I was recently on a bus in Seoul, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology a television aired a commercial about how to deal with school violence – a topic of keen debate across the country.
Two female police officers arrive just as one group of students are becoming violent toward another group. I was curious about what the message to viewers might be.
But the conclusion was disappointing. The officers advised the victims to report the incident to their friends, parents and teachers.
The advertisement failed to note, however, that victims of bullying face a steep psychological challenge in discussing such incidents with anyone, let alone peers, parents and teachers.
To put it differently, if victims could maintain close relationships with parents and teachers, they might not be victims of bullying in the first place.
The phrase “school violence” has recently been used frequently by the media, but I think it is misleading and adds to the existing distrust of school administrators.
I think, instead, that school violence is rooted in domestic violence.
When I talk with students who make trouble in school, I find the cause is definitely attributed to their family. Behind their acts of violence are parental neglect, excessive intervention or pressure, and violence.
In recent days, I met a high school student who was a victim of bullying. I asked him why he did not seek assistance from adults.
His answer went to the core of the problem.
“If I tell them, they would pay no regard to it. Moreover, when I tell them, which the bullies will find out about, there would be retaliation.”
Alarmed by a series of recent bullying-related suicides, the government this month issued strong measures aimed at eradicating the problem in schools across the country.
Can such measures really accomplish this goal?
In fact they add to the burdens of already overworked teachers who have to squeeze more time out of their day.
St John Bosco, an educator, said the most precious principle in education was “assistance.”
He asked teachers to spend time with students and interact with them as much as possible.
This simple principle does wonders. When teachers get along with students even after school, listen to their interests and respect them wholeheartedly, they can maintain a close relationship with students and prevent them from falling into bad behavior.
We should keep in mind that education can succeed only when we win over young people’s minds.
We must not rely too much on regulations. Instead, we must start by knowing our students, respecting them, spending more time with them and enjoying close relationships with them.
We cannot make people respect others if they have never been the recipient of such respect themselves.
Likewise, we cannot make them understand sympathy towards others if they have never experienced sympathy.
This shows quite clearly where we need to start in addressing the problem.
Salesian Sister Cecilia Park Hyun-joo is a teacher and counselor at the Salesian Sisters-run Shinseong Girls’ High School in Jeju
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