Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stupid and Scary E-Mail I got from the NYCLU

I signed up a long time ago to be on the e-mail list of the ACLU, and their New York chapter, the NYCLU.  I'm usually a supporter of their agenda, which is civil liberties of course.  However, I took issue with this e-mail:

“Go back to your country, we don’t want you here.”
Imagine hearing this every day as you walk through your school’s doors. Verbal abuse, physical abuse and fear are a way of life for too many of New York's students.
Bullying has reached crisis proportions in our schools yet we are one of only eight states without a law to protect students from bullying and harassment.
You have a chance to change that - but time is running out!
The Dignity for All Students Act is an essential first step to stopping bullying and building a culture of respect and understanding in our schools. The bill provides training and tools for educators and students, mandates reporting of bias incidents and holds schools accountable, while respecting students’ rights.
The end of the legislative session is just days away yet the Senate still hasn't passed the Dignity for All Students Act.
Raise your voice and tell your senator to vote YES on this important civil rights legislation. Our kids cannot wait another year for the Dignity for All Students Act to pass.

Maybe I could do a little research on this law that we're proposing, maybe it isn't as bad as I think it is.  But I will give myself the benefit of the doubt and assume that, yes, it is as bad as I think it is.  For a couple of years now, I have been hearing a lot about this epidemic of bullying in our schools, as well as this new thing, "cyberbullying", in which students take to social networks like Facebook to talk shit about other students.  Tragically, several children have gone as far as taking their own lives as a result of being bullied, including some girl right here in Suffolk County. 

But the more I think about it, the more this seems like a misguided effort by parents and politicians to "protect" our kids.  I don't know about y'all, but I was bullied quite a bit when I was a student, especially in my early years.  You see, I was considered a "special needs" student.  I started out in special programs with other disabled students.  It wasn't until I was around 7 or 8 that the right people in the system concluded that I was too "advanced" to be taking these kinds of classes, and so I was switched to the local elementary school.  I was still in a "special ed" class, but got to roam the halls with the "regular" kids.  (sorry for all the quotes by the way, that was just the educational jargon of the day, it probably still is.)  Anyway, kids have got a nose for sniffing out someone who doesn't quite belong, and I got made fun of a lot.  I even got shoved a couple of times. 

And yeah, it bothered me a lot.  But that was just part of being different.  I always had negative feelings about these things, but they receded.  I was never popular, but a lot of kids aren't, and they're still able to keep their head above water and graduate.  I guess that what I'm trying to say, is that bullying has been around as long as children have been around; that is, since mankind existed, pretty much.  And it probably increased once the social entity known as "schooling" came into being, and kids were congregated with other kids.  And, as we probably all know, kids can be cruel, usually due to how they're raised and the fact that they're too young and inexperienced in the ways of the world to know better. 

I don't see how passing some law is going to change that.  I think that any law will actually make it worse.  Are we going to send kids to Juvie for calling some kid a "fatso?"  I think that the average school administration is probably too heavyhanded as it is already; I graduated from high school in 1998, a year or so before Columbine, and we already had security guards, draconian policies, "zero tolerance", etc.  I imagine it's only gotten worse since then.  This is just another exercise in pointlessness by "touchy-feely" liberals who just want to make themselves feel better by enforcing a vision of the world that will never exist.  Kids have been bullied since the beginning of time, and will continue to be bullied. 

One last thing:  I think this is a syndrome of our "feel good" culture.  We have a habit of making our kids feel like they succeed even when they haven't really done that, or of replacing words that have negative associations with euphemisms (for example, calling the mentally retarded "exceptional", or prostitutes "sex workers").  To give an example of the former, when I was a kid, I was in the local Little League.  I wasn't that good; okay, I sucked, but every year at the annual dinner, every member of our team (and every team) received a trophy for "participation".  I never thought of this when I was a kid, but was that really sending the right message to me and my peers?  That you can get a trophy just for showing up? 

I think that many kids today get a similar message, if not more forced.  And one of the unintended consequences of every kid being told that they're "exceptional" and "special", or teachers and parents making excuses for their kids failing at school or in other areas of life, is that many of them don't possess that quality of resilience.  They simply do not have the backbone or the toughness to tolerate being bullied, let alone actually standing up to a bully, and they end up doing things like trying to kill themselves.  I don't want to sound like I'm letting bullies off the hook; I used to be bullied, I know that it sucks, but it's an unfortunate part of life for many young people, and I don't see how any law is going to change that.

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