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Rise of the Thought Police: Bullying Your Children into Forsaking Their Values

Proposed “anti-bullying” legislation creates a powerful new bureaucracy to police students' values and remediate politically incorrect beliefs.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

September 9, 2013 - 5:00 pm

crying little girl

Five-year-old Suzie heads off to kindergarten in rural Minnesota. She settles into her class routine full of activity, discovery, and friendship.

Then the day takes a turn. As part of newly mandated diversity training, Suzie’s teacher brings out Heather Has Two Mommies for some light mid-morning reading. A typically precocious kindergartener, Suzie pipes up during the story to correct the teacher’s telling. “God gave us a mommy and a daddy,” she exclaims.

Though no student takes exception to Suzie’s remark, the teacher cringes and becomes keenly aware of her state-mandated role to report any incident which could be construed as bullying. So Suzie gets pulled out of class and taken to the principal’s office, where she’s met by a counselor.

There begins a process of formative intervention and remedial discipline. More than correction for objectively inappropriate behavior, this intervention focuses on changing who Suzie is, on correcting her values to ensure that she accepts each of her classmates and values their diverse backgrounds.

Confused, disturbed, and teary-eyed, Suzie comes away from the experience convinced she has done something wrong. Worse, she feels the very sense of rejection which her accusers claim to deplore. She learns her lesson, that the values taught at home are not welcome in school. A bit of her innocence dies. She grows more guarded, less expressive, and unfairly subdued.

Such a tale may be among the tamest of experiences awaiting children in Minnesota, if a task force of social engineers commissioned by Governor Mark Dayton succeeds in lobbying for legislation which has already been approved by the state House. House File 826, misleadingly titled the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, serves as a trial balloon modeling what its supporters would like to implement nationally – a radical transformation of schools from institutions of academic achievement into political reeducation camps which correct Orwellian Wrong Think.

Sold colloquially as an “anti-bullying bill,” the proposed legislation actually institutionalizes bullying, targeting political minorities with suppressive badgering. The bill would repeal existing anti-bullying statutes which have proven effective. It would create an invasive, overbearing, and unfunded new state bureaucracy to impose politically correct values upon students, teachers, parents, staff, and anyone serving in or around the educational system. It would affect both public and private schools. In a state which already has one of the worst achievement gaps between white and black students in the nation, the bill would burden struggling districts with new mandates diverting precious resources away from academics. Teachers and staff will become thought police and value mediators, shifting their disciplinary focus from correcting inappropriate behavior to remediating students’ belief systems. As with any state bureaucracy, reams of new data will be generated and follow students throughout their academic career, if not the rest of their lives.

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Understanding the proposed legislation requires more than simply reading the bill. We must consider the political and historical context, as well as the expressed agenda of its supporters. One of the bill’s authors sat on a task force commissioned by Governor Dayton to address alleged bullying. A report came out of that task force, and much of its language has been transplanted word-for-word into the subsequent bill.

When considering whether new legislation is required to prevent bullying in schools, one may be inclined to ask: what kind of bullying is currently acceptable? Assault remains a crime. Schools enforce rules against inappropriate conduct. So what else needs to be done?

Page 18 of the task force report lets us know:

Effective strategies will promote values, attitudes, and behaviors that acknowledge the cultural diversity of students; optimize relevance to students from multiple cultures in the school community; understand the nature of human sexuality; strengthen students’ skills necessary to engage in healthy interactions; and build on the varied cultural resources of families and communities.

The articulated purpose of the executive order instituting the Prevention of School Bullying Task Force was to “ensure that all students in Minnesota schools are provided with a safe and welcoming environment wherein each student is accepted and valued in order to maximize each student’s learning potential.” From this we learn all we need to know.

To accept is to choose. To value is to judge. These acts occur inside an individual’s heart and mind. As warm and fuzzy as unconditional acceptance may seem, such a goal ignores objective reality. The mind cannot be compelled to consent, only badgered into acquiescence. What Governor Dayton thus proposes is the police of thought, the subjugation of judgment, and an imposition of official state attitudes. By definition, the promotion of certain values and attitudes occurs at the expense of others.

What does a state-defined “nature of human sexuality” look like? Does it match what you teach at home? Does it match what is taught in your house of worship? Whose job is it to teach children the nature of human sexuality anyway? Certainly, teachers may have a role. But shouldn’t parents determine what that role is?

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While the task force report and the bill informed by it pay lip service to protecting all children, a review of the actors involved in crafting these documents (p. 31), along with a close examination of the text, reveals that the effort focuses specifically upon “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”

This raises vital questions. Does a transgender student have a greater right of expression than his or her sexually unambiguous peer? What of religious orientation? What of Christian identity or expression? Are they to be protected with as much vigor under this new law, or targeted for remediation?

