Treating All Children As Vulnerable and in Danger

Readers, fstseabhak
this comes to us from my friend and mentor Nancy McDermott. Nancy writes for the online journal Spiked and is an associate with the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent. Here she is responding to my wondering why so many Americans don’t think children should play at the park unsupervised.

Somehow we have replaced and ethos of resilience with an ethos of vulnerability.

For example. We went to our son’s middle school orientation last night where I learned that he was going to have to do something called Family and Consumer Science (FACS) full time, but that he would be doing French and PE on alternating days. I asked what this FACS consists of and why they were giving it more priority than learning a foreign language. So a very nice lady got up and explained that students would learn basic sewing, how to manage money, and about personal relationships, and that this is now mandated by New York State.

My heart sank. The only thing our schools are teaching our kids about relationships is that they are dangerous. On the tour of the middle school, the class rooms have signs outside that say “This is a SAFE zone” — as if kids were negotiating the streets of northern Iraq to get to their classes. We have one librarian split between two elementary schools but FOUR psychologists.

…The abstract “Student,” the “Child” all our institutions are designed to cater to, is an intensely vulnerable and incompetent one. Is it any wonder then — given that this has been developing over the past 30 years or so — that the bulk of people can’t even imagine a world in which a 9-year-old is competent enough to deal with being on his or her own? Of course the other side is that danger is overstated, but you don’t have to overstate crime statistics to make people afraid. I think it’s more that when you perceive every risk as something bad that will happen, it doesn’t matter if you have to wait 750 thousand years to be abducted in the park. That one person might be abducted in a park, ever means the danger is real.

Without being over the top, this degradation of the way we see human beings is profoundly bad because instead of organizing our society around confidence and hope, we are organizing it around vulnerability and despair. – Nancy McDermott

Worrying about kids is our national pastime.

Worrying about kids is our national pastime.




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163 Responses to Treating All Children As Vulnerable and in Danger

  1. Remy August 24, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    Family and Consumer Science is a class that is supposed to strengthen students’ competence at everyday household tasks and engender independence. As a discipline, it’s more practical than most foreign languages, and more broadly applicable to the student body.

    (And those “Safe Zone” signs? Those are usually posted to indicate that intolerance, bullying, and abuse are not allowed or wanted – that school is a place for learning and growing without fear.)

    Sounds like Nancy McDermott is invested in the right mindset, but she’s calling out the wrong things.

  2. Emma August 24, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    I actually like the sound of this class… sounds a lot like the “home economics” of my time (learning to cook simple meals, sew basic items, etc), all of which helped me become more independent (oh look, I can make grilled cheese without burning the house down). I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of teaching basic budgeting skills & knowledge of credit/interest rates/etc (which so many adults are lacking!). Not quite as sure about the “relationship” side of it – that could go either way depending on their approach, but if it’s focused on listening skills and thinking about other people’s perspectives on things, and how to keep your own sense of self strong rather than only feeling important as the “other half” of someone else in a relationship, then I think those are much more important skills than learning another language. Not sure why PE isn’t every day though – I would rather them do PE every day and FACS & French every second day.

  3. jet August 24, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    I have to agree with Remy here. In middle school, 7th grade we had Home Ec — cooking/household budgeting for half the year and wood shop the other half. In 7th we had a half year of Home Ec — sewing and wood shop the other half. Not sure about the “relationships” part of the class, but those parts, at least, seem perfectly normal to me, and presented at the same age they were when I was in school.

  4. baby-paramedic August 24, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    I would want to be finding out more about the relationships education side of things!

    *shudders at the memories of what we were “taught” about relationships*

  5. Vanessa August 24, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    Yeah, I have to say the class sounds pretty useful to me. I wish my daughter’s middle school had had something like it – they learned a little of that stuff in Girl Scouts, but not nearly enough. I guess the relationships part depends on what’s covered, but given the age group, I bet it’s about friendships/bullying/dating between peers, not about stranger danger.

  6. Sha August 25, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    This class sounds awesome. They are required to learn all the stuff I had to take separate required classes for throughout middle and high school.
    It also sounds like this personal relationships stuff is more like Interpersonal Communications. I loved Interpersonal Communications in college and think it was one of the single most useful required class I took in college. I’ve been banging this drum for years. Kids should be required to take Interpersonal Communications throughout their entire school career.
    I’m not sure what the whine is here and this lady should just wait and see and maybe monitor what her son is learning before she goes off half cocked.

  7. Jennifer August 25, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    I had a course like this in high school – “Consumer Ed” – a one semester mandatory course.

    It was semi-useful. We got things like how to balance a cheque book and how to read laundry labels, and a fairly extensive section on things like resumes and job interviews, with practical exercises. Some of the actual advice, resume-wise, was unfortunately total garbage. Attaching photocopies of swimming certificates and school awards to a resume screams “I’ve never actually had a job and have no clue”.

    When my brother hit high school, they instituted something more like what is describe here – a career preparation type course, which covered three years and was attached to various elective courses. As a result, he had to take typing three years in a row to fit it in, as he was taking mainly academic courses. They meant well, but the course itself was pretty useless and was eventually phased out.

    There are two problems with this concept. One is execution – it’s not easy to design a course that is effective and holds the students’ interest, and very easy to produce inane makework and bad advice.

    The second is the fact that the schools gets the kids for about five instructional hours a day, five days a week, for nine months of the year. Teaching kids academics to a reasonable level and providing some cultural training (art, music etc) in that time is a non trivial task. When you add in the expectation that the school will provide basic socialization, discipline, sex-ed and personal relationship skills, nutritional training, sufficient exercise to keep them skinny, basic financial/domestic/intervew/practical skills, and so on and so forth you are giving the schools an fundamentally impossible task.

    If you want the schools to take over all of this and do a decent job, make the school day 9 am to 5 pm, six days a week, 12 months a year, and double or triple the staffing and funding, and maybe they’ll have a chance.

  8. Andy August 25, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    The title and content are mismatched.

    While full time for this sounds like too much to me and I would prefer my kids really learning foreign language, I do not see outrage. I remember we had something of this sort in elementary and while it was mostly boring and a lot of it was waste of time, it was not harmful in any other way.

    Things like sewing basics are useful and teaching them is hardly overprotecting anyone. So is money management. It will not change reckless money spender into careful saver, but having to calculate how much candies/iPhone games can you buy every day to still have money next week might help some. School teaching basics like “how the debt and interest rates works” before someone attempts to sell them nicely packaged bad deal debt is even better idea.

  9. SteveS August 25, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    I get the sense that the author was most troubled by the ‘personal relationships’ part of the class. It does sound odd, but I have no idea what instruction entails. We never had anything like that and my kids haven’t, so far.

  10. Stacy August 25, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    It totally depends on the content being taught. There are a lot of important money and budgeting skills that do not seem to be taught at home anymore. I do understand what you’re saying about the overemphasize on interpersonal relationships and treating children like they are extremely vulnerable to harm, but I have mixed feelings having been bullied viciously at a time and in a school where bullies were never punished. I’m sure I benefited from being forced to toughen up and deal with it, but it would have been nice for adults to acknowledge the bullying was wrong and punish the offenders. I like that bullying is not tolerated in my son’s school. But I do feel like there can be too much emphasis on the terrible potential consequences of bullying on the victim’s self-esteem, instead of teaching kids about people in this world who have it a whole lot worse than American middle schoolers and encouraging them to use the strength they possess to cope with whatever challenges they face.

  11. Caiti August 25, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    I have to agree with Nancy, although she didn’t link her point and her example clearly enough. How much do you want to bet FACS class is filled with warnings about how unsafe it is to cook, never use the oven if your mom or dad isn’t home, etc. It’s also stuff that would be better learned through real life experience. I took home ec in 7th grade but it was once a week. The only thing I got from it was a recipe for whoopie pies, because by twelve I already knew how to cook! And balance my savings account for that matter. With our education an outdated relic that still prepares kids to work in factories (where else in real life do you have to follow a bell? Or go at the same pace as everyone else?), is it any surprise they are teaching skills that are ultimately the responsibility of the parent and should have been taught before the child is twelve?

  12. Birch August 25, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Regarding “Safe zone” stickers in schools. The only “safe zone” stickers I’ve seen are for LGBT kids. And those are lifesavers (more literally than they should have to be). Hopefully that’s all these are.

    I trust the general population to look out for and leave my kid be out in the world (the way decent people do for other people), more than I trust her safety amid her classmates and teachers.

  13. Dirk. August 25, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    I know no one wants me to say this, although others have already commented the same thing…this is home economics.

    “Family & Consumer Sciences was previously known as Home Economics until the 1990s when the official title was changed[by whom?] to Family & Consumer Sciences, encompassing more aspects outside of home life and wellness.”

    It seems really useful and practical and I and my parents and their parents had it too. My sisters didn’t because it was the age of budget cuts. Frankly I am glad it is back…

  14. Dirk. August 25, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Also, the “this is a safe zone” comments in the post are totally inappropriate. This happens all to often here…

    The Safe Zones are about: “In schools, safe-space, safer-space, and positive space are terms used to indicate that an educator does not tolerate anti-LGBT violence or harassment, but rather is open and accepting, thereby creating a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and all students.”

    And yes there are gay kids in middle school. And yes it also is used for bullying. And yes it also used for kids who are on the spectrum but are in mainstream classrooms. Because yes sometimes even in this day and age all three of these types of harassments happen.

  15. lollipoplover August 25, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    I agree with Andy that the title and the content don’t really match. Treating all children as vulnerable and letting middle schoolers learn independence seem contradictory.

    On FACS, my oldest started middle school last year and had a family science class. I thought it was wonderful. He had an assignment where he had to write a paper on doing the family’s laundry (content required: stain removal, sorting, type of detergent and amount, drying, folding, storage) which he already knew how to do. He learned to cook mainly soups and simple dishes and they had kids bringing in some creations they made at home for extra credit(“Top Chef” type challenges). He also was assigned a fake job randomly for the year(he got accountant) and a family to support (he got 4 kids)and had to draft a budget based on his salary and dependents. He was pissed that he could only afford an apartment and a used car and didn’t have money for *better* things. He asked the teacher if he could take a second job!

  16. jimc5499 August 25, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    “We have one librarian split between two elementary schools but FOUR psychologists.”

    They have to find jobs for those with useless Liberal Arts degrees.

  17. BL August 25, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Of course, if children weren’t kept in captivity all the time, they could learn things from relatives other than parents, or even from neighbors.

    My parents taught me how to read before I started school, but one thing I had trouble with was tying my shoes. My father kept showing me by doing it very fast and I couldn’t follow the moves. I was going to be in kindergarten in a month or so and what would happen if my shoelaces came untied?

    So a neighbor girl my own age showed me, very slowly, and I got it first time.

    (Thanks, Kathy!)

    I suppose these days I’d have to wait for an Officially Qualified Family and Consumer Science Teacher to show me.

  18. SOA August 25, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    I am not against this honestly. Many parents are neglecting to teach their kids life skills anymore and so maybe the school needs to step in. Now IF the parents are doing it, then school does not need to, but so many parents are failing at this.

    I am okay with life skills like etiquette and manners, sewing, cooking, paying bills, managing to stay out of debt, basic handyman skills, basic car care skills, things like that being taught in school.

    Because many parents are failing to teach this anymore and it is hurting our overall society. Common sense is not some common anymore. Basic etiquette is not so basic anymore. They used to teach that stuff in schools like back in the 50s with home ec and shop. So I don’t have a prob with it.

    I am a foreign language major in college and I have used those skills I mentioned above like etiquette and paying bills etc more than my foreign language skills so there you go.

  19. Chuck99 August 25, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Remy – We have a place where ‘intolerance, bullying, and abuse are not allowed or wanted’, it’s called Society. We shouldn’t need signs to indicate special places for it. All that does (at least to my mind) is make it okay to do those things elsewhere.

    SOA – Who says people aren’t teaching their kids those things anymore? What percentage of them? I’m not meaning to pick on you, but it really bothers me when people make huge, sweeping statements with no facts or support.

    In general, I agree with Lenore and Nancy on this. It’s great that FACS is available, but I can teach my child about home economics. I’m not able to teach them French. The school should do what the school is supposed to do. Otherwise, it’s just one more example of the state telling you what a bad parent you are, and how they need to take over for you.

  20. Dirk. August 25, 2014 at 10:07 am #


    To be a psychologist you need a doctorate which is a professional degree. A liberal arts degree is an undergraduate degree which requires the student to take courses from all disciplines (arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural or “hard” sciences). Sometimes masters level work may be considered a liberal arts degree but doctorates must have a focused area of study and are confined within it. A doctorate of any kind in psychology would be within the social sciences and in no way be considered a liberal arts degree due to its level and singular depth of study.

  21. Warren August 25, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Let’s get this straight.

    Because some parents are too stupid or to lazy to teach their kids life skills, every student has to lose time in phys ed. and second languages?

    Sure we had the old “Home Ec.”, it was an elective in high school. Take it if you want, don’t if you don’t.

    Not a big fan of schools teaching things that should be done at home, even more so when they take away from more important courses and subjects.

  22. Warren August 25, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    As for safe zones?

    Give me a break, they just cement the idea that they are needed, because there is danger everywhere.

  23. Sara Heard August 25, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    The question is not whether kids need to learn basic life skills but rather whether this is a good use of school time and resources. Or kids have to learn LOTS of things that aren’t traditionally academic subjects — why sometimes we actually have to teach them those things ourselves. I disagree with the commenters who think this is a good use of school time. After all, I can teach my daughter to cook, sew, spot an abusive boyfriend and manage her money. I can’t teach her to speak French, so I rely on the school to do that.

