Bullying saddens me. With four children, the subject has been the focus of my attention many times over the past twenty-nine years. I have had to deal with bullying in the school, in the neighbourhood and as they got older, bullying in the workplace. When I watched the YouTube video of Karen Klein being bullied by a group of grade seven boys, I was both saddened and horrified. I suppose there are no rules about the direction that bullying can take.
I felt more distressed as I began reading the comments posted on this viral video. They included anger at the situation, anger at the boys, anger at the parents, wanting the boys to suffer for their crime and even wanting them to die. There were also those who used this as a platform for their own hatred and prejudices by commenting on the presumed ethnicity of the boys. And finally, there were those who felt that what had happened would and could never happen to them.
I don’t believe that this is a simple problem involving these boys, their parents and Karen Klein. I’m not saying the boys should not be held accountable for their actions and take responsibility for them. They should. Nor am I saying that their parents should not be doing some soul searching. They should. I’m saying that the problem extends further.
Responsibility also lies with those who respond to this situation with hatred, perhaps because deep inside of them they know that given the right circumstances they could do the same. Responsibility also lies with those who react with piety because it makes them feel better about themselves. Responsibility also lies with those parents who firmly believe that this could never happen with their children. This naivety is the fuel for ongoing bullying.
Responsibility also lies with those who feel good about themselves for being a part of a “non-bullying” campaign in schools but don’t realize that a campaign like this only works if the schools are vigilant and proactive because children bully in secret. Responsibility lies with those parents who teach their children to stay away from trouble and turn the other cheek. You are responsible. I am responsible.
There are only two questions that we should ask about this situation. What do I do to perpetuate this? What can I do to make it better?
There are two places where our children learn humanity – at home and at school.
Walk into a book store and look at the parenting section. There are a huge number of books to choose from. This is reflective of the many parents wanting to do better. There are many resources for parents and many parents who are enlightened regarding bullying and how to teach their children to not bully and to not become bullies.
However, from the age of three, in many cases, we entrust our children, for a large part of their lives, to schooling and many of us assume that schools are doing it right. But are they? Teachers can barely cope with getting through the curriculum of academic subjects. With the competitiveness between schools to perform, any spare time that they might have is spent aiming for higher academic achievement. It is no wonder that there is no room for educating our children in empathy, peer pressure, bullying or crowd mentality.
We no longer question the content within the curriculum of our schools for fear of being left behind. For many parents, the academic school curriculum is not enough. Their children spend time after their school day at extra “something” to put them further ahead. I think we should question this education model. I would rather my child know less about chemical compositions and more about being a decent human being. With all the research that has been done in the past few years on emotional intelligence we now know it can be taught and more importantly, children with higher emotional intelligence are more likely to be successful in all areas of their lives.
Why can’t all of this be it’s own subject at school? Let’s call it “Humanology.” In this class we can teach children to be empathic, rather than dealing with the fallout of bullying. We can teach them perseverance instead of punishing them for not working hard enough. We can teach them self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation. We can teach them that it is not our relationship with computers and books but with people that determines our success.
Our children rely on us to teach them, show them by example and let them know what they should focus on. Bullying is everyone’s problem. I’m sorry Karen Klein.