From page 20 of the report detailing “Formative Interventions and Discipline”:

The goals of responding to bullying behavior are to stop the aggressive behavior, support the students who have been harmed, and teach that bullying is harmful and not allowed, in order to help all involved young people learn—and change—from the experience. [Emphasis added.]

The best way to prevent bullying behaviors is through the implementation of a whole school climate program. Because bullying is a relationship problem that requires relationship solutions (Pepler & Craig, 2006), responses to bullying should promote healthy relationships.

Formative discipline is defined as activities that not only provide a clear message that bullying is unacceptable, but also develops respect and empathy for others, helps students make amends and associates power with kindness and pro-social activities (PREVNet, 2011).

When the school climate is founded on restorative principles rather than solely punitive policies, misbehavior is understood as a violation of relationships, not rules; thus repair of relationships and support (rather than isolation through suspension or expulsion) of the wrongdoer is likely to reduce bullying (Smith, 2008).

Is repairing relationships really what we need teachers and administrative staff focused on? What if your student does not desire a relationship with his classmate? What’s wrong with limiting interaction to academics? What’s wrong with letting student’s retain their own judgments regarding the value of particular relationships? Are we forcing everyone to be friends now?

Victim.

Victim.

Expanding bullying beyond an objective definition of physical harm or other violations of individual rights, the bill targets any action deemed detrimental to the “emotional health of one or more student(s).” What is emotional health? How is it measured? What evidence indicates its compromise? And will the emotional health of all students be equally valued in the implementation of this law?

The definition of harassment expands to include any act judged “unwelcome if the student or employee did not request or invite it and considered the conduct to be undesirable or offensive.” So simply offending someone is harassment now. What if the “harasser” becomes offended by the charge of harassment? Does the universe implode?

All of this proceeds from Governor Dayton’s ludicrous notion that people have a “right” to be “accepted” and “valued.” That idea ignores the objective definition of each word. We all have the same rights as our neighbors, to proceed unharmed and exercise our freedom of conscience without fear of tyrannical reprisal. Respecting those rights means tolerating the unique value judgments of each individual, including whether they choose to accept you, condemn you, or ignore you. To mandate unconditional acceptance is to oppress individual judgment, to police thought, and to remove consent from relationships. The serious proposal of such a course by those wielding political power ought to garner our rapt attention.

A real solution to bullying requires identification of the real problem. While Governor Dayton’s task force seeks to conflate bullying with offending someone’s delicate sensibilities, actual bullying involves the initiation of force to coerce, intimidate, steal, or otherwise harm. Real bullying cannot be genuinely addressed by a brazen new bureaucracy imposing state-mandated values through its own coercion and intimidation. Instead, we must act to protect individual rights by removing force from human relationships.

In a very direct way, the nature of public education fosters bullying. Consider that, at its core, public education is coercion. Taxpayers fund it under the force of law. Students attend it under the force of law. Teachers adhere to its mandates under the force of law. No one in the entire system has the ability to act upon their own judgment in pursuit of their own values. Forcing people of differing beliefs, priorities, and objectives into close proximity with a mandated agenda will inevitably foster conflict.

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Imagine a different world. Imagine choice. Imagine the freedom to select where you send your student, to choose what they will learn, and to consent to their associations. Under such liberty, were a bully to arise at school, he could be quickly and effectively neutralized with the threat of expulsion. In the event the school did not adequately respond to the bully, you would be free to take your student (and your money) somewhere else. A school which routinely allowed the abuse of its students would garner an appropriately horrendous reputation, and endure less business as a result. All this would be done through market incentives, the natural human desire for profit, and the individual values of parents and their children. What’s the downside?

For those supporting Governor Dayton’s heavy-handed approach, the downside would be tolerating people with whom they disagree. The idea of free association, of choosing with whom you consent to enter into relationship, fundamentally offends them.

Consider the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the variety of approaches taken by its different activists. In his famous “Dream” speech fifty years past, Martin Luther King outlined an inspiring vision of a world where individuals would be judged by the content of their character. Were modern pretenders to his legacy honest in their discourse, they would admit to deploring that vision. After all, to judge someone by the content of their character requires an application of chosen values toward an exclusionary and discriminating conclusion. I accept you and not him. I value her and not you. I judge this to be appropriate and not that. Such differentiation, such choice, defies the “progressive” goal of unconditional value.

