The word “Bully!” has more than one meaning. It has positive meanings, like ‘bull market’ for a rising stock market. Or for another example it was a pet phrase of President Teddy Roosevelt; his terminology for presidential leadership, ‘bully pulpit’ is one instance. In that sense, “Bully for you, in other words, “good for you”, Governor Dayton, for signing the recent anti-bullying (the bad kind)
And then we have the foaming at the mouth hysteria from conservatives and the radical religious right, particularly the homophobes. Sure, we see plenty of rending of garments and wailing, or running around with hair-on-fire from them over everything from faux religious liberty to funding for the legislation. Neither is a plausible gripe. Claiming religious dispensation to discriminate or harass, including in giving cover for bullying, is not a legitimate function of religion. We saw that back in the 70’s and 80’s, with all the racial discrimination law suits lost Bob Jones University. It is a failure on moral and ethical grounds as well.
But I would like to address some of the more factually and intellectually deficient arguments made by the conservative legislators in opposing this legislation — and I’d also like to underline that conservatives never gave this much attention, or came up with any good ideas of their own. They retain their title of the party of ‘no’ and obstruction, not the party of any new ideas or good and effective solutions.
There were three videos of testimony that stood out as egregiously deplorable. One was Rep. Gruenhagen, the MN GOP’s attempt to come up with a state level equivalent of Louis Gohmert (NOT a compliment), who apparently believes that staff, including bus drivers, hitting children is a good idea – and a solution. This seems on the face of it, to be an intrusion of government into parental perogatives – something the conservatives claim to hate, and it should clearly be recognized as a potential source of huge legal liability. And most of all, there is zero evidence that hitting kids like this solves anything, least of all aggression and bullying – in spite of the anecdotal recollections of Gruenhagen. Rather there is a good argument to be made that this demonstrates only that bigger people get away with hitting smaller people. However conservatives as a group LOVE LOVE LOVE any form of punishment, in spite of the evidence showing that it is not particularly effective as a deterrent or consequence in producing desired behaviors. (Quite the opposite, see below.)
But we have seen all too often that facts, and especially science, are anathema to conservatives; they want to do what George W. Bush did, and operate from the gut, not the brain. Garnish, if possible, with a sprinkle of humiliation, serve on a platter of flaming stupid, and conservatives are delighted. But it is a horrifically BAD solution to a real problem; conservatives want to drag us, kicking and screaming, back into the bad old days of the 19th century. What we do NOT want in our schools is a place where students worry about a teacher ‘punching them out’, OR other kids bullying them; those are both completely contrary to a good learning environment. But there is no denying this garbage appeals to conservative emotions.
From Psychology Today (emphasis in bold is my addition):
I began to think about this issue once again when a new study appeared in the journal Pediatrics. This study dealt with human children, not dogs, and looked at the effects of spanking. Spanking is the most common form of punishment used to control the behavior of human children. Based on data from nearly 2,500 children, Catherine Taylor and her associates at Tulane University report that children that were spanked more frequently at age 3 were much more likely to be aggressive by age 5. “The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50 percent if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began,” said Taylor. Such negative effects of punishment have been reported so often in the scientific literature that the American Academy of Pediatrics has chosen not to endorse spanking under any circumstance. According to the Academy, it’s a form of punishment that becomes less effective with repeated use and also makes discipline more difficult as the child outgrows it.
Here is the Gruenhagen video:
And then we have Tweedle-dumb, the equally ignorant and offensive Rep. Jim Newberger, who went to the popular conservative well for another bucket of ludicrous and inapplicable Hitler comparisons, this time frosted with a frothy whip of equally inapplicable and inappropriate references to 1984.
Apparently Jim Newberger is stuck in the first half of the twentieth century, and equally apparent is that he represents a failure of our school system – and his own efforts – because he is clearly poorly educated.
Again we have the lust for violence and retribution, never mind that escalation is the opposite of our desideratum.
I’m particularly sick of the deficient claims by the radical right, not just in Minnesota, that misrepresents WW I and WW II history. Although he was born in the 1960’s, apparently Newberger has not caught up with the release of classified documents that show that Chamberlain in fact did the right thing as regards Hitler, and that he did not attempt to appease Hitler so much as stall for time to rebuild the military capacity of the UK, which lagged badly behind that of Germany. At the same time Chamberlain tried to institute precisely the containment of Germany that he was accused of NOT doing. Rather it has been the criticism of Chamberlain that is not standing up well as factual. Perhaps Newberger is unaware that Chamberlain was himself a conservative – but a British conservative, not one of the 21st century variety of conservatives that ignore any facts that do not fit their theories or ideology, or that they did not have spoon fed to them in the context of their radical right wing propaganda. Likewise, the reference to 1984, written in 1949 by George Orwell, is not really an apt analogy to holding students accountable for use of social media or other electronic or cyber bullying they do that continues or is initiated off school grounds of a fellow student. School is the primary nexus point for problems relating to bullying, and it is at school that they interfere with learning. That not all school-related bullying originates during the school day or on school grounds does not alter that it is very much a school problem.
And then for the final video in our trifecta of MN GOP bigoted homophobia and flaming stupidity, we have the repugnant Rep. Mary Franson, who apparently doesn’t actually know what the heck fascism is, theoretically or historically. That this woman has done child care is tragic; apparently this is another example of the pro-violence from conservatives. One might argue that their solution to bullying is more bullying, certainly that appears to be how Franson defines freedom of religion – the freedom to harass and disparage the LGBT community. Because she clearly does NOT want ALL students (or their families) treated with kindness or respect – or equality. Shame on Franson for according more importance to an inanimate book than to people. Like a true conservative, Franson apparently has no fear about conservative suggestions that kids be hit, but she objects to adults holding other adults accountable for their words and actions that were highly offensive and very damaging to members of the LGBT community, on a par with the equivalent use of the ‘n’ word to African-Americans. There were more than just words thrown around; a lot of money was spent to actively harm the civil rights of LGBT Americans. Conservatives consistently believe things that are not true, and consistently mis-identify who is and is not the victim, and who is the abuser.
This is the same Rep. Mary Franson who showed herself anything but kind and Christian previously, but that doesn’t stop her claiming to be so now when it comes to anti-bullying legislation. More of the whole faux victim / holier than thou crap that is standard operating propaganda from the radical rotten right. I hope she doesn’t strain her shoulder, while patting herself on the back for her own goodness so vigorously.