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Open Letter to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

Published on October 13, 2011 by Izzy Kalman in A Psychological Solution to Bullying

Honorable Mr. Duncan:

Regarding: How to solve the problem of bullying with no extra budget

Our country is facing a crisis over the problem of bullying in schools. President Obama labeled it an “epidemic.” The U.S. Department of Education acknowledged the failure of current efforts to reduce bullying and called for exploration of new approaches. Under growing pressure from the public, the Department has made the elimination of bullying in schools a vital priority. And schools are expected to accomplish this objective with no extra budget.

As Secretary of Education, you are undoubtedly feeling the burden of trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible. You are being asked to provide schools with the means to eliminate bullying when the world’s most revered bullying experts don’t know how to do it. As research has shown, the highly vaunted bullying prevention programs rarely produce more than a minor reduction in bullying and often result in an increase.

Fortunately, there is an effective solution to bullying and wise people have been teaching it for thousands of years. I would like to present it to you so that you can provide it to the country’s schools. Not only won’t it require budgets that the nation doesn’t have, it will very quickly save money. Counselors will successfully help many more children for the same salary they are already earning. Educators will be able to spend their time teaching academics instead of futilely investigating and reporting bullying incidents. Consequently, student achievement will improve. Accessing the solution, though, requires a major paradigm shift. But it is a shift that should excite you because it will allow you to truly fulfill your role as the nation’s leading educator.

The current paradigm of bullying prevention that has been adopted worldwide and is promoted by the leading bullying researchers, unfortunately, is an inappropriate one, which is why it hasn’t succeeded and never will. This paradigm, while created by a psychologist, is not a psychological one but a law enforcement one. It puts school staff in the distasteful role of bully police and treats children like criminals for doing anything that can possibly upset anyone else. Not only is this function extremely time- and money-consuming, it escalates hostilities between students and students, parents and parents, and parents and the schools. It leads to expensive lawsuits against schools by disgruntled parents. And it hampers children’s social and emotional development by instructing them that they are incapable of solving problems on their own.

The correct paradigm involves treating schools as educational institutions rather than correctional facilities. The purpose of school is not to protect children from the challenges of life but to equip them to handle those challenges. Schools do not protect children from reading, writing and arithmetic. They teach them how to master those tasks. Similarly, we cannot help children by trying in vain to protect them from bullying. Bullying occurs throughout life and children deserve to learn how to deal with it. Fortunately, the necessary skills are much easier to acquire than the three R’s.

I have developed what I believe to be the most psychologically and philosophically valid, comprehensive and simple system for providing children with the age-old wisdom for handling bullying on their own, without anyone’s help and without getting anyone in trouble. Schools and professionals that are using it are experiencing unprecedented success. I can provide you with an immense body of supportive evidence and would love the opportunity to demonstrate how beautifully it works.

I beseech you, Mr. Duncan, if you truly wish to provide our children with the solution to bullying, to not ignore my offer. The worst that can happen is that you will have wasted a little time discovering that I am wrong. But in the chance that I happen to be right, do you not owe it to our country to check it out?

Sincerely, Israel C. Kalman, MS, Nationally Certified School Psychologist,

P.S. Schools will never reduce bullying via policies lacking good philosophical basis. I suggest that before examining my system, you or your advisers read my Proposal for a Rational Moral School Bullying Policy

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