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Written By Taylor Tash

Three years have passed since the untimely and tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince, which arguably set into motion the international campaign to bring an end to bullying. With the recent Anderson Cooper report on the subject, bullying proves to still be a hot button issue. Campaigns nationwide have brought about greater anti-bullying enforcements in schools and an awareness of the severe psychological repercussions of cyber-bullying as well as the long-term effects it has on its victims. But in spite of all of the visibility the anti-bullying movement has gained for itself, can it ever truly be conquered?

One reason that makes the anti-bullying campaign seem a little misguided is the fact that bullying is far too broad of a problem to trample out as if it’s a curable disease or easily reversed opinion. The key in putting an end to most problems is tackling it from its roots, and the root of bullying is the cold hard fact that sometimes people of all ages and living in all situations can be really awful to each other. Humans are competitive by nature and this nature is undeniably magnified in people who live in capitalist nations. From this congenital trait stems the desire to sometimes one-up somebody or make others feel like they’re far lower on the pecking order. An end to bullying could only truly come from an end to the way we function as a nation and as a species.

But maybe that’s exactly what we should be calling for. Perhaps some people want a complete over-haul of how we treat each other and how we function as a society and they want it to start with the youth. It’s noble to strive for such a perfect world, but why is ending bullying the cause that so many people are dedicated to? Is it because a few kids were driven to suicide because of it? Teenagers killing themselves over mistreatment by their peers is nothing new, and it seems as if people are finally starting to pay attention on a wider scale because of the much more public ways in which these victims are announcing their suicides, such as the various ‘goodbye cruel world’ rants uploaded to YouTube and the particularly disturbing case of the young man who tweeted a suicide note to Lady Gaga before hanging himself. Because today’s teens have so many more outlets for self-exploitation than those of previous generations, it’s only natural for the more self-destructive cases to have much wider visibility. No longer are their suicidal ramblings reserved for a spiral-bound notebook. Now they receive at least twenty ‘likes’ on Facebook.

Not every teenager who is bullied takes their own life, so how about instead we fight for a cure for suicidal tendencies? It would affect a lot more people than just the teen demographic, and isn’t that what we’re ultimately trying to prevent by ending bullying? If it’s not just the suicide issue that people are concerned with, I suppose it is in fact honorable to try to make high school and adolescence a lot more palatable and less dramatic. In spite of how many platitudes we re-package in more modern teen-friendly slang, however, ending bullying in schools most likely isn’t going to stop the kind of bullying these kids will face once they’re adults. Isn’t it better to prepare them for the real world?

Hypothetically some bullies are the children of successful CEOs who look at their peers of lower social standings exactly as they’ve learned to from their families and they might not even realize they’re part of the problem. Instead of getting their just desserts when they’re older, these bullies will most likely go on to inherit their family companies and continue to gleefully exploit and torment the people they consider superior to for the rest of their lives. Achieving such statuses is supposedly the American dream, so why try to tear these kids down when they’re just getting started?

But if there is hope and if we can program future generations of teenagers not to bully each other, will we even care long enough to see it through? We live in a society suffering from a collective ADD and short-term memory loss, and considering that the anti-bullying movement has been around for a few years its mainstream relevance could very well be reaching its expiration date. Let’s see if anyone cares as much as soon as a more hashtaggable scourge starts trending and sorry if that makes me sound like a bully.

  • Vernell Dees

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this very important topic.

    Starting at the end of your article, while I am not ready or willing to call you a bully, I am concerned that you may be impatient in looking for a quick solution to a very serious problem. Bullying is not a new concept and has been around for too many years. I am in my mid-60’s and I was bullied in grade school. I was quiet, shy, unsure of myself and probably just different enough for that to be an issue with some of my classmates and peers so they decided they didn’t like me and I didn’t have the confidence or courage to fight back. Nothing that has been around as long as bullying has been is going to be solved “effectively” with a quick fix in a few years.

    In a society that has evolved as ours has and is as complex as ours is, there are probably numerous reasons why we have failed so far at conquering the bully issue so far. Because of this change and complexity, I believe it will take an extensive, multi-pronged, sustained approach to solve this issue.

    I believe the educational system needs to be completely overhauled and revamped so that recognition and appreciation for individual differences is taught to students beginning at an early age (primary grades) over a period of years with a developmental curriculum of increasing difficulty or complexity. Differences don’t have to be liked or accepted but they do have to be recognized and acknowledged. Children need to be taught to understand that everybody is not the same, we are all different in some ways and that doesn’t make anybody ugly, mean, bad or someone to single out and pick on just because we can.

    While this teaching is going on in school, it should also be taught in the home as well since education of children should always be a partnership between schools and parents. Sadly- some parents have children that are being bullied or that are bullying others and they are none the wiser about it. Parents need to be aware and informed if and when their children are involved in bullying in either position- victim or perpetrator.

    Adults need to be leaders and role models and set the example for children. Children do not always say anything but they are always listening, watching and evaluating based upon their environment and experiences and most are very intelligent- enough so to recognize double standards and hypocritical behavior when they see it. The innocence of a child is not synonymous with “stupidity.”

    Finally, I believe the problems of bullying are more complex in this day and age because of the computer and social media. This technology allows bullies to bully victims online, in public, in front of the world for all to see. Not every individual who has personal insecurities (which are normal for all of us- even adults) peer pressure, hormones jumping up and down in their bodies creating havoc, confidence and relationship challenges has the fortitude to withstand the public humiliation that bullying can bring. If I’d had to go through it at that level back when I went through it, I might not be sitting here typing this now and I thank God for His grace.

    If we plan to conquer bullying in our society, we all have to become leaders and role models for our children as we teach them what they need to know to survive and compete in this world without putting down somebody who is different. Whether we like it or not, it does take a village.

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