Sunday, October 09, 2011

AC360: Special town hall: "Bullying: It Stops Here", with major clips from a new film by Lee Hirsch

On Sunday night, Oct. 9, Anderson Cooper aired his one-hour town hall on AC360, “Bullying: It Stops Here”, with primary link here. The show was broadcast from Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ, site of the Tyler Clementi incident (which involved college freshmen in a dorm, not public school). 

As guests, Anderson hosted Dr. Phil McGraw, Rosalind Wiseman, Sean Fenny, a NJ principal, Sunny Hostin, Kelly Ripa, and Dr. Faris, a researcher at the University of California at Davis.

Bullying was characterized as “social combat”, like what happens in communities of social animals (like lions).   There is a special focus on anti-gay harassment (and anti trans-gender), but many other forms happen.

The most touching part of the show was the three clips shown from the new film directed by Lee Hirsch, “The Bully Project: A Day in the Life of America’s Bullying Crisis”.  In one clip, a boy tells his counselor that he doesn’t feel anything now.  The extended trailer is (website url) here.  It is due for theatrical release from The Weinstein Company in March 2012.   The official site for the film is here


The AC360 special presented the severity of the problem in Anoka, MN, north of Minneapolis, shocking in an area of the country normally known for progressiveness.  But the school systems “neutrality policy” on teaching gay issues (not mentioning in class) is said to contribute to the crisis. 

My biggest problems teasing occurred between third and ninth grades. It completely stopped in Senior High School, in tenth grade, in 1958. Even then, Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA was very progressive in not tolerating it.

My problems were not as obviously severe as those in the film or tonight’s show, but were nevertheless quite troubling. On rare occasions, I bullied back, especially with one troubling incident at the end of ninth grade, and incident (in June 1958, age 14) which I still have trouble explaining today.  What was I thinking?  It seems almost like compulsive behavior.

As a substitute teacher, I encountered severe bullying problems in a middle school special education class, which I had not signed up for but was assigned anyway.  One “white” boy in the class was physically attacked by others.  I could only call school Security, which the administration did not like. I could not control this, inasmuch it involved racial, cultural, and severe family dis-function  (lack of parenting) that the kids apparently came from.  There’s more on my “BillBoushka” blog, July 25, 2007. In subbing in high school, I encountered bullying only once, but a serious incident occurred in a class populated mostly by low-income students not performing at grade level.  Again, I could not control it.

My impression was that teasing and "bullying" (milder in my case) was more directed at people who couldn't "compete" socially in a "conventional" way by gender, but who were talented enough in some particular way (like music, intellect, chess, etc) to be perceived as a "threat" to "outflank" more socially competitive (but less individually talented) people.  It's like, changing the distances to the outfield fences.  For the "different" person, the worst scenario is being deprived of the opportunity to use his own personal talents, and being forced to submit to others' social structures and goals instead --  one can be led to believe that he or she has no place  that doesn't require humiliation.

MTV has a related film, "DisCONNECTED", followed by discussion of similar issues, in the cyber and online context.  See Movies Blog, Oct. 10.



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