Monday, June 28, 2010

Beyond School

I've been seeing stories about cyberbullying popping up in the media quite a bit lately. I guess it's one of those stories that's pretty easy to cover and is guaranteed to arouse some feeling. I mean, who's in favor of bullying? I imagine editors across the country thinking, "We'll send a reporter to the school, talk to some bullied teens, and the story will just write itself. Piece of cake!" The New York Times is the latest entry with a pretty long story today.

Here's my take. I don't know whether or not schools have the authority to impose restrictions on what happens outside of schools. I also know that when school districts - like in New York - try to ban things like sexting, it raises the obvious question of how it's going to be enforced. Given that there are often issues with addressing misbehavior in school, how are we going to enforce rules on things that happen outside of school?

What comes to my mind, though, is that this latest push is symptomatic of society's larger expectation that schools are going to be able to fix everything that needs fixing in today's kids. Reading behind grade level? We need better teachers and more accountability and that will make all kids learn. Cyberbullying taking place at home? The school system will spring into action.

In either instance, I think the school-only approach is unrealistic. In either case, teachers and school administrators are constrained by time, access, and availability. Certainly schools can be the focal point for addressing issues having to do with kids. In fact, schools should be the focal point. But they cannot be the only point. Kids need more than schools.

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