At a White House conference yesterday, President Obama gathered parents, teachers, bullying victims, and researchers to discuss anti-bullying efforts. The president recounted that, as a kid, he was a victim of bullying himself.
“With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune,” he said (in what’s become a much-quoted sound bite from the event).
But in a subsequent Huffington Post op-ed, psychologist and addiction expert Stanton Peele responded that that the conference “failed to hit the mark” and “will have zero impact.” According to Peele, warnings and admonitions against bullying don’t work.
Kids don't usually bully people to hurt them, nor do they permit bullying in their presence because they're sadistic or cruel. They—bullies and bystanders alike—do it to feel good about themselves. And that's a tough feeling to tackle.
The takeaway from Peele’s article is nothing short of defeatist. He writes: “The sad news is that bullying—ostracizing outsiders and ‘others’ in order to feel better about oneself—is as American as apple pie.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.