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Don Jeffries

Bullying And Social Hierarchy in Schools

20 posts in this topic

Thanks, Jean, I appreciate your continued interest in this important subject. I couldn't go any further than the main page you linked to, as it wouldn't permit me to "enter" as a teacher, student or parent. But judging by the look of the page, I'd say it mirrored the efforts we commonly see in the U.S.

Which brings us to another problem, as I see it. Virtually all anti-bullying campaigns in the U.S. are conducted either exclusvely by schools, or at the very least by working with the schools. No one seems to understand that, by virtue of their entrenched social hierarchical systems, the schools are a huge part of the problem. I would suggest that what is needed is a truly indepedent force to examine the entire issue from outside the walls of the schools, and to be willing to take the schools to task when appropriate. We all seem to understand that kids who are socially awkward, or overweight, or have a physical disability, are at a substantial greater risk of being bullied, but we seem unwilling to address the reality that it is the power imbalance that really causes the problem. A system which places such undue value on being the quarterback or the head cheerleader, and creates such peer ostracism for physical imperfections, is the true culprit here.

With the American culture's love of competitive sports, and the crucial role that plays in the perpetuation of the social hierarchy in schools, I don't believe the situation can or will improve. This isn't meant to criticize sports; I have been a huge fan all my life, and think it's important to play sports. However, there is little question that organized sports play a far too important role in our civilization. The underlying cause of bullying in schools must at least be identified before the problem can ever be solved. In my view, the vast majority of bullying cases in schools are caused by the collective notion of what constitutes "popularity," and the converse effects this has on those at the opposite end of the social spectrum.

In Amercia, we have a whole host of curious traditions like the voting of prom kings and queens, homecoming queens, special events like Powderpuff football and donkey basketball, which are well organized and designed exclusively to reward the most "popular" students in that given school with more acclaim and ego gratification. Little if any productive purpose, at least that I can see, is served by these events beyond that. College fraternities and sororities, with their equally curious initiation rituals, extend the high school social hierarchy idea for another four years.

The idea that middle aged men still get worked up into a frenzy over the fortunes of their old college's football and basketball teams ought to make us all pause for reflection. Powerful alums control the corrupt NCAA to a great degree, and reinforce the "tradition" that, even in institutions supposedly devoted to higher learning, superficial games played with a ball must be given first priority. In college, however, it seems that the name of the team, and the entire community inexpicably devoted to worshiping it, are more important than the individual parts of the team itself. Pep rallies and large alumni contributions seem very similar to patriotism. This differs from high school, of course, where the "popular" individuals in effect are the school's "celebrities."

While some of this may not seem to have anything to do with bullying, I think it's all directly associated. The realities of social inclusion and exclusion, ingrained in every high school student's mind through the social hierarchical sytem, lead logically to initiation rituals and outright hazing, corrupt alumni support, and a wharped set of social and financial priorities at every level of the educational system. Bullying may be found outside of this system, but when respected institutions empower some, and disable others, in such a disproportionate way, it certainly becomes easier.

Edited by Don Jeffries

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I continue to be baffled and disappointed that only one educator on this forum has seen fit to comment on this thread. Do you all not consider this an important issue? I'm not a teacher, but if I worked for any school system, I'd certainly make every child's safety and emotional well being a priority.

Here's a link to a recent bullying incident in an American school, which resulted in another example of the school hierarchy refusing to respond at all intially, and then when forced to do so, to react improperly and irrationally: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/texas-father-pickets-school-over-son-alleged-bullying-170805410.html

Is the deafening silence this subject has received from educators on this forum an indication that you approve of the horiffic way the schools are dealing with these situations?

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Might I humbly suggest you change the topic title to bullying. Social hierarchy, in this context, is not immediately associated with school bullying in my part of the world. Just a thought.

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Thanks for the sensible suggestion, Jean. I've added "Bullying" to the title.

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Well, changing the title of this thead doesn't seem to have drawn any more interest from educators. Again, this is just incomrpehensible to me. If you think I'm off base here, then please say so. I just don't understand how this crucial subject, which is in the news virtually every day, cannot be of interest to educators.

The recent Steubenville, Ohio rape case has brought these issues to the forefront again. The accused were popular football players, and CNN was soundly criticized for the overt sympathy its female reporters covering the trial displayed towards the defendants. The mainstream media is not normally known to be sympathetic to rapists, and I think it's clear that they would have had an entirely different reaction if the defendants were not football players.

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