The bully, the bullied
Bravo to The Globe for publishing Carly Weeks’s story about bullying on the front page, above the fold no less (How Bullies Get Away With It – Oct. 15).
I am so glad Ms. Weeks survived her own bullying experience to become the writer she is and to give hope to other victims.
Ms. Weeks advises parents to look for signs their child is being victimized. Here’s another piece of advice: Parents need to be encouraged to look for signs their child is doing the bullying.
Too often, parents called to the principal’s office, in a desperate attempt to deny their child has a character flaw, insist that bullying is just an early sign of “leadership quality.”
Shelley Carroll, Toronto
For a short period, which coincided with a difficult time at home, I was a bully. My target was my cousin – let’s call her Mary. I didn’t know it, but she struggled with a raft of mental and emotional challenges at the time, which made her a perfect victim. One day I led a gang of Grade 7 pals around the school yard taunting Mary. We were vicious; I remember it felt great. Horribly unhappy myself at the time, I felt the flush of power in being obeyed and followed.
Mary’s sister saw us, and reported us. Did we get it – from the principal, vice-principal, and several teachers! I was singled out as the leader, and told my behaviour was even worse in that Mary was my cousin. We were punished with many detentions.
I never bullied again. The teachers made me feel ashamed, but I didn’t experience feeling humiliated. Adults told me in no uncertain terms that there were boundaries, that if we wanted to be accepted back in the fold, we would have to change our behaviour.
We must stop telling students it is up to them to help when someone is being bullied. Be fair – they’re just kids, too. The responsibility lies with the adults. Bullies are likely struggling with something themselves, but need to know certain expressions of that unhappiness will not be tolerated.
Parents of bullied kids are often afraid of the parents of bullies, because the latter can increase the pain for the bullied child. Bullies are frequently the popular kids, the in crowd, the group teachers want to impress and school administrators don’t want to annoy.
As things are, the world is on the side of the bullies (or, if not actively on their side, at least as afraid of them as the bullied kids). For the most part, nothing we read on this subject addresses this truth. And sadly, it is this truth that drives the hopelessness that results in the tragedies we read about all too often.
Laurence Bernstein, Toronto
I am an elementary teacher and parent. My personal experience has been that when it comes to dealing with child bullies and their parents, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Lisa Ilowski, Stratford, Ont.
When prime ministers, premiers, MPs and MLAs ruthlessly engage in bullying behaviour in the day-to-day business of government, we should not be surprised to see young people engaging in the same practices. If we are to depend on our governments to find solutions to the problem of bullying in schools, we have little hope for change.
Only when we stop admiring the pit-bull nature or the aggressiveness in debate of politicians who, in fact, are merely mean-spirited bullies, will we begin to see the behavioural changes we seem to desire.
Dennis Forsyth, Denman Island, B.C.
When our daughter was in Grade 4, she and three friends were continually bullied. The school would do nothing to stop it. After one month of karate lessons at the local park, the bullying stopped.
Jonathan Usher, Toronto
Millions of dollars have been spent commemorating Canada’s role in the War of 1812 and other wars. The Canadian Museum of Civilization was built to celebrate our achievements in peace; if a name change is required, it should become the Canadian Museum of Peace (Civilization Museum To Get New Focus – Oct. 13).
It was correctly noted that the Canadian Museum of Civilization is the most visited in Canada; it has held that title for more than 20 years. Politicizing the museum with a neo-colonial message will surely end its relevance to most Canadians, and drive them away. It will send a different message to visitors from abroad that we are parochial and politically rooted in the early 19th century.
George F. MacDonald, director emeritus, Canadian Museum of Civilization
Bloody good show
We saw Bloodless, the new Canadian musical about two murderers and their wives killing destitute men and prostitutes and selling their cadavers, and take issue with J. Kelly Nestruck’s review (Not Very Bloody, But Kind Of Muddy – Arts, Oct. 13).
In the first act, several up-tempo songs counterbalanced the swift descent into murder for monetary gain. In the second half, the schism between the moral denial of one murderer and the self-recrimination of the other murderer pulls the play to its inevitable conclusion.
This change of tone is the core of the story. The echoes of the Pickton, and Bernardo and Homolka atrocities cannot be avoided. Canadian audiences have the sophistication to laugh and tap their feet one moment and, in the next, passionately debate our social obligations, limits to capitalism and the moral codes we live by.
Gay Gooderham, Ilan Levy, Toronto
Evidence as guide
When it comes to investing for community impact, Margaret Wente is right that evidence should be our guide (The Awful Truth About The Helping Industries – Oct. 13).
According to Statscan, more than 750,000 children were prevented from falling into poverty in 2010 thanks to child benefits and other programs targeted to low-income families. In Ontario, an innovative approach to child benefits was instrumental in taking 20,000 children out of poverty rolls, even as unemployment soared.
In Toronto, United Way has targeted investments to neighbourhoods where evidence shows there is the greatest need. The results are beginning to show. Commenting on a 19-per-cent drop in crime rates across priority neighbourhoods since 2005, Toronto Police Chief William Blair cites United Way’s investments as integral to this progress.
There are no easy answers to complex social issues. But we must continue to build on evidence about what works in achieving stronger communities.
Susan McIsaac, president, United Way Toronto
Um, about Corsica
Re Support For Sovereignty At Fore Of Marois Visit To France (Oct. 15): Free Corsica! Vive la Corsica libre!
William Emigh, Victoria