Friday, 25 June 2010

The end of something I never had? Not good!

Rod Dreher has reported that “crackpot educators are saying that the way to decrease bullying is to deny children the opportunity to make a special friend or friends”. He argues, as does Hilary Stout of the New York Times (a paper which someone like Dreher would generally disagree with) that it is simply wrong that having a best friend increases the risk of children being subject to dangerous bullying.

I know very well about this issue because as a child I was subject to bullying that with hindsight I cannot but regard as totally unacceptable. If you look here, you will gain some idea of what life in school was like for me in the early 1990s: I was bullied all the time because I could not feel for other people and as a result made no friends.

For people who are not autistic and whose behaviour can be made acceptable in public as mine cannot, I do not feel for a second that stopping children having best friends is going to minimise the risk of bullying. Then, whilst I was in Essendon Grammar I simply could not make any friends and always felt as though the children simply hated me because they teased me so consistently despite my vehement desire that they adapt to my behaviour or face severe punishment for bullying. I knew and know it would have been orders of magnitude easier for other children to adapt than for me to correct the flaws they found objectionable.

There is, too, no way in which I could see how adapting to my odd behaviour would have necessitated giving up the friends other children had as I did not.

Both Dreher and Stout argue that children are deprived of emotional support if they do not have friends - and my lack of friends in school has in the long term been very bad for me emotionally, so that I can only agree with them.

On the other side, Rod Dreher has also introduced me to another regulation in schools which I approve of. When I was in Year 6 (my first year at Essendon Grammar) in 1989 one boy I knew well said to me
“I have a real gun”
“it‘s a real gun”
The notion that a child might have a real gun, like more recent threat by young kids who need to have violent movies and music absolutely confiscated to prevent them learning what songs like “Shoot to Thrill” or “Big Man with a Gun” quite explicitly teach - that if you don’t like someone you have every right to kill them. It is very hard for me not to believe that toy guns will encourage children to develop a taste for real guns when they grow older. Peter Kreeft says:
“Much of the violence and crime begins as early as cartoons, video games, and kids’ toys, which teach force as the way to deal with conflict.”
Thus, I hope that if toy guns are understood as unacceptable, children will become less inclined to view violence or even bullying as the way to deal with someone whose behaviour they dislike. For people like me who cannot behave normally, this would be a good thing, but for those who can behave in a reasonably acceptable manner violence is still a threat and reducing it would be very worthwhile.

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