John Jensen looks at bullying as it relates to evolutionary as well as contextual influences in a strong and important post. The fundamental power dynamic of compulsory schooling plays a huge role in bullying behavior and Jensen grasps that fact. Schools greatly accelerate peer pressure and peer group identification in young people, even more now that the social capital outside schools has diminished greatly since the early 20th century. Jensen understands the underlying power dynamic of schools:
Is it not ironic that in a planned society of controlled workers given compulsory assignments, where religious expression is suppressed, the press controlled, and all media of communication censored, where a puppet government is encouraged but denied any real authority, where great attention is given to efficiency and character reports, and attendance at cultural assemblies is mandatory, where it is avowed that all will be administered to each according to his needs and performance required from each according to his abilities, and where those who flee are tracked down, returned, and punished for trying to escape–in short in the milieu of the typical large American secondary school–we attempt to teach “the democratic system”?And this, too:
Yes, that describes our own schools. Our style of pedagogy has yet to align with our ideals. The governing assumption, without which we apparently are unable to educate, is that those with more power control those with less of it. The national ethos continues with every new day at school: “You will do what we say, or else!”
Entire school bodies—staff and students—would do well to re-instruct themselves in a cooperative version of human society capable of sustaining civilization–if we are to improve on the primitive, instinct-driven model in use now. A school might examine its exercise of power, how power is channeled constructively by negotiation and cooperation, how big people can exercise power more considerately over the little. School should be an island of safety for all, where people appreciate rather than dominate, where cooperation rather than control is “what we do.” We identify the strivings for significance that each manifests, and provide rules for a field within which emotional needs can be satisfied, and a longer-term direction for the expression of personal power.
Compulsory Attendance is a Power Structure
We will have to change the underlying power fundamentals of schools to attain real change. That power structure is built on compulsory attendance and it shows in everything that schools do. It is not a democratic model and as schools have become ever more central to the common economic experience, the antri-democratic nature of the school show more and more.
We do not have to use compulsory attendance as a model. Homeschooling is a social movement that counters this approach by reaffirming the value of families as a social world for children. It is not that the family is an ideal, as some religious people believe, but rather that an institution that is structured to diminish the family is hurting the child. And in a society where almost everyone has been indoctrinated in mass schools, envisioning a different way means that people have had to get out of the system and experience learning in a new context. That has been happening now for 40+ years and technology like the Internet only accelerates the change.