Recent events in the small city of Steubenville, Ohio have drawn national attention to the small community across the river from West Virginia. Members of a much loved local football team are charged with raping a young woman, while controversy flares concerning the possible involvement of several others. An inflammatory video has surfaced showing another team member laughing, joking and making crude remarks in reference to the victim. Meantime allegations of a cover up to protect the local team are flying wildly around the internet.
Regardless of how events in this case shake out, they underscore a distinct and troubling social problem in the United States.
Team sports are, by nature, aggressive. The “win at any cost” mentality has infused sports with an aggressive demeanor, arguably necessary for victory but totally at odds with the old notions of sportsman like conduct and gentleman athletes. This is a pity. It also goes hand in hand with the growing combative nature of politics in our nation, which has contributed mightily to the gridlock in Washington. Abusive attitudes toward women found in rap and hip hop music also may exacerbate the problem.
At what point does our society have the opportunity to step in and try to prevent this kind of hyper aggressive behavior from taking root in our young?
The answer is in our schools.
Progress and civilisation depend upon cooperation and understanding. As humans we are dependant upon one another in order to build a safe and secure society for everyone.
Hyper aggression and anti-social behavior are psychological problems that endanger all of us. Taking care to avoid these from taking hold at an early age is essential to the proper functioning of our society as a whole.
So when is the right time to begin.
As early as possible.
Anti-social and sometimes violent behavior is often rooted in lessons learned (or not learned) in elementary school. Playground bullies sometimes grow into adult rapists. So Elementary school seems an appropriate time to intervene in order to try and prevent these behaviors from getting started, and to replace them with patterns of behavior designed to facilitate a smooth integration into adult society.
Effective programs or schools are now available which make this possible. Several different proven effective anti bullying programs have now been designed for implementation in neighborhood schools. One of these is the well know Olweus program. Another, Bullies 2 Buddies, is the result of work by renowned New York child psychologist Izzy Kalman. Others are undoubtedly available as well. If you have not explored ways to integrate such a program in your school, it is never to late to start.
Once you do, you will find that an integrated assembly program is a great way to kick off or reinforce your program. Mobile Ed offers two assemblies, Stronger Than a Bully and The No Bully Zone, each designed to support the teachings of the two regimens mentioned above.
Inaction is inexcusable. The events in Steubenville are merely one small sign of the troubles we face. The actions we take today may well prevent some future teenaged girl from falling victim to a similar brutal tragedy. I have a daughter myself. I can only begin to imagine what the girl in Ohio and her family are going through. If we can prevent this from happening again, to not do so would be unforgivable.
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN