On bullying

I’m posting the following conversation because I felt that it was important. There have only been very, very minor edits for typos and some personal references. Warning: potentially NSFW due to a small amount of swearing.

(11:19:19 AM) Jenna: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/02/27/147494116/developing-shooting-at-high-school-in-chardon-ohio also this morning, i thought it said 30 students dead. 😡
(11:21:25 AM) Chelsea: god, this shit is so terrifying
(11:28:32 AM) Chelsea: dollars to donuts says this is some kid who’s got a bunch of issues because of how people treated them at school
(11:28:39 AM) Jenna: oh god yes
(11:29:00 AM) Chelsea: People talk about it like bullying is serious and then they don’t do anything to create positive, nurturing environments for these students
(11:31:33 AM) Jenna: i’m not sure, i’m very on the fence about bullying
(11:31:43 AM) Jenna: on the one hand, yes, it does push kids to do things like this which are drastic and unnecessary
(11:31:56 AM) Jenna: but on the other hand, i was a victim of some pretty rough bullying in junior high
(11:32:03 AM) Jenna: and it made me who i am, and i’m tougher now
(11:33:04 AM) Jenna: i mean, that whole preschool attitude of “everyone’s a winner!” is causing some problems with entitlement, according to some (probably npr) story i heard
(11:33:22 AM) Jenna: but it’s also true that schools don’t do enough to promote acceptance of differences
(11:33:34 AM) Jenna: just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they are not on fire.* (NOTE: inside joke reference)
(11:33:49 AM) Chelsea: I don’t at all think that fighting bullying promotes the “everyone’s a winner” philosophy
(11:34:17 AM) Chelsea: fighting bullying is promoting an environment in which a kid can seek and find support when needed
(11:34:55 AM) Chelsea: and that while accepting that they are not going to like people and people are not going to like them, to respect each other’s differences and know that they go to school in a place where they don’t have to be afraid to be themselves
(11:35:54 AM) Chelsea: bullying is about ignorance, it is about shitty parenting, and it is about people whose own self-esteem is so low or sense of entitlement is so high that they need to piss on others to feel good about themselves or try to fit in
(11:36:09 AM) Chelsea: and that is not ever, ever okay
(11:36:36 AM) Jenna: these things are true
(11:36:39 AM) Chelsea: you learn lessons from making mistakes and from resolving conflicts with other people–and there are plenty of conflicts to be had and resolved that are not situations of bullying
(11:36:49 AM) Chelsea: conflict and disagreement is normal
(11:36:56 AM) Jenna: true
(11:37:07 AM) Jenna: yeah, and the isolating feeling of being bullied is the worst
(11:37:21 AM) Chelsea: I mean, case in point is the opposite example
(11:37:25 AM) Jenna: i remember in elementary school, our school counselors were actually trained in psychology
(11:37:33 AM) Jenna: but by junior high and high school, it was all academic
(11:37:39 AM) Chelsea: where kids feel so worthless, or terrified for their safety, that they kill themselves
(11:37:48 AM) Jenna: right
(11:38:15 AM) Chelsea: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202
(11:38:54 AM) Chelsea: it was built into fucking school policy that teachers, teachers, were not allowed to express an opinion or reach out to students regarding LGBTQ issues
(11:39:37 AM) Chelsea: and public school policy almost always results in teachers taking a more conservative approach to those conversations or actions because policy is never clear enough to express what is acceptable and what is a fire-able offense
(11:39:53 AM) Chelsea: so people who can and should help are cowed in to silence because they are too scared of losing their jobs
(11:40:09 AM) Jenna: ugh
(11:40:49 AM) Chelsea: You are someone who had the fortitude to pull through
(11:41:24 AM) Chelsea: I frankly do not know if I could handle something this aggressive every day, as some of these kids do, and know that it’s like I’m invisible
(11:41:58 AM) Chelsea: and who’s in trouble when these kids stand up for themselves? only them.
(11:42:15 AM) Jenna: exactly
(11:42:23 AM) Jenna: i definitely had that
(11:42:27 AM) Jenna: some girl accosted me and attacked me in PE
(11:42:30 AM) Jenna: you know, in plain sight
(11:42:35 AM) Jenna: i defended myself and got in deep shit
(11:42:38 AM) Jenna: so that’s rad
(11:43:41 AM) Chelsea: it makes it so much worse–not only does it make you feel worse about yourself for being the subject of this kind of shit to begin with, but you are also kicked down a notch for having the sense of self to stand up to these people
(11:44:34 AM) Chelsea: it’s easier when you’re older–you know people can be wrong, that people in authoritative and policy positions are often wrong and it is okay to disagree with them, and even then, adults have a hard time with it
(11:44:54 AM) Jenna: yeah, kids should not have to take on the world all alone
(11:44:54 AM) Chelsea: it is even harder to be a kid, when you still exist in a situation in which the adult is always right
(11:44:56 AM) Jenna: it’s cruel
