April 20, 2011
Federally-Mandated 'Bully-Proofing' Programs Coming to a School Near YouBy Chuck Rogér
At a recent Washington, D.C. conference on bullying, President Obama declared his desire to "dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up."
Obama's statement typifies the liberal take on the dark side of human behavior. Feel-good ideologues imagine an ability to engineer away life's nasty bits. Liberals refuse to accept that reaching functional adulthood requires learning to deal with harmful experiences. Lefties never quite come to grips with the process of "growing up."
To get a taste for the sort of Obamaesque anti-bullying contrivances poised to spread nationwide, we look to the very blue-cobalt blue, in fact-city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe schools are working to realize Obama's dream, endeavoring to make bullying a thing of the past.
Regardless of "the actual numbers," a Santa Fe newspaper observes, local "school officials are concerned" about bullying. Precisely. In the liberal worldview, evidence is but a mysterious sideshow. The central task is to convince oneself that "programs" can erase behaviors that have been around since Mogg, Gak, and Throog ganged up to make fun of Thag's tiny... club. Feel-good ideologues cling to the fantasy that government intervention through "bullying-prevention policies and programs" can create a bully-free society.
A Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reporter contends that "home life may play a role" in students' deciding to engage in bullying. Family may influence a child's behavior? Presenting the certainty as a mere possibility plays down parents' ownership of their children's development. The reporter's contention emphasizes the extent to which government liberals have increasingly usurped parental responsibility.
From Hillary Clinton's proclamation that "it takes a village [to raise a child]," to Michelle Obama's push for schools to control children's diets, to a Chicago school's prohibition of lunches brought from home, Americans are relentlessly barraged with the message that raising healthy children must be surrendered to the state or to "society." The blithe implication that parents "may" but government does influence children's behaviors bears witness to a five-decade long shift in social accountability from We the People to ruling class elitists.
In an omen of things to come across America, some Santa Fe middle and high schools use "restorative justice" to drive anti-bullying efforts. According to the district's website, restorative justice trains students in "team building, conflict resolution, mediation, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills." Students "work with others... to help address" conflicts that children are "facing in their lives" in order to "make things as right as possible."
Restorative justice techniques applied to bullying incidents are aimed at getting all participants in conflicts, even students who were bullied, to avoid "harshly judging the perpetrator[s]." "Wellness teams" work with victims and bullies alike. The tactic smells of the same kind of no-blame, "I'm OK, you're OK," ineffective nonsense that liberals have long advocated for addressing aberrant and even criminal behavior.
Anti-bullying programs under the umbrella of restorative justice will accustom students to rely on third party interventions to settle conflicts. The approach will teach children to expect the world to work in a Pollyannaish manner. Restorative justice's manufactured remedies will seduce children subjected to emotional and physical abuse into turning to "programs" and "society" for "wellness" gobbledygook that weakens any resolve to confront problems.
Some Santa Fe schools have set up depositories for anonymous bullying reports. Others boast of "student-led" efforts to "end bullying." But it is misleading to debilitate children with the expectation that universities and employers will provide drop boxes for reporting inter-student and inter-employee conflicts. Yet, as cruel a trick as such brainwashing surely is, it probably foretells absurdities yet to come. Companies might eventually succumb to federal arm-twisting by instituting the corporate equivalent of "wellness teams." Indeed, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Hans Bader documented and analyzed Washington's recently turbocharged efforts to force anti-bullying type programs into schools, universities, and workplaces.
Despite the self-inflicted blindness that permeates the Santa Fe program, there is at least one sane voice in the crowd. A K-8 school principal observed a group of children fail to react when one child leveled a racist slur at another child. The principal "read them all the riot act"-which is what needed to happen. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and administrators to read children the "riot act" in response to verbal or physical abuse. Restorative justice will never replace swift kicks in emotional butts by respected authority figures.
But such crude truth would probably never escape the lips of "bully-proofing" consultants like Debra Bryant. Bryant is a Santa Fe Public Schools consultant for Creating Caring Communities, an organization affiliated with the National Center for School Engagement. Ms. Bryant believes that the federal government must take charge of anti-bullying efforts. Curiously, the woman runs "bully-proofing workshops" which will be in high demand when the feds call for bully-proofing workshops.
As Hans Bader reports, the feds are already calling for anti-harassment "‘sensitivity' training" in schools. In his latest analysis, Bader paints the portrait of an Obama Education Department that blatantly disregards law as well as court rulings in order to push an ideological agenda. A former Education Department lawyer, Bader told me in emails that not only do Department diktats "flout federal court rulings," but Obama administration zealots are also "trying to regulate even beyond the schoolhouse" and into children's family lives.
It is no surprise that a President who deems it his job to "prevent bullying" would launch federal programs to pressure state and local governments to regulate children's speech and behavior in and out of school. It is equally unsurprising that Santa Fe schools embrace Obama's doomed dream of eliminating bullying from humans' behavioral repertoire.
Let's be clear. Bullying is despicable behavior. Yet there is no believable evidence that childhood bullying is either more or less prevalent today than in the past. All the well-intended "programs" on Earth won't purge bullies from the population. Parents, teachers, and school administrators must keep on reading the "riot act" to bullies and to apathetic incident witnesses.
But high-minded liberals are wired to reject such mundane realities. Santa Fe style restorative justice-based initiatives will expand beyond the City Different, beyond New Mexico and into countless schools throughout the country. Proliferation of anti-bullying programs, now officially prescribed by the Department of Education, will weaken the character of American children. The kids will be conditioned to rely not on personal skills for conflict resolution, but on big, benevolent government-and also on "wellness teams."