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Bullying has become a buzzword recently with high-profile examples of its tragic ramifications appearing frequently on the national media. Bazelon first became involved in reporting on bullying for a series in Slate magazine, which ultimately led to this book-length analysis of the phenomenon. The book is framed by the author’s examination of three different bullying situations. These cases lead to a deeper discussion of the factors that foment bullying and how bullying affects its victims. Bazelon also examines the motivation for bullying and how adults, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators can address the problem, whether it’s traditional face-to-face bullying or cyberbullying. She also deconstructs the language of bullying, which teens often refer to as “drama,” and looks at how a teen’s social capital can affect his or her likeliness to be bullied. This very perceptive and accessible work on a topic of increasing relevance is a must-read for any teacher, administrator, or after-school provider for teens and tweens. --Eve Gaus
“Intelligent, rigorous . . . [Emily Bazelon] is a compassionate champion for justice in the domain of childhood’s essential unfairness.”—Andrew Solomon, The New York Times Book Review
“[Bazelon] does not stint on the psychological literature, but the result never feels dense with studies; it’s immersive storytelling with a sturdy base of science underneath, and draws its authority and power from both.”—New York
“A humane and closely reported exploration of the way that hurtful power relationships play out in the contemporary public-school setting . . . As a parent herself, [Bazelon] brings clear, kind analysis to complex and upsetting circumstances.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Bullying isn’t new. But our attempts to respond to it are, as Bazelon explains in her richly detailed, thought-provoking book. . . . Comprehensive in her reporting and balanced in her conclusions, Bazelon extracts from these stories useful lessons for young people, parents and principals alike.”—The Washington Post
“A serious, important book that reads like a page-turner . . . Emily Bazelon is a gifted writer, and this powerful work is sure to place childhood bullying at the heart of the national conversation—right where it belongs.”—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
“Bullying is misunderstood. Not all conflict between kids is bullying. It isn’t always clear who is the bully and who is the victim. Not all—or even most—kids are involved in bullying. And bullying isn’t the only factor in a child’s suicide, ever. Emily Bazelon, who wrote about the subject for Slate in 2010, here expands her reporting in an important, provocative book about what we can—and can’t—do about the problem.”—The Boston Globe
“In Sticks and Stones . . . journalist and editor Emily Bazelon brings a sure hand and investigative heft to her exploration of bullying, which, in the era of social media, includes both digital and old-fashioned physical cruelty.”—Los Angeles Times
Emily Bazelon is the author of Sticks and Stones, a book about bullying to be published in February by Random House. She is also a senior editor at Slate, a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, and the Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School. Before joining Slate, Emily was a Soros media fellow, an editor and writer at Legal Affairs magazine, and a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. She has been a guest on The Colbert Report, the Today Show, the PBS Newshour, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation. Emily is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.
As a former teacher, I find myself struggling tremendously with Sticks And Stones, which has received quite good reviews.
One thing that is quite confusing is the "great equalizing" of bully and bullied. Yes, I imagine many bullies are depressed themselves, and I'm sure many are also suffering from other issues. But the notion that a bully and a bullied child suffer equally is simply wrong. A bullied child learns fear, dreads school, comes to believe that no one can help, and often becomes socially withdrawn. The fact that a bullied child may recover from this (which Bazelton seems to suggest) is nice, but why (in a society where every kid has to win a trophy and every child has to have an equal part in a school play) is protecting children from bullies that one thing that seems to make so many people talk about "equalization?"
Moreover, I found Bazelton's notion that most buillies "grow out of it naturally" is completely wrong. Not sure how many workplaces she's been in, but there are always plenty of grown-up bullies on display. Did they just suddenly decide to become bullies for their 30th or 40th birthday? Probably not -- they probably learned many lessons of intimidation on the playground.
