Author: Gary Beck
Location: New York, New York
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. His chapbook Remembrance
was published by Origami Condom Press, The Conquest of Somalia
was published by Cervena Barva Press, The Dance of Hate
was published by Calliope Nerve Media, Material Questions
was published by Silkworms Ink, Dispossessed
was published by Medulla Press, and Mutilated Girls
is being published by Heavy Hands Ink. A collection of his poetry, Days of Destruction,
was published by Skive Press. Another collection, Expectations,
was published by Rogue Scholars press. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines.
The need to stop bullying, with its injurious mental, emotional and physical effects, takes priority over explorations of the root causes, or examination of why perpetrators engage in negative behavior. Several horrible incidents ending in tragic suicides have dramatized the seriousness of the problem. This resulted in brief government attention to educators' responsibilities to prevent harassment as required by federal law.
The Department of Education issued a letter clarifying the legal responsibilities of authorities in public schools, colleges and universities under federal laws, reminding them that certain kinds of student bullying might violate federal antidiscrimination law. This legal caution to educators is an evasion of responsibility to the victimized students who are not receiving protection from assault, while educators are being advised of legal statutes, rather than how to formulate prevention plans to protect their students.
Research by the Department of Education in 2009 revealed that one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 felt they were being bullied or harassed at school. This is not only a confession by the educational system that they are not protecting the rights of our children, but it is a statistical admission of a pandemic. Instead of an urgent summons to action to cure this disease, educators are being warned to comply with their legal responsibilities. Once again the interests of the bureaucracy are being given priority over the needs of the vulnerable students, as well as their concerned parents.
Bullying, whether it originates in nature or nurture, certainly begins before children attend school. Our government is virtually powerless (or even capable) to intervene in the home and offer moral instruction, or introduce the concept of respect for the rights of others. This was formerly the job of parents and the duty of religious institutions. Judging by the staggering number of afflicted children, the development of responsible behavior at home or in houses of worship has been ineffective or neglected. Consequently, the seeds of bullying, sown before preschool, are already rooted when regular school commences.
Between divorce, the decline of church attendance and increasing public controversy about gay issues, the traditional developmental process of youth has been altered. The only remaining institution in American life with any conceivable possibility of stabilizing youth and encouraging a positive learning process is the educational system. Educators, both teachers and administrators, must be trained to recognize the changes in youth that make them more insecure and uncertain in dealing with the demands of life. In an emergency, the medical community, the government and the public is mobilized to deal with a contagious disease. Similarly, educators must be prepared to fulfill functions that were once the responsibility of other institutions. The well-being of our nation may depend on how we address the critical need to equip our children for the problems of tomorrow.
By the time a child is 12 years old, behavior modification is only possible with intense personal attention by caring teachers, supplemented by confidence-building activities. This is impractical in a system that is already struggling to meet innumerable demands on its time, resources and personnel. A further complication is the questionable willingness of many individuals to give the requisite support to children. In a system characterized by overcrowded classrooms, a lack of individual attention and opaque educational goals, it is imperative to properly prepare children in preschool or kindergarten to respect the rights of others and encourage them to explore their talents and potential abilities in a protected environment. The current focus and controversy over gay student harassment is incidental to the problem of bullying, which existed before gays were an acknowledged component of our society. Due to complicated legal, moral and social considerations, the gay issue is not readily resolvable in the classroom.
One possible solution is instead of encouraging our best and brightest to join the Peace Corps, we should urgently recruit a dedicated group of caring young teachers to participate in reinventing the early developmental process. This will protect our children and allow them to build a better future for themselves and our society. Another option would be to include an accredited how-to college course for teachers in identifying and preventing bullying, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, intelligence, or sexual persuasion.
In order to establish a bully-free environment both in the classroom and playground, children must be instructed how to rechannel negative behavior impulses, as well as taught how to deal with confrontational situations. Since bullies invariably select weaker targets, it is imperative for teachers to protect their charges and teach them how to resist bullying, or how to request adult help.
In nature, the stronger establish dominance over the weaker and rule by virtue of their physical authority. Humanity has aspired to substitute intelligence for strength using tools, weapons and machines to exert control of the environment. It is a contradiction of both individual rights and society's needs to allow oppressive children to intimidate smaller, weaker, generally more intelligent children, stifling their natural development. Just because a child is weaker doesn't mean they lack pride, dignity, talent and unmeasured potential to develop skills and the ability to enrich our nation. The harsh assault on their sensibilities destroys self-confidence and impairs the willingness to risk active participation in the learning process. These traumatic experiences lead to low self-esteem and result in a lack of self-worth that inhibits new explorations, a vital stepping stone to future achievements.
We must urgently recognize that our society values brawn over brains. This is demonstrated in elementary schools, where bullying is most often carried out by the more athletic boys, on the weaker, more intelligent and smaller boys. This iniquitous imbalance progresses through high school and college, where the jock is admired and the scholar is ignored or scorned. We are not able to calculate how many children never developed their potential talents or abilities due to early intimidation. But it is imperative for us to understand that however much our citizens appreciate athletics, it is at best a distraction from our national needs, which mandate applied intelligence to confront the massive problems challenging our existence as a first world country.
Children are our most precious resource for tomorrow. Yet we carelessly or indifferently waste their potentially vital contributions by mentally, emotionally, sometimes even physically allowing them to be crippled by mindless assaults from unrestrained bullies. The long-term effects of bullying are debilitating and can cripple the mental and emotional development of vulnerable children. The school system is the only hope of protecting our innocent children and nurturing their potential. Yet many teachers appear to be oblivious to the oppression that goes on about them. Teachers are the only possible doctors and nurses to treat the disease of bullying. They must be trained to identify, then modify the behavior of bullies, while recognizing the children who are victimized and teaching them to seek help.
Our teachers are currently unprepared for this formidable challenge. They or their unions are insufficiently aware of the dire need for action, while many are indifferent to the consequences. That is why we require a dedicated corps of younger teachers to urgently combat the epidemic of bullying that not only takes place in the classrooms and playgrounds, but in hallways or right outside the school. We desperately need more intelligent citizens to create a better future for both us and our descendants. We have excelled at making money and war, but our scientific and technical achievements are diminishing, while the arts and sports are expanding. Our continued well-being mandates math and science for our survival in a competitive world. A crucial battlefield is in preschool and kindergarten. We either recruit compassionate warriors to fight for our children, or continue to contribute actively to the brain drain that will bankrupt our nation.