Bullying: The Crisis That Isn’t

I don’t much like bullies. As a scrawny kid living in a rougher NYC neighborhood through my late teens I had my fair share of run-ins with bigger badder boys and occasionally found myself on the receiving end of a quicker set of knuckles. As an adult, I grow increasingly intolerant of those who would use their bigness of size, smarts, personality or paycheck to intimidate others. But I’m having a hard time getting worked up about the alleged bullying epidemic of the last few years. In fact, I’m certain it’s bunk. Sure, there are still school bullies beating up and shaking down weaker kids and corporate alpha dogs dry-humping their more submissive colleagues, but so what else is new? Do we really need a national discussion? Has bullying become such a scourge that we need StopBullying.gov, the Workplace Bullying Institute, the Healthy Workplace Bill and so many other interventions?

No, this is a fabrication used to justify yet another power-grab by the politically correct and big government. Call it a crisis, say it’s for our children, then call in the Feds.  The extent of Federal anti-bullying efforts is astounding. While every department is expected to participate in prevention, the Departments of Education (Ed), Health & Human Services (HHS) and Justice (DOJ) appear to be the leaders in defining the problem and developing the solutions. And aren’t they prolific?! A search for “bullying” on Justice’s website produces 2,010 DOJ documents. And on HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website alone there are 2,670 CDC documents. And, finally, on Education’s site a whopping 7,540 Ed documents.

Here is just a tiny sampling of the scores of reports, initiatives, conferences, hearings…

  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – Bullying in Schools: An Overview
  • U.S. Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Division – It Gets Better video “addressing bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, and those who do not conform to gender stereotypes about male or female behavior or appearance.”
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Media Guidelines for Bullying Prevention
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions – Field Hearing – Bullying-Free Schools: How Local, State and Federal Efforts Can Help
  • Dept. of Education – Office for Civil Rights – 10-page “Dear Colleague” letter
  • White House – Initiative on Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Muslims – Summit on Combating Bullying

But wait, there’s more:  StopBullying.gov is a Federal task force and website that “provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.” StopBullying.gov “coordinates closely with the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee, an interagency effort led by the Department of Education that works to coordinate policy, research, and communications on bullying topics. The Federal Partners include representatives from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, the Interior, and Justice, as well as the Federal Trade Commission and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

So, how bad has the “crisis” become? Given the amount of time, effort and tax-payer money expended just at the Federal level, you’d expect that bullying is increasingly prevalent and perhaps a legit epidemic. The CDC, our national health guardian that “works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.” says that bullying is “a major public health problem.” Okay, I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. According to the CDC (drumroll, please)…

…11% of adolescents have reported being a victim of bullying.

Hmmm. Sounds about the same percentage as when I was a kid many moons ago.

And, by the way, it took a Federal initiative led by a gaggle of MDs, DrPHs, PhDs and other acronyms to produce these earth-shattering findings:

“…bullying experiences include not only physical aggression, but also verbal aggression, including verbal harassment, spreading rumors, or social rejection and isolation. Moreover, research suggests that boys are more likely to engage in physical aggression, while verbal aggression, often called relational aggression, is more common among girls.”

Yep, pretty much what I experienced when I was a kid.

But the anti-bullying hysteria really isn’t about defining an age-old problem or even coming up with a yet untested solution. It’s about power. It’s about controlling liberty, in particular freedom of speech—in fact, it’s a great example of Orwell’s “newspeak.” It’s a demand for freedom while further suppressing it.

In fact, it’s a lot like…bullying.

THE REAL AGENDA

The anti-bullying crowd’s real agenda becomes quite apparent on StopBullying.gov:  “Schools and communities that respect diversity can help protect children against bullying behavior.” Ah, diversity. The rallying cry of the enlightened and the means by which they intend to control everyone else. Don’t accept their definition of diversity and you’re, de facto, a bully. Diversity, of course, begins not with tolerance, but with “tolerance”—that is, the complete acceptance of the diversity agenda. And, of course, that agenda includes the celebration of everything LGBT. Sure, the anti-bullying crowd throws a couple rainbow-hued bones to racial minorities, kids with “physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, and sensory disabilities” and kids with “special health needs, such as epilepsy or food allergies,” but gender-bending is their raison d’être. After all, you can’t subvert Judeo-Christian culture by scolding Johnny for sneaking a peanut butter sandwich into the school cafeteria.

And boy do they provide resources. First, are the tools to determine if bullying is actually the norm—not just the 11% reported. One such example encouraged by StopBullying.gov is The National School Climate Survey, which asks the following:

  • In the current school year, were you taught about lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people, history, or events in any of your classes?
  • In your school health classes, was discussion about sexual orientation ever included, such as in discussions of dating, sexuality/sex education, or family relationships?
  • Do any of your textbooks contain information about LGBT people, history, or events?
  • Are there books or other resources in your school library that contain information about LGBT people, history, or events?
  • Are you able to use school computers to access websites about LGBT people, history, or events?
  • Does your school have a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) or another type of club that addresses LGBT student issues?
  • What activities has your GSA done during this school year? (suggested answers include “organized a school-wide event to raise awareness about LGBT issues and “raising money for an LGBT charity or cause.”)

