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Can Governor of Iowa Make a Dent in Bullying?

RadioIowa.com is reporting that Iowa's governor, Gov. Terry Brandstad is announcing a statewide bullying prevention summit, scheduled for this fall.

Paul Gausman, the superintendent of the Sioux City school district – the fourth largest district in the state, with 14,000 students in 30 different facilities – has scheduled the author of a book that served as the basis for the movie, "Mean Girls" as the main speaker. Mr. Gausman believes that his school district has, "…walked the journey of implementing progressive programming for bully prevention activities." If you remember my earlier posts about the documentary, "Bully", one of the main subjects of the documentary is a student in the Sioux City school district.

The article goes on to talk more about a teen that was openly gay that killed himself, how cyber bullying is increasing in the school districts and more. Governor Brandstad goes on to say that with all the incidents of suicide, cyber bullying and more, it is time to have "a high profile summit and bring together some state and national leaders".

I applaud Gov. Brandstad, the state of Iowa, the Sioux City school district and anyone else in public service who try to raise awareness when it comes to bullying. Their hearts are in the right place…

Unfortunately, there is so much else on our teachers, administrators, school systems, local, state and federal government's plates that holding summits on bullying, passing ordnances or laws, convening a special investigation and more are not going to solve the problem.

Why? There are a couple of reasons:

One, government entities – and I mean local, state or federal, including teachers, school systems and administrators – were not created nor designed to focus on modifying behaviors and beliefs regarding how you treat your fellow man. Depending on the entity, their purpose can be education, to managing municipalities, to running a state, all the way up to the Federal government, which last I checked was supposed to field a national defense, provide an environment for commerce and try to stay out of the way. (I digress; that is a subject for a different time and place…)

Two, bullying is never going away. All the awareness in the world is not going to change our DNA. The strong have been targeting the weak since man walked the Earth and a summit about bullying isn't going to change our genetics.  "Thou Shalt Not Kill" has been around forever, practically everyone in the world has heard of it, but it STILL happens.  This doesn't mean that we should ignore it or just throw our hands up and say, "Well, that's human nature." What it means is that we accept it as far as it is a fact of life, it is going to happen, and how we can better manage and deal with this reality.

Three, the more we turn to something outside ourselves to "fix" something, the more we give our power away to that something. There is an old saying I learned from one of my mentors, who went from humble beginnings, alcoholic father, no college education and no skills to one of the world's highest paid copywriters, hugely wealthy, successful and influential; "With responsibility comes control, and with control, comes responsibility."

Now for those of you who subscribe to the psychological and philosophical argument that "Control is an illusion", you are probably breaking out in hives right now and scoffing at this lesson; please don't. Keep an open mind and think about this for a minute…

Psychologists and Psychiatrists all talk of something called, "The Locus of Control"; loosely defined, it means, "The more you feel in control of yourself and your life, the happier you feel." Another way to look at it is, someone who takes responsibility (called an internal locus of control) does well at a sporting event, he thinks he did well because he prepared; if he does poorly at the sporting event, he thinks that it was because he didn't practice enough, could have worked harder and so on. Someone with an external locus of control does well at a sporting event, he chalks it up to luck; if he does poorly, it was because the field was too grassy, the umpire hates him, the other team cheated and so on.

Do you see how one way of thinking seeks to take responsibility for outcomes and tries to influence them directly, where they other one is at the mercy of things out of their control?  Which one do you think makes you feel better as a person?

As well-intentioned as people in public service may be, it is up to YOU and I to address the problem of bullying. It starts at home, between our own two ears. We as adults and/or parents of kids want to be the ones who take responsibility and control for preparing and dealing with bullying.

As the old self-improvement saying goes, "If it's to be, it's up to ME…"

Stay strong,


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