Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bullying in schools

After two high school students were driven to suicide by bullies in their schools, the State of Massachusetts passed legislation demanding careful reports from schools about the extent of bullying and their are plans to stop it.

Now the first reports are in and the numbers are very distressing. 1 in 4 middle school students and one in six of high school students report either being bullied or bullying.

The other important result is that the majority of bullies were victims of for had witnessed family violence.

Bullying is not an isolated problem; it is closely connected to the use of violence to resolve family conflicts.

Family violence is frequent all over the world.“Percent of women surveyed (national surveys) who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner: Barbados (30%), Canada (29%), Egypt (34%), New Zealand (35%), Switzerland (21%), United States (25%). Some surveys in specific places report figures as high as 50-70% of women surveyed who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Others, including surveys in the Philippines and Paraguay, report figures as low as 10%. In India, every two hours a "bride burning" occurs because the woman had a small dowry, or so that her husband can remarry. Statistics published in 2004, show that the rate of domestic violence victimization for indigenous women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-indigenous women” 
When it comes to domestic violence involving physical abuse towards children, research in the UK by the NSPCC indicated that "most violence occurred at home" (78 per cent). 40—60% of men and women who abuse other adults also abuse their children. Girls whose fathers batter their mothers are 6.5 times more likely to be sexually abused by their fathers than are girls from non-violent homes. (http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Epidemiology_of_domestic_violence)

These numbers show that domestic violence-- between partners and between parents and children -- is a worldwide problem. But they also suggest that in different places family violence has different causes. Officially women are equal the United States, but one in four women experience domestic violence. The culture in India or among Australian aborigines is very different. If we ask about the causes of domestic violence we need to ask the questions separately for each country.

Why is there so much domestic violence in the United States?

Here are some plausible hypotheses:

As a nation we are dedicated to violence. We are currently fighting three wars. There are between 700 and 800 US military bases all around the world, staffed by close to 300,000 soldiers with their equipment. ( index.php?context=va&aid=5564) Counting the budget of the Department of Defense, of Veterans Affairs, and other government departments contributing to the military, as well as the debt service on the money borrowed to pay for our military commitments, the budget for the military for 2010 is estimated at $1.4 trillion—roughly a third of the National Budget. ( _budget_of_the_United_States)

As individuals we are equally devoted to violence. Consider the extension of the right to bear arms in recent years. In many states legislators, judges, students and professors in colleges all go around armed. There is no point in carrying a weapon unless one is prepared to solve one's problems by shooting someone.

The social position of women in our society has changed. But the bulk of domestic violence is still perpetrated by men and a national re-thinking of what it takes to be a man is pretty much missing. Yes there are more young men pushing baby carriages. There are more couples where a child rearing is a shared project. But, all in all, the images of manhood have not changed significantly.

Just consider the violence perpetrated in professional sports. In hockey, in football, and elsewhere. I have not seen many protests against that anywhere.

Finally, most Americans believe in the good effects of competition. Among businesses, the goal of competition is to put the opponent out of business, to destroy his effort and his livelihood. This is one more place where violence is not only accepted but praised.

We are surrounded by violence – violence that is generally approved of. No wonder our children drive each other to suicide by their own versions of violence.