1. JJ_Maxx
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    Think Tank: Bullying

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by JJ_Maxx, Feb 24, 2013.

    Due to the recent public attention and media blitz on bullying, I have been pondering this subject and thought I might share in an intelligent, thought-out, dissection of this issue and see what becomes of it. This may get long, but that's only because I feel that we need to look at the scientific, social and psychological aspects of the issue. (As best as we can, of course.)

    It is a tricky task, because I seek to look at both the minutia and a historical over-arching perspective.

    I will preface this discussion by being transparent: My political views are conservative and my religious views are Christian. I don't expect these views to hinder any facts or conclusions.

    So let's start out with definitions:

    We know that there is growing trend of teens and pre-teens committing suicide because of being bullied. In fact, suicide rates among 10 to 14-year-olds have grown more than 50 percent over the last three decades. (The American Association of Suicidology, AAS)

    Now, for some of my own observations and thoughts.

    I believe that there are two sides to this discussion: The Bully and The Victim. I believe that over the past 50 years, we have weakened the defenses of the 'victims' to deal with bullying. Through both media and a breakdown of the family, our society has created young people with little to no self-worth beyond superficial facades.

    I heard a commentator the other day state that bullting isn't natural or normal. Is this true? Isn't bullying a method of getting power by making others powerless? What did we expect would happen when you place a large group of immature humans in a social group? Aren't humans naturally inclined to create power structures within a social group?

    We may not like it, but at our core, humans are self-preservationists. As kids, we learn to use respect and tact and hard-work to get power and respect but when you are a kid and you want a toy, you take it, without regard to consequences.

    ...or as Ayn Rand put it, that each man “exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”

    I believe this is hard-wired into humans when they are born, but we grow out of it when we are older because we are taught to be civilized and that greater things can be accomplished as a group, than as an individual.

    I'll leave it there to allow others to chime in and get some discussion going.

    ~ J. J.
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    While I'm a proud Libertarian I wouldn't pay attention to very much Ayn Rand said, personally. I've found her philosophy of Objectivism really kind of juvenile, and while based on some interesting observations, that was all they were. Observations. She wasn't even the first person to make those observations. I've heard it argued, and I honestly can't say it's completely wrong, that Objectivism is a misunderstanding of Nietzsche.

    I think humans do make social structures naturally, and I remember reading a book in university (forget what it was called) which stated that it is a 'linguistic inevitability', most languages are constructed with an 'other' in mind, and that 'other' is usually a 'better'. I can't remember exactly what this book said other than this (I did read this three years ago now) but I'm not sure about that idea. It's interesting nevertheless.

    I actually, though, think bullying is very natural; as it's about trying to get ahead in a power structure. Not about depowering someone completely but definitely tipping the scales in the aggressor's favor, and if the victim is destroyed in the process, so be it. Bullying, or rather, conflict, is I think a large part of our evolutionary make up, and through it we bare the stamp of our lowly origin. But things seem to be improving; I'm hopeful, more than anything else, that we can move beyond our more primitive aggression and ignorance. We shouldn't be ashamed of it, but definitely aware of it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Bullying is abuse. It is the exercise of power over another to diminish the other and to elevate the abuser in his or her estimation, thereby magnifying he power differential.

    That having been said, however, humans are animals, and they develop as animals. There are alphas, and there are the rest. Nor is the presence of the alpha drive detrimenta to the species as a whole. It is an essential part of the process of cultivating leadership. Among humans, leadership applies not only to the obvious societal hierarchy, but to excellence in every specialization as well.

    This, by the way, is the fallacy of programs like "no child left behind." By focusing all efforts on the trailing portion of the bell curve, the pressure to compete and excel is removed from the rest, and the result is mediocrity for all. Total equitable, but also totally undesirable. But I digress.

    The problem is how to maintain competition to achieve excellence without encouraging abuse, especially because the easiest way to compete is by stepping on the weaker competitors.
     
  4. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Yes, but I feel that society has shifted from preparing people to 'deal' with bullying to punishing the bullies. More and more schools are being pressured to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy on bullying.

    If we agree that bullying is a.) natural and b.) needs limits then aren't we handling it the wrong way?

    I mean, we shouldn't allow any physical abuse among our students but conflict resolution is important to future life.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Punishing bullies sends the wrong message. It instructs that the application of superior force is the solution, if you are in the right. But when right and wrong are subjective...
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I certainly do agree that we can be too easy on the bullied by not mentally preparing them for it. Getting the authorities to deal with bullies instead of the bullied is liable to make people mentally weak. Mind, I actually have no idea what it's like, to be honest. I wasn't bullied at school, and the few times someone has tried to belittle me as an adult I've been able to see through it. It's just never been a problem for me, not in any real sense, so I only have my adult experiences to fall on.