    If people prefer this class over French or another academic subject on the grounds of its “practicality” or broader applicability to normal daily life, where does it stop? I spend more time ironing than reading, so why did the pesky kindergarten teacher insist on teaching my child to read last year when she could have had my child helping me keep daddy in business shirts by now instead?

    I believe that handing over this material to the schools to teach is of a piece with the very anti-free-range attitude that parents can’t be trusted to make decisions about the upbringing of their own children. I would object too.

  24. Sara Heard August 25, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Second line correction: “OUR kids…” Sorry, old hands, tiney keyboard.

  25. BL August 25, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    “We have a place where ‘intolerance, bullying, and abuse are not allowed or wanted’, it’s called Society.”

    School is about the only place where defending yourself from those things is absolutely forbidden.

  26. Sara Heard August 25, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Oh for goodness sake, now I give up [as she SLOWLY proofreads. Didn’t they teach us that in school?]

  27. Mark Roulo August 25, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Link to what the ‘personal relationships’ bit seems to be:

    Topics include:
    *) Boundaries
    *) Personal space
    *) Safe and unsafe parts of the school

    The last bit seems to be age (and maybe gender specific) … so the 1st graders might feel unsafe near 5ther grade dominated parts of the school.

    Boundaries and personal space seem to be focused on obeying the teachers and not groping/molesting/raping each other as the kids get older.

  28. Mark Roulo August 25, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    “To be a psychologist you need a doctorate which is a professional degree.”

    And yet, Isabel Legaspi (at Mountain View, Ontario, California) does not seem to have a PhD. Or if she does, her LinkedIn profile omits it 🙂


    I don’t think these folks at schools need to have a doctorate…

  29. Leah Backus August 25, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Sounds like Home Ec. Not sure what the big deal is here.

  30. Dirk. August 25, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    No the safe zones this:

  31. Sharon Davids August 25, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    I would love for my daughter to have free home economics. Instead I paid for after school cooking. The teacher says most of the other neighboring schools have some form of home ecomonics.

    Today is the first day of school. I reviewed the procedures for coming home alone. Have your keys, text me, have a snack and start your homework. We also do a fire safety speech because we live in a high rise. We didn’t need it last year but if we do she knows to get her body out of the condo, walk down the stairs and meet at our meeting spot.

  32. Jen (P.) August 25, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    The “safe zone” concept annoys me as well because it implies that areas outside those zones are not safe.

    This is important too, I think: “The abstract ‘Student,’ the ‘Child’ all our institutions are designed to cater to, is an intensely vulnerable and incompetent one. Is it any wonder then — given that this has been developing over the past 30 years or so — that the bulk of people can’t even imagine a world in which a 9-year-old is competent enough to deal with being on his or her own?”

    I certainly don’t want to fault schools and other institutions for encouraging people to treat one another with respect, but I think the pendulum has swung too far. It’s become commonplace to classify every childhood slight as “bullying”, which makes virtually everyone a victim and pathologizes normal childhood misbehavior (incidentally, this year not only do I have to have a criminal background check on file in order to volunteer in any capacity in my kids’ schools, I also have to undergo “anti-bullying training”). And it’s not limited to interactions between kids. Much of today’s “feminist” literature follows a similar track – everyone is a victim, and we need to be protected. It’s the exact opposite of empowering.

  33. Matthew August 25, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    I agree most of these should be taught by parents. The problem is they don’t appear to be.

    In hiring new engineers, my problem rarely is technical skill, but they don’t have basic manners or outside life skills. There are 25 year olds I leave of of professional dinner invites because they eat like they just got out of prison.

    Of give a presentation chewing gum with they’re mouth open. “So *chomp* the re*chomp*turn on in*chomp*vestment”…..

    Or interrupting others.

    By 7 I could hem my own pants, make basic sewing repairs, plan meals within a fairly limited budget, etc., and so could most of my friends. And this wasn’t the dark ages. It was the early 80s. I could also run copper tubing and wire a basic home circuit by my teens.

    As an engineer, those practical skills make me better at my job. I don’t see them replacing academic instruction. Rather, they complement each other.

  34. Andy August 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    @Matthew Are you sure that the ability to hem own pants, make basic sewing repairs, plan budget at 7 years old is predicts ones eating etiquette and presentation skills at the age of 25? No matter how soon you start to teaching them copper tubing and circuit wiring, their chatting and eating etiquette is likely to remain unchanged.

  35. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    It really is amazing how our views of not just children but people in general has changed. We used to see adversity as something that made you stronger; today, we assume it destroys you. Sure, that may have sometimes led to being too callous in the past, but I think it was still far less damaging than today’s message that anything bad that happens to you–no matter how minor–will traumatize you and scar you for life.

    I noticed when my son was in school last year how every instance of kid-on-kid meanness was considered “bullying.” That’s nonsense. Bullying is a serious, mostly one-sided, systematic behavior. Two kids getting into a schoolyard argument is not bullying; a kid calling you a name one time is not bullying. But kids are being told that anything any child does that makes them feel bad or upset makes them a victim of bullying, and that they always need adult intervention to deal with bullying. It’s nonsense, in my opinion. Yes, if we’re talking about genuine bullying, then kids may need adults to intervene, and they should; but most childhood conflicts can and should be resolved by the kids themselves, and we are doing them no favors by teaching them they are incapable of that.

    What I tried to teach my son last year was the now-radical idea that sometimes you can just let stuff go. As popular as the long is, we seem to think we can never let anything that upsets us go. Somebody called you a name? Let it go. Maybe they were having a bad day, maybe you did something to upset them, maybe they’re just a jerk. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, so just let it go. Somebody looked at you funny, bumped into you (maybe on purpose, maybe not) on the playground, took your pencil? Just let it go and move on. We don’t have to elevate every slight and unpleasant experience into a trauma. And yet that seemed to be exactly what kids were being encouraged to do in the school, under the guise of “anti-bullying.”

  36. Laurambp August 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I’m fascinated by the outcry against this. I’m in my mid 20’s (27) and would have loved to have had more life skills classes in school. I only had FACS for 2 quarters total of all of middle school (6th and 8th grades). I really enjoyed the classes and the homework in them and even got a 120% grade my 6th grade year because I did every piece of extra credit possible.

    However, growing up in an middle class, helicopter-parenting world, I was never expected to actually use those skills, because that would get in the way of homework or sports.

    It was definitely a rude awakening when I moved out when I turned 25. Suddenly, I had to pay bills on time and follow a budget. I had to cook for myself, which I never did before. I was calling my mom and asking her how to remove stains out of different types of clothing and how to resew the buttons on my shirts.

    Instead of life skills, everything pushed on me was academics, academics, academics. I learned two foreign languages in school and can barely speak either one now. I couldn’t do algebra at this point to save my life, let alone Calculus. And chemistry? it was fun but I remember almost none of it.

    (That said, I’m in graduate school now, so I do use English, History, Sociology in my current studies, but these are also useful in general life.)

    I highly welcome FACS and learning actual life skills. That’s stuff that will be useful long beyond graduation day.

  37. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    @Jen P.: “It’s become commonplace to classify every childhood slight as ‘bullying’, which makes virtually everyone a victim and pathologizes normal childhood misbehavior.”

    Yes! It is so frustrating. Honestly, it’s one of the things that makes me glad we’re homeschooling this year.

    I have a lot of friends who’ve complained about this. Their kids are coming home saying they were “bullied” when, after being questioned by their parents, it turns out they just had a schoolyard spat where they were giving as good as they got. Or, in some cases, where they were the instigator. The way “bullying” is being addressed in schools seem to just convince kids that any time they get into it with another kid–even if they started the situation and were behaving just as badly–they are victims. I don’t know many parents who want that being the message their kids get.

    And, yes, it’s not just kids. Adults too now seem to think that every slight they suffer or suffered as a child was traumatic and abusive. I’m now supposed to believe that catcalling is not simply rude and annoying, but sexually abusive and part of “rape culture,” and that every time a guy makes a comment when I pass a bus stop, I’m a victim. That’s not empowering, and it’s not how I want to live my life or teach my children–especially my daughters–to live their lives. I want to raise kids who know they will be able to get through whatever life brings, not kids who are convinced that every unpleasant experience is shattering.

  38. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    That said, while I think “anti-bullying” programs are extremely misguided, I have no problem with kids learning life skills in school. Many kids aren’t learning them at home, and they are going to need these skills to be responsible and self-sufficient.

  39. Papilio August 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Yeah, I don’t really see the problem with such lessons either. I had a subject like that in 9th grade (1x 50 minutes per week), about how to cook, how to eat healthy, basic sewing, doing the laundry, some first aid, but also sex ed (including STDs, correct condom use and putting one on a plastic penis (ahh, memories… 😀 )) and the effects & hazards of the most common types of (mostly illegal) drugs . First I thought it was nonsense to learn about the food and clothing stuff in school, until I discovered my friend couldn’t even sew a button back to a piece of clothing, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

    I’m not sure what’s meant here with the lessons on relationships. As far as I recall, there was some talk about respecting each other and equality and that it’s always OK to say no/stop even during sexual encounters because it’s supposed to be fun for both parties involved, and the possibility of being gay or bi – is that what’s meant here?

    But anyway, I don’t see the link between teaching basic household skills in middle school and a perceived vulnerability of children these days.

    @Warren, re Safe zones being nonsense: Having seen a documentary on gay teens in the South who got basically puked out by their entire village (sometimes family too), I’m not so sure. Some states are still pretty… Russian in this respect.

  40. jimc5499 August 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm #


    A local university offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Psychology. This degree is enough to obtain a job in a school as a Child Psychologist.

  41. Jenna K. August 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    I think the problem with this class is that these are skills children should be acquiring at home as they go through life. They are “life skills”–skills they pick up as they are allowed to do them, whereas French and other academic skills are the ones that need to be taught in school, which is the purpose of school. I think the point of this, that many here seem to have missed, is that in a world where children are so overprotected, they aren’t learning these life skills from life but having to be forced to take them as a class at school so they will be competent when they leave school and enter the workforce. Herein lies the problem.

  42. Jen (P.) August 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    @anon mom – “I’m now supposed to believe that catcalling is not simply rude and annoying, but sexually abusive and part of ‘rape culture,’ and that every time a guy makes a comment when I pass a bus stop, I’m a victim. That’s not empowering, and it’s not how I want to live my life or teach my children–especially my daughters–to live their lives. I want to raise kids who know they will be able to get through whatever life brings, not kids who are convinced that every unpleasant experience is shattering.”

    That’s exactly what I’m talking about! People have no sense of proportionality. Why do they want to live their lives feeling victimized by such trivial offenses?

    I spend a lot of time telling my kids to just “drop it and move on.” I want them to be able to recognize the difference between a minor slight or interpersonal conflict and something that’s really serious and to be able to handle both appropriately. Results have been encouraging lately. They’re not overreacting to each other nearly as much as they used to, which has made our house a lot more peaceful.

  43. Ann in L.A. August 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    At the same time we’re infantilizing all children under the age of 16, schools have taken on the task of teaching “grit”. Good luck with that.

    I can’t help but tie the rise of high-risk X-sports to the trend of bubble wrapping our kids. Kids need an outlet, and they are turning to skateboarding down railings, snowboarding through half-pipes, and blasting through BMX motorbike courses to find it.

    Years ago, when the Bravo cable network was young, they showed a strange movie which took place in a quiet, idyllic suburban subdivision. The plot centered on teenagers being bored out of their skulls and turning to high risk activities to break out of the dullness their parents had put them in. I’ve tried by have never been able to track that movie down since.

  44. John August 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm #


    “it doesn’t matter if you have to wait 750 thousand years to be abducted in the park. That one person might be abducted in a park, ever means the danger is real”

    By that logic, I could put in my retirment papers just because I bought a lottery ticket.

  45. Warren August 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    So people are actually okay with having their kids lose out on phys ed. and second languages, because other parents cannot take the time to teach basic life skills?

    What’s next, let’s cut back on art and music to teach manners?

    How bout we drop geography instead, hell everyone has gps anyway?

    Would it not be better to let teachers actually teach subjects and let parents teach life?

  46. Andy August 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Somewhat related to this blog topic:

    It has cute pictures of waiting kids and a photographer contemplates their vulnerability to random attack.

  47. Emily August 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    1. Teaching Home Economics (which is what they used to call FACS), and Shop class in schools, is a good thing. If you do that while kids are young (maybe starting in grade six or seven), then they won’t be arriving at university not knowing how to do laundry, or why you shouldn’t eat chicken that’s still pink in the middle. Of course, this should be done properly, by actually letting kids try their hand at cooking/sewing/repair work/caring for robot babies/whatever, instead of just saying, “Don’t use the stove without an adult; it’s not safe,” but that’s worlds apart from saying that Shop and Home Ec shouldn’t be taught at all.

    2. As for the anti-bullying thing, when I was a kid, bullying was pretty much ignored, and there was very much a culture of “What did you do to bring this on?” The pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction by now, but at least someone’s doing something. Finding the perfect balance won’t happen overnight, but in the meantime, schools SHOULD be “safe zones.” As long as the teachers and administrators aren’t just putting up the “safe zone” signs and assuming the problem is fixed, and saying, “We don’t have a bullying problem at our school,” I think it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not just LGBTQQ kids, and kids on the spectrum, who need to feel safe at school, it’s everyone–it’s the overweight kids, and the lower-income kids, and the kid who just got braces, the kid whose parents are getting divorced, the girl who’s feeling self-conscious in her new training bra, the boy who tripped over his feet yesterday in gym class, and fell on his face……and so on, and so forth. Adolescence is a difficult time, but adults can make it easier by modelling kind and compassionate behaviour. So, the “safe zone” signs are a good idea, as long as they’re backed up with actions.

