Monday, 23 September 2013

Letter to David Rutherford, NZ Human Rights Commissioner about bullying

David kia ora, nga mihi to you
Having listened to the article on National radio yesterday Monday 23rd here I am compelled to respond.Something you wont like to hear is that the Education System at primary and secondary level is a bullying system, indeed it models it and makes a fertile environment for bullying.If we take Victoria University's Vanessa Green's  description that bullying is about a power imbalance and that it is 'regular', then this fits the teaching profession. In schools,you (a teacher)tell others what they are to work on,when to sit, stand, eat, be tested.When the child resists because they want more freedom or dont want to do whats asked you call him or her 'disobedient' or 'defiant' Then coercion is quickly replaced by force.You then exclude them from rewards such as their freedom or punishments (In my day the cane) or by constant montoring of their attendance etc.How different of this is  from bullying in the peer to peer context?

An overlooked reason why its so prevalent is because the system is creating it.
 I am a trained teacher - recently exiting myself from this system after my involvement for20 years; in part because because it is one that models power imbalances and creates bullying.
I encourage you to read more on the subject and withhold any judgement that I could be so wrong. It seems incredible I know; to question  something as readily accepted as being a model of human behaviour and just a part of life as the primary/ secondary system are.

Bullying also happens when you lump together (by force) one agegroup.In my experience of teaching, and backed up by my research from other experts in the education field, when you have a more natural social grouping you mitigate against bullying. I can give a concrete examples from my experience an area school where the form class was year 9-13, the accidental influence of older youth on younger classes of school children at a state secondary school, to the almost absence of bullying in homeschooled social situations (my children are homeschooled)
Of course we cant single out the school system as the 'cause'-you are right in you analysis that it  reaches deep into out culture. School is a part of this culture.We believe violence and force are legitimate problem solvers and ways of getting what we want.

I only want to point out that the problem is in part created by the people who are being expected to solve it.
Its not just my thoughts.Read California 's ex teacher of the year 1999 John Taylor Gatto and others..

Opening this up will create havoc and defensiveness,and in my experience will not make it to the popular media. We hesitate to question the unquestionable-that the school system is fundamentally flawed and fosters a bullying environment

In a brilliant repaste, national radio this morning held up educator Yong Zhao .He talked about the educational environment that looks to the present situation and the future.He used words like entreprenuership, creativity, empathy when describing the new system yet to be realised. The chicken coop we call schooling is going to disappear, and- when we relinquish our addiction to problem -solving and meeting our needs through violence- with it much of bullying.
I am happy to engage in this debate.I look forward to venues and opportunities to discuss and listen.
As for the solution? Well that's to be negotiated, surely. The first step is to recognise the illness without blame, judgement and retribution!

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