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6/13/2012

The other side of the equation


Recently there has been a rush to pass new anti-bullying laws in many parts of the world. While I personally applaud such attempts, not every new law is effective, or even necessary. Patch work solutions rarely are.

Laws already exist in most jurisdictions that address various forms of violence and harassment. We don't really need laws specifically targeting bullying, except perhaps to add a definition of cyber-bullying to existing laws. With all the difficulty involved with court challenges and other problems inherent in creating any new set of legislation, it could take years to accomplish a wholesale re-write of existing statutes.
Charges like assault, criminal harassment and others can be used, but only if police are willing to lay them when appropriate, and prosecutors are willing to take the cases seriously. That's what we should be trying to change.

Discipline has become a dirty word to many people, and there's no reason it should be. By deflecting blame for behaviours to hard knocks earlier in life or some other "root cause", rather than expecting kids to accept responsibility for their choices, we make the situation worse. The current predominance of the root cause mindset has been in vogue for decades now, and clearly isn't working. The beginnings of this philosophy go back to the 80's, when I was a student; we used to call it 'political correctness', a term that goes back to the sixties. It has become progressively worse over the generations since, and today has reached the point where the definition of right and wrong are so varied and fluid as to be at times completely undefined. There are such things as morally wrong decisions; not everything can be blamed on some tough break earlier in life. We all have it tough at times. Life's like that. Attempting to shield kids from this simple reality does them no favours, and isn't realistic.

I befriended a young man several years ago who's childhood was a nightmare, as bad as any tale I've heard. Yet this young man chose to become an honest, respectful and successful person, precisely because of that upbringing. Kids today to often have the misguided notion that they can justify any behaviour, largely because they've been brought up that way, and educated in a system that routinely ignores the idea of consequences for one's actions. If nothing is "wrong", then nothing is "right", but that's delusional, the logic simply doesn't work. There's your root cause, right there.

Having expectations of respectful behaviour from children helps them grow into well adjusted adults. The vast majority of kids out there are good kids, they just need guidance, that's only natural. That's what adults are here for, and what kids need. What they don't need is more apologists looking for yet more reasons why it's not their fault. We could start by getting rid of the (to me, anyway) perplexing aversion to even the notion of discipline, as if it is itself morally questionable. It is nothing of the sort.


All the politically correct, narrowly focused laws currently being debated are taking away  time and resources that could better be used to help kids make more acceptable choices in life and change the culture that has bred this epidemic. When the "cause of the month" and politically motivated people have moved on to other issues, we will still be here, fighting to make things right for all kids, not just the select few, and to advocate for the use of effective, realistic laws to help protect victims.