Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Values Behind Bullying

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a report recently about a foundation that offers free plastic surgery for kids who are bullied. He followed a young teenaged girl through the process of an all-expense-paid trip to New York for three different plastic surgeries. The girl started out thinking her ears stuck out too much because this is what the bullies had teased her about. The other two surgeries were recommended by the plastic surgeons who discovered, upon examination, that she was uglier than she thought and needed a nose job and a chin implant as well.
Is this really the most enlightened response to bullying we can come up with? It seems to me more of an affirmation that the bullies were right: "Yeah kids, we agree; she is ugly." Never mind that we're talking about a normal, even above-average looking, teen girl.

Yet Dr. Zakaria never questioned this. He merely presented it objectively. The lesson he and the female reporter took from it was, "Kids can be cruel."

The lesson I took from it is, "Kids can be uncanny reflections of the adults in their lives." When we remember that the first purpose of education — indeed, of child rearing in general — is to teach children to be good people, we will begin to end bullying. Why? Because it's nothing but our own values carried to their logical conclusion. This is true of all childhood craziness from bullying to school shootings.

When our children go astray they're not abandoning our values and coming up with a new set of their own. They're merely expressing more truthfully and blatantly (as children are wont to do) the values we taught them.

A foundation to offer truly disfigured kids free surgery is a good idea. One that convinces them that they're deformed when they're not is just more of the same values that cause the problem it purports to be fixing. Einstein was right: A problem can never be solved on the same level of consciousness that created it.