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Bullying: The Education Connection

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It seems like every month I hear the news of another young person who has committed suicide due to bullying. I’ve seen many people play the blame game with other people, but what most people don’t seem to realize is that we need to start taking a look at the reasons behind bullying.

From my personal experience of being bullied as well as my own research, I’ve concluded one single reason for bullying: being different.

This can have many definitions, but it can be narrowed down when defined by things such as:

  • race or ethnicity
  • gender
  • religion
  • economic status

When these things trickle down to grade school students and cause being different or not to be defined by just two things: being popular or unpopular.  For example, I was bullied because of something considered unpopular among minority students: making good grades.

Until recently, these things were considered harmless categorizes that would disappear after high school ended. Today, some kids aren’t living that long because they believe that just because some people say that they are unpopular in school, they will be unpopular to everyone later on.

So, what’s exactly sending this message?

There are three things that a grade school student is influenced by:

  • the parents and other adults
  • the peers
  • the mass media

Depending on what environment the student is exposed to, they can be influenced by one, two, or all three of these things.

When a child is just a child, the person who has the most influence on them is the parent. Once a child enters puberty, the peers and the mass media enter as the child starts to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

In my case, my parents raised me to think that an education is the most important thing. As a child, I was perfectly fine with that because my peers still saw each other as nothing more than classmates. As a preteen and adolescent, I began to have a need to find myself and find a place among my peers because it seemed like everybody was categorizing themselves in order to identify themselves. You were either “popular”, or “unpopular” depending on how you represented a certain thing like gender or race.

While I was going through this, I realized that the mass media was partly responsible for the popular or unpopular way of thinking. My black minority peers did what they saw on television or heard on the radio, dancing the latest hip-hop dances and dressing provocatively or “gangster”. Since the mass media made these things seem “cool”, my peers thought that by doing these things that they would be cool then and in the future. As they did this, they dumbed down on their studies because “cool people” didn’t care about an education.

For a while, I listened to hip-hop and R & B because I felt I had to. After all, that’s what most of my black peers were doing and to do otherwise would make me an outcast. As a result, I felt fake and miserable for about a year.

At some point, I realized that if making good grades already made me weird then why be so concerned about doing other things that made me weirder if I enjoyed it? Why care too much about what others think?

After that, I became friends with a Mexican girl who introduced me to rock music, which I discovered I enjoyed. Like me, she also made good grades, but she didn’t care about what others thought and taught me to be the same.

Besides my peers, my teachers and parents also had good and bad effects on me. Some of my teachers and one of my parents encouraged my writing ability and praised me for my good grades. On the other hand, the other parent and other teachers made me feel like my best wasn’t good enough.  This was especially done when I had to please others instead of myself.  Consider a quote from a seventh grader from an online article from TIME magazine about “No Child Left Behind”:

“If I hadn’t passed the [state tests] I would have cried and thought, ‘Why are people smarter than me? Why am I not smarter?’ Sometimes I cry because there is so much pressure. I do try to do my best, but sometimes I get an answer wrong.”

Everyone around a student needs to support them well by teaching them that their best is good enough, that who they are is good enough, and find things outside the typical knowledge that supports this, things like this article. If we shared more things like this with people who can relate, then we can make a positive difference.

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Written by Serena Zola

January 21, 2012 at 2:00 PM

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