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  arrow pointing to the right   Home arrow My Thoughts arrow Pop Culture arrow Pop Culture arrow Speaking Truth To Power


Speaking Truth To Power PDF Print E-mail

Speaking Truth to Power

The use of human rights education to combat bullying.

Bullying Affects Everyone - Bullying Tip #37

The Kennedy clan is taking on school bullying in a really interesting way. The Kennedys, through Project SEATBELT. are hoping to curb bullying by teaching kids about human rights. (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/changing-school-culture-can-end-bullying/2013/08/11/e41fee0a-fe11-11e2-96a8-d3b921c0924a_story.html)

The goal is to encourage kids to see themselves as Human Rights defenders. This will help them not only be engaged citizens of the world, but it will hopefully encourage them to have the moral courage required to stand up to the bullies in their midst.

This is important, because as Kerrie Kennedy state’s so eloquently in her essay,

“Bullying is, at its core, a human rights violation. It is the abuse of the powerless at the hands of the powerful, and it is a threat against the right to receive an education free from persecution. Bullying is the first human rights violation millions of students in the United States will confront. As a human rights organization, it’s not something we can ignore.”

I agree, and I love the connection, made between human rights and the abuse of the powerful (bully) against the weak (victim).

To eradicate bullying with human rights education is a tall order. Bullying is embedded in human nature. Yet, even though it’s part of human nature, only some kids fall prey to it.  We know that bystanders have an important role to play. If they reject bullying openly, it reduces a bully’s power.

If we can instill a sense of civility and bind it to moral and social obligation, some of the kids will rise to the challenge and take this on as the moral task that it truly is.  Again, as a Humanist, I get asked why I took on the subject of bullying. And this is the reason.  If we can create a more civil society and teach children how to stop bullies, we teach them how to not be afraid.  And there is definitely a moral component to this education and it is only by activation the moral imperative that we encourage people to do the hard work required to make our schools and our societies safer.

The only thing I disagree with is that I don’t think we can do this in one generation and be done with it.  Yes, we can create this sort of a cultural shift in learning and approach in one generation, but because bullying is embedded in human nature, we are always going to have to have an aggressive education program at our youngest grades to teach them explicitly the skills they need to stop their peers from bullying before it becomes a habit.


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