That’s the conclusion of my colleague Katherine Beals, editor of Out in Left Field, in her article A comprehensive bullying prevention program for selective schools.Katherine states:
“The proliferation of Social and Emotional Learning programs is part and parcel of the American school system’s campaign against bullying. Ironically, as I’ve noted earlier, these programs often end up further enabling the bullies:
Socially savvy kids can take advantage of zero tolerance policies and subtly goad a more socially clueless peer into lashing out. The victim rather than the perpetrator is then the one who gets punished. In whole class discussions in which children are supposed to share their experiences with bullying, the victims may be too uncomfortable to do so, especially if those experiences involved subtle, difficult-to-articulate forms of bullying like shunning, and especially if the victims expect subtle reprisals from peers once the adults are out of earshot.
Also worsening the social climate for quirky kids is the rise of group-centered learning, which proponents claim teaches valuable cooperative skills:
The anecdotes I collected for my book strongly suggest that group learning environments, rather than preventing bullying, are often arenas for it. Bullying can be quite subtle and difficult to detect; teachers cannot supervise multiple groups simultaneously; unsocial and socially awkward children regularly report being teased and ignored as the social hierarchy of the playground creeps into the classroom’s “cooperative groups”–whenever the teacher is out of earshot.”
I’ve often felt that the anti-bullying programs in our schools are little more than a joke; that they’re opportunities for anti-bullying industrialists to push their programs into schools under the guise of bullying prevention. That there is little to no evidence of the effectiveness of these rather costly programs appears to be of little concern to anyone. Far too often it seems like our schools are more intent on checking the box that says they’ve provided bullying prevention programs to students than on actually preventing bullying.