    3. Ideally, parents should teach kids about relationships, but a lot of parents don’t. Maybe they don’t have time, or worse yet, maybe they teach entirely the wrong lessons, because mom and dad are divorced, or they fight all the time, or maybe one parent is in the military or something, and hardly ever home. Maybe BOTH parents work long hours, and are hardly ever home. Maybe there’s only one parent to begin with, for whatever reason. Maybe that parent has to work long hours to make ends meet, or maybe that parent has a string of short-term partners. Either way, kids learn what they live, and given the fact that we can’t assume that every kid lives in a Leave It To Beaver (or even Brady Bunch) kind of family anymore, I think it’s a good thing that the schools are taking some initiative here.

    4. There’s a right and a wrong way to go about this. Maybe the “safe zone” signs could be rephrased as “positive space,” with positive words, of things you DO want to see–kind words, sharing, encouraging, co-operation, trying new things, being inclusive, etc., instead of a bunch of negative things with a big red circle and slash through them. That’s kind of where I was going with my opinion on Shop and Home Ec, and the class about relationships (which should ideally be combined with sex ed, or V.I.P., D.A.R.E., or similar. So, basically, my approach, if I were in charge, would be to teach kids, “Be kind, be open-minded, work together, use your words to solve your conflicts, get high on life instead of drugs, wear oven mitts when you cook, safety goggles when you use power tools, and condoms when you have sex. If you have any questions, please ask me or another adult, and if you want to ask privately, find me after class, or write your question on a piece of paper, without your name, and put it in this box.” It’s nothing new–it’s pretty much what I grew up with, between home, school, various teen magazines, and the early incarnations of the Internet.

  48. Randy August 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    @Mark Roulo

    You’re correct, School Psychology is the only branch of Psych that I know of that does not require a PhD to practice and use the protected title of “Psychologist.” It varies from state to state and country to country, but the usual requirement is masters + 30 hours and generally about a year long internship.

    Although they’re trained in counseling, the bulk of their job tends to be giving assessments and putting children into special ed and/or advanced classes, diagnosing learning disabilities / mental retardation, behavioral problems, etc.

  49. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    @Warren, “life skills” just sounds like what used to be called “home economics,” and was traditionally taught in schools. We had courses available in sewing, woodworking, cooking, basic money management, and other basic life skills. Honestly, I wish I’d taken the opportunity to take more of those classes–how I wish I’d taken an auto mechanics class!–because the basic sewing, cooking, and woodworking skills I learned have served me far more than my two years of French or my advanced math courses.

    Now, I’m not saying that we should replace academics with life skills, but I think there’s absolutely a place for learning practical skills–which can, for some students, become professions–in school. Sure, students may learn some of these skills at home. But, you may not have access to the materials you need to learn sewing or woodworking or metalworking unless you have a parent who does those things as a hobby (or career), and even if your parent does know how to do those things, they may not be great at teaching them. One of my favorite things my son learned in school last year was gardening. I don’t know how to garden, and he was able to share his knowledge with me. And, he loved it! It was a great break from academics, and allowed the kids to create something tangible that they felt good about. That’s a skill they can carry with them all throughout life.

    Plus, a good teacher will be able to make connections between practical skills and academics. Gardening can involve science, history, and math, if the teacher makes those connections for the students. I use math more for sewing, knitting, and cooking than I use it for anything else!

  50. John August 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    @Anonymous mom

    Quote: “But kids are being told that anything any child does that makes them feel bad or upset makes them a victim of bullying, and that they always need adult intervention to deal with bullying. It’s nonsense, in my opinion”

    It’s nonsense to me too mom! Remember Dr. Spock? Back in the 1960s when he was asked how parents should deal with their child being bullied, it seems that I remember him implying that the child should NOT avoid the bully but learn to deal with him instead. Now this was back when bullying was considered physical like when a bigger, stronger or tougher child physically harrassed a weaker kid. He said if your child was afraid of walking to the park or school on a certain route because a bully lived on the way and was always harrassing him, the parents should MAKE their child walk that route and deal with the bully! BUT Dr. Spock did say that if the bullying got extreme and your child was getting harrassed and pushed around on a regular basis, only then should the parents confront the bully and/or the bully’s parents.

    Heck, he’d lose his license if he gave that advice today! Nowadays if a kid merely shoves another kid, he gets expelled from school! Much too extreme of a punishment in my opinion, especially when in another 13 years or so, BOTH those kids will probably be at their 5th year HS reunion sitting at the bar telling jokes and having a beer together! (I’ve seen this first hand with classmates at MY reunions because kids do mature) Kids need to learn conflict resolution but they won’t if an adult is always there to intervene and over react to the situation no matter how trivial the matter is.

  51. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    @Emily, the pendulum has absolutely swung WAY too far. We now have schools full of children who ALL feel they are victims of bullying. You see situation after situation with two kids both sure they are “victims.” The problem with framing all conflicts between kids as bullying is that 1) nobody is going to own up to being the bully of course and 2) in most cases that’s valid, because the vast majority of conflicts between kids are not true bullying situations but run-of-the-mill interpersonal conflicts that they both played a role in creating and sustaining.

    One of the problems I have with “anti-bullying” campaigns is that they divide kids into two groups, victims and bullies. And bullies are the evil out-group that nobody of course wants to admit they are a part of. So you end up, again, with a school of all victims of bullying with nobody willing to admit to being a bully.

    Reality is not that simple. Most kids engage, at some point, in bullying-type behavior. And most kids are, at some point, the target of bullying-type behavior. And certainly all kids, at some point, treat another child badly and are treated badly themselves. (I can remember times when I was made fun of in elementary school. I can also remember, with great shame, how cruel I could be, as well. I’m far more troubled remembering when I treated others badly than I am remembering the times I was treated badly.)

    I think we’d do well to throw out “bullying” language altogether and simply focus on the fact that all kids are capable of both being cruel and being treated cruelly, that most interpersonal conflicts involve wrong choices on both sides, and that we should strive to treat others with kindness and respect and, when they fail to treat us that way in kind, most of the time we can simply shrug it off and move on. Cases of true, systematic bullying are much less common, and I don’t think we serve anybody by throwing the term “bullying” around lightly. It adds unnecessary levels of drama to everyday conflicts (as well as dissuading kids from taking responsibility for their part in them) and undermines the seriousness of actual bullying when it really does happen.

  52. SOA August 25, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Well considering I have not gotten any thank you notes for half of the kids I give gifts too I would say their parents are not teaching them that little etiquette rule.

    I am not going to list every example, but I do notice it when I am helping out with the classes at school. I know my mother never taught me how to cook. She failed at that life skill. ‘

    Just look at how many young folks are in ridiculous debt to realize that those skills are not being taught about living within your means.

  53. Warren August 25, 2014 at 2:55 pm #


    We had all those things available to us, in high school. Every course you could want, with room available in your schedule to select whatever you wanted.

    In a time where so many kids do not get any exercise whatsoever, including the cutbacks of recess and such, do we really want to take away phys ed time to teach them how to sew, cook and the like………..that is insanity.

    You don’t like second languages, then don’t take them in high school. But without them being taught before that, students won’t have been exposed and therefore have no idea whatsoever if they would like or be interested in a second language.

  54. Warren August 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    As for the bully issue…….well let’s just say, we and our kids would all be better off, if we took a lesson from years ago.

    Learn to stand up for yourself, fight back and take control. Until then you are still a victim, and being a victim is not okay.

  55. BL August 25, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    “Now this was back when bullying was considered physical like when a bigger, stronger or tougher child physically harrassed a weaker kid. ”

    Which is still what bullying is, and is considered, by anyone not deliberately trying to confuse the issue (such as accusing some kid of being oversensitive to name-calling when in fact he was pinned down and punched in the face).

  56. BL August 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    “But without them being taught before that, students won’t have been exposed and therefore have no idea whatsoever if they would like or be interested in a second language.”

    Really? In elementary school I had a classmate whose native language was Swedish, a French-speaking Belgian neighbor, and lived close enough to the Canadian border to watch Chez Hélène (my Belgian neighbor thought Canadian-accented French was very odd). And that was in a very non-diverse suburb.

    And that was before the internet, Spanish TV in most of the US, etc.

  57. Emily August 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    @Anonymous Mom–Maybe the pendulum has swung too far, but I was legitimately bullied in elementary school; as in, beaten up on the way home from school every day in grade four, had things stolen from me in grade six, and I experienced “mean-girl” relational aggression pretty much constantly from grades four through eight, with a brief oasis in grade seven, because I had a truly gifted teacher, who promoted community, and co-operation, and kindness, and made those things seem SO MUCH COOLER than fighting and arguing with each other, by taking us on fun field trips, organizing class parties, playing with us in gym class instead of just watching/coaching. He also blatantly didn’t tolerate deliberate cruelty, but the actual phrase “bullying” rarely came up. That’s what I think we’re both in favour of–emphasize and model the behaviour you DO want to see, don’t focus on the “bully and victim” dynamic, and engineer things so that life is more fun when everyone gets along, stepping gradually back from that as the kids get older, and start doing it on their own:


    “In a time where so many kids do not get any exercise whatsoever, including the cutbacks of recess and such, do we really want to take away phys ed time to teach them how to sew, cook and the like………..that is insanity.”

    Well, to flip that around, one could just as easily say, “In a time where so many people don’t know how to cook, mend clothing, and do simple household repairs, do we really want to take time away from that, to teach the students how to play sports?” Ideally, both life skills and physical education (not necessarily sports), should be made priorities. I’ve said this before, but I think there should ideally be a “non-competitive” gym class offered alongside the traditional curriculum of basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, and soccer and baseball in the spring, that could include things like yoga, swimming, weight lifting, Zumba/aerobics classes, and nature walks when it’s nice out–basically, a class that teaches kids that exercise doesn’t have to be about winning, and losing, and humiliation. Better yet, maybe the school could partner with a gym or health club, and then just turn the students loose and say, “Pick something here to do for the next hour or so.” But, whatever the case, I think most adults can look back and say that they spend much more time cooking, mending, repairing, planning meals, and exercising than they do dissecting frogs or solving for X. Again, that’s not to say that academics should be scrapped entirely, but “life skills” should be promoted more, and not derided as a “bird course” for people who “probably aren’t going to make it to university anyway.” That kind of mentality is a recipe for students who can’t take care of themselves once they get to university…..or worse yet, OUT of university, where there are even fewer support systems in place if you mess up. So, Life Skills versus Physical Education shouldn’t be “either/or,” it should be “both/and.”

  58. DIRK August 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm #


    I have never seen a school that didn’t require at least a masters to be called a school psychologist. PS. Almost all undergraduate degrees are “liberal arts” as long as there breadth requirements outside of the major. I think what you were looking for was “Humanities” degrees. That being said psych is a social science degree.

  59. DIRK August 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    At any rate this post was bait and switch. Boooo.

  60. SOA August 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Bullying is more than physical violence. Try seeing how your psyche is when you have other kids calling you ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, barking at you when you walk down the hall, pretending they are trying to be your friend only to pull the rug out from under you and you figure out the whole thing was a set up to amuse them. Same thing for a boy asking you on a date and then you realize it was all a prank.

    I don’t buy that any strength of character would come out from something like that completely unfazed or damaged.

    If emotional or verbal abuse did not exist how come so many therapists treat people who suffer from it?

  61. anonymous mom August 25, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    I think all of us, children and adults, would be better off if we spent less time thinking about the wrongs others did to us and the ways in which they damaged us than we did about the ways that we wrong others and damage them. I find that unfortunately a lot of pop psychology encourages a kind of unreflective navel-gazing, where we all become convinced we’re victims (and, even worse, that we can’t really help our own bad behavior toward others, since after all we’re damaged) and that’s trickled down heavily into schools.

    Again, I think people should treat each other kindly, of course. But, the emphasis must be on that–on individuals treating others kindly, not narrowly focusing on all of the times they were treated unkindly. My problem with the “anti-bullying” stuff I saw in my son’s school–and that my friends have also reported seeing in other schools–is not that it was emphasizing treating others kindly, but that it ended up doing the opposite, by leading students to identify as “victims” even when they instigated the situation or were engaged in mean behavior themselves.

  62. Warren August 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    You should call yourself BS, if you think that having the odd kid from a different country, is enough exposure for a kid to decide whether they would like to pursue a second language. More so that studying a second language also helps with your primary language.

    I am not going to get into one of your non competitive, oh I did not like dodgeball crap debates. Again, phys ed is about getting up and moving, exercise, and exposure to team and individual sports that most would not get any hands on exposure.

    And I never said to not teach the old home economics topics. Just do not drop other things for it. Because in the end, that shit can and should be taught by mom and dad. Unless you want the school to start teaching kids how to shower, shave and wipe their ass as well.

  63. Warren August 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    No one said emotional and verbal abuse does not exist.

    But not being in the popular clique, being picked last for teams, not being invited to parties and such is not bullying. Never has been and never will be.

    It is not bullying not being liked. It is life.

    And I will tell you right now, someone that stands up to their bully, be it a physical or psychological bully, is far better off than someone that does nothing about it. Toughen up, deal with it, get past it and grow up. All sound advice throughout the generations.