(11:44:58 AM) Chelsea: and there is nothing you can do
(11:45:17 AM) Chelsea: I’m not at all saying that every teacher is going to be as supportive to everyone as every other teacher
(11:45:46 AM) Chelsea: but everyone should be able to work toward the common goal of providing support outlets and resources for the population they serve
(11:46:13 AM) Chelsea: no child should ever, ever reach the point that they feel the best idea is to blow away their school
(11:47:01 AM) Chelsea: and no child should ever reach the point that they believe it is okay to harass or abuse someone verbally or physically, or that they will not be held accountable for their actions
(11:47:28 AM) Jenna: exactly
(11:47:41 AM) Jenna: it would be nice if teachers could direct kids to some place outside of school
(11:47:47 AM) Jenna: to eliminate the politics
(11:47:58 AM) Jenna: you know, if you need counseling and support, here is community outreach
(11:48:49 AM) Chelsea: I can understand the desire for that, to cut down on the conflict of what we can agree upon, but I still think that’s a cop-out
(11:48:58 AM) Chelsea: kids spend more of their day in their schools than anywhere else
(11:49:11 AM) Chelsea: And then who becomes responsible for ensuring kids get there?
(11:49:33 AM) Chelsea: Do they do it on their own time? How far away are said resources from their schools, from their homes?
(11:49:55 AM) Chelsea: Distance decreases the likelihood that kids will be able to get the support services they need
(11:50:04 AM) Jenna: also true.
(11:50:40 AM) Chelsea: Like I said–I think politics even entering into this discussion is absurd, no matter what anyone says
(11:51:06 AM) Chelsea: I think training teachers to deal with these kinds of issues makes them better educators overall, more able to reach out to students, and we’re already bitching about how much better we think our teachers should be
(11:51:18 AM) Chelsea: We need to support them in order to support kids
(11:52:02 AM) Chelsea: this has nothing to do with curriculum content, it has to do with making sure, from the most selfish possible standpoint, that your kid doesn’t fucking bring a gun to school, that your kid doesn’t hang himself from his futon frame in his bedroom
(11:52:53 AM) Jenna: but everything in our society is about treating the symptoms, not the problem
(11:53:01 AM) Jenna: kid shot his classmates? well, he was deranged
(11:53:04 AM) Jenna: let’s attack video games.
(11:53:07 AM) Jenna: violent movies
(11:53:11 AM) Jenna: goth music.
(11:53:21 AM) Jenna: let’s ignore the fact that he was a victim
(11:53:48 AM) Chelsea: and that is a giant problem that is tough to tackle, because it starts with parents, and their parents, etc.
(11:54:05 AM) Chelsea: I understand that people feel like we are asking too much of teachers constantly; we are
(11:54:29 AM) Chelsea: but this to me is the only way these kinds of things begin to get fixed
(11:54:50 AM) Chelsea: I understand that teachers cannot always change the minds of parents
(11:55:34 AM) Chelsea: but they can offer such a different perspective that kids, especially high school kids who are beginning to think harder for themselves, have people in their life who stand as another option to the choices and opinions of their parents regarding how to interact with others in a community
(11:56:12 AM) Chelsea: it doesn’t mean every kid is going to be made to believe queer kids are as normal as everyone else
(11:56:56 AM) Chelsea: it means every kid is going to be held accountable to act with respect toward every other kid around them
(11:57:24 AM) Chelsea: to me, that is an irrefutable statement, I don’t care what you believe or who you are
(11:58:13 AM) Chelsea: everyone, everyone, deserves that
(11:59:24 AM) Chelsea: the moment we lose that is the moment we exist in an environment in which it is not only acceptable but condoned that you can disrespect whoever you want, for whatever selfish reason you want, in whatever miniscule or enormous way you want
(11:59:52 AM) Chelsea: and that is when it gets political
(11:59:56 AM) Jenna: oh, you mean we aren’t already there?
(11:59:56 AM) Jenna: gee
(11:59:59 AM) Chelsea: LOL
(12:00:09 PM) Chelsea: that is precisely what I mean–we are exactly in that whole mire
(12:00:21 PM) Chelsea: we exist only for politics
(12:01:56 PM) Chelsea: Respect is not a political statement. It is not a political agenda. It is not an opinion. It is an acknowledgement of the objective fact that you and I exist in the same community, that you and I both exist at all.

I feel more adamantly about that last statement than almost anything else. It is an integral component of my perspective on life, and its observance is something I work toward constantly. It is inextricable from the person I am, the person I strive to become, and I don’t think it’s said often enough, strongly enough, or sincerely enough.

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About Chelsea
I'm currently pursuing my MFA in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My ideal career path involves using writing, publication, and writing education to enact progressive social change.

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