    Besides, as a classroom assistant, while here in the UK we don't have any official 'zero-tolerance' program, our schools like to say this is the case anyway. And, honestly, I've found it's just something they say to give make you feel better more than anything else. No one wants to actually get involved in a bullying case, other than phoning the parents, because what can they really do? Nothing at all.
     
  7. Snicket
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    have a different view of bullying than most people. Doing research in animal behavior and anthropology. I focused my own essay on this before. Bullying is a natural animal behavior. Within any animal species each species forms a click and group hierarchy. Most kids who are bullied, like myself, have been socially isolated from the group. Generally because said animal is not presenting the appropriate behavior that the group accepts. Peer bullying is a form of species enculturation schoolyards become micro societies where children learn the fundamental societal rights and wrongs. Look at our work force and our class system, we have the poor, middle class, and super rich. Everyone in this society is separated into a class. What we see as bullying is actually natural evolution of our primal animal brains saying that person is not presenting accurate social cues and thus we will exile them out. Now granted it's not done in the nicest way and can be very painful. But look at our closet ancestors the apes, in ape society teenagers and children must find a group they belong to and make friends or else they are the gimps of the society. They are the unwanted group. It may seem to be bullying amongst each other, but social isolation is the way animal's communicate "I do not like the way you behave and you must behave like the rest of us"
     
  8. minstrel
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    I was bullied as a kid (8 to 12 years old). Looking back on it, I used to think it's because I'm gay, and even though I'm not a "flaming queen", as it were, it must have been apparent to my schoolmates. I had a friend (I don't know if he turned out to be gay) and we hung out together all the time, and the other kids bullied us for it.

    Then we made another friend. A third boy. Suddenly, once there were three of us, the bullying stopped. Looking back on it, I'm not sure now that I was bullied because I was gay; I may have been bullied because I didn't fit into a group. When there were three of us, we were a group. Not the same group as the other kids, but we were a group, and somehow we gained respect from that. Three is strong, two is weak, I guess.

    BTW, in my late teens I was very much under the spell of Ayn Rand. I read Atlas Shrugged ten times. I defended her philosophy to my family and friends. I am now 51 years old and I can tell you with some authority that Ayn Rand is full of shit.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is an interesting topic, and I think a big part of the recent uptick and coverage of bullying is because social media has made it worse, by orders of magnitude. It used to be that if a kid was bullied at school, when he came home, it could be pushed aside. Home was usually a safe refuge. Terrible, yes, while the child was at school, but there was a break. Now, with things like Facebook, and email lists and texts, kids are constantly bullied -- obviously not physically during non-school hours, but emotionally, with pictures and words. There's little escape -- not in the evenings or on weekends. In some respects, however, the connectedness of the internet can help to mitigate these sorts of things, by enabling like-minded people to find each other. This is probably part (although a small part) of the solution.

    There's a new book out called Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, by Emily Bazelon that I'm eager to read.

    I do think there is an instinctual element to bullying -- a primal need to cast other people as "different." It has happened constantly throughout history. And if there is no obvious physical difference, people will make them up (this happened in Rwanda with the Tutsis and Hutus). So, yes, there is something in the human psyche that causes this sort of thing. But in our enlightened times and society, we strive to overcome those types of base instincts.

    I think if the problem were due to neglectful parenting or 'broken homes' it would be of creating bullies, rather than victims. I don't believe that there has been a true 'breakdown' of the family over the last 50 years. The 1950s were extremely rough for anyone who didn't fit a particular mold, and there were plenty who did not. Life for a single mother (regardless of whether she was somehow 'to blame' for being a single mother -- i.e. perhaps a widow) was extremely difficult. Child abuse was much more accepted and viewed as a 'private family matter.' Waxing nostalgic isn't going to lead to any solutions.
     
  10. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Do you have any data to back that up? All the statistics I have seen regarding divorce, and single mothers led to a negative outlook for children in the household.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I too was bullied growing up. We moved often, about every three years, so I spent a lot of time as the New Kid. I was also taught to never fight back, which was a mistake.

    The worst was the year I lived in Syracuse, NY. My mother was there to earn her Master's degree, and on a grad student's budget, we lived in a rough part of town. I lived across a ballfield from the school. It was a sixth grade class, and the other students carried switchblades and smoked cigarettes. My only friend was the other outcast, the only black kid in the class.

    I was beat up nearly every day, crossing that ballfield. By the end of the year, I had had enough. I started fighting back. I wasn't good at it, but I determined that, rules or no, I would get better at it. I bought books about Karate and Judo, and hid them in my room. When we finally moved back to the area we originally lived in, I decided that I would start out by establishing I was no victim.

