Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sometimes it is worth proving the obvious . . .

Or at least I'll concede it might be. It's big national news, it seems, that a survey of 7-12 graders finds sexual harassment is pervasive.

Well duhh. Did the majority of adults somehow skip adolescence? We were there, remember? Well, okay, we probably don't, unless somebody gets our attention and makes us think about it. The world of children and adolescents is often cruel, even depraved. Kids can do a pretty good job of keeping their secrets from adults and within their own world, to the extent it manages to evade oversight, they're in the struggle of all against all, nasty and brutish -- also short since it ends, at least for most of us, with adulthood.

But we have a cognitive bias toward seeing the past with a rosy glow, remembering the good parts much more than the bad. That's good, in that it helps us feel better, but it isn't helpful if we want to look out for young people, really appreciate what they go through, and help to shape their worlds for the better. So I'm very glad that we're seeing a real trend now toward paying attention to bullying -- of which this is a subset, obviously, maybe the biggest piece.

I think it's happening in large part because of real changes in cultural norms about gender, sexuality, and the associated dynamics of power and vulnerability. We're talking about boys who are gay or perceived to be gay being targets of relentless abuse; boys who feel entitled to take what they want from girls, whether physically or symbolically; masculinity defined as cruelty and domination.

It does get better, unless you happen to be a libertarian, in which case Lord of the Flies is your paradise.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

i was pretty much thinking the same things about that story.