Saturday, March 8, 2014

Argentina's Stance on Bullying

We had a guest speaker in psych class this week to discuss what he does as an educational psychologist. His name is Izequiel but we’ll call him Zeke for short.

I learned that not every private or public school has a counselor like they do in the States. Zeke claimed that most schools don’t really feel like a counselor, or in this case, an educational psychologist is needed. In some cases, the school feels that they are an unnecessary expenditure.
Since when is the psychological well-being of a child an unnecessary expenditure?

Then Zeke brought up the topic of bullying in which he stated that it has been overly publicized as a new threat to students when in fact bullying has always been around and is not that big of a deal.
It’s been my observation that some Argentineans often takes to name calling as something casual; I don’t just mean children or teenagers, but everyone in every age group and gender. There seems to be a racial undertone in some cases. For example, I was waiting for the bus and a student decided to call another student a “Chileno” (someone from Chile). The other student, who is not from Chile was offended and became very irate. Argentineans seem to have a strong distaste for Chileans. I don’t know why but they do. Had the student reacted this way inside the classroom, it would have offended someone in our class who is in fact Chilean. I also experienced something similar a few weeks ago when our professor was discussing how an American psychologist had once stated that their “method of investigation should be the method conducted in all psychological investigations.” A student sitting two rows behind me shouted, “typical American thinking they are better than everyone else.” Obviously he either failed to notice he had offended me or he didn’t really care. Of course this is nothing compared to what I’ve heard people do in schools. Some girls who are considered too pretty get their faces slashed. While the forms of verbal and physical abuse vary between Argentina and the U.S., the targets are usually the same (smart, not-so-smart, too pretty, not so pretty, poor, rich, gay, straight, dark skin, light skin).

Going back to what Zeke had said about bullying … a classmate spoke up and shared her daughter’s experience with bullying. Her daughter had been an unfortunate victim many times, so much so that she had to change schools three times. It seems obvious to me that the lack of school counselors have failed this mother and daughter, but mostly everyone in class felt that the problem was the girl and not the bullies.
Then she asked Zeke “why therapists focus on the victim of bullying rather than the bully or bullies themselves?” It seemed like a valid question. After all, you can change a child’s school as many times as you want but the problem will never really go away as long as society doesn’t start seeing bullying as a serious threat to our youths.

Zeke, stated that from a psychological perspective, it is so much easier to concentrate on the victim than the bully or bullies. Obviously, this mother didn’t agree but when she tried to argue, Zeke did what most people in the university seem to do which is to shut her down and move on to something completely irrelevant. Unfortunately, if we have people like Zeke as educational psychologists, Argentina runs the risk of dealing with the same consequences that bullying has ultimately brought to U.S. schools.
Some students in the United States who are victims of bullying have either committed suicide, skipped school to avoid the abuse (like I used to do when I was a kid), or endured years of emotional torture that have ultimately plagued their adult lives with social anxiety and depression. In some extreme cases, bullied kids have turned the tables on their emotional aggressors and attacked or killed them. In other cases, students didn’t simply isolate a bully or bullies. They went after the entire school, teachers, bullies and non-bullies. The fact is even the strongest willed individual can snap and when that happens, you can’t differentiate between friend and foe.

Bullying is a serious issue in the States. In Argentina, it’s slowly becoming one. If educational psychologists don’t take bullying more seriously, Argentina could wind up with a high number of teenagers committing suicide or worse, school shootings.
Bullying must never be taken lightly.

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