Archive for schools

How to Fix the Bully Problem

Posted in current events with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

On the morning of 11 August, I turned on the TV to see a story that has sadly become an all too common story: 11-year-old Ty Field was being bullied, so severely and so relentlessly that he felt his only way to escape it was to commit suicide. It’s the same story that happened a few years ago to Megan Meier, who was bullied over MySpace to the point where she hanged herself in her closet.

In fact, a simple Google search of “bully suicide” produces nearly 1.7 million hits. Story after story about teenage kids bullied to the point where they have no other choice but to kill themselves. Stories about kids like Phoebe Prince, who killed herself after being tormented by a clique of high school girls; or Jon Carmichael, who killed himself after being bullied by most of his school; or even Jared High, who killed himself in 1998 because of bullying. A website about Jared links to several other kids and teens who have committed suicide due to bullying.

In the MSNBC interview I saw with Ty’s father, the question was asked, “Why are so many kids committing suicide today? What is different about your generation than this generation?”

The response was, “Part of it is all of these violent video games.” I cursed out loud.

As someone who was bullied in my younger days (and at times am still bullied today), I can assure everyone that it is not violent video games that make people violent. It does not desensitize people to violence, it doesn’t create violent people. Study after study after study has proven that there is no link between violence and video games. It is a foolish assumption that television, movies, video games, and music can completely change a person’s character. Violent people are predisposed to violence.

But Ty’s father continued his answer: “It is also the technology of the age. Bullies are now able to torment their victims 24/7.”

I immediately apologized. It was the wisest thing I’ve heard about bullying yet. Technologies like Facebook and MySpace, which are accessible whenever, along with Internet anonymity, provide a whole new avenue of bullying which has never been seen before. Anyone can be anyone else and can say whatever they want, and they feel like there are no consequences.

Lori Drew, when creating a fake MySpace account, thought she would just mess with Megan Meier to get back at Megan for spreading rumors about her daughter. The result was suicide.

How do we solve the problem of bullying? Short answer: we can’t.

We can’t because as of right now, there is no concrete definition of “bullying.” The definition we have is: “act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally.”

This happens every day, not out of hatred, and not out of abuse, but out of kids being kids. Kids will hate other kids over stupid things, and as a result, they will make fun of and torment other kids. It happens, and it only gets out of control when people don’t intervene.

But who should intervene? The schools are doing all they can, and there is a stigma of being a snitch when reporting instances of bullying.

Like most problems with children, the responsibility lies in the parents. Parents should make sure that they are raising kids in a positive environment, and to notice when their kids are not quite right. Kids don’t just wake up one morning and are violent, just like they just don’t wake up one morning and swear. It comes from somewhere, and many times, it comes from the home.

Ty’s father said, “No one sits at the dinner table and talks anymore.” Shouldn’t we get back to that?

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Sex Education: What’s the Best Option?

Posted in current events with tags , , , on February 8, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

There’s been a lot of talk lately about sex education in schools, more specifically, whether or not abstinence-only education is the way to go.

Abstinence-only sex education (the oxymoron of the decade) is basically the idea that if kids are taught to be responsible and to wait until they’re ready for sex, then they will make smarter decisions. Sometimes people view it as teaching kids to wait until they’re married to have sex, which can be true some of the time. But bottom line, it’s about teaching abstinence rather than providing options for safer sex.

A few years ago, a study was conducted that showed that abstinence-only sex education was relatively ineffective, and that students who had abstinence-only education had just as many sexual partners as those students who didn’t. This isn’t just one study, but three: the oft-cited Cochrane Collaboration; a study from 2007 by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.; and a very recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Three different studies that show that abstinence-only sex education is failing? Pull the plug, right?

Not so fast–a study that was just released showed that proper abstinence-only sex education can actually reduce the number of teens that are having sex at an earlier age. The study was conducted in urban schools with over 600 African-American students, and the results are pretty fascinating: fewer students having sex, with fewer sexual partners, and the kicker of it all is “[a]bstinence-only intervention did not affect condom use,” which means that those students who did engage in sex used protection.

What does this mean for abstinence-only sex education? It means that there is something rethinking that needs to be done. An editoral from yesterday’s New York Times shows that it is not because the program was abstinence-only, but rather how it was presented: under the Bush administration, this type of program would have had to emphasise that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that waiting for marriage is the “expected norm,” whereas under the Obama administration, the emphasis is laid on maturity, and letting the kids know that if they are going to have sexual intercourse, they had better be thinking about every possible consequence, be using protection every time, and to be fully mature enough to handle any consequences.

While I’m not entirely keen on abstinence-only education, it is nice to see that the emphasis isn’t on the wrong thing. I still believe that education students on proper uses of birth control should be manditory, but if it is preceded by well-reasoned and scientific examples of why it is okay to wait, then by all means, teach it to the kids.

Sex is primarily about responsibility and maturity. If you aren’t responsible enough to engage in safer sex, then you are definitely not responsible enough to handle the consequences.