In addressing the bullying issue, people should be mindful of the difference between persuasion and indoctrination. Trying to use reason to persuade people to a set of values is a respectful way of engaging with people. Indoctrination – telling people what to think – is not. Indoctrination is a form of dehumanization, just like bullying, and is part of the problem, not the solution.So far, the panelists have had little to say in response to my comments, but the thread is still developing . . .
Right now, the approach of the Iowa City schools is indoctrination. The behavioral rewards program used in all the schools (“PBIS”) is entirely about telling the students how to act, and then using material rewards to get them to comply. It has no component designed to get the kids thinking for themselves about right and wrong and how to treat other people. In the end, all it teaches is obedience to authority.
I’m not saying the schools shouldn’t have rules. But simply dictating rules does nothing to help kids develop their own moral and ethical reasoning about how to treat other people. Without more, it just models treating people like objects to be bossed around and manipulated.
If we want kids to treat each other with dignity, we need to treat them with dignity, and engage them in reasoning about what’s right and wrong – not just tell them what to think.