Students Stop Bullying but Not Politicians

Trump is a Bully and that is unacceptable. He behaviour is even terrible towards America’s political allies that try to maintain orderly democracies. You can see that few truly democratic world leaders look forward to meeting him, especially when he praises people like Kim, Putin and Xi whose special form of bullying is characterised by serious crimes against humanity.

Nobody in the OECD wants war, we do not want fighting or violence in our countries, in our homes or in our schools. 

We do not need guns to protect ourselves, and we do not accept that bullying of any type from politicians, leaders, co-workers and school colleagues.

When your correspondent attended school in London in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was very common to see aggressive children bullying weaker students. Bullying was an unpleasant reality, made worse by the fact that the teachers could cane pupils in front of the class or in front of the whole school as a punishment for their definition of “bad behaviour”. The caning happened with a bamboo stick either on the hand or on the buttocks. There is no question that this was both cruel and abusive.

Your correspondent has since then lived in the 1980’s and 1990’s in France, Singapore, and New York where his children attended school in all three countries and saw that such cruel and abusive punishment had stopped, but bullying continues in schools.

Today the OECD monitors the prevalence of bullying, as do the local authorities in Finland and Sweden. In December 2019, the OECD published a new Pisa survey that also included data on bullying in schools. 15-year-old students from 35 OECD-countries have described to what degree they have been victims of bullying. They were asked if they have been deliberately left out from the group, made fun of, threatened, hit or pushed by other pupils, and if they had experienced that other pupils spread nasty rumours about them.

In this bullying index, Swedish and Finnish pupils ended up with less bullying than the OECD average, and that was a relief.

More than 75% of 13 to 16 year old students in Helsinki have not experienced bullying at all during 2019. There is even less bullying with 92% of older student at school and 84% of students in vocational schools not having experienced bullying in 2019. Bullying at school has been steadily declining in recent years.

The prevalence of bullying in Sweden was often among the lowest within the OECD because  school leaders worked on preventive measures. Sweden used to be top of the class, but, according to Peter Gill, professor emeritus in education at the University of Gävle, “Sweden is no longer a model country. Something has gone wrong. To go from excellent to average in just ten years should be seen as a great disappointment. If it is the case that other countries have caught up with Sweden, we must make new efforts. Swedish teachers, principals and anti-bullying teams need to continue to prioritise a safe school environment for all Swedish children….”

The OECD report sets out many of the consequences of bullying: “Bullying can have adverse and potentially long-lasting effects on students’ performance at school and general well-being. Students who reported being frequently bullied scored 21 points lower in reading than students who did not report so… Frequently bullied students reported feeling sad, scared and less satisfied with their lives. These students were also more likely to have skipped school in the two weeks prior to the PISA test – an indication that they missed out on valuable learning opportunities.”

Trump’s behaviour and lack of ability to read and understand basic facts probably has something to do with his own history as a child because his biographer, Michael D’Antonio, notes, “Where did Trump acquire his appreciation for the power of fear and his bullying ways? I located the key moment in the summer of his thirteenth year, when his exasperated parents notified him that he was being sent away to military school because he was too unruly. Cast out of the family home, he did become more disciplined, but he also became the man who would tell me he enjoyed “all types of fights, even physical.”

So that moment in Trump’s childhood, that devastating moment, has put the free world in danger…  let’s keep on trying to reduce bullying!

Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” and co-author with Peter Eisner of “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence

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