Home' Teacher : September 2009 Contents AT THE CHALKFACE 39
supposed to nurture their learning. Add to
this the fact that most students are given
little control or real choice about their learn-
ing in schools -- being told what to study,
how to study, when to study and with whom
to study -- and it's little wonder that many
students develop antisocial tendencies.
To understand the prevalence and rise of
bullying, we also need to look beyond our
children and schools, and consider wider
social norms. Suddenly, it becomes apparent
that bullying surrounds all of us in our daily
lives. Just observe how politicians respond to
each other in parliament, how authoritarian
bosses treat their workers, how bullying is
used to goad sportspeople to higher achieve-
ments. Bullying isn't a problem created by
children; it's a problem children learn from
the society in which they live. It's time we
faced up to this fact.
The most effective way to remove bully-
ing from our schools is to fundamentally
change the way our schools are organised.
Schools need to do away with authoritar-
ian and controlling systems of learning.
Rather than use power to try and control
how students should behave, educators in
schools should look at ways of giving stu-
dents responsibility for and control over
their ow n learning. Doing so will funda-
mentally change the nature of the school
community from one of power over, with
all its associated problems, to power with,
where all issues are shared and solved by the
This is a realistic goal to pursue. In
Canada, for example, a group of schools
called the Canadian Coalition of Self-
Directed Learning Schools very success-
fully follows this model of learning. There
are numerous reasons for considering this
highly-effective model of schooling, but
just consider these. In self-directed learn-
ing schools, bullying is a non-issue. These
schools don't have to consider antibullying
programs because bullying isn't the social
problem that it all too commonly is in tradi-
tional schools. And perhaps even more sig-
nificantly, suicide and attempted self-harm
are also non-issues. Could it be that these
positive outcomes are the direct result of the
self-directed system of schooling in which
students are specifically taught and encour-
aged to take control and be responsible for
their ow n learning and their lives?
It's time we consider more adaptive and
responsive approaches to educating our
young people. Statistics on bullying clearly
show that traditional models of schooling
are proving to be increasingly ineffective
for nurturing desirable social behaviours.
Children do learn what they live. Any
schools that support or even tolerate any
abuses of power within their structures
at any level are in fact perpetuating this
It's the responsibility of school commu-
nities to ensure that they are structured in
ways that only model positive social interac-
tions, from the principal through to begin-
Perhaps it's time to radically re-think
our ideas of effective models of schooling.
Maybe then we can really begin to reduce
these shameful Australian statistics on anti-
social behaviours. T
Brian Brennan is a Senior Education
Officer at the Sandhurst Catholic
Education Office and a regular contribu -
tor to Te a che r . Email bbrennan@ceosand.
Cross, D. , Shaw, T. , Hear n , L., Epstein,
M., Monks, H., Lester, L . & Thomas,
L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying
Prevalence Study. Pe rth: Child Health
Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan
University. Available at www.dee wr.gov.
Moon, L., Meyer, P. & Grau , J. (1999).
Australia's young people, their health and
wellbeing. First report on the health of
young people aged 12-24 years. Canber ra:
Australian Institute of Health and
Welfare. Available at www.aihw.gov.au/
Riley, D., Dunc an, D. & Edwards, J.
(2009). Staff Bullying in Australian
Schools Available at ww w. schoolbullies.
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