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Monday, February 18, 2013

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

When I read the blurb about Emily Bazelon's Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy I thought it would inform my practice and give me some tips to pass on to my students. I was blown away by what I was able to take out of this book.

Bullying has not, in fact, been on the rise lately regardless of what the media tells us. It has become more profiled in the media for sure--making "bully panic" all the rage in schools. But what is actually behind this centuries-old phenomena, and what makes dealing with it so hard? Emily Bazelon expands upon her Slate article, going in-depth into three bullying stories that follow similar trajectories. What makes a bully? How do you deal with one? And how do we even define "bullying", anyway?

I was expecting a book that bought into the "bully panic", so I was more than pleasantly surprised after finishing the introduction to this book. It was clear that Bazelon wanted to go into her research (and this book) with an open mind and with a a journalist's eye, not taking anything at face value. I found her writing to be very easy to read and I found her research and synthesis to be incredibly well-done.

This topic is like a spider's web--once you get into the thick of it you might never get out. It's so complicated and full of so many land mines. The bullied are targets because they are perceived as weak. So how does one fight back? With fists? With words? With the law? There is no easy answer, and there probably never will be. I do, though, appreciate the investigation Bazelon has put in to the new norm that schools have to face--bridging the gap between the real world and the virtual world at levels they have never had to before. At what point are our out-of-school activities subject to in-school punishment? It's a tricky question and a slippery slope, but Bazelon has found some answers that may or may not be it--but they are answers.

This book has a bazillion resources that take up a quarter of the back of the book. There is a Q&A for students, parents, and teachers answers questions about where to turn and how to seek help. There is a resource guide which is incredibly helpful. I have been recommending this book to my fellow ed psych students, and I will be recommending it to my undergraduate teacher candidates when we get to the appropriate unit in my course. It's a must-read if you work with children, if you have children, or if you care about children.

You need this book in your arsenal. Kindle on left, hard copy on right:

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