I never thought anti-bullying curriculum in schools did much. But I thought they were benign, powerless, useless. And pretty much all equal. I didn’t think they created bullies and victims.
Boy, I was wrong.
Look at what a Nebraska School sent home with 5th graders. Seriously, don’t “tattle” on your abuser. That’s what it said. It was part of a handout that talks about turning “bullies2buddies.” You can learn more at the bullies2buddies website, but I warn you that the advice there is among the worst possible advice.
Here’s his “rules” to not be bullied (you can see longer descriptions in the picture in the article):
- Refuse to get mad
- Treat the person being mean as if they are trying to help you
- Do not be afraid
- Do not verbally defend yourself
- Do not attack
- If someone physically hurts you, just show you are hurt
- Do not tell on bullies
- Don’t be a sore loser
- Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs
These rules are remarkably similar to Izzy Kalman’s rules. In fact, I’d say they are identical. You can learn how these rules apply to racism from Izzy himself at his website. For instance, Rule 7, “Do not tell on bullies,” is included in his “Chapter 8” of The Golden Rule Solution to Racism.
He starts this chapter by talking about how, if you call child protective services when neighbors are “only yelling” at their children, not real abuse, you’ll make your neighbors hate you. Of course “only yelling” is a huge part of him – in rule 6, “If someone physically hurts you, just show you are hurt” (don’t tattle unless they send you to the hospital because you don’t really hurt – seriously, that’s what this guy is advocating) you see his differentiation between physical and all other types of pain. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Pain is pain, and all pain is real.
I know why I wanted to kill myself as a kid. It wasn’t physical pain. I had kids burn me, cut me, punch me, etc, but it was the humiliation that most hurt me. Constant, unending humiliation. I felt that I was at fault. That if I could defend myself, not do stupid stuff, not laugh wrong (seriously, this was a suggestion by a shrink to a suicidal kid – learn laugh “properly” rather than how I was doing it), then I could free myself from the humiliation. When I realized that nothing I could do would stop the abuse, hopelessness and despair – and extreme depression followed. It wasn’t the physical pain. It was the attempt at destroying my soul.
The chapter then launches into an anti-government diatribe (the phrase “Evil Empire” is included, a phrase that probably doesn’t resonate with all that many teachers or parents these days, who didn’t really live through the cold war), followed by some real gems. Keep in mind, this is about ending racism.
When people are doing or saying things against Jews – as long as there is no immediate threat to our bodies or property – about the worst thing to do is rush to report them to the authorities. Instead, we should talk to them directly, not with anger, but as to friends. Ask them sincerely why they are doing or saying it. If there is something wrong about their motivation or understanding, let them know what their mistake is. If they insist on continuing to do what you believe is wrong, talk to them again, but without anger. Pain, yes; anger, no.
First, he again distinguishes “real” racism (your body or property is in danger) from the rest of racism. Note that verbal abuse or illegal acts – such as a boss refusing to promote a Jew – don’t seem to be real to this man. I don’t think that was an oversight in his writing.
When there is antisemitism, particularly in a place with rules against it (like a school or business), it is not necessary for you to be a “friend” to convince them of the error of their ways. While lots of people disagree on how to address hate, it is not appropriate to expect the targets of the hate (Jewish people in his example) to befriend the person spewing hate. And, remember, this is in context to someone calling child protective services when there is not actual abuse. Basically, if you don’t befriend, and you seek protection at work, school, or from your government, you’re crying wolf.
He has all sorts of hogwash like this – I could spend days yelling at my computer about it. One thing is for sure: I would have a hard time being a friend of this man.
Lest you think it is just one isolated person, I believe the Lincoln (Nebraska) School District got this crap as a result of their anti-bullying program. Their program included participation of Brooks Gibbs.
Meet Brooks Gibbs:
That’s his marketing video.
It’s sickening. His basic philosophy is “If you’re nice to the bullies, they’ll be nice to you.” He teaches that God wants us to passively accept abuse. He teaches a form of victim blaming. That’s dangerous. It’s deadly.
How is this connected to Izzy, who made these awful rules about how to
avoid being be a victim? Well, they believe pretty much the same awful hogwash. He teaches the Kalman – as in Izzy Kalman – bullying prevention program.
Check out his Lesson 5 – Physical bullying, from the above link.
Let me transcribe some of the horrible advice:
If someone causes you physical pain, they push you, first don’t make a big deal out of it.
Because most people don’t want to hurt you unless you are hurting them.
See, most students don’t want to actually send you to the hospital.
When someone pushes you, they are just trying to get you upset.
Very rarely does someone just come up and punch you in the face as hard as they can for no reason. That’s called a sociopath who doesn’t have a feelings and they don’t care about your pain. In fact they get pleasure from it.
Most kids aren’t sociopaths, in fact sociopaths are less than 2% of the population and most of them are in prison or in hospital. You see the students you hang out with every day who might physically bully you are just really trying to get you upset.
He goes on, and claims that the physical bullying only occurs because of an exchange of verbal insults back and forth, which escalate into a confrontation. That may be how bar fights start, but it isn’t bullying. I’m not going to comment on the sociopath statements about them being in hospitals or prison, but I will say he should learn before he teaches.
He goes on to talk about how you need to understand why a kid wants to physically bully you (which, if it was adults, would be called battery).
Can you imagine asking an abused wife to “understand your husband, so that you can break the cycle of bullying?” No, you hopefully help her find a safe place.
It’s all like this. And, again, it’s not just Mark Gibbs, hired with our tax dollars by some random Nebraska school district (actually the second largest district in the state). First, Mr. Gibbs’ client list is scary. It truly scares me that professional educators would hire people spewing this crap. But, second, this is part of a wider movement – the idea that “kids will be kids” and it’s really the victims that need to be taught “social skills” to deal with bullying.
I went through that, probably before Mr. Gibbs was born. And what he is preaching (yes, literally, although it’s stealth in his public school stuff) is no different than my experience. It doesn’t work, it can’t work. I literally have years of experience with this crap. You don’t “bully-proof” your kid anymore than you “abuse-proof” a woman to avoid being a battered wife. You deal with the problem. The problem is not the autistic kid who is different and doesn’t know when the adult does or doesn’t want to be bothered with his problems (these programs seem to be sold on the premise that it will reduce staff workload on bullying – look at the first expected outcome for schools of Izzy’s program). It’s not that the kid tells an adult when he’s punched. It’s the behavior of the bullies.
So, now I know something I didn’t know yesterday. You have to make sure anti-bullying programs see the bully as the problem rather than the victim as the problem. I would never have thought that was a concern until today.
My advice for schools and parents? Don’t just avoid, but RUN from any program that claims to show that the majority of experts are wrong. If it is an explicit claim, you better show them the door. In the best case, you’ll look unprofessional and incompetent – like Lincoln Public Schools. In the worst case, your student who has already contemplated suicide will be taught that the problem is himself. No student should be taught that.