    The first week at yet another new school, the class bully sized me up, as expected, and gave me a shove when no teachers were looking. I shoved back, and he jabbed a finger in my chest. "After school," he said. "Be there."

    I knew exactly where "there" was by then. All the kids knew, and they were all there, watching. We squared off, took a few punches, and gave a few, bloodied each other's noses, and called it even. Respect was established. I won't say it was the last time a bully tried to start something there, but I never again backed down. I never started it, either, but I refused to be dominated.

    Long story short, it was an important growth milestone for me. My mother had seen what I had gone through in Syracuse, and retracted the rule against fighting back.

    In my case, the bullying forced me to grow. Not into violence - I remain a peaceful man - but into self-confidence and self-reliance.

    And that is the flip side of bullying.
     
  12. chicagoliz
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    Those particular parameters are complex and don't in and of themselves indicate their effect specifically on children. Divorce rates climbed in the 60s and 70s and then leveled off or fell. However, within those statistics, you need to parse out how many of those marriages had produced children, as there is a relatively recent phenomenon of so called 'starter marriages' that last one or two years or less, and produced no children. Depending on socio-economic status, there is not necessarily an effect on the emotional health and well-being of children raised exclusively by single mothers, with those who are raised by single mothers of high socio-economic status not faring any worse off than others within the same status. These figures also exclude children raised in families with gay parents. Children in those families may be raised in a one or two-parent household, yet those statistics are not captured in the statistics of single mothers. And in fact, studies of children raised in lesbian-led families have shown an increase in the well-being and mental health of their children.

    If you really need me to, I could try to google to find the particular studies that I read some time ago, but I don't have them handy right now, nor do I have the time this minute, as our dinner is almost ready and I've got Sunday Night Craziness about to commence. I am, however, curious to see your particular statistics, assuming they are correlated to poor outcomes with respect to child-rearing, so I might be able to answer you more effectively.

    I think the particular meaning of the 'breakdown' of the family is what we need to parse. A family with a married mother and father is not necessarily a functional, optimal, or happy family. There was a lot of hidden unhappiness in the mid part of the previous century. A lot of poor childhood outcomes these days are due to economic factors that have especially hit middle class and poor families, and especially minority families. The inequality of incomes, the failure of wages to keep up with a middle-class standard of living, the prison-industrial complex we've created, and the destruction of our industrial base have all had far more significant harmful effects on the nation's children than single parent families.
     
  13. JJ_Maxx
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    The amount of statistics and data is, well, immense and undeniable.

    But these are the facts:

    • In 1995, nearly six of 10 children living with mothers only were near the poverty line. About 45 percent of children raised by divorced mothers and 69 percent by never-married mothers lived in or near poverty, which was $13,003 for a family of three in 1998. (Source: US Census Data)
    • Children born to single mothers are more likely to drop out of school, to give birth out-of-wedlock, to divorce or separate, and to be dependent on welfare. (Source: Children’s Services Coordination Committee of California)
    • 75% of children/adolescents in chemical dependency hospitals are from single-parent families. (Source: CDC)
    • More than 50% of all youths incarcerated for criminal acts lived in one-parent families when they were children. (Source: Childrens Defense Fund)
    • 63% of suicides are individuals from single parent families. (Source: FBI)

    I could keep going, but I think we need to put aside any pride or feelings we may have in this matter and focus on the facts. We, as an 'enlightened society' are declining both morally, and academically.

    ~ J. J.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Those statistics can be misleading, because a lot of context is missing.

    Suppose forty percent of all sick days are taken on Mondays and Fridays. Does this mean employees are playing hooky to extend their weekends?

    I agree that academically, society is in decline. Morally? I'm not quite as convinced, although values are certainly shifting. Is family breaking down? Quite possibly, or perhaps that too is merely evolving away from the husband plus wife plus two-point-something kids of fifty years ago, or the parents plus grandparents plus half a dozen kids of an earlier generation. Our society is more mobile than it was, with a smaller but perhaps closer core.

    As for education, there was a huge boost in emphasis on academics in the twentieth century after the International Geophysical Year (IGY). That is at least one factor, along with the Moon Race that followed it. But there is more to it than that, and grist for another thread.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm not sure about the morally part, but I do think academically we're not as strong as a lot of other countries out there. In fact, without the H-1B visa, I think our science and engineering fields would be in big trouble.
     
  16. Talmay
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    As a product of divorce, I take offense to this notion that we're somehow already 'broken'. While sometimes I resented not having a father, he was the one who had no interest in me, I see that now. Blaming my mother for everything that went wrong in an already sour relationship and using me as proof is a disgusting view. Yes, we have struggles other 'proper' families don't, but how did this make me any less prepared for bullying?