Since equal value of all people, things, and ideas defies objective reality, the closest to it that social engineers can get is employing force to grant advantage to the “disadvantaged” and disadvantage to the “advantaged.” So the white male suburbanite who never asked anyone to take a back seat must yield his place in line to a black lesbian woman who has never been truly oppressed. Rather than equality under the law, the dominant trend in civil rights became affirmative action.

school-kids

So it is with this fresh prescription for “bullying.” Governor Dayton and his task force harbor no desire for equal treatment. On the contrary, they seek to promote a certain set of values at the exclusion of others. But unlike free actors making individual choices in liberty, they want to impose their values upon everybody else under the force of law. It’s not enough for them to choose a progressive school where they can send their progressive student to learn progressive values. So long as a single school exists where such values are not taught, their gut-wrenching intolerance drives them to legislate. Rather than live and let live, they demand you live as they say.

Citizens concerned with liberty and the protection of individual rights must rise in nationwide opposition to this effort by Governor Dayton and his task force of bullies. Over the years, many encroachments upon freedom of conscience have gone without effective challenge. Obamacare became the law of the land, upheld by the Supreme Court, and bolstered by last year’s election results. A myriad of scandals, from the IRS targeting of groups on the Right to NSA spying on American citizens, has amounted to little more than a pesky annoyance for the administration. In Minnesota, the Democrats own state government and throttle production and choice without check. It can be easy under such circumstances to become cynical and complacent. However, inaction at this moment will invite the nationwide transformation of schools into politically correct remediation centers. As bad as things have become, they can and will get worse unless you act.

If you live in Minnesota, resistance begins with a signature. Sign the petition at the Minnesota Child Protection League demanding legislators vote no on this rights-violating bill. For everyone else, dig into the task force report and support choice through whatever channels are available to you.

Hopefully, among opposition to this bill will emerge a credible effort to implement school choice as a solution to both real bullying and Minnesota’s shameful achievement gap. While Governor Dayton and his task force wring hands over “emotional health,” class after non-graduating class enters adulthood without the skills or job opportunities to succeed. Whatever emotional health is, surely it improves when exposed to genuine hope. Empowering parents to send their students to the institution which best serves them will help turn their American dream into reality.

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the boards of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, Minnesota Majority and the Minority Liberty Alliance. He maintains a blog and daily podcast entitled Fightin Words and co-hosts the weekly podcast Liberty Tree Radio. He also contributes to True North, a hub of conservative Minnesotan commentary, and regularly appears on the Twin Cities News Talk Weekend Roundtable on KTCN AM 1130. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I hold no brief for bullies but as soon as the national "anti-bullying" movement began to pick up steam I began to shudder. It promises to be an incredibly rich mother-lode for those social engineering types that can't wait to help "organize" peoples lives and force others to do things "for their own good." Already the anti-bullying movement is spawning a spate of administrative offices, seminars, conferences, grantsmanship and the paid gab-fests so beloved by members of the social services world. It provides another excuse for public school teachers to ignore the hard work of actually teaching kids something and instead concentrate on teaching "values and empathy."Entire bureacracies are poised to spring to life at the federal, state and local level to deal with the bullying "problem." Look for many "Assistant Regional Manager fo Anti-Bulllying Initiatives" jobs to spring up (at public expense of course.) The net result? The Nelson Muntz's of the world will still be beating up the Millhouses for their lunch money. However Nelson can be proud that he helped bring a vast industry into being. Bullying isn't a problem - It's an Opportunity!
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I detest that the term "bullying" has been co-opted in this way. It used to be that it was reserved for those using, or threatening to use, violence. Everyone (except the bullies) was against that. Now apparently saying (or being) something that someone does not like is "bullying", and you are supposed to use the old definition to determine if you are for or against it. As "1984" indicated, to control people, you need to change the language.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure I follow your point. Certainly, as long as there has been public education, there has been institutionalized coercion of values. Indeed, this move by Governor Dayton in Minnesota would "pick up the pace" to say the absolute least (from half thrusters to warp speed). So... what? I'm not supposed to write about it? I'm not supposed to rally opposition? I'm supposed to give you some kind of medal for historical context?