  64. Emily August 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Okay, so we mostly agree that the “anti-bullying” movement should be replaced with a more of a collaborative, “pro-social” approach, like what my grade seven teacher did, wherein he taught us to see the good in one another, and work together to make our collective experience in his class as positive and fun as possible. I like that MUCH better than the idea that nobody should do anything about bullying, because the current approach (i.e., the “war on bullying”) isn’t working. I don’t think the old-school “retaliatory” approach is good either, because if you teach Joey that it’s okay to hit Jimmy back, then that’s essentially teaching Jimmy that it was okay to hit Joey in the first place, and that opens up a really big can of worms when ALL the kids start “solving” their conflicts that way. Now, let’s extrapolate that “eye for an eye” mentality to other things. Let’s say that, instead of hitting Joey, Jimmy made out with Joey’s girlfriend. So, following Warren’s line of logic, Joey goes on Facebook and starts a rumour that Jimmy has syphilis. He even includes a photo that he dug up from the bowels of the Internet, but of course, the entire student body believes that it’s Jimmy. Now half the school is ostracizing Jimmy for supposedly having syphilis, and the other half is ostracizing Joey for spreading around the “news,” and nobody really knows who to believe. Yeah. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.” So, just because “anti-bullying” campaigns don’t work, doesn’t mean that “teach kids to fight back” does. Instead, give kids a tool kit of positive behaviours to use to navigate their social world, and they won’t feel they have to resort to fists, or knives, or destroying each other’s lives on social media.

  65. Andy August 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    @Emily Another problem with go and hit him strategy is that aggressive bullies are often physically stronger and better at beating others. Plus they have friends to back them up while the bullied kid is usually loner.

    The whole “bullied kid suddenly hit the bully back and all bullies run away and everybody was happy ever after” is cool story that I am sure happened at least once. I am however also pretty sure that the kid who suddenly hit back was more often retaliated against afterwords by bully and his friends.

    That strategy might work with some kids, but will not help shy physically weaker kids. It wont help slightly weird kids. It just makes them shut up until they finally go to high school or college and remember how much they hated they previous school.

  66. Donna August 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Just sounds like Home Ec class to me. We had that in the 70s. Long after I’ve forgotten 99% of what I learned in school, I can still sew on a button that I learned in 6th grade Home Ec class. I don’t see it as a class you need every day, though.

    I am wary about 3rd parties teaching my child about personal relationships, especially since I live in a state (although not a city) that pretty much fights against everything I believe in in this area.

    All in all, I think Nancy is correct in her conclusion, I just don’t see her examples as supporting that conclusion.

  67. Donna August 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    “So people are actually okay with having their kids lose out on phys ed. and second languages, because other parents cannot take the time to teach basic life skills?”

    Where are the kids losing out on phys ed or second languages? They are taking those as well.

    I never had PE every day. We had it once or twice a week in elementary and middle school and for a grand total of one semester out of the entire 4 years of high school. That seems sufficient to me.

    Personally, I would prefer to see this FACS class alternating with PE and foreign language meeting every day, but that is a completely different argument from this is not a class that should be taken at all.

  68. Emily August 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    @Warren–Team sports are only one very small part of what exercise and physical activity really is. Sure, expose kids to these things while they’re young, but don’t make it the entirety of the P.E. curriculum from kindergarten through the end of high school. By puberty or so, most kids are either “team sports” types, or they’re not, and when that’s ALL that’s on offer in school, the “non-team-sports” type kids will mistakenly believe that physical activity isn’t for them, and then their health takes a downward turn, along with their self-esteem. So, I’m not saying to take team sports out of schools; I’m just saying that teaching ONLY team sports is a really incomplete way to teach physical education. Maybe this is all “crap” to you, but discovering non-competitive physical activity is what ultimately helped me take ownership of my health after being overweight or obese from age 8-20, and led me to become a yoga instructor now.

    As for Shop and Home Economics, and V.I.P. and D.A.R.E. being on par with “schools teaching kids how to shower and wipe their asses,” it’s really not. Basic hygiene skills are usually (hopefully) learned before kindergarten. A lot of parents either work long hours, and don’t have time to teach cooking, sewing, repairing, etc., to their kids at home, or they fall into the mentality of not teaching their kids ANYTHING anymore, once they achieve basic self-sufficiency (feeding, dressing, reading, writing, simple household chores, etc.), because they figure that their job is done by then, or maybe they just buy convenience foods or take-out, and replace torn clothing, or broken appliances, and don’t think that the skills learned in Shop and Home Ec have value. Whatever the case, someone figured out a while ago that those skills that SHOULD be taught at home, weren’t actually being taught at home, so they started teaching them at school.

    As for “Not being in the popular group isn’t bullying, not being invited to parties isn’t bullying, being picked last for teams isn’t bullying,” maybe not, but constantly rubbing it in to the less-popular kids IS bullying, and with social media, those snubs can be visible from space. Why is it that the less-popular kids have to “Toughen up, grow up, and move on,” while the jocks and the A-List girls aren’t told, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t talk about the party of the year in front of people who aren’t invited–maybe you should keep that Facebook group/event private.” Yes, maybe some kids should be gently steered away from trying to fit into the popular group when it isn’t happening, but instead of saying “You’re not popular, get over it,” why not encourage them to get involved with activities and clubs based around their interests, instead of trying to shoehorn themselves into the in-group by faking an interest in things that aren’t really “them?” Again, this all goes back to using positive language, and encouraging what you want the kids to do, rather than simply discouraging what you don’t want to see. After all, “Grow up, toughen up, move on” is pretty amorphous, and not supportive, and it’s really not helpful to someone with less life experience and perspective than we have as adults. So instead, saying “Hey, I get that you’re sad about being cut from the cheer team, but there are other things to do at school. Why not try the band/swim team/photography club/student government?” could actually help a jilted teenager, and I think it qualifies as “moving on.”

  69. Emily August 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    @Andy–Good point about the “hit back” advice being flawed, because the instigator is often bigger, stronger, better at fighting, and has more friends than the other kid. Another problem is, well, remember the Columbine shooting? The ostracized kids fought back, in a BIG way, by shooting up the whole school, after so many years of being bullied and marginalized. Now, that’s an extreme example, but a lot of the time, kids who start fights are more popular than the kids they start the fights with, so adults are more likely to side with the popular kid, especially if said popular kid knows how to ingratiate him-or-herself to adults. Remember Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver, or Angelica from Rugrats, or more recently, Holly J from Degrassi: The Next Generation? Even a kind, firm, compassionate, and supposedly impartial principal like Snake (or, more properly, Mr. Simpson) doesn’t see everything that goes on, and a smart kid can manipulate the story to their advantage. Now, throw in the fact that not every adult even tries to make things fair, for whatever reason–maybe they believe in teaching kids that “life isn’t fair,” or maybe they’re just overwhelmed with other things, or they can’t see the whole situation, so it’s just easier to side with the popular, bright, athletic, more convincing kid.

  70. Warren August 25, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    She made it sound that PE and French were being cut back in favour of this new course. And let’s face it, there are only so many hours in a day, and with adding a new course, the time has to come from somewhere.

    NO NO NO. A bullied kid that stands up for themselves and takes it to the bully is not in anyway saying it was okay for the bully to hit them in the first place. That is the exact kind of crap that has things so messed up.

    Defending yourself is nothing like being attacked. Even if that means you build up the courage to walk up to the bully the next day, and knock him/her on their ass.

    Giving kids the tools to navigate their social world? What the hell does that mean? Hide, tell a teacher, go to therapy, what? Even our priest, Father Jack, had the advice to turn the other cheek. So that when the bully tried to hit you in that cheek, you duck, and drop them on their ass.

  71. Warren August 25, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    I don’t know what reject school you went to, but team sports was not the only thing in phy ed. There was health classes, individual fitness, individual sports and team sports. Wow you are extreme.

    And I will guarantee you that Columbine was not standing up for themselves. It was from years of being bullied and having to internalize it, building and building. If they had stood up for themselves and not been told they were wrong for doing so, they may not have gone the route they did. When you tell someone that they are just as wrong as the bully, for defending themselves, you are doing a a great deal of damage.
    And I have seen it first hand when a smaller weaker kid stands up to a bully, and gained respect from others, that in turn are willing to stand with them.
    In the end, you can choose to be a victim or you can do something about it.

  72. BL August 25, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    “Good point about the “hit back” advice being flawed, because the instigator is often bigger, stronger, better at fighting, and has more friends than the other kid. Another problem is, well, remember the Columbine shooting? ”

    Your entire post rules out just about any solution BUT the Columbine option. You’ve described everything else as futile.

    You want to think that through again? People really do take down bullies without going Columbine. Really. But they don’t make the school officials happy. So be it.

  73. Donna August 25, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Warren – This isn’t a “new course.” I had basically the same course in 6th grade in 1980. My mother had basically the same course in 6th grade in 1962.

    Nor do we have any information whatsoever that this was even a new course for this school or that PE and foreign languages were being offered more frequently in previous years. Middle school orientation is something that you only go to when your child enters middle school, not something that you do every year, so Nancy’s son is an entering 6th grader. It is certainly possible that Nancy has older children who attended this middle school previously. It is equally possible that this is her only or oldest child and she has never stepped foot in this middle school before. We have absolutely no idea which. She doesn’t say that this is a change from previous children or give us any comparison information about what the school was doing previously.

    But regardless, as you said, there are limited hours in the day. I don’t think PE needs to be a daily class and I am perfectly fine with it only being offered on alternating days. For that matter, I don’t really think ANY class NEEDS to meet every day. Most weren’t in my middle school. The only classes that we had every day were English, math and reading. Everything else was every other day.

  74. Donna August 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    “Another problem is, well, remember the Columbine shooting? The ostracized kids fought back, in a BIG way, by shooting up the whole school, after so many years of being bullied and marginalized.”

    Whether the Columbine shooters were actually bullied is disputed. Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were and this had nothing to do with why they did what they did. We have no clear picture as to why Columbine happened as the only people who could tell us died without doing so.

  75. Emily August 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm #


    NO NO NO. A bullied kid that stands up for themselves and takes it to the bully is not in anyway saying it was okay for the bully to hit them in the first place. That is the exact kind of crap that has things so messed up.”

    No, but an adult telling a bullied kid to hit back, is essentially saying that hitting is okay. Even if the adult says “It’s okay to hit back, but never start it,” the message is that the solution to hitting is more hitting. When you extrapolate this to other forms of aggression, it can get really, really out of hand.

    @Andy–I outlined in previous posts that the solution to bullying is to create a safe and positive community in the classroom/school/team/Scout group/whatever in the first place, like my grade seven teacher did. It was basically, “You’re all cool kids, you each bring something special to our class, and we’re going to have a lot of fun together. But, if I see any deliberate cruelty, I’m cracking down on it.” This wasn’t fake self-esteem either–there was one boy in the class who was amazing at football, a girl who was amazing at soccer, a boy who was great at art, another girl who did perfect impressions of Beavis and Butthead (circa 1996-1997, right at the height of their popularity), and I was the one who people always went to for help with schoolwork. Our teacher helped us see that in ourselves, and in each other, and he encouraged us to use our unique skills to work together to make our class a happy and productive place. It worked, we had a wonderful year, and then he was transferred to another school, and everything went back to the way it was in grade eight. So, kids want to do the right thing, but they need adults to give them the tools, at least at first. If that happens, then stuff like the Columbine shooting is much less likely to occur.

    As for Shop and Home Economics crowding out foreign languages and physical education, we did all of those things in late elementary school (although Shop and Home Economics (called “Family Studies” at my school) weren’t regular courses; just a unit we did for a few weeks, either visiting another school, or they came to us with the equipment). In high school, French was mandatory in grade nine, as was Business, as was Technology–the latter was taught in short units to see what we might like to specialize in later. After that, you got to pick, but Technology and Family Studies courses were seen as “bird courses” that the “non-university stream” students took. I did fine without these courses, because I learned to cook and sew and things at home (although I’m not great at the Technology side of the equation–I was exposed to it, but I’m just not mechanically inclined). However, not every kid grows up with parents who are willing to teach them to sew (age five for me), or cook (around age six), or do their own laundry (age ten). So, fast-forward to university, or college, or their first apartment–at that point, it’s just good that SOMEONE taught the kids (now young adults) these basic skills, regardless of whether it was their parents, or the school.

  76. BL August 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    “We have no clear picture as to why Columbine happened as the only people who could tell us died without doing so.”

    A classmate and sometime friend of Klebold and Harris, Brooks Brown, wrote a book called No Easy Answers. Highly recommended.

  77. Emily August 25, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    P.S., Warren, I should have clarified about physical education courses–in elementary school, it was almost entirely team sports, or things that favoured the more co-ordinated athletically-inclined kids, like running, jump rope, or (briefly) gymnastics. When I was in high school, the program was much better. Boys and girls were taught separately, and the curriculum also included things like weight lifting, aerobics (although Zumba hadn’t yet been invented), and self-defence. At least, we took self-defence, and the boys took wrestling, but I think that changed after my year, when one boy broke his leg wrestling in gym class, so badly that he could only navigate the first floor of the school for about two months, and had to sit by himself in a small room, and have all his schoolwork brought to him for the duration of his injury. I think wrestling was phased out after that incident, and also, the year after mine had the option of taking dance instead of regular gym. So, by the end of grade nine, I hated physical activity slightly less, but I still stopped taking P.E., because it was only mandatory in grade nine, and the following years were co-ed again (terrifying for me when I was fourteen), and included a lot of competitive team sports.

    If there had been a non-competitive gym option, I might have considered it, but there wasn’t. There are probably ways to make that work even in earlier grades. For example, Teacher A and Teacher B could be partners. Half the kids in each class sign up for competitive gym, and half for non-competitive (it won’t be mathematically perfect in real life, but work with me here). Teacher A teaches competitive gym to both classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and alternating Fridays, while Teacher B teaches art to the non-competitive gym kids, from both classes, on those days. Then, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and alternating Fridays, Teacher B teaches non-competitive gym, while Teacher A teaches art. That’s just one solution, but it doesn’t require any extra resources; just a bit of creativity.

  78. Warren August 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    Apparently it is for this school…..otherwise why the announcement?

