The Duncan Banner

Opinion

February 23, 2014

Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”

DUNCAN — Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.

In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Anyway, we hope our youngsters can master the basic skills of the “Three R’s,” because they are the foundation of knowledge. And, lord knows, our society can use all the knowledge we can cram into the heads of our citizens, young and old.

Sadly, though, here in the Modern World another letter has been added to the basic information young people need to survive in school. The “Three R’s” aren’t enough, it seems. In school districts across the nation, the letter “B” has been added to the curriculum. Nowadays, our kids need to learn reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic and “bullying.”

Well, the aim is not to learn bullying, it’s to teach students not to be bullies and how to deal with a situation if they are a victim of being bullied.

During this school year, millions of students are being exposed to programs and information on the topic of bullying. Some comes from classroom teachers and administrators, some from people involved in health care, psychology and sociology, and some from TV and print sources, because bullying has become a hot media topic.

Seems the media can’t get enough of the subject, with proposed laws to protect victims, a booming industry in anti-bullying training-and-curricula, and tragic teenage suicides being publicized ad nauseum, especially by the 24-hour news services.

OK, I know what some of we older folks are thinking: “Back in my day, we knew how to deal with bullies.”

We have visions of Our Gang or Opie Taylor and his neighborhood chums finally getting their fill of being pushed around by someone bigger, stronger and meaner. At that point, they taught the bully a lesson by whippin’ the tar out of ‘em.

But the sad truth is: Knockin’ the bejeebers out of a bully was never really as effective as past generations might have thought. Antisocial behavior has continued to exist and propagate through the generations.

In the Modern World, bullying is, in fact, a big ugly problem, and too many helpless kids are left trying to cope with it on their own.

So, what do we do?

First, let’s get beyond the full-bore media treatment of the topic — which risks reducing bullying to a cliché — and look for methods that stress practicality.

Some school districts are experimenting with programs that don’t focus on finger-wagging lectures, corny and marginally embarrassing caring-and-sharing exercises and expensive materials.

They are replacing those methods with straightforward sets of behavior rules; exposing students to low-pressure techniques that can be summed up as the importance of good manners and what schools used to call citizenship.

Second, it’s time for grownups to start acting like grownups and practice some degree of civility in private and public discourse. One thing never changes in the progression of generations: kids will behave the way they see and hear adults behaving.

If you’re a young’un in the Modern Age USofA, you’re in a society that seems to celebrate humiliation and vitriol. Through the media, pop culture, partisan politics, the culture war and social networking, our children are bombarded by adults — who should be role models — venting spleen and belching bile.

Too many adults are giving kids the message intentional cruelty can be fun. Too many adults are sending out signals that despite what they say to young people, bullying can be somehow rewarding.

It’s the ol’ mixed-message conundrum that’s plagued adults and confused young people throughout human existence: Do as I say, not as I do.

If adults can get a grip on themselves, it would be a huge step in removing the “B” from the “Three R’s.”

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