Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A teacher's perspective on bullying, and a political question

I have a good friend who's a teacher in a New York City school, so I asked him for his thoughts on the NYCLU article that I wrote about yesterday. Here is his response.
Hey Hugh,

I see a lot of bullying in my high school though it is often not because of bias. The students at [my school] are surprisingly open to students of different backgrounds (though these are somewhat of a minority). The problems in our school often revolve around gang activity and bullying that stems from that, in many cases it is hard to gather a real motivation for the bullying. I report many cases to the Dean's office and the school safety agents though as the article points out not much is done. The environment at [the school] is a unique one, with nearly total male environment, which seems to trigger a lot of this behavior. Unfortunately the administration has failed to make efforts to prevent problems, though I do believe at one time they had a student intervention office that handled things of this nature, and the staff has had professional development session that addressed bullying, though only briefly.

The worst effect I have observed to be when good students start skipping school out of fear, and that is unacceptable. The article is right; the DOE needs to do more!
This crystallized something that was bugging me about the white paper: it focuses on minority groups to the extent that one might interpret those groups as wanting special treatment. I picture a father in Brooklyn whose kid is in the hospital for no other reason than a gang at school decided to kick the crap out of him. He gets wind of that white paper and says to himself "Great, they're giving special protection to the fags but my kid gets fuck all." I wouldn't agree with that man's assumptions, because I recognize the need to protect minority groups who are riper targets for bullying. But that doesn't change the fact that we're going to lose that guy. From that moment on, that guy will not give LGBT concerns a second thought in his voting choices, and if there are enough of those guys out there, the result will be less protection for LGBT youths. Right or wrong, we have to consider that guy, and make it painfully clear that we're concerned for his kid as well as our own target group.

The last paragraph is nothing but the gut reaction of a guy who knows almost nothing about politics. But my question that arises from it seems worth asking: Is there a formula for all this? Do political operatives have the demographic knowledge to say that if we spend X amount of energy protecting minority groups, we will lose the votes of Y people, which will have Z deleterious effect on those same minority groups? If so, then are we making damned sure that Z never exceeds X?

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