    And like I said, we had it as an option in high school. Just like phy ed and many second languages were an option. Except grade 9, you had to take phy ed an a second language.

    What is your solution to being hit? Run and hide, so that it can happen again and again and again.
    So you see it as black and white, that hitting someone is NEVER the answer?

  79. Warren August 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    Listen to yourself. Sheesh, do you possibly think, now try hard but think, that in phys ed they teach these things and do these things to help growing boys and girls develope hand eye coordination, balance, strength and reflexes….all skills that no matter who you are are beneficial.

  80. Emily August 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    @Donna–My solution to being hit is to pre-empt the situation by setting up a culture in the school (or whatever) where kids don’t WANT to hit, but if that doesn’t work, kids should learn self-defence skills, emphasizing on ducking and blocking BEFORE hitting back. Also, sometimes, walking or running away from a fight is the right thing to do. Alternatively, there’s something to be said for clearly and confidently saying, “I don’t want to fight you.” There’s a difference between being “too chicken” to fight, and simply not wanting to. Even if there’s a crowd of kids chanting, “Fight, fight, fight,” it’s still possible for one of the potential combatants to say “no,” and even to suggest an alternative solution, like talking out the problem. It’s also possible for the kid saying “no,” or one of the bystanders, to tell an adult–being sure to pick an adult who actually cares, and won’t just say to “toughen up” or “hit back.” In a lot of cases, adults can help mediate the “talking out the problem” solution, if they actually care about finding a solution, instead of just sweeping the bullying under the carpet because they don’t want to deal with it. So, I guess what I’m saying is, the “solution to being hit” isn’t simple, and it’s not always easy to define, but “hit back” should never be the first resort. But, ideally, if kids feel safe and accepted at school (or summer camp, Scouts, or other places with large groups of kids), they won’t want to be violent with one another in the first place, physically or otherwise.

  81. Emily August 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    @Warren–I’m not saying that kids should never be exposed to competitive sports, but it surely doesn’t take from K-12 (or even K-8, or K-6) for a kid who’s completely hopeless at sports, to realize it. Also, it’s possible to teach skills like running, throwing, and catching outside the context of competitive sports. So, I could see teaching a general gym class for the early years (which would include the hand-eye co-ordination skills you described, as well as other things, such as swimming, Zumba, yoga, etc.), have some informal “scrimmage” type games, with teams picked by the teachers so they’re even, and then by grade four or five or so, split gym into competitive and non-competitive options. There’s no need to bludgeon kids with something they absolutely hate for twelve or thirteen (or even eight or nine) years of their lives, when that something is non-essential. I still can’t throw or catch very well, but I’m a good swimmer, I’m decent at Zumba, and I teach yoga–the latter of which I’m heading off to do pretty soon.

  82. Emily August 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    P.S., Even if I wasn’t athletic in any way at all, I could still keep fit by walking or running, either outdoors, on a cardio machine of some kind, or inside, to a Leslie Sansone video or something. So, what I’m saying is, school P.E. classes should do more to emphasize physical fitness, rather than winning and losing.

  83. Donna August 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Warren – There wasn’t an announcement. The article stated that Nancy went to 6th grade orientation, saw the class on the schedule and asked what it was. I’d ask too since it isn’t readily apparent what Family and Consumer Science is all about. But a class being new to a new middle school parent is different than a class being new to a school.

  84. Donna August 25, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    “A classmate and sometime friend of Klebold and Harris, Brooks Brown, wrote a book called No Easy Answers. Highly recommended.”

    I haven’t read the book, but if I remember correctly, Brooks Brown is one of the ones disputing the belief that the two killers were bullied. In fact, he indicates that one (the more dominant of the two) was actually a bully.

  85. Warren August 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    With emphasis on ducking and blocking? Are you freaking kidding me? Yes let’s teach a course on how to be a trained punching bag.

    Traditionally I have found breaking the other’s nose to be far more effective. Even if you don’t break it, eyes tear up, nose bleeds, makes it difficult for them to hit you, if they can’t see you.

    A lot of what you are preaching looks great on paper, but sucks in reality. When emotions are charged, adreniline pumping, a kid standing in the middle saying “Let’s talk this out.”, 99.9% of the time, gets hit.

  86. SOA August 25, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    I agree not being invited to the party is not bullying unless they invite the entire class except one kid. That would be bullying but just inviting Sarah, Stacy and Shauna and not inviting Kelly and Katie is not bullying.

    However as someone else said it goes back to a kindness and what I said earlier about etiquette needing to be taught some in schools since some parents no longer teach it. It is considered rude to talk about parties in front of people that are not invited. Sure they might find out but finding out is one thing, rubbing it in their face is another. One is bullying, one is not.

    We need to teach kids to act how adults act with that. Sure some adults still engage in bullying but it is way way less common than schools. Most adults are polite to everyone and don’t walk around going out of their way to make fun of someone for no reason and be mean to someone for no reason. A culture of kindness and respect is what we need in schools.

  87. Donna August 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Emily – All that culture stuff is great, but schools will likely have bullies and bullied. Much of that comes from home, so unless the parents of the bullies are willing to cut it off, it will still happen.

  88. Donna August 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Warren – But much of what you say looks great on paper, but doesn’t work in reality. Bullies tend not to pick on people who can actually match them in a fight.

  89. Donna August 25, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    “I agree not being invited to the party is not bullying unless they invite the entire class except one kid.”

    However, that negates the idea that there could be a very good reason why that one kid was not invited that has everything to do with that kid and nothing to do with bullying.

    For example, at my last office, we had a great group of attorneys except one who was universally thought to be particularly unpleasant. We got together as a group outside of work occasionally, but we never invited her. We simply had no desire to be in her presence one minute longer than we had to be. Luckily, she lived in a different city from the rest of us so the exclusion was not as identifiable.

    Taunting someone you aren’t inviting is bullying. Not inviting someone, no matter how many other people you invite, who would make the party unpleasant is not bullying.

  90. SOA August 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    Donna: so you would not think it would be bullying for them to invite everyone in the class but the one black kid? Or the one handicapped child? Or the one fat girl?

    Now if the kid is generally a horrible asshole that is one thing but if they are just not considered “Cool” enough or something then it still comes across as bullying to be excluding just one child.

  91. Minnie August 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    FACS is just the new name for home economics. I would think free-range parents would be thrilled with the idea of kids learning to cook, sew, and budget. In my high school the FACS department also offered classes like: personal finance, parenting, cooking healthy, single living, and parenting. I never took any because they weren’t required for me and my parents had taught me most of that stuff.

  92. SOA August 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    Around here we have zero tolerance so if you fight back against a bully you end up suspended too and/or arrested and/or expelled and/or with a bad mark on your records. They don’t care who started the fight or if it was 10 on 1. All kids get the same punishment. So some dumb bullies could make it so your straight A student just lost their scholarship because they got suspended for fighting back. It is not that cut and dry.

    Also I doubt the small asthmatic geeky kid with glasses will ever be able to “Stand Up” to the giant football player and “teach him a lesson”. Not unless he pulls a Columbine and brings a gun. Not going to happen in the real world.

  93. Donna August 25, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    “so you would not think it would be bullying for them to invite everyone in the class but the one black kid? Or the one handicapped child? Or the one fat girl?”

    First off, what class has only one black kid and only one fat kid? But the real answer is it depends. If the one of whatever of those people is a person that the guest of honor genuinely doesn’t like for whatever reason than no. Just because you are a minority or handicapped or fat doesn’t mean that you must be included by everyone. Some people are just not going to like you regardless. Now if that one person is not being invited to any parties, bullying may be happening.

    But even then, the fact is that some people are just not fun or particularly pleasant to be around. They don’t have to be horrible assholes. They could just be annoying or unpleasant or maybe even just very socially awkward. Those people are going to be excluded from gatherings. They are probably going to be excluded from many of them actually. Forcing everyone else to be miserable at parties to appease one person is not the answer.

  94. Warren August 25, 2014 at 9:47 pm #


    First, stand up for your kid then. If my kid got suspended, for standing up to a bully, I would pull every trick in the book, in their defense. Whether it be using the media, being in the face of the prick that suspended her, to filing lawsuits.

    If your kid just cannot handle a physical confrontation, then Dad goes to the bully’s Dad, with a message “Put a stop it, or the next time I come over, I’ll ram your teeth down your throat.”

    And yes SOA, we know you are socially handicapped, but get over it. Not being liked is not being bullied.
    Talking about a gathering infront of a person not invited is Bullying? Not even close. It is people like you that have over extended, over used the term bullying to make up for your problems. Dolly, you were not bullied, you just were not liked.

  95. Warren August 25, 2014 at 9:50 pm #


    If a kid lost a scholarship for standing up to a bully, I guarantee you other Universities would jump on the PR bandwagon, and offer ones at their schools.

  96. Emily August 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    @Warren–Okay. standing in the middle of a fight and trying to talk things out might not work, but saying “No, I don’t want to fight you,” and calmly, confidently, walking away, can work sometimes, as can telling an adult. As Kimberley would say, telling about bullying isn’t tattling; it’s reporting, because you’re not doing it to get the bully IN trouble; you’re doing it to get yourself OUT of trouble. As for hitting back, I never said never, just as a last resort. When I took self-defence in school, it was just that–self-defence. We learned blocking, ducking, and throwing techniques, but it wasn’t meant to hurt the other person; just to stop them from attacking us. We never hit or kicked anyone–we learned to flip our visiting self-defence teacher, who was bigger, taller, and more muscular than most of us in the class (and the regular gym teacher, for that matter), but we didn’t hit or kick. That’s because the idea wasn’t to injure the other person, but get ourselves out of danger–which is the same principle as the “tattling gets others in trouble, reporting gets you or someone else out of trouble” that Kimberley teaches her students.

    @Donna–I hear what you’re saying, but when I was in grade seven (at the school I was at from grades five through eight), we had kids in that school from all kinds of different backgrounds, including low-income families, neglectful and abusive families, you name it….and yet, I don’t remember anyone getting into a physical fight when I was in grade seven (actually, it was a split 6/7 class), save for the one time when a boy threw a packet of salt in my eye. Actually, that was sort of an accident–he meant to throw the salt at me, because we were having a minor argument (I forget why), but he didn’t mean for it to get in my eye, and neither of us knew that salt burns because it’s acidic–our teacher explained that after the fact, after my eye was rinsed out. But, we didn’t have the knock-down, drag-out fights, because we (mostly) respected one another, and because we had plenty of opportunities to expend our energy in a positive way. We went to the park a lot, we learned to play broomball in the winter, we did fun projects together, and of course we worked and learned things, but I remember that year being probably my most fun year of school, in large part because I felt safe. So, I’m not saying that one teacher can undo the effects of a negative upbringing, but having a good teacher can certainly help–I mean, kids spend more waking hours at school than they do with their parents, all up. It didn’t fix everything entirely either, because when my grade seven teacher left, and we all came back after the summer for grade eight (or grade seven, for those in the bottom half of the split), everything was back to the way it was. But, my point is, if adults set up a safe and positive school community, they can significantly decrease the bullying, if they’re consistently there, and consistently engaged. That doesn’t mean watching over all the kids all the time (our teacher certainly didn’t), but keeping an eye on things, making it clear that they’re there, and getting everyone involved in positive projects, like plays, community gardens, food drives around the holidays, and things of that nature. So, it might not be possible to prevent every little scuffle from ever happening, but it is possible to dismantle the mentality of “There are always going to be bullies, and the bullied.”

  97. SOA August 25, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    We don’t have one fat kid per class here but we do have one black kid per class. Same for one Asian or Hispanic kid per class. Our school is predominantly white.

    You might get one non white kid per classroom at our school. I wish there was only one fat kid per class but unfortunately we are seeing more and more chunky kids.

    I was raised that you don’t have to be BFF with everyone but as long as someone is nice it is better to err on the side of inviting them rather than excluding them. I was always allowed to invite my whole class or at least all the girls. Sure I was not even that close to some of them but it did not hurt that they were there either. We all still had fun.

    My main point it is a slippery slope to say it is never bullying or rude to exclude people because then you fall into groups like the one poor kid being excluded or the one black kid being excluded or the one handicapped kid being excluded just because they are not like everyone else and I don’t think we want to go down that road.

    So I am never going to make an all in statement that not inviting someone is always okay and never bullying. It most certainly can be.

    Warren: So a guy asking you out for a joke and then mocking her over it is not bullying? I can’t wait till a guy does that to your daughter and see how you feel about it.

  98. Warren August 25, 2014 at 11:08 pm #


    Do you have to try to be this sweet and innocent or does it come naturally?

    I am gonna go out on a limb here and say you have never been in a real fight.
    In a controlled enviroment you can throw each other around all you want and it is quite effective. Why? Because your opponent isn’t jumping up to charge at you again.
    It does not work that way in real life, Emily. Now, I have been in my share of scraps, and the only real way to get yourself out of danger, is to make sure your “opponent” is down, and in no shape to get up. That means either injured enough where they physically cannot get up, or injured enough to make them think if they do get up, it is going to get worse. Either way, same result.

    But I will tell you straight forward, if you end up in a fight, and you go in with the idea of not hurting the other person, you are a fool that will get seriously hurt.

  99. Warren August 25, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Really? You think I would actually have to do anything. My girls are more than capable of handling things themselves.

    Let’s see, well if a punk did that to one of my girls, I would more than likely be explaining to his parents why my daughter broke his nose, tooth or gave him a black eye.

    My girls don’t take crap from anyone, and as a matter of fact they stick up for those that are being bullied.

    They both agree, that you can be a victim of bullying. How long you remain a victim is entirely up to you.

