Anderson Cooper puts his investigation skills towards yet another issue which is characterized by trauma and even death- bullying in schools. In this special Cooper partnered with social scientists to investigate bullying at one school in hopes of raising awareness of the problem as well as uncovering ways to stop this issue which is prevalent across America’s schools. Given the attention that bullying in schools has received with regard to news media, education experts and new laws, Cooper and fellow investigators question how much impact that has really had in terms of preventing the phenomenon.
The town hall included many experts, including popular talk show hosts Dr. Phil, and Kelly Ripa as well as many experts. They discussed two important aspects of bullying- the witnesses to it, and the use of bullying as a means of “social combat” or a way to climb the social ladder for children who feel that their social standing is threatened. Bullying is complicated, as is shown by that fact that those kids who are bullied are the most likely to become bullies themselves. When the response to bullying only looks at the bully, then the cycle continues with the others. Bullies and victims have a lot in common. As Cooper described, neither has the social skills to navigate the complex world of their peers at school. Punishing bullies, who might have been bullied themselves, is not the answer, but identifying all who are involved in bullying, including the witnesses, might be. Those who witness bullying are an important part of the phenomenon, one that makes it possible for social combat to work and one that is essential to the bullying being a shaming behavior. Witnesses do not just include other students, but also parents, teachers and other adults.
Dr. Robert Faris has been conducting a study for some time at a Long Island school, and this provided many instances which displayed the bullying issue from many points of view. Xxx
After watching the AC360 special it becomes clear that bullying is an extension of something deeper that occurs in society and spreads to the schools by children who witness the intolerant behavior of adults. One example of this being institutionalized in the school itself was given with regard to a Minnesota school that prevents teachers from discussion or acknowledging homosexuality. This has the effect of making clear that homosexuality is a characteristic that it is acceptable to be intolerant about, and students from this school discussed how it impacted them in terms of being bullied. In order to stop bullying in the schools it seems that the starting point is to stop its source- the cruel and intolerant behavior of many adults.
If standing up to bullies and bullying is the answer in schools, then the deeper problem is that adults do not stand up for others, regardless of their age, when other adults are being intolerant and providing the message that it is socially acceptable to treat others that way. In order to prevent school children from learning and copying this behavior, there is therefore a need for Americans to stand up for other Americans, and perhaps even others in the world and to say “it stops here”. Given the popularity of presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, who have built their election platform on intolerance and hatred of ethnic groups and women, it becomes clear that this is a bigger task than can be accomplished with programs and schools, but it is a way to teach a new generation a different understanding of what is, and what isn’t socially acceptable and what they can do to stop it.
Cooper, A. H. (2011). “Bullying: It Stops Here”. [Episode]. Anderson Cooper 360. CNN News.