And then this curious question:

In your school health classes, does your school follow an “abstinence-only” curriculum when teaching sexuality/sex education? For example, were you taught that you are expected to wait until marriage to engage in sexual activity, or that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to have harmful effects on you?

So, now you’re a bully if you teach abstinence?

Moving on, StopBullying.gov transitions from surveys to recommendations including The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NCSSLE recommends:

…expanding students’ knowledge of diversity by exposing them to role models through literature, lessons, and classroom guests. Make sure students have the opportunity to choose books that portray diverse families as well as men and women outside of gender stereotypes. Integrate examples of people from various backgrounds into classroom discussions and stories.

Make sure the analogies you use when teaching don’t rely on hetero-normative or gender-normative images or view – points. A hetero-normative viewpoint is one that expresses heterosexuality as a given instead of being one of many possibilities. Such a viewpoint can translate into the development of all kinds of images that reinforce the view. The assumption (reinforced by imagery and practice) that a boy will grow up and marry a woman is based on such a viewpoint.”

StopBullying.gov also recommends the aforementioned GLSEN, whose What Makes a Family lesson plan for K-2 advises that “there are many family structures.”  Further, GLSEN proscribes certain gym class activities. “Free-for-all dodge ball and any other play that is aggressive” are no-nos.  And this warning:

Dividing physical education classes or recess activities by gender for instruction, game play or open activities is illegal according to Title IX. Moreover this practice is based on gender stereotypes that assume that interest in and aptitude for sport and activity participation and performance are linked to gender. By dividing students by gender, these stereotypes are reinforced rather than challenged. For students who are gender non-conforming, dividing students in this manner places them in a position that calls attention to their gender expression or gender identity in ways with which they may not be comfortable.

Instead, “physical education classes and recess times should include games and activities that are inclusive and physically and emotionally safe for everyone.” Yes, you read that right:  gym class must be emotionally safe. Determining what that looks like could keep a Federal task force busy spending our money for years.

Not surprisingly, all of this wonderful concern for our LGBT youth ignores a couple actual and very dire threats identified by the CDC. School-age children accounted for 25% of new HIV infections in 2010 and of those 72% were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. Yet, abstinence is for bullies.

By now you’re probably thinking I’m exaggerating. Is the anti-bullying emphasis on homosexuality really that profound? Well, I urge you to explore for yourself. Today, I entered a variety of terms in StopBullying.gov’s search box and here are the results I was presented:

LGBT: 17,600
Gay: 4,440
Lesbian: 2,320
Transgender: 1,600
Bisexual: 1,320

I’ll pause here, to emphasize the dramatic difference in numbers for the following…

Race: 63 (results included 5K charity road races)
Religion: 43
Racial discrimination: 36
Ethnicity: 9
Jewish/Jew: 8
Smaller:  7
Black: 4
African American: 2
Hispanic: 2
Weaker: 2
Handicap: 3
Racial prejudice: 1
Religious discrimination: 1
Christian: 1 (but not bullying of Christians, rather how “to address and eliminate anti-gay bullying and harassment by adherents of Christianity.”)
Racial bigotry: 0
Religious bigotry: 0
Catholic: 0

So, what has all this time, attention and taxpayer money done to curb bullying? Apparently, it’s made it worse! Summarizing their findings presented in A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools, Seokjin Jeong (Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Texas) and Byung Hyun Lee (School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University) state, “Bullying prevention had a negative effect on peer victimization. Contrary to our hypothesis, students attending schools with bullying prevention programs were more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention programs.”

WHY WE NEED BULLIES

For those who are still concerned about just good old-fashioned bullying, take heart. In a fallen world, we actually need bullies to help prepare us for worse. A black eye or a bruised ego are small prices to pay for the lessons the offending brutes teach us. I’m a peacenik and diplomat at heart, but I’m also a realist. There are some truly nasty folks out there and it’s good conditioning for kids to learn to deal with aggression in situations where the risk of harm is less substantial. Kids need to get used to standing up for themselves, both physically and intellectually.

One of the surveys in the CDC’s Bully Compendium actually assigns bullying points to respondents who answer in the affirmative to the statement:  I fought back when someone hit me first. This is not just nonsense, but malpractice!  It insists that kids who are targeted by bullies should always act the victim and go running to authority for protection, judgment and consequence. The best medicine for a bully, is for someone to stand up to him. Conveniently, this approach also serves as the best medicine for the bullied. Who would David be without Goliath? Popeye without Bluto? Ralphie without Skut Farkus? And would Spanky, Alfafa, Buckwheat and the rest of the Little Rascals be half the boys they were without Butch and his cronies?

Should you still crave some sort of cosmic justice, perhaps you can find consolation in knowing that most bullies end up learning important lessons themselves and eventually straightening themselves out. And the ones that don’t typically self-destruct. A good friend of mine who was bullied by his dad, bullied by his classmates and did his fair share of bullying other kids in his day summed it up best, “You win some, you lose some. But you’re always better off for it in the end.”