While I was teaching, I found myself in meetings with parents of bullies, and 80% of time those parents said one of two things: "My child is not a bully" (no matter how many notes or proof a teacher offered) or, much sadder, "I know he is a bully but I have no control over him." The idea that parents are not involved in how their children grow is bizarre, and unless a parent of a bully steps in to assist in guiding his or her child, school alone simply cannot help.Read more ›
If only there was a way to give this book ZERO stars. In spite of her research, the author seems to have no idea what bullying is about. She begins with a personal anecdote, wherein two friends dump her over the summer. Her feelings were deeply hurt but eventually she found a new friend. Although this is NOT bullying, the incident seems to inform the rest of her report. So reviewers need to tell her: Bullying is about the abuse of power, and about relentlessly degrading/harming another person. When is that ever OK?? Why would that ever be acceptable behavior?? And yet she reaches the weirdly cautious conclusion that "maybe we should not hover, and let children work out their own problems; or maybe bullying teaches children resiliency." This summary is consistent with parenting practices seen throughout society: parents are afraid to be grown ups and take on the hard work of shaping their child's character. Apparently parents no longer say, "Our family values kindness and tolerance, and what you are doing is wrong. You will stop immediately; you will apologize and make amends." Heaven forbid! Acknowledge my child is in error? Not my precious snowflake. The author's conclusion says more about current parenting wimpy-ness than she realizes. THIS is the book's take-home message: children who are being bullied, you are on your own, because the bullies' parents are once again encouraged to avoid their responsibilities not only to their child, but to society.
Emily Bazelon is apparently interested in bullying because (a) her friends "fired" her in the eighth grade and (b) her new best friend after that, Allie, was bullied by her former friends and their allies, although Bazelon admits she has no memory of Allie's worst experience of bullying, even though she must have been there at the time. To her credit, Bazelon does admit that her experience did not qualify as bullying, but her prologue just serves to give us a hint that perhaps Bazelon isn't really tuned in to what bullying is all about. And she spends the rest of the book proving it.
The next six chapters are alternating stories of three teens who experienced bullying. The first is about seventh-grader Monique who inadvertently got the same hairstyle as a cousin of one of eighth grade mean girls on her bus and was harassed and humiliated mercilessly for it for months afterwards. Her mother and her grandmother took their concerns over Monique's treatment to the school, but didn't receive satisfying responses or resolution, so they took their grievances up the food chain to the police, the superintendent, the school board and the local government, all without receiving satisfaction. Bazelon's conclusion seems to be that the mother and grandmother were largely responsible for Monique's problems because they made such a stink over it (although she certainly doesn't fault their protective reasons for doing so). Bazelon further concludes that Monique's later problems weren't so much bullying as just "drama" because the second group of girls to harass her were her same age, and that Monique was also partly responsible because she escalated the situation by retaliating.Read more ›
We all know the doggerel verse about sticks and stones is just a crock of bull manure. A heaping mountain of manure. Words can build or destroy esteem. Words are infinitely more powerful than any tangible weapon such as a stick or a stone.
Bullying is an issue that is very trenchant for me personally. I came across this book and while the topic is one of great interest to me, I was glad I was able to get it without buying it. I got it simply to go over some of the salient points that were raised.
There were a lot of things that bothered me. One was what sounded to me like condoning the bully. As one who was bullied, I know all too well how it feels to have adults condone the bully; blame the victim; dread school and become one who tried to keep under the radar and by no longer saying anything in class. I know all too well how bullying can kill or maim one's self image and how blame the victim comments are just as harmful. I say, NEVER blame the victim. NEVER condone the bully. NEVER make light of what a bully is doing. Ignoring bullies is poor advice and it usually doesn't work. Bullies refuse to be ignored. They just step up their campaign against the peers they have targeted.
A side issue that I'd like to speak to is that we, as a society have reached a point where by creating the false impression of a "level playing field" which doesn't exist. In so doing, we reward mediocrity at best, poor performance at worst by giving everybody a trophy or a certificate or a prize for every little thing (some schools have been known to give out awards for completing routine tasks!) Although well intentioned, many children are not fooled by this effort and many feel that such prizes don't count.Read more ›
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