Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 9, 2008

Endgame: We need more community in schools

Filed under: ENDGAME — scrollman @ 9:45 am

Obviously the big question after reading Endgame is why teachers and adminstrators failed to pay attention to, and act on the bullying that was taking place toward Gray and Ross.  I think the reason lies in the culture of school and the lack of emphasis on building community.  For the majority of students and teachers across the country, school boils down to two things: academics and sports.  But shouldn’t school be about so much more than that?  If we’re sending our children off to be essentially raised by other people, shouldn’t we expect and demand that these institutions operate more like families than factories?  And when I say families, I really mean functional families, where there is nurture, love, dialogue, and support.  

Unfortunately, many schools are frightening places, where kids are scared, bullied, ostracized, and neglected.  Teachers and administrators are so focused on test scores that they don’t schedule time to build community within the school, and allow for student and teacher concerns to be discussed and addressed.   Students have their cliques, teachers have their cliques, adminstrators have their cliques, and we wind up with a very fragmented, and divisive school culture.  But if from day one, there were all school meetings, where a range of issues could be discussed (including bullying), where students, teachers, and administrators could address issues openly, and decide as a collective body what they want their school culture to be, and call each other to task on being vigilant (especially in the case of bullying), then perhaps there wouldn’t be as much desperation, victimization, and violence in schools.

Jonathan

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. I had trouble reading ENDGAME for the very reasons everyone has already mentioned, but mostly because the victimization that Garden describes happens often in schools. I am observing a situation at my host school with regards to bullying, and the teachers do exactly what the characters in this book do, they ignore it. I finally had to step in and say something. I also had trouble reading this because I felt so much sympathy for Gray, and while guns and death aren’t the answers, he was at the hand of torturous school violence all the time. And it scares me that I walk away from this book wondering if I really blame him for acting in such an extreme manner, because I hated Zorro from the moment he was introduced. In my mind, bullying, murdering animals, sexual assault, imprisonment and using gay slurs all the time are all completely unacceptable behaviors. This book has forced me to consider how I will deal with these issues when I observe them in my school or classroom.

    Jonathan makes a good point when he talks about the community in schools, and how we really have to get a dialogue started about these school isses. While character ed is intended to address some of the problems this book presents, for the most part, I think character ed is a fluffy way of handling these topics, and an easy way to claim that these important issues were addressed. At the same time, students like Zorro and Johnson need to be stripped of their sense of entitlement, and must be held to the same standards and consequences as the rest of the students in the school. Further, where does this sense of entitlement come from? When does it develop? It is because of sports? Or parents? Or does it come from breaking others down? Or is it a combination of all these factors?

    -Mandy

    Comment by mandygrl101 — April 9, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  2. Mandy,

    You raise some really important questions. I think that Zorro and Johnson’s sense of entitlement comes from being
    entitled, not just in name but in practice, by adults. When Gray and Ross were initially bulllied in gym class, the
    gym teacher basically entitled Zorro and Johnson to bully through his inaction. If he had intervened, and held them
    accountable, the entire story would have been different. Of course the mandate to intervene must come from the top
    down. Administration has a responsibility to protect the welfare and saftey of every student in the school–
    there most be zero tolerance for bullying! In practice, this means both teachers and students have to intervene when bullying taking place. I’m not saying that students should violently intervene, but speaking out is always the first
    step; letting the bully know that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable, and won’t be tolerated.

    Jonathan

    Comment by scrollman — April 9, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  3. Jon,

    you make some great points here. I’m particularly interested in your mention of intervention being non-violent.

    Two things come to mind.

    After watching the History Channel special on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday night, I was incredibly moved by how non-violent resistence was the key to much of the civil rights gains. There was a portion of the program that addressed King’s study of Mahatma Gandhi, particularly how Gandhi’s methods of peaceful protest were able to free India from British colonial rule.

    The reason why I think that peaceful intervention is so effective is that it sharply contrasts with the violence it aims to end. Seeing African American people being attacked in the South, people who were just STANDING, or SITTING, was unbearable. Watching as people were subjected to fire-hoses for just BEING PRESENT was horrible.

    As teachers we need to use peaceful resistance. One way may be to stage a protest against bullying, and school violence. Get students involved. Do this as a class.

    The second thing that comes to mind is the fraternity book of my best friend’s brother. It might seem out of place here, but it’s not.

    I’m not giving frats the thumbs up, because we all know that hazing is alive and well and a major threat to young men (and women in sororities,) preying upon feelings of insecurity and the desire to be socially accepted.

    However, I’m also not giving them the thumbs down and here’s why. My friend’s brother joined a frat his first year of college. He had a pledge book (these are faily well known, no?) which he was required to carry around at all times, and never let anyone see.

    Unfortunately, his pledge book was seen. I don’t want to get him into trouble, so I’ll also mention that he didn’t know it was seen.

    Among other things, written inside were these instructions:

    IF YOU SEE SOMEONE ACTING IN A WAY THAT MAKES THEM APPEAR TO BE RACIST, or SEXIST, or HOMOPHOBIC….. CALL THEM OUT.

    IF YOU HEAR SOMEONE SAY SOMETHING THAT MAKES THEM APPEAR TO BE ANY OF THE ABOVE, ADDRESS IT.

    SAY< ARE YOU A RACIST? BECAUSE WHAT YOU JUST SAID MAKES ME THINK YOU ARE.

    Incredibly moving for me. I’m glad to know that young people are being told to be assertive about this kind of hate. I move that as teachers, we implement a CALLING OUT policy, and that we encourage our students to address these issues rather than turning a blind eye.

    If you see someone being a bully, call them out. ARE YOU BULLYING HIM? BECAUSE WHAT YOU JUST DID MAKES ME THINK THAT YOU’RE ATTEMPTING TO SUBJUGATE HIM, AND THAT IS AN INFRACTION UPON HIS RIGHTS.

    Joyce

    Comment by Joyce — April 9, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  4. wow, that was a long post. sorry.
    Joyce

    Comment by Joyce — April 9, 2008 @ 7:08 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: