Adults who model violent punitive behavior produce children who become bullies and who lack other techniques for solving problems.
Don Olweus, a psychologist from Norway, studied 150,000 Norwegian and Swedish students and found that 8% of the children were bullies and 10% were habitual victims. He found that the same boys were repeatedly harassed for years and that bullying was a major cause of suicide among these teenagers. Further, the bullies who hounded them were four times as likely as non-bullies to commit serious crimes when they reached adulthood. He also found parents of bullies were not nurturing and tended to use physical punishment as the main mode of disciplining their children.
Schools, as well as, parents need to take an active role in providing activities whereby children learn other odes of behavior. Parents can help their children by disciplining by means of natural and logical consequences rather than physical punishment. Since schools are in the business of education, the most reasonable approach for them is through education, i.e. classroom activities. This approach should not be a separate lesson on “How Not To Be A Victim” or classroom discussions on “What Makes A Bully” but rather through the normal interactions of a school day whereby children are helped to live and work cooperatively in the group setting of the classroom.
One of the best ways this can be done is through cooperative learning lessons. Margaret Mead made the point that the future quality of human life, as well as, the survival of the human species, will be dependent upon cooperative behavior along with a concern and respect for the rights of others. Cooperation can be modeled, taught and nourished at home and in the classroom. It should be practiced in all activities rather than preached in isolated lessons.
In the school setting, to complete assignments cooperatively, students must function as a “cooperative group”. They must help
each other learn, pool their information and resources, use division of labor when appropriate, integrate each member’s contribution into a a group product and facilitate each other’s learning. As a result, communication, conflict management, leadership and trust building skills are developed in students.
Cooperative group members realize that their actions affect the others in the group. They must be mutually responsible for each other’s learning. Students cannot sit back while one ow two members of the group do all of the work. A diversity of student ability in the cooperative group necessitates conversation among the students about the material and it forces students to verbalize, check and explain to each other and in the process get to know each other better,
Research has shown that mastery, retention and transfer of concepts is higher in cooperatively structured learning than in competitive or individually structured learning, and it promotes healthy social development.
The scientist, Douglas Hofstadter, described a mathematical model of the evolutionary consequences of cooperation. In this mathematical world, the cooperative organism thrives while the suspicious, selfish, unforgiving organism fails. Schools need to help all of their students experience cooperative behavior rather than aggressive behavior. The purpose of education is not only to help students master the content of the curriculum it is also to produce citizens who are concerned for each other and able to function well in a democracy.