Are we raising a generation of bullies?
There is a new poll getting a lot of attention that says half of students in our high schools admit to having bullied someone in the past year. That’s hard to believe.
The survey was conducted by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, and results were gleaned from answers to questions asked of 43,321 students. The margin of error is said to be less than 1 percent.
The teens were asked, according to the institute’s Web site, whether they had “bullied, teased or taunted someone (at least once in the past 12 months.)
Fifty percent said they had. Forty-seven percent said that they had been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. The institute’s president, Michael Josephson, was reported as saying that the study proves more bullying is going on in high school than previously thought.
Here’s the problem with the survey: The question about bullying asked students if they had “been a bully” at least once in the previous year. Bullying is not a single action. One fight on the playground does not qualify. Pushing someone in line once or twice doesn’t cut it either.
A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Bullying can take on many forms:
1. Verbal bullying including derogatory comments and bad names
2. Bullying through social exclusion or isolation
3. Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting
4. Bullying through lies and false rumors
5. Having money or other things taken or damaged by students who bully
6. Being threatened or being forced to do things by students who bully
7. Racial bullying
8. Sexual bullying
9. Cyber bullying (via cell phone or Internet)
A survey just released by the Olweus program, this one of 524,054 students in grades 3 through 12, 17 percent of the kids reported being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school semester.
Statistics on bullying are especially relevant now in the wake of a series of suicides of young gay men who committed suicide after being bullied.
The deaths prompted the Education Department on Tuesday to issue an advisory to schools on how civil rights law applies to bullying situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative, my colleague Nick Anderson reported here.
The department could have started its campaign by calling for an end to corporal punishment, which still is legal in 22 states. Hundreds of thousands of kids get whacked by teachers or administrators a year.
Here’s the bottom line: If half of high school students really are bullies, which I distinctly doubt, then we have a bigger education crisis than we think. And we are doing exactly the wrong things to fix it.
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| October 27, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: Bullying | Tags: bullies, bullying, bullying advisory, bullying definition, bullying survey, department of education, education department bullying, gay suicides, president obama, suicides, what is bullying
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