    And let’s get something straight. People have the right to invite who they want to something they are planning. They are under no obligation to include everyone. And to invite people you do not want there, just for the sake of being nice, isn’t being nice, it is being pathetic.

  100. Emily August 26, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    @Warren–No, I don’t “try to be sweet and innocent.” Our teacher grabbed us from behind, and taught us how to throw her down. She also taught us how to throw someone who grabbed us from the front, or tried to hit us–the message was, protect yourself, don’t allow others to injure you, but you’re not trying to hurt them either. Yes, I’ve been in physical fights, all the time as a kid (before the self-defence class, unfortunately). I used to get beaten up almost every day, by a bully in my class in grade four who’d mash my face into snowbanks and chain-link fences, and by my brother’s friends in subsequent years, and I also had a few “friends” in grades five through seven (girls, but one of them was bigger than me) who could pack a mighty wallop if I did things they didn’t like, such as refusing to hand over my lunch/art supplies/whatever. Sometimes, I’d attempt to fight back, but most often not, because I didn’t actually want to hurt them; I just wanted them to stop hurting me, but I was never taught how to accomplish that, until grade nine, at which point physical bullying was a thing of the past for me. So, yes, I’ve been in fights. I don’t remember ever “winning,” but in my mind, I’d “lost” the fight the moment it started, because I never wanted any part of it in the first place. The fact of the matter is, when adults hit, kick, punch, pull hair, etc., it’s not “bullying,” it’s “assault,” and the answer to that isn’t “hit back,” it’s “talk to human resources,” or “call the police,” or “pursue legal action.” So, why is the kid equivalent of “tell an adult” considered by so many people to be “tattling?”

  101. Emily August 26, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    P.S., About the party invitation thing, it’s fine to exclude the one child in the class who’s mean and nasty to others (logical consequences), but “just not cool enough” really isn’t a good reason. At the very least, if a small minority are to be left out, the decent thing to do would be to distribute the invitations outside of school. I was taught as a child not to talk about events I was planning to or around people who weren’t invited, and

  102. Emily August 26, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Whoops, I hit Submit accidentally. I was going to say, I was taught as a child not to talk about events I was planning in front of people who weren’t invited, and that lesson has served me well ever since then, whether it’s being discreet in person, or hitting the “Closed/Private/Secret” button on the Facebook event. Yes, not everyone can be invited to everything, but rubbing non-invitees’ noses in it is just rude and mean. It reminds me of the episode of South Park where Eric Cartman has a birthday party, invites his whole class except Pip, and acts completely beastly to Pip in the run-up to his party. Pip wants to come, has been nothing but nice to Cartman, but Cartman doesn’t want him there, because he’s British, and slightly effeminate, and he literally delights in Pip’s upset over being excluded. So, excluding someone quietly and subtly is fine, but making a big show of it is ugly.

  103. Emily August 26, 2014 at 1:14 am #

    Oh, another thing–Warren, you say that you’d allow/encourage your daughters to beat up a guy if he asked them out on a date as a prank, and then stood them up, right? Well, you asked me if I’d ever been in a fight, so…..have you ever been a teenage girl? I’m assuming not. These situations always seem to favour boys–if that situation actually played out in real life, it wouldn’t be “Billy asked Sally out on a date as a prank, and then stood her up, what a horrible thing to do,” it’d be “Sally went crazy, beat up Billy, and broke his tooth. She’s psycho.” That’s not even touching the (typical) size and strength disparity–the social scene is almost always going to paint the girl as an irrational shrew, no matter how justified she is.

  104. JP Merzetti August 26, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    Did no-one pick up on the half a librarian but four psychologists?
    (funny how those slippery little devils just slide by when you’re not looking.)
    Like mealy bugs in a muffin.
    They’re there for the victims. (what used to be known as students.)
    What used to be seen as a receptacle of academic knowledge is now cannon fodder for twisted logic (known currently as zero tolerance.)
    Psyches are in place as the storm troopers for the new colonization of the lives of children.
    Cattle prods might be kinder.

  105. BL August 26, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    “Around here we have zero tolerance so if you fight back against a bully you end up suspended too and/or arrested and/or expelled and/or with a bad mark on your records.”

    So … just let them knock all your teeth out? Crack your skull? Even kill you? All that can be done, and has been done, by unarmed assailants.

    I don’t understand this “we have zero tolerance”. If you do, then the people who are running things are totally, completely, indisputably evil. Evil. I don’t care how common this is these days. Put them out of power. At all costs.

  106. SOA August 26, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    BL: I am not the one that put zero tolerance in place. I hate it. I witnessed a nerdy kid in my high school get jumped by 3 boys for no reason and they beat the heck out of him and they suspended the nerdy kid too even with several kids telling the teachers and administration that he never even said a word to the other boys or lifted one fist.

    You are supposed to cower on the ground and let them beat you until someone pulls them off of you pretty much and then you still might get suspended. Of course it is ridiculous but that is what zero tolerance is. It was put in place because people would call racism if a white kid got off for something and a black kid would get suspended so they put that in place so now everyone gets suspended. So you can blame the people calling favoritism and racism for that one.

  107. BL August 26, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    “You are supposed to cower on the ground and let them beat you until someone pulls them off of you pretty much and then you still might get suspended.”

    Suspended? So what? So your goal is to avoid being suspended at all costs? Oh, wait, you just said they’d get suspended anyway, so passivity doesn’t even help.

    Why do you, or anybody, grant any legitimacy to the purveyors of zero tolerance? They’re just pure evil. Call them that and advocate action accordingly.

  108. Donna August 26, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    SOA – There is a HUGE difference between being inconsiderate and bullying. You want to conflate the two things. Talking about a party in the vicinity of people uninvited is inconsiderate. Taunting those people about not being invited is bullying.

    Not inviting people you don’t want to attend your party for any reason under the sun is absolutely not bullying, although it may be inconsiderate and unkind (maybe even racist or prejudice) if you are really only talking about one or two kids in the class and those one or two kids are not majorly annoying. A concerted effort on the part of the entire class to shun those one or two kids so that they have no friends and get no party invites is bullying.

    I never said that not inviting someone to a party can’t be bullying. Of course it is at times. But there are many times when excluding people is not bullying, even if there is only one person who is excluded.

    “it’s fine to exclude the one child in the class who’s mean and nasty to others (logical consequences), but “just not cool enough” really isn’t a good reason.”

    It is a perfectly fine reason if you don’t like the person. Someone doesn’t actually have to be mean or nasty to me for me to just not like them. There are many people in this world that I have met that I just don’t like for some reason who are perfectly nice people, they simply are not people that I want to spend time with. That is actually okay.

    It is probably unkind to not invite only one or two kids because they “aren’t cool enough,” (whatever that even means) to hang out with you in your opinion, but again being unkind is different than bullying. I strive to be kind and considerate and want my child to do the same. However, a failure to be either of those things – something that will happen to all of us at times – should not be treated as bullying.

  109. Andy August 26, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    @Donna @SOA How big are classes in your schools anyway? In here it can be anything between 22 for youngest to over thirty for older. The situation where someone invites all kids from school does not tend to happen. Even if people do big party, they tend to invite few friend from school, few from club or church and add some neighborhood kids.

    The “every kid in class except one” situation sounds to me theoretical.

    I would consider it red flag if it would happen. It means that an adult should take close look at the relationships between those kids and help them re-integrated the lonely one. I do not even think it does matter all that much whether we call it group fault (bullying) or individual fault (royally annoying behavior of the shunned kid).

    If it is later case, shunning that kid will not make him more pleasant to be around. The kid probably does not know what he/she is doing wrong or does not care. It is job of adult to teach him how to behave differently.

    If it is former case, forcing them to take the kid in will not make them appreciate the kid. They will just bully him at the party.

    It it is one off thing, the kid is temporary uninvited due to some this week conflict and otherwise integrated, then it is not bullying. Just a normal conflict.

  110. Warren August 26, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    “The fact of the matter is, when adults hit, kick, punch, pull hair, etc., it’s not “bullying,” it’s “assault,” and the answer to that isn’t “hit back,” it’s “talk to human resources,” or “call the police,” or “pursue legal action.” So, why is the kid equivalent of “tell an adult” considered by so many people to be “tattling?””

    Your words, and so completely wrong.
    If someone is assaulting me as an adult, the answer is a denfinite and resounding HIT BACK. As a matter of fact, the SOB would be lucky not to wind up in an ambulance. At no time are you ever required to stand there and take a beating, then go and inform someone. You most certainly have the right to do whatever it takes to defend yourself, and if that means beating the crap out of your attacker, then so be it.
    And I will defend my kids right to defend themselves anyday.

  111. Warren August 26, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    If my daughter was pranked in such and emotional way as the fake date thing, and she went in and gave him a shot, I would be damn proud of her. My girls would not go nuts, it would be one good shot to teach him a lesson.

    We are also living in 2014 and they would not be seen as a crazy shrew. They would be seen as someone that doesn’t take crap, and as someone not to f— with. And that is never a bad thing.

  112. Stacy August 26, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Warren — I agree that not inviting a child to a party is not, by itself, bullying. I’ve never made my kids follow the “invite everyone so no feelings are hurt” philosophy. However, frequent taunting is bullying, whether it’s pointing out that someone wasn’t invited because something is “wrong” with them or otherwise insulting them. Calling a girl and pretending to ask her out is bullying — that one happened to me to, so it must be a popular technique. I stood up for myself that time, but it didn’t stop the bullying. What you have to understand that, in isolation, these things seem minor, but bullies often target the same children over and over. When you can’t walk down the hall for years without hearing how ugly/fat/skinny/shy/weird you are, it’s not just an opportunity to toughen up and it’s not real life because it is not acceptable for adults to act that way.

    Ignoring them or standing up for yourself doesn’t always work. Not only would your advice to fight back physically get the person being bullied suspended, but it is often not realistic. Do you honestly expect an 80 pound girl to physically stand up to a large group of boys who surround her and each outweigh her by fifty pounds or more? At my middle school, kids found it easier to bully in groups, targeting people when they were isolated.

    I’ve completely forgiven those children who were not being taught what they were doing was wrong — instead, they were being taught that they were special because they played sports. The adult men in their lives had all acted the same way at their age. And yes, some of us grew stronger because of it. Others did not fare as well; I won’t invade their privacy by sharing their stories here but it was terrible. It was more painful because certain adults’ attitudes made the victims feel like it was their fault. I am very glad that middle school personnel now take bullying seriously. I have not personally seen any instances where they’ve gone too far in treating mutual conflicts as bullying, but I’m sure that has happened. I also think it’s important to teach people to be empowered and not view themselves as merely victims. However, I am glad that the culture in middle schools has changed.

  113. Warren August 26, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    If you allowed your kid to be suspended or punished at all for standing up for themselves against a bully……….then you are a weak failure of a parent. Allowing that only tells them they did wrong, when in actual fact they were right.

    You have come up with a long list of excuses, and cop outs. Which tells me you haven’t gotten over it, or dealt with it.

    And no one said taunting the uninvited wasn’t mean or bullying. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with not inviting people. That is life. Deal with it. Grow up.

    “I also think it’s important to teach people to be empowered and not view themselves as merely victims.” Just how do you do that without them standing up for themselves?

  114. Donna August 26, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Andy – My daughter’s classes in the states would not run into this problem. Since the make-up of classes change each year, most kids have friends in several different classes – i.e. my daughter has friends in each of the 3rd grade classes – so a party is never the whole of any one class, but is bits and pieces of every class.

    However, back when I was a kid, this was an issue. We were grouped in class based on ability, so we were in class with the same people year after year with very little change. All of my school friends were from one classroom and, yes, there was always a kid or two that nobody wanted at any party due to that kid’s personality. However, large, all class parties were very rare for the time so it didn’t arise very often in a party setting, but did on things like field trips and school picnics, field day, etc.

    Likewise, my daughter had this issue in Samoa where the classes were only a handful of kids. It wasn’t a class problem, but a girl problem. All the girls were friends except one who was obnoxious, aggressive and unpleasant to be around. She didn’t get invited to parties and play dates because none of the kids wanted her there.

  115. Donna August 26, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    “It is job of adult to teach him how to behave differently.”

    It is the job of that child’s parents and possibly the teacher. It is not a job that Susie’s mom has to take upon herself at Susie’s birthday party. And until the child does learn how to behave expecting everyone else to just put up with it is ridiculous.

    That is one of the problems with labeling everything as bullying now. Bullying automatically means that it is the other person’s problem. The parents of the shunned kid are excused from looking at their own kid’s behavior. After all that is blaming the victim.

  116. JP Merzetti August 26, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Last I heard, parents don’t “allow” their kids to be suspended or punished in schools. That’s all about the Administrative Beast (the biggest baddest bully of them all.)

    As an adult, if I am attacked without provocation, I have the right to defend myself. Why do children not have this right? In fact, they don’t seem to have much in the way of rights at all. Instead, this appears to be derived for purposes of litigation,incarceration and no end of punitive measures. Overall, we are an incredibly mean society toward children altogether – while posturing as their protectors.
    I’m sure the hypocrisy of that is not lost on the children themselves.

  117. Donna August 26, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    “If you allowed your kid to be suspended or punished at all for standing up for themselves against a bully……….then you are a weak failure of a parent. Allowing that only tells them they did wrong, when in actual fact they were right.”

    Really Warren, what are you going to do? Beat up the principal for suspending your kid? Stage a sit-in and refuse to leave until you are arrested for trespassing? Send your kid to school anyway until she is arrested for trespassing?

    If your kid is suspended, your only recourse is to request a hearing before the school board. If the school board upholds the suspension, your kid is suspended. You can appeal to the state board of education and file a lawsuit, but these things will be resolved long after the suspension is over. Even if you unenroll the child from school, the suspension stays permanently on record.

