Everyone agrees that bullying needs to stop. However it seems like it just seems to be getting worse. Bullying is sometimes seen as the problem of the educational system. But it affects society at large as well. People do not always outgrow bullying. Bullies can become perpetrators of domestic violence or child abuse. Bullying is also sometimes seen as an individual problem. In years past, students have been encouraged to solve the problems with their fellow students themselves. But bullying has gone too far for this to be a viable solution. A student is no longer equipped to handle the forms of bullying prevalent in society today. In fact, it is dangerous to do so.
Education is the key to fight any social injustice, including bullying. In For a Better World: Reading and writing for Social Action, Bomer and Bomer (2001) discuss how to guide students to internalize concepts about social justice in a democratic classroom. The principles of the democratic classroom discussed in this book would be an excellent approach to tackle the issue of bullying.
Students need to develop empathy for those who are in a marginalized position. Reading stories and news articles about groups of people who are victimized in our society would help them develop a broader perspective. They can compare the social injustices committed in the outside world to the microcosm of the school environment. Students can be led to “notice” injustices in their everyday lives. This can lead to thoughtful discussions within the community of the classroom.
There is no better way to get students moving against bullying than to put students in charge of a class or school wide campaign. Students can create the agenda and policies needed to enforce it. Teachers can lay the groundwork. They can be there to support, guide, and bring relevant issues to light. But ultimately I believe that only by involving students can bullying be stopped.
Bomer, Randy. Bomer, Katherine. (2001). For a better world: Reading and Writing for Social Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.