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Letter to the editor: No need for bullying at any age

It does my old heart good to see a couple of our school's staff standing up for themselves and what they do for a living. I wondered if the referendums here had completely destroyed their morale and so dampened the spunk needed to be a good teacher that they had begun to doubt the importance of what they try to do with and for our kids.

I really don't like bullies, and if you think they are limited to young people, you haven't been attentive these days. There are several kinds of bullying. One of the most common and, unfortunately, effective means of intimidating others is to shout them down with words that, when examined just a little, turn out to be nothing more than propaganda - ironically the most typical sort of indoctrination there is, though not often seen that way by its users.

These kind of bullies are always looking for "evidence," no matter how atypical or even inconsequential it may be, to support the idea that they somehow have a direct pipeline to a Higher Power and, therefore, must be taken at their word, no matter how slanted or lacking in objective substantiation their messages might be.

Take the example of name-calling, which I suppose I'm also guilty of for calling them bullies, but ordinarily try my best to avoid. Here's why: Name-calling is used to elicit an automatic and uncritical reaction from an audience. What the user is saying the majority of the time is, "I don't like whomever or whatever I called a name and I want you to do the same without asking how or why the name actually fits the person or object named."

It relies on the belief that there are spots in people's brains where words can cause an instinctive, unexamined explosion of feelings.

So he/she might use words like "Marxist," "Nazi," "socialist," "Papist," "neocon," "liberal," etc. The list goes on and on. Habitual name-callers try to get us to see almost every issue in an often over simplified way as being this or that or them against us. There is no middle ground possible. For this reason, for example, all teachers are "indoctrinators." Or we were right to defeat the school referendum and the 79 percent of communities that passed them were wrong.

For name-calling to work, excessive stereotyping is required because if the audience is allowed to see that the name really doesn't fit some or even many of those it's used against, they may begin to question the whole label or name's accuracy. I suppose within the context of the recent debates over the referendum, in the eyes of some name-callers, the 40 percent of public school teachers who are Republicans must be "rhinos," a popular label these days which means "Republican in name only."

Don't worry; Democrat extremists tend to use exactly the same kind of language. Extreme thinking leads to extreme language and destroys our ability to work together to accomplish squat, because we're too busy squabbling.

Of course, this sort of 'us or them' thinking applies carte blanche to the media, too. If it does not bend over backwards to favor your point of view, then it's being dishonest and, perhaps, Heaven forbid, partisan. Nothing causes more indoctrination than rampant, one-sided partisanship, which has no place at all in classrooms, and I don't know of a teacher that would say it does after spending 37 years teaching and working with many of them.

Finally, a special thanks to the people on our school board. Talk about a thankless job!