,There is no denying that bullying is a huge problem. And, it isn't just relegated to the school yard; intimidation is found anywhere that one person or group of people feel they have more power than others or conversely when a person or group of people feel (are) powerless in any given situation.
I recently heard a report on NPR about women scientists being harassed in the world of academia. Really, in 2015, women have to either put up and shut up, or loose their academic standing, funding, reputation, or their jobs? Or, in other cases, people (Whistle Blowers) who are willing to tell the truth and bring injustices or outright criminal activity to light, themselves end up with criminal records, again, really? How is this possible? I, as well as others, find this beyond appalling!
Multiple programs have been developed to combat bullying and other forms of intimidation. I will contend, that for the most part, these programs (although well-intentioned) are doomed to fail for the simple reason that they do not address the cultural norms of competition and coercion which are the root cause of bullying.
Let me be completely explicit--- the only way to stop bullying is to change the culture that supports it!
I am quite proud to say that Deep Root Center, the other Centers in the Liberated Learners Network, and some democratic/free schools are making that cultural shift possible by eradicating rivalry (one-up-man ship) and compulsion from their everyday operations.
In several past posts, I have argued that an environment that is completely non-competitive and non-coercive, that provides free choice, and fosters a culture of kindness, humility, creativity, as well as respect will allow for intrinsic motivation and confidence to flourish, instead of learned helplessness and entitlement; which then overcomes prejudice, bullying behavior, intimidation, injustice, and judgment.
I witness conduct, daily, that serves as abundant evidence to support my stance. In recent weeks we have welcomed several new students, as well as a visitors, through the Deep Root Center doors. In every case these kids have been enfolded seamlessly into the daily activities and social nuances without hesitation, or questions asked, and with an overwhelming attention to kindness. I will reiterate, this behavior is not in any way directed or controlled by me.
It is indeed a natural and beautiful thing to observe. Kids taking care of each other, because they recognize that Deep Root Center is a special place where they are completely safe to allow their true naturally compassionate, imaginative, empathetic selves shine. No one will make fun of them or call them weak or sissy, or any of the other unmentionable names they have been called along the way.
These kids understand that DRC is their community (they own it) and they realize that as a group they get to determine the feelings engendered within that community. They have all experienced bullying on multiple levels and are determined to make DRC an open, safe, and accepting space for anyone who wants to join them.
DRC members are free to choose what, how, and when to learn, which activities to participate in, who to hang out with, as well as how to behave. I am so very proud to say, in every circumstance, their choices reflect the respect, care, and kindness they feel from every person around them.
* This one was inspired by the awesome kids I get to hang out with every day and by the NPR report previously mentioned.