Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Civility is the key to stop bullying

It’s inexcusable. It must stop. It’s time to act now to stop bullying.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. According to the Pacer Center, bullied students are more likely to have higher rates of poor grades, low self-esteem and self-confidence, and depression and anxiety. There is a clear link between depression and suicide.

Let’s not forget the children who bully, who themselves need help. Research tells us that bullies are often feel as insecure, powerless and depressed as their victims.

It might sound overly simplistic, but the key to ending bullying is civility. Adults must model it themselves and teach it to our youth. A lot of people still think of etiquette as being something quaint, old-fashioned, best left to their grandparents’ generation. And yet, when it comes down to it, etiquette is simply about treating others with the kindness and respect we all deserve.

Rutgers University agrees. The school recently launched Project Civility, “a two-year, university-wide dialogue,” following the suicide of 18-year-old student Tyler Clementi, who was bullied for being gay. His death followed three other suicides of gay teenagers, all in the month of September alone—Billy Lucas, 15, in Indiana; Asher Brown, 13, in Texas; and Seth Walsh, also 13, in California. (Research shows that gay youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.)

Rutger’s Project Civility covers topics like bullying, hazing, and the influence of technology on civil behavior—but it also covers how to behave on a bus, good sportsmanship, and other manners you might assume most people already know. The truth is, the task of spreading civility and goodwill is more important now than ever. In fact, a recent University of Michigan study suggests that college students significantly lack empathy compared to previous generations. Data taken from 1979 to 2009 shows that today’s students have a 48% decrease in empathetic concern and a 34% decrease in perspective taking.

That’s terribly depressing news, but it’s also a call to action. We must make the notion of civility a priority, and we must start with our children.

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