    So, while you can show your child that you will fight with every weapon you have on their behalf, you may very well fail in all your efforts and your child is still suspended. We see it on this blog all the time. Lenore has posted several stories about kids who were suspended for stupid crap with parents who take the cases to hearings, the press, lawsuits and STILL lose.

    Personally, I wouldn’t even try to lift the suspension unless my kid was going to miss something important to her. I don’t care if she beats up a bully so she’s not in trouble with me. She can go have a fun on a few extra days vacation.

  118. Warren August 26, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    And every parent that just lets the suspension stand is part of the problem. Nothing will ever change, and as a matter of fact only get worse, when good people stand around and do nothing.

    Again, if your are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

  119. Andy August 26, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    @Donna We had been in the same class of kids every year too, but we were always split into smaller groups of closer friends. You would invite your close friends group, not whole class, so anybodies mom did not had to solve anything.

    There were lonely kids of course, I was one of them at elementary. I was not bullied, just shy and lonely. No one mocked me or made fun of me. Field trips, picnics and such were not different then usual school days, really. If you are without close friends in school every day, being without them on field trip is pretty much the same thing.

    There are no parents on field trips, only teachers, so Sussies mom does not have to care about this one.

    Although I came up with strategy how to find someone to talk with – I started to smoke. It was somehow easier to break the ice when smoking in hiding and they accepted me after that.

    I became part of the group only after I went to academically oriented high school. None of my elementary school classmates went to academic school, all went for trade. I guess the whole problem was that I was somewhat different then them and it ceased to be problem after split. Given that they accepted me after I smoked and given that I had no problems later on, I think it was me being more academically oriented, not me being totally obnoxious.

    I think that the word bullying ceased to have any meaning. It used to mean pattern of bad behavior towards someone, now it means just “any one time less then perfect behavior toward others”.

  120. Stacy August 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Warren — I would not allow my child to be suspended for that without a fight. My mother would not have allowed me to be suspended for that without a fight. Believe me, she fought for me with the administration on other issues. But not every child had a parent who would do that and even mine would only take it so far if the administration wouldn’t budge.

    Long list of excuses and cop outs? For what? Being too intimidated to start a fight with ten to twenty football players? Not having the magic words to make them stop at age eleven? And the men they respected had no responsibility to tell them to stop? Like I said, I’m over what the kids did but being a mom myself makes me more angry at the adults, especially as I’ve learned how other kids suffered from the toxic environment. I’ve seen with my own kids that adults create the environment and the kids respond to expectations for how they should treat each other. Encouraging them to be decent to each other and not tolerating targeted bullying is a good thing. This should go hand in hand with teaching kids to stand up for themselves.

    BTW, even as an adult, you’d better be careful about how you stand up for yourself because you will be in trouble if you use more force than necessary to physically defend yourself.

  121. Warren August 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    try answering the question. How do you empower them without having them stand up for themselves?

  122. Emily August 26, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    @Warren–Maybe hitting back would make sense if someone attacked you in the middle of nowhere, or cornered you in a dark alley, so you couldn’t run away, but I was thinking more along the lines of an assault in the workplace, which is sort of the “adult equivalent” of a child experiencing bullying at school. If an adult was assaulted at work, then he or she would have options–human resources, for one, but it likely wouldn’t even escalate that far, because there’d probably be witnesses around telling the instigator to STOP, rather than encouraging the assault, as kids are prone to do.

    As for the “asking a girl out on a date as a prank” thing, if that happened outside of school hours, and the girl on the receiving end of the prank beat up the instigator during school hours, then their peers at school would likely see the fight, but not necessarily know the circumstances behind it–which would start a wildfire rumour of “Sally went psycho and beat up Billy.” I’m not saying don’t retaliate at all, but if the administrators’ hands are tied (because it happened outside of school), then a more subtle prank might be better. For example, when I was in grade nine, a boy was being mean to me, so my friend Julie wrapped his lock in tape, so he couldn’t access his locker, and wrote “you get what you deserve” on his locker in lip gloss. He eventually got the tape off, and lip gloss doesn’t stain permanently, so Julie didn’t get in trouble for vandalism, but he got the message, and never bothered me again.

    As for “weak” parents “letting a suspension stand” if their child stands up to a bully, even if a parent had the power to overrule the school administrators (who are likely just following protocol from the school board, albeit unfair protocol), I can’t imagine what student would WANT to go to school after an incident like that. I mean, can you imagine being punished with a suspension, for defending yourself from being beaten up, making it clear that you are Not Safe at school, and then hearing the “good news” that your parents fought the suspension, and you’re able to go back to school now? Umm……no. Maybe having the suspension expunged from your permanent record would be a good thing, but going back to a clearly toxic school environment would be horrible.

  123. SOA August 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Since I have bumped into former taunters (not the worst ones but ones that did some bad behavior towards me) as an adult and they were super nice to me now and some even apologized for their behavior towards me now. I think that proves that adults typically don’t act like kids do when it comes to stuff like bullying. So we don’t expect or allow or tolerate that behavior as adults, but somehow accepting it in a school setting with children is okay? Yeah not so much.

    Our school has about 19 kids per class. I invite the whole class for my twins birthday party so that is two classes of 19 kids PLUS all the other kids we know from other places. So I end up inviting around 50 kids. But in our area it is not common to expect many of those kids from school to actually show up. I might get 1 or 2. Just how it is here. A lot of parents are too busy on the weekends to have time to do the parties. Or the kids have sports on the weekends. Or they don’t wanna spend money on the present. Or the parents are working on the weekends. Or whatever. It is not just my kids, but it is like that for most people I talk to.

    So I invite everyone and no where near everyone shows up. I invite about 50 kids and end up around anywhere from 15-30 showing up for two kids so that is pretty good. We invite kids from activities, church, my friend’s kids, neighborhood kids, school, kids from their preschool they used to know, etc.

  124. Warren August 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Give it a rest. Once a confrontation has reached a certain point there is one of two options. Flight or Run. That’s it. And running only delays the inevitable.

    And only you would think of someone as a psycho for defending themselves.

    Listen you do what you want, think what you want, because in the end you will be fine. There will always be those around like myself that will put themselves on the line to stand up for and protect you should the need arise.

  125. Donna August 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    “As for the “asking a girl out on a date as a prank” thing, if that happened outside of school hours, and the girl on the receiving end of the prank beat up the instigator during school hours”

    That is criminal assault for which the girl can be prosecuted, regardless of where she beats him up. Punching someone who is PHYSICALLY threatening you is self-defense. Punching someone who pulled a psychological prank on you, but never touched you in any way is assault.

  126. SOA August 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    And Donna nailed it on the head. When someone emotionally or verbally abuses you, there are no visible bruises or marks to report as proof. There are sometimes no witnesses as bystanders will only be able to say they saw you talking to her but won’t be able to hear what was said so it becomes one word against another.

    This kind of bullying to me is the worst kind. At least with punching kind there are witnesses and bruises and you can file assault charges and harassment charges and restraining orders. They don’t like to file those things on he said/she said incidents even if abuse is going on.

    So bullies KNOW this. They know if they punch me they are getting in trouble. So they attack emotionally and verbally instead and know they are going to get away with it.

    They know if they are super mean to me and I punch them as revenge, I am the one in trouble and they get away scot free. That is why bullies use such tactics.

  127. Emily August 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    @Warren–Why would you want to defend me? You think I’m a moron, don’t you? Of course, the last time someone tried to beat me up was many years ago, so I don’t see myself needing a “white knight” any time soon, so it’s a moot point. That’s why I was just trying to point out that most adults don’t often find themselves in situations where they’re being assaulted, and the only course of action is to hit back, while that situation seems to arise much more frequently for kids, because of messed-up “zero tolerance” policies that punish the kid who defends him-or-herself along with the instigator.

    @Donna–Good point about physical retaliation for a psychological prank being illegal, and cause for assault charges. I don’t know how I missed that obvious point. I think my friend Julie had it right–she retaliated for psychological meanness (teasing and taunting) with a prank that made things inconvenient, but didn’t cause any physical pain or lasting emotional trauma (taping the bully’s lock, writing a “revenge” message on his locker with lip gloss). He got the message, she didn’t get punished, and life moved on–vigilante justice enacted by a fourteen-year-old girl.

  128. SteveS August 26, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I don’t believe I am going to say this, but I agree with Warren. I have told my kids if they are ever assaulted in school, then they need to defend themselves to the point where the assailant stops or flees. I don’t care what the policy or rule is. I will advocate for them to the fullest extent possible.

    In my experience, most schools I have come into contact don’t suspend everyone involved if one of the people was just defending themselves.

  129. Andy August 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    @Donna Dont the kid have to cause real damage and injury for cops to charge him in that situation? I do not think our local cops would bother too much with Warrens daughter punching some boy and the whole thing would go to nowhere. They would not be willing to bother with paperwork over something like that.

  130. Donna August 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    “In my experience, most schools I have come into contact don’t suspend everyone involved if one of the people was just defending themselves.”

    The school district that I work in the most definitely does unless it is very clearly self defense via video or bystander testimony and the victim did nothing to instigate the altercation. And I’ve never seen a successful school board hearing on that grounds either. Not only are they going to suspend you, but they are also likely to file criminal charges in juvenile court for affray.

  131. Donna August 26, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    “Dont the kid have to cause real damage and injury for cops to charge him in that situation?”

    Have to? No. Whether Warren’s daughter would be charged would depend on the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction where I work the most would without a doubt charge Warren’s daughter in juvenile court and suspend her from school. She would without a doubt be found guilty by the judge and the suspension would stand (I’ve been down similar roads many times). The jurisdiction where I live is more lenient. Warren’s daughter would definitely be suspended, but the school is unlikely to bring charges in juvenile court without an injury.

  132. Warren August 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Not a cop in the area that would arrest a girl for doing that. Not worth their time or effort to get involved in something that has already been resolved.

    Chances are on the way back to the patrol car, one would say “Little shit got what he deserved. Good for her.”

    I don’t care if it is work, play, church or the grocery store. Someone hits me, and they will get hurt, and probably badly.

  133. Andy August 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    How often kids and teenagers physically fight in your schools (friendly boxer match does not count)? I remember exactly zero fights in our high school and maybe one or two fights during whole elementary school. Those elementary school fights were broken up and that was it.

    I checked out how does assault works in here. If you cause injuries that heal for longer then 6 days, then it can be assault and crime. If they heal faster, then it is not a crime – just lower offense which can be punished by fine or “warning” e.g. warning in this case.

  134. Donna August 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    “How often kids and teenagers physically fight in your schools (friendly boxer match does not count)?”

    Frequently. The public defender’s office gets numerous cases every year. And those are just the ones that the school decided to prosecute in juvenile court for whatever reason.

  135. Warren August 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    And all those charges just goes to prove how messed up society and schools are these days.

    Whatever happened to the fight being broke up and parents called. End of story.

    Or in really harsh incidents the principal taking the two combatants into the gym, putting them on the mat, with boxing gloves and telling them to settle it once and for all.

    Much better ways than arresting them.

  136. Donna August 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Andy –

    I work in low income areas. I suspect that you would get a different answer to your last question from someone dealing with schools attended predominantly by middle and upper class kids.

  137. Donna August 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Warren – I agree totally. It is part of the school to prison pipeline that is so prevalent in the underprivileged school districts in the US.

    Further it exemplifies our really warped vision of childhood. On one hand, we don’t think that they are capable of functioning without adult supervision until they are teenagers … unless they do something that could be defined as criminal. Then they should be treated like adults and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  138. Warren August 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm #


    If schools are responsible for creating a safe enviroment for its students, and yet enforces a zero tolerance rule for altercations. In which even those that are defending themselves are punished, could that not be a grounds for an injuction or lawsuit? Based on the fact that not allowing a person to defend themself against attack creates a dangerous enviroment, in which a person could suffer minor to severe physical injury, and or emotional injury.

  139. EricS August 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    @ Remy. That makes sense. But I’m left wondering if most parents and teachers are thinking the same line as you.

    Sure the class is suppose to strengthen students’ competence at everyday household tasks and engender independence. But is this teaching consistent? Yes they learn it at school, under direct supervision by the teacher. Now, will they be able to do the same things on their own, WITHOUT supervision. Especially being alone at home. If they can’t, or not allowed to, then this class is pretty pointless. Kind of like taking a kid to a toy store, telling them they can look but not touch. They can want, but you won’t buy.

    As for the safe zones, I think most people would automatically think it literally. So if kids are getting bullied at school, they can go to these “safe zones” and they will be protected? The bullies will be reprimanded? Considering many schools are too afraid of litigation, and many don’t do much about bullying other than talk about, I don’t think these safe zones are very safe zones.

    I find to many are talking and saying things, but not actually meaning it, or following through. People want kids to grow up independent, but don’t allow them to be independent. They say this and that is dangerous, but other “dangerous” things are mentioned, because it will only inconvenience the adults. ie. driving kids to school. Thousands of kids die or get injured in auto collisions every year, far more than kids getting abducted by a stranger in a park. Yet, no one talks about NOT putting their kids in cars. Double standards. And it only benefits the adults, less so for the children.

    When I was in grade 2, all kids learned Home Economics. We learned sewing, cooking, woodshop, and pottery making. Teachers showed us HOW to do things, but it was up to us to do them. So we fired up the oven, and put and pulled things out of it. We used shears, needle and thread, and a sewing machine, by ourselves. We used hammers, nails, jigsaw, saw, etc… The only things the teachers did was to see if we were doing it correctly, and correcting us if we didn’t. And we weren’t allowed to use the table saw. Only because it was to high for us to use. Same with the kiln. Everything else was on us. THAT is Family and Consumer Science. THAT is how you teach independence and competence.

