No More Bullying! Except for a Good Cause

There was an excellent article a few days ago on some of the reasons why the government is too big, expensive and pervasive. There are additional reasons, including the very nature of the bureaucratic process and the propensity of many to demand that the government do something no matter how trivial their cause may be. Since few politicians feel that they can get elected or reelected by failing to construct or at least to stumble onto bandwagons, that's what they do. Fortunately for them, President Obama is spearheading a new warm and fuzzy domestic initiative. They can clamber onto his rainbow colored bandwagon and ride along; they may not even have to get off and push.

Tearing himself away from the difficult responsibilities of dithering about a plethora of domestic and international problems, and while being decisive on some really important stuff such as videotaping his NCAA picks for subsequent broadcast, President Obama found time in his busy schedule on March 10 to use his "bully pulpit" (interesting phrase that, in context) to decry the bullying of children. As to this critical national issue, President Obama's White House has taken "full leadership." Bully for them all. President Obama knows personally all about bullying; he has bravely acknowledged that as a child people bullied him on account of his big ears and funny name (he was called "Barry" until he decided, when in college, to revert to Barack); it must have been a horrible cross to bear.

Approximately one hundred and fifty anti-bullying advocates -- lobbyists for gays and lesbians, legislators, White House officials, at least one cabinet secretary and the first lady -- assembled at the While House:

… to cheer for increased government monitoring and intervention in Facebook conversations, in playgrounds and in schoolrooms around the country.

No officials at the televised East Room roll-out of the White House’s anti-bullying initiative suggested any limits to government intervention against juvenile physical violence, social exclusion or unwanted speech. None mentioned the usefulness to children of unsupervised play. None suggested there were any risks created by a government program to enforce children’s approval of other children who are unpopular, overweight, or who declare themselves to be gay, lesbians or transgender.

“It breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, on the playground, or even online,” first lady Michelle Obama said.

"We’re going to prevent bullying and create an environment where every single one of our children can thrive,” the president said, as he announced a series of government actions intended to fund, guide and pressure state and local officials to adopt regulations and programs that would shield children from insults or social-exclusion as well as from physical harm. (emphasis added)

Nothing was said at the White House love-in about the 145,100 public school teachers attacked, or the other 276,700 threatened, by students at their schools as reported in the Department of Education's Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010. Be that as it may, having already taken over the regulation of school bake sales and lunches, why not stumble into this arena as well? Kids might bully each other for their yummy treats.

Some bullying is, apparently, more importantly destructive than other:

Joel Burns, councilman in a Fort Worth, Texas, applauded the president’s focus on kids who say they are gay or lesbian. “The president did not shy away from LGBT as a topic,” he said. Also, the president endorsed “enumeration,” which is especially important, he said. Enumeration is the specific inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender categories as deserving of regulatory protection.

Legislation against bullying at the college level has been reintroduced to "require colleges and universities that get federal money to adopt policies that prohibit harassment based on a student's sexual orientation, race, gender, and other factors." Although that and similar legislation seems unlikely to get very far, progress has been rapid on other fronts in the fight and there is already a White House anti-bullying website describing all sorts of initiatives. There will be more:

Federal officials can push the initiative forward with many other tools, including agency employees, federal grants to advocacy groups, agency regulations, cooperation from companies such as Facebook, and the White House’s bully pulpit. In the next few weeks, Facebook is set to announce new steps that could allow kids to highlight online conversations and insults for subsequent inspection by adults, school officials and regulators.