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Bullying nothing new — but severity and frequency is

May 25, 2010

When I talk to people about the problem of bullying, many of them will say it’s nothing new. There have always been — and will always be — bullies.  It’s a “natural” part of mankind, they say.  Survival of the fittest, they say.  It’s “normal.”

Well, if it’s normal, it doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.  

It’s wrong to wake up in the morning, check the news and hear about another young child who has ended her life because of bullying. This time, an 11-year old who hanged herself and left a diary that reports she was bullied.

Look, I know that bullying has happened since the beginning of time.   We have picked on people who are different, preyed on people we considered “weak,” harassed those whose opinions we didn’t share. But at no time do I remember kids taunting each other to the point where the victims felt the only recourse they had was to take their own lives.

But what responses have you seen to these daily tragedies? Well, there’s no end to the stories of new legislation being proposed or enacted in an effort to curb these incidents.  I don’t get this — a LAW isn’t going to help. These kids aren’t spending any cycles considering what might happen if they get caught making someone else’s life a living hell.  They lack sensitivity and compassion — do you think passing a law declaring “it’s wrong” will make any difference?

Murder is wrong — we have laws against that everywhere.  Has that eliminated murder?  I know I’ve said this before, but laws are only for the lawful, and require conscious efforts to do right.  Kids particularly are notorious for their lack of impulse control, yet we expect them now to realize that they can’t bullying because it’s against the law?

At what point do we recognize and accept that what we are doing isn’t effective? Truly stopping bullying requires a different approach, one that deals with addressing the underlying cause, not managing it after the fact? As long as we continue to believe we can manage it, we’ll continue to learn we’re wrong.  Consequences are necessary, yes, as a result of bad behavior, but we have to do more to build and support good behavior and develop character that keeps the bad behavior in check. THAT’s the way to make sure these incidents are the exception, not the daily rule.

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