    And when we got home, we would tell our parents, and they would insist on us doing things on our own as well. We helped cook. Used a knife by ourselves. Stir the pot. Fry that egg. Only this generation of kids seem to be removed from all of this. What past generations have considered childhood, is considered a death sentence to kids these days. Sad.

  140. Andy August 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    @Donna The difference in here would be between academically oriented vs some non-academic trade school (there are in betweens) and our elementary school class was one of those “less good”. That being said, cops do not get called to those schools neither. It would be a big deal, call in journalists and put it on tv news kind of deal.

    There were assault and charges made I recall, but the issue was not a fist punch. You are not likely to cause 6 days healing injuries with fist. The whole thing involved hard pressure tools and hospital. Since fist punch without injuries does not count as a crime, cops would be too lazy to do much about it.

    Income inequality and related social problems are raising here as well, but we still do not get those really horrible areas with gangs and what not. I can safely go anywhere in town, essentially.

  141. Donna August 26, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Andy – Cops don’t get called to the high schools in many of the areas where I work. Middle schools either. There is a school resource officer assigned to every school. This is a cop employed by the local police department whose post is the school.

  142. Stacy August 26, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    “try answering the question. How do you empower them without having them stand up for themselves?”

    (1) I did not say that anything was wrong with kids standing up for themselves. My primary point has simply been that it’s good when kids are also taught not to bully and are held accountable for their bullying. Creating an anti-bullying environment helps kids feel empowered to stand up for themselves and know they will be heard.
    (2) Standing up for oneself, whether you are a child or an adult, rarely means throwing punches.
    (3) Empowering people does not always mean standing up for oneself in a way that you would recognize. To me, it meant not letting the insults affect how I saw myself.

  143. Warren August 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    That in itself is just sickening, that their are cops posted to schools. Why? Is it that Lord of the Flies down there?

  144. Donna August 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    Warren – No, it is not Lord of the Flies down here. Outside of a small number of inner city, high gang content schools, the schools in the US are fine. This is what panic over safety gets you. Put school resource officers in those schools that actually need them and before long everybody needs one. This is also what lots of federal money for law and order after 9/11 gets you. Way too much money for stupid crap. Also the criminalization of poverty and forcing kids with no interest in academics to stay in academic-based schools until 16.

    I particularly find it amusing in the town where I generally work – or would if it didn’t have serious repercussions for my clients. It’s a small town, but not too far from Atlanta so the cops like to pretend that they have all the same problems as Atlanta. A couple of stupid hood rats that can’t even spell Bloods want to claim to be a “gang” and now they need a gang task force and school resource officers to deal with their “gang” problem. And yet they bust these “gang” members every few months for stupid stuff so criminal masterminds they are not. The last “gang” they arrested had 4 members.

  145. Emily August 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    @Warren–My high school, where I attended from 1998-2003 (my year was the last year to have OAC), had police officers as regular fixtures in the school, beginning in September of 2001, so, early grade twelve. Most of the time, they were just there, and they didn’t intervene for anything short of criminal behaviour, but when coupled with a new pair of vice-principals who brought with them a “strict discipline regime” to “crack down on all the problem students,” it felt a little oppressive, especially for myself and my friends, who got mostly good grades, participated in extra-curricular activities, and stayed out of trouble. After a while, they sort of faded into the background, and things slowly went back to normal, but it was a tense few months.

  146. Warren August 26, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    Yours is a rare example in Ontario. None of the schools in our area or anywhere near our area have cops in them. I also do not think the parents would stand for it. It is not needed. If teachers cannot handle things, then they shouldn’t be teaching.

  147. Emily August 26, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    @Warren–The teachers and administrators handled all the normal behaviour issues, but the police officers intervened for things like assault with weapons, drug dealing, repeated truancy, smoking in areas where smoking wasn’t allowed (we had two smoking areas that were technically off school property, but within view, and our school was open campus), and other things that constituted true criminal behaviour. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that a teacher “shouldn’t be teaching” if he or she can’t stand up to six-foot-tall fifteen-year-old boys with knives or brass knuckles. Anyway, I only saw these things peripherally (although, there was one girl in my drama class in grade twelve who was a known drug dealer), because I didn’t participate, but I think the administrators realized that they needed some outside assistance to deal with some of the more difficult students, rather than simply expelling them immediately. As for the rest of us, after a certain point, the police officers just sort of faded into the woodwork–they didn’t even speak to us, unless we spoke to them first, and we all just went about our classes, practices, games, meetings, rehearsals, friendships, and romantic relationships, as we’d always done. I mean, of course it felt strange, and yes, we spoke up about it in student council, but the administration wasn’t going to back down, so we decided to just make the best of things, and do what we could to make school as normal as possible for everyone, even with the cops there. One more thing–having police officers in the school on a regular basis made it easier to plan school dances, because we’d always had police officers there for those, because some people thought it was fun to show up drunk or high. So, having police officers right there meant that we could ask them before having to call and ask around at the police station, and chances were, at least one of them would be available.

  148. SOA August 26, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I attended what was at that time a suburban school that was considered one of the better schools or at least middle of the road school. Not a ghetto school. But we had fights at least 2 a month I heard about. They always seemed to happen when I was absent for some reason. I always missed them. I heard about them when I returned usually.

    They were not a rarity. Middle school was the same deal. Girls fight over boys. They fight when one girl runs her mouth about another girl. Boys fight over bullying type stuff or just stupid stuff.

    The fights usually lasted a few minutes until teachers and the resource officer broke them up. We actually had a female resource officer and she was pretty tough.

    But yeah fights were a regular thing. I saw two guys who were friends fist fighting one day and then ended the fight by hugging it out. It was pretty funny.

    My mom one day witnessed two girls jump some other girl in the parking lot while she was waiting for me to come out. I found out that one was because the one girl slept with those two girls boyfriends.

  149. Andy August 27, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    @Emily Police intervened also for smoking and smoking constitutes true criminal behavior? I’m glad we did not had cops in our school to arrest criminal me back then.

  150. Warren August 27, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Was talking to one of my buddies that is on local force, about cops in schools, and the like. He told me that when it comes to kids fighting, that they are usually never even called, unless one of the kids required medical treatment, like paramedics, or a trip to the hospital.

    His opinion is quite refreshing. He feels that the day we start putting cops in our schools, then we have already lost.

  151. Warren August 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Your examples of why they need cops in the school, are just excuses to get cops in there, so that the school employees didn’t have to deal with stuff that they should have been, like the smoking, and truancy.

    If some huge idiot is in there with weapons, the teachers back off and call the cops. There is still no need to have armed law enforcement officers patrolling the halls of our schools. You will never be able to make a good case for it.

  152. Emily August 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I don’t care if it is work, play, church or the grocery store. Someone hits me, and they will get hurt, and probably badly.<<

    @Warren–That's good that you could defend yourself from someone who hits you at work, play, church, or the grocery store, but has that ever actually happened? It doesn't seem very likely. As for the police in my high school, none of the students thought it was a good idea–the "bad" kids hated that they were being watched more closely, and couldn't get away with as much anymore, and the rest of us, who didn't get in trouble on a regular basis, didn't think it was necessary, and resented being tarred with the same brush as the troublemakers. But, like I said, the die was cast, we couldn't do anything about it, so we just went on about our business as usual. We tried to make a case against having them there, but we were just teenagers, and I don't think it occurred to any of us to tell our parents.

  153. Emily August 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    @Andy–You know what I meant. Smoking isn’t criminal behaviour in itself, but underage smoking, in an area that’s not designated as a smoking area, while cutting class, could be construed as such. That’s the kind of thing the police were there to address; not just people smoking in the proper smoking area (sidewalk out front, or arena parking lot out back) during their lunch or free period.

  154. Warren August 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    You were the one that brought up assault in the workplace, and I simply responded. Read your own posts, from time to time.

  155. Andy August 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    @Emily If law allows to construct it as criminal, then the law is overly broad in what falls into criminal category. It is insane to use police for smoking in inappropriate area. That is really something teachers and parents should solve without force, arrests, cops and judges.

    I’m ok with whole school being non-smoking area. Push to make students stop smoking is good for them, even if those students disagree. Criminalizing them for it makes more harm then cigarettes on unauthorized place.

  156. Donna August 27, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    Andy – I can’t speak for Canada, but smoking in a non-designated area is not a crime anywhere that I know of in the US. My guess is that the school cops were just telling the kids to put out the cigarettes and maybe reporting them to school officials for some penalty, not arresting them.

  157. Emily August 27, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    @Warren–I brought up assault in the workplace as a parallel to school bullying, but it’s such a rare occurrence. That’s why I asked you if you’d ever actually been attacked by another adult at “work, play, church, or the grocery store,” as you said. You said that if that ever happened, then the instigator would be “badly hurt” by your retaliation. I know you’re probably capable of that, but have you ever had to? Like I said before, adults don’t generally engage in violent behaviour, because they’ve either outgrown it, they know they’ll be held accountable for their actions, or both.

  158. Warren August 27, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    Never at work. During sports more times than I can remember. In defense of victims a few times. And a few scraps at bars, that were more recreational than anything.

  159. SOA August 28, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    See here we go, something happened to my kid yesterday and goes to show sticking up for yourself gets you in trouble. My son says he was playing basketball at recess and he was there first. He was playing with another kid. Then another kid came up and wanted to play too but wanted to play with dirty rules (whatever that means). My son did not want to play like that. So the other kids took the ball and would not give it back. My son asked them to give the ball back and they wouldn’t so he ended up throwing the basketball at them once he got it and hitting them with it or something like that.

    My son is the one that got in trouble. Never mind the other boys were guilty too for not really playing fair and trying to take the ball when my son was there first and changing the rules of the game. So all those boys were probably equally responsible for the altercation. So they probably all should have had to be punished. They all needed better conflict resolution.

    But only my son got in trouble. That is how it goes.

    So I told him next time his only choice is to just walk away. That is all you can do without getting yourself in trouble.

    These kids are brutal. My son with autism told me a kid tried to step on his hands and fingers as he was climbing up the climbing wall and trying to knock him off the climbing wall which was about a six foot drop to the ground. So was literally trying to cause a child with autism to be possibly severely injured.

    My son said he just climbed back down and ran away. Which I commended him on because guaranteed if he fought back to that kid, my son would have been the one that ended up getting in trouble. That is how it always works.

  160. Warren August 28, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    No that is not how it always works.

    And a good parent would be in that school, defending their child’s right to defend themself. Instead of just accepting a zero tolerance bs ruling.

  161. Donna August 28, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    SOA’s son wasn’t defending himself. He was venting his anger at kids who came into a game and then wanted to change the rules. Defending yourself is not the same as “you made me mad so now I am going to hit you,” which is essentially what was described by SOA.

    I’m not saying that the other boys were in the right either, but 7 year old boys are not going to be well-versed in social skills. Which is why the common stance here of “I stay out of childhood disputes and let them work it out” has always bothered me. You don’t need to jump to intervene in every battle, but kids do need to learn social graces from adults. ALL the boys should have been talked to about the incident, not just SOA’s son but also not excluding SOA’s son (which is all SOA is asking for as well).

  162. Rachel August 31, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m so glad to see all the comments in support of FACS class! Like others said, McDermott’s heart is in the right place, but she’s firing at the wrong target. My mother taught FACS for over 20 years, and the curriculum was invaluable to her students. How many kids today know how to cook a nutritionally balanced meal? The ones who paid attention in FACS do. How many kids get to learn firsthand how difficult it is to carry an infant everywhere with you and care for it 24/7 for a week? Hers did. Which students got to hear actual information about birth control, and how to have that conversation with a partner? Those in FACS class. (Unless the parents opted them out.) Who learned what it was like to get a paycheck, then pay all the bills to see what it was like to create a budget? Yup, FACS again. If more students had to get passing grades in a class like that, we’d have had fewer people with 25k incomes hornswoggled into buying 250k homes and crashing the economy.

  163. SOA August 31, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    Donna: exactly. My son was absolutely guilty too. I talked to him about how that could have been handled better. But the other boys got away scot free and they had blame too. They should have been talked to about how if someone is already playing a certain game and there first, you either need to play the same game as them or ask them if it is okay to change the game and follow their lead. They needed some social instruction as well. But in the end my son should not have been violent with the ball and I made sure he understood that.

    But the teachers don’t really see that. All they see is my son hitting one of the boys with a basketball. But there is more to the story than that. This type of incident happens a lot.
    My son with autism was suspended for four days last year because what basically happened was some boys were calling him a liar about something he was not lying about, and my son got upset and attacked them. I don’t honestly blame my son. He was not lying, they were accusing him of something he did not do, they kept at him over and over till he got upset and so he beat them up.

    Only my son got in big trouble though. In that situation I did go over to the school and raised hell about it. I said I wanted the other boys punished too. They should know better to name call and goad a child with autism. I do think one of the boys may have been suspended too. But they claimed they are not allowed legally to tell me exactly what happened to the other kids punishment wise.

    I made sure my son got a talking to about how next time something like this happens to go tell the teacher and go away from the boys picking on him.

    There are usually two sides to every story and it blame to go around on both sides, but the problem is schools don’t want to deal with actually interviewing witnesses and investigating and finding out what really happened. They just want to hand down a quick punishment so they can say they did something and say case closed. But that is not fair or just a lot of the time.

    So sometimes it is just plain laziness on the part of the staff.

    But they know now, that if they do something like that to my kids again and every time, I will be over there raising heck and they will have to deal with me. I let the little basketball incident go because nothing serious happened. But with the suspension they had to have 2 IEP meetings and people from central office got called down and everything. Next time they will think twice before unfairly punishing just my kid when other kids were picking on him.