    I was bullied. Not physically, but mentally. I was isolated and teased because of my quiet, shy personality and resistance to change, because I didn't stand up for myself and had low self esteem. My mom knew this and did everything in her power nip it in the bud, to reinforce what I already knew but didn't acknowledge. How is that her fault? You can't control what someone's thinking and manipulate them to feel otherwise. Just the same you can't mold a child's personality to whatever is suited. This entire debacle had nothing to do with my family life -- which was a positive, loving environment -- and very few people were privy to the fact my parents were divorced.

    How would having a father change this? Would it have made me more confident? I doubt it. My father was in the Navy, he was gone for months at a time. Even when my parents were together I have one memory of us living together. One.

    Statistics are pretty and simple. It reduces every case and person to a number, to make a point about how wrong their life was from the get-go. How they never stood a chance. And it all came down to the point of marital status. There is a connection, I don't deny that. But it's still insulting to those of us who did turn out alright with no help from the deadbeat who didn't give a fuck. You need to take into account of the harsh economical climate. Yes, we lived in poverty. Still do. One person can only provide so much. What about a family's medical history? Do they have mental problems that was the cause of their failed relationships, passing onto the children, anxieties and all?

    And why is this only the mother's fault? Both of my parents came from well-adjusted, proper two parent homes. Statistically, they should still be together and have raised me and my sister right. But that didn't happen. Why?

    (I apologize for the rant, but nothing gets me quite as riled up as the belief that my mother is somehow inadequate because she's single. It's an emotional topic for me.)
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Refer to Mark Twain's quote about the three kinds of lies: "lies, damned lies, and statistics."
     
  18. JJ_Maxx
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    I really don't understand how you could brush aside statistics as 'misleading'. If I polled everyone in the US whether they liked Blue or Red and 80% of people chose blue, how could I question that 80% of Americans prefer blue to red?

    If 60% of children in one-parent households are living in poverty according to the US Census, how can that be misleading?

    75% of children/adolescents in chemical dependency hospitals are from single-parent families. So according to the National Center for Disease Control, that's 3 out of every 4 kids. How is this misleading? Where is the missing 'context'?

    If facts are not facts than having a rational conversations are an impossibility.

    As far as a 'shifting' or 'evolving' family structure, if the data trend suggests that this 'evolution' is having a negative impact, are we so full of pride that we can't admit that we should turn things around? As a logical person, this astounds me.
     
  19. JJ_Maxx
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    No offense, but it seems that you would be incapable of having an un-biased discussion on the matter. Your intellect and reason would have a difficult time overtaking your emotion and pride.

    Logically, there are the minorities in all data sets. Don't be upset that you were fortunate.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As a Brit, and therefore a complete outsider, I am not sure exactly what that data means for your education system or society. I can't help but feel like this thread is something of a party I'm just not invited to. But the degrading of respect for others is becoming more and more a feature of modern life. But, this is a think tank so what would be any ideas for helping improve these statistics.

    I hate to say it, JJ, but I can't say you are going down a very comfortable road with this line of thought.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    double post
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You have to know how the statistics are sampled, and how they relate to other statistics. Even then, you must take them with a grain of salt.

    Statistics are too often used not to discover trends, but to push an agenda. Analyzing the flaws in a pile of statistics can be a very difficult analysis, even for a mathematician. And every collection of statistics, whether it is sampling error, undisclosed or unsuspected assumptions, or outright manipulation.

    I am also a logical person, a scientist by training. I know the power of statistics, and I also know the drawbacks.
     
  23. JJ_Maxx
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    The data is the data, comfortable or not. If we say that there is no accurate data, or that the data is wrong, then we have nothing to measure against. The we all just air our feelings in some giant sing-a-long. I thought we, as a group of writers, as a group of thinkers, could transcend pre-conceived biases and fallacies.

    *sigh*

    I don't know...
     
  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Don't worry, I do get what you mean by this. I wasn't actually talking about the validity of the data itself. I have no opinion of it (I can't possibly) what I mean was, the mere fact that data was brought up is troubling. It's easy to just take data and ignore the human beings behind it I find, remember Gradgrind from Charles Dickens's Hard Times. When we deal with such things in a sterile, clinical way it can often ignore other factors. Of which, especally with a subject like bulling, there are innumerable.
     
  25. JJ_Maxx
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    Yes, but I believe I laid out my angle in the first post of this thread. This is a 'think' tank, not a 'feel' tank. I understand people have emotions regarding this topic, but I refuse to believe that intelligent, academic discussion cannot continue.

    How can we agree how far it is between New York and Chicago, if we don't agree the length of a mile?
     

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