11 January 2008

Bullying in School (Boards)

One of the outcomes of the Falconer report into the tragic death of Jordan Manners at my own high school alma mater, C.W. Jefferys, is the revelation that
Teachers and school staff are too intimidated to speak out about violence in Toronto's public schools, a damning report charges. A school safety panel revealed yesterday that employees of the Toronto District School Board told them they feared that revealing school safety issues or anything that would reflect negatively on the board would be "a career-limiting move."

As a result, hundreds of incidents that should have been reported were not. This "culture of fear" led to a failure of the system and its overseers to protect students from violence, including robberies and sexual assault, on school grounds, the report said. "Jordan Manners died on May 23, 2007, of flat neglect, pure neglect," panel chair Julian Falconer said yesterday, referring to the 15-year-old whose shooting sparked the inquiry.
A bureaucracy's prime instinct is for its own survival, a priority even greater than that of the nominal mission or function of the enterprise itself (and note how I make the distinction between the two). In systemically suppressing news of nearly 200 violent incidents since the beginning of 2006, the Toronto District School Board's bureaucracy maintains the facade of so-called Safer Schools, even as it makes a show of suspending primary school students for such infractions as throwing snowballs. Ignore-ance is bliss, especially when image-conscious administrators can demonstrate that they get tough on problems with a "zero tolerance" policy on potentially life-threatening snow.

This behaviour on the part of the organization as a distinct entity, considered apart from the people who comprise it, can both be explained, and corrected, when a Valence Theory eye is cast toward it. In VT terms, the BAH (Bureaucratic, Administratively controlled, Hierarchical) school board has over-emphasized its Identity valence relative to the community at large, concurrently weakening its Socio-psychological valence, among all of its members - students, teachers, staff, and community. When deciding what to do about those who might report a violent incident, BAH-survival calls for maintaining Identity at all costs. A balanced valence approach, more consistent with a UCaPP organization, would consider the effects on Socio-psychological (not to mention Knowledge and Economic) valences, that would likely have resulted in doing the right thing. In the case of the TDSB, perhaps reporting and acting on the 177 violent incidents would have resulted in truly "Safer Schools" (which is the name of the Zero-Tolerance-Means-Zero-Thinking-Let's-Suspend-Children-of-Colour Act) and, critically, one more young man who could otherwise have thrown a snowball this winter.

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Anonymous said...

One would assume that you, being a Ph.D. candidate at OISE was part of the 'establishment'.

Mark Federman said...

Anonymous, one could make that assumption, but then one would be wrong.

I admit to my privilege, but not to being part of the so-called establishment. If you would take the time to read my materials, you would see that my approach is quite subversive.

Anonymous said...

OK, so being a Ph.D, nestled in that OISE building, taking their money, pension, benefits, photocopy services, does not make you a member of the OISE establishment because the many writings you produce for OISE and other education professionals, are subversive.

Now I understand.

Mark Federman said...

Actually, fenris badwulf, you don't understand my situation. Not at all.

No pension.
No benefits.
No photocopy services.
"Employed" (sort of) by University of Toronto on a graduate assistanceship, as a condition of my degree, and the so-called guaranteed funding (that is offered to all research doctorates at U of T).

I admit to my privilege; not to being a part of the so-called OISE establishment. And, my writings are not produced for "OISE and other education professionals."

You are more than welcome to participate here, but please, read and learn before leaving uniformed comments.