Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Relational Bullying: How Pundits & Politicians Bully Teachers

Image by EddieS
Here’s an interesting piece on bullying Researchers Look for Ways to Curb 'Mean Girls' and Gossip that I found on the San Diego Education Report Blog. The article is posted below my comments (in italics).

The basic idea is that relational bullying is the most common type of bullying and it often goes unnoticed and without intervention. In relational bullying, rather than engaging in outright physical assaults or name calling, the bully gossips about people behind their backs, starts rumors, tries to isolate them. Relational bullying is often done by popular people, and the bully is often rewarded with greater adulation and popularity. One version of this is intellectual bullying, where a person tries to win an argument by claiming they know more, using their credentials rather than reason, or by belittling their opponent.

Relational bullying is probably the most common type of bullying done by adults, especially by adults in positions of power. Indeed, it is used to consolidate and maintain power. Administrators sometimes use it to isolate or disempower teachers who they think are challenging their authority. Teachers sometimes use it to consolidate power over colleagues. Ed Deformers, however, are the true masters of this technique, creating rumors that are accepted as fact by millions, such as the bogus claim that “schools are overrun by bad teachers,” or that “teacher experience is unimportant.” These rumors give the ed deformers power and popularity among their followers by demeaning and demonifying teachers who, in growing numbers, are feeling threatened and uncertain about their own security. One teacher in Los Angeles even committed suicide as a result of this kind of bullying, which had been done with the complicity of the Los Angeles Times and LAUSD.

Researchers Look for Ways to Curb 'Mean Girls' and Gossip
Studies Take Aim at Playground Gossip
More and More Studies are Focusing on 'Relational Aggression' in Schools
By Sarah D. Sparks

Gossip and social ostracization may come far down on the list of concerns for educators trying to prevent bullying, yet emerging research suggests relational bullying, though often the most frequently overlooked, may hold the key to changing an aggressive culture in schools.

Of the three major types of bullying—physical, verbal and relational—relational aggression, has been the latest and least studied, both because it involves less visible, immediately dangerous behavior than fighting or verbal abuse, and in part because it involved more nuanced relationships among the bullies, victims, and bystanders.

“If you think of Columbine and other school shootings, the shooters were often victims of relational aggression, so there’s a growing recognition that emotional scars are real, and we need to create interventions to address those scars and prevent them from happening,” said Stephen S. Leff, a psychologist and director of the Friend to Friend and Preventing Relational Aggression in Schools Everyday (PRAISE) programs at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a co-editor of a current special issue of School Psychology Review on the topic.

The newer research into relational aggression is bringing into focus an alternative to the stereotypical image of the dull, socially awkward, and physically aggressive schoolyard bully: a popular, socially astute student who uses rumors and social isolation to control enemies, rivals, and friends alike. While students who physically fight tend to be avoided by peers, studies show relational aggression actually becomes more socially acceptable as students get older.

Antonius H. N. Cillessen, a professor of developmental psychology at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, found in one four-year longitudinal study of American middle and high school students that the students considered by their peers to be the most popular were not the same as those most liked, and students perceived to be popular were the most likely to engage in gossip and social manipulation over time.

“It’s the dark side of popularity,” Mr. Cillessen said. “For the practice of education it’s pretty important, because the popular bully gets a lot of peer reinforcement. As adults we can say this is bad, you shouldn’t do this, but among peers, bullies have power. That’s a really difficult challenge for intervention research, because it means you don’t have to work only on the individual bully and victim, but you have to address all possible roles that a person can play.”

To see the rest of the article, please go to Researchers Look for Ways to Curb 'Mean Girls' and Gossip

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