to set up specific policies against homophobic bullying.

Cyber bullying is also on the rise with little action leading to results, the committee have said.

All of this brings in the concerns of what happens when adults bully online, when education fails to nip the problem of obnoxiousness in the bud back in elementary and high school. Kathy Sierra, one of my favourite reads, is a prisoner in her own home now having been the victim of online bullying and, latterly, death threats. It's disgusting. It's the underbelly of society, which has long existed closeted up in the corners of our playgrounds, in our housing schemes, in the places 'normal people' don't frequent, now parading itself in our own 'nice neighbourhoods'.

What are we going to do about it? If it were our own physical neighbourhoods what would our reaction be? To stop anyone going outside until the bullies go away? That wouldn't work, so neither is stopping our blogging for fear of reprisals or to make a statement. But what is the solution to bullying, the cyber or meatspace variety? Wes thinks we carry on doing what we are doing, but clearly it's not having the effects we crave. Does a better solution exist?

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Talking about bullying, have you seen Kathy Sierra's latest post? http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/as_i_type_this_.html
It's not just kids who are victims, and it's time it was stopped!

If you read through the many comments on Kathy's blog, you get the impression that there's more to tell. It's a mess, in fact. But I don't think the medium is the problem - it's people. They always have been. Teachers frequently go ex-directory to avoid unpleasant/threatening/sexual phone calls. It's even easier to be nasty online - much less engaged than phoning. You just spew it out and hit "send". Maybe it's merely the latest manifestation of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so to speak. (A useful image, that)

With all the terrible news of murders in the news but knife toting hoodies this is more of an issue then ever before.

Working in a large school it constantly amazes me just how many staff don't regard a pupil calling another pupil gay in a derogatory way as unacceptable." Its just a bit of fun" I am told. Scandalous.

I wonder how much of the 'turning a blind eye' that Brian C highlights is down to teachers/schools seeing intervention as pointless in the first place.

I am very aware of a sense that many teachers feel there is no point referring it up the ladder because 'nothing will happen', and that those further up the ladder do nothing because they believe that those at the top 'will do nothing'... and so another pupil speaks inappropriately and nothing happens to them and we wonder why they don't learn to behave in a way we approve...

An excellent website for those interested in bullying prevention is www.bullyingprevention.bravehost.com. This site features information from bullying prevention expert Gail Nachimson.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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