The State Legislature in Sacramento, California, by a vote of 42 to 33 agreed to prohibit corporal punishment by public school teachers. This bill narrowly passed even though corporal punishment was outlawed in California state prisons, youth authorities and child care centers. I believe that adults who model violently punitive behavior produce children who become bullies and who lack other techniques for solving problems.
Research is revealing the appalling consequences of this violent behavior.
Don Olweus, a psychologist from the University of Bergen in Norway, studied 150,000 Norwegian and Swedish students and found that 8 percent of the children were bullies and 10 percent were habitual victims.
He found that the same boys were repeatedly harassed for years and that bullying was a major cause of suicide among these teenagers. Further, the bullies who hounded them were four times as likely as non-bullies to commit serious crimes when they reached adulthood.
He also found that parents of bullies were not nurturing and tended to use physical punishment as the main mode of disciplining their children.
...bullies were four times as likely as non-bullies to commit serious crimes when they reached adulthood.
Schools need to take an active role in providing activities whereby children learn other modes of behavior.
Schools need to find ways to help not only the victim but the aggressor.
Since schools are in the business of education, the most reasonable approach is through education, i.e. classroom activities. This approach should not be a separate lesson on "How Not To Be A Victim" or classroom discussions on "What Makes A Bully" but rather through the normal interactions of a school day whereby children are helped to live and work cooperatively in the group setting of the classroom.
One of the best ways this can be done is through cooperative learning lessons.
Margaret Mead made the point that the future quality of human life, as well as the survival of the human species, will be dependent upon cooperative behavior along with a concern and respect for the rights of others. Cooperation can be modeled, taught and nourished at home and in the classroom.
It should be practiced in all activities rather than preached in isolated lessons.
In a school setting, when they complete assignments cooperatively, students must function as a "cooperative group". They must interact with each other, share ideas and materials, help each other learn, pool their information and resources, use division of labor when appropriate, integrate each member's contribution into a group product and facilitate each other's learning.
As a result, communication, conflict management, leadership and trustbuilding skills are developed in students.
Cooperative group members realize that their actions affect the others in the group.
They must be mutually responsible for each other's learning. Students cannot sit back while one or two members of the group do all of the work.
A diversity of student ability in the cooperative group necessitates conversation among the students about the material and it forces students to verbalize, check and explain to each other and in the process get to know each other better.
Teacher monitoring of the groups in action allows for feedback to the group on their social behavior and performance. An important aspect of the whole process is the teacher's immediate intervention to correct student behavior by either working with the group on its problem or by teaching the appropriate social skills for cooperation.
The teacher is also able to encourage students immediately and give them positive feedback when they function well.
Research has shown that mastery, retention and transfer of concepts is higher in cooperatively structured learning than in competitive or individually structured learning, and it promotes healthy social development.
The scientist Douglas Hofstadter described a mathematical model of the evolutionary consequences of cooperation.
In this mathematical world, the cooperative organism thrives while the suspicious, selfish, unforgiving organism fails. Schools need to help all of their students experience cooperative behavior rather than aggressive behavior. The purpose of education is not only to help students master the content of the curriculum it is also to produce citizens who are concerned for each other and able to function well in a democracy.
First published in 1989