Where have I been? Where are you on this, now? What are you doing? Get to work and save the snark for those encroaching upon our precious waning liberties.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (61)
All Comments   (61)
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I was a nurse for some 40 years. The thought police are in health care too. I was always in trouble; expected my patients to be adults.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wise parents opt out of the public schools. There are plenty of options: home school, Catholic or other Christian schools, charter schools, independent schools, or some combination thereof. High academic, cultural, and moral standards are mutually supportive. When cultural and moral standards are deliberately trashed by leftists, high academic standards cannot survive. This is why so many kids who were educated outside the public system are now getting into the best universities -- and continuing to achieve high standards because they actually know how to think.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are plenty of ignorant liberal bigots out there who believe it's okay to discriminate against decent, moral people, and which bigots are trying to impose their irrational liberal prejudices on everyone. That's reality.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
This case further gives excuse for home schooling and school choice. Political correctness is just language for put up or shut up. And the public school system is neck deep in it. As a libertarian, I'm appalled by this case.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup. The whole multi-culti thing was from a legitimate, intelligent worldview* that the left picked up and 'used' as a club. The left can turn anything into a weapon; you have to give them that. So, absolutely, multiculturalism for decades has been used, not to add to our fundamental strength as the country was founded, but to diminish the premises upon which it was founded.

* We used to believe that the strength of our nation came from a variety of peoples and sources which, at the core of those who came here, embodied the common desire for freedom and American ideals. That belief was correct, pretty much, until some time after the Second World War. We had a helluva run though.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Take your kids out of the public schools. Then they can be free to bully whomever they like. Amazing how the language of libertarianism - "coercion", "individual rights", "liberty", "market incentives" - can be co-opted for any situation, even kids picking on other kids at school. It's a pity the Libertarians hate God.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's a joke? I would take it as a joke but then read a response that maybe it wasn't. I'll take it as a joke.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
No we don't, in fact many of us do. There are those who don't like Penn Jillete, but a great many of us do.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree with you Walter. Thanks for adding another perspective which is not only confirmatory to parents, but also original.

Here's my take. Bullying, per se, isn't and never was the problem. There is always, and has always been, the kid who got picked on, PHYSICALLY. I was one. It stank. I figured it out. 99% of the time, we figure it out. What does that leave us with? Life, that's what. Where am I going with this?

Again, there will always be bullies, of one stripe or another. Our society hasn't declared war on bullies, it has declared war on the means of dealing with them. This comes from the same place as Gun Control but is probably more insidious because it strips away the victims perception of their human worth in the first place. Not only are you not allowed to defend yourself, you aren't worth defending.

When I was a kid, nobody was going to jump off a bridge because somebody said mean things. And we sure as hell weren't going to ask around to confirm that mean things were being said about us. Talk didn't matter. Getting your ass kicked mattered. Demonstrably the left has succeeded in diminishing the self worth of children to such an extent that some are not able to achieve affirmation absent the assent of their peers. Likewise, these kids have been put through the 'cooperation drill' so many times that they lack the wherewithal to even consider being outside the group. A kid jumps off the bridge or blows his brains out because group identity is the only identity he has. In these instances, the left has succeeded.

Rear your children so that they understand their worth. Don't kid yourself into thinking you can save other children because you can't, as the left has demonstrated; thinking you can only makes things worse. Good luck and God Bless.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
A wonderful piece of work here, Walter. As always. With the avalanche well down the hill, however, I'm afraid evacuating the Chalet is the only hope right now. Home schooling is the only sure remedy for parents actually interested in parenting. The education of children is at a Dunkirk moment. The state has shown itself to be exactly what our founders, and Tocqueville, knew it was: a temporary cure that will always turn out worse than the disease, and therefore in constant need of recalibrating until, much like a computer clogged to the gills, it must be traded in for a new one. Or, in our case, an older model designed to perform far fewer tasks at a price much easier to live with. The task of cleaning the education monolith - actually mandated by our state constitution - would make home schooling- even of a throng of street urchins laden with all the symptoms of the latest sociologically approved disorders - seem like a walk in the park. This state won't be happy until it is entirely a park; run by its progressive humanist rangers. By then, when Yogi and Boo Boo offer a prayer before lunch, you know what Boo Boo is going to say: "The Ranger isn't going to like this, Yogi." In Minnesota, Yogi will relent to Boo Boo's fears. In my humble opinion, we are already there. Vote with your feet while you can is rapidly becoming my mantra. Tick...tick...tick...
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
2 words people...home school! Problem solved.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
1st We argue philosophically and logically that this leftist policy is a bad ideal.
- They pass the bill and implement it anyway.
Second we start show concrete real life examples of the bill being bad policy.
- They'll deny it. They'll say it does more good than harm. They'll say the stories are anecdotal.
Third We will present statistics and polls, showing the harm and showing it is unpopular.
- They will dig in say we are sexists, bigots homophobes.
Fourth it will get repealed a decade or so after passage.
- They'll circle the wagons, find jobs for politicians voted out of office and submit more legislation that is new and improved.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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