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Tackling the bigger social issues
by Ryan Paulsen
If the dozen or so parents who braved the freezing rain warnings and frosty temperatures to attend Jeremy Dias’s presentation on bullying on Dec. 10 in Beachburg were expecting a standard, boilerplate spiel about open communication between teachers and students and between teachers and school administrators, they were in for a surprise.
What they got from the founder and director of Jer’s Vision, an anti-bullying and anti-discrimination organization based in Ottawa, was a broad talk about everything from consumerism, environmentalism and the saturation of advertising aimed at children in today’s media, and the ways that all bullying starts in the home.
When he says that it starts in the home, he hastens to acknowledge that nobody actually teaches their kids to bully, but instead that the problem of bullying is not one workshop away from being solved, but that it’s just one symptom of much wider social, economic and educational issues that, on the surface, have little that are obviously connected to one child making another child miserable in between classes at school.
It’s an unconventional approach, but one that Dias thinks is specifically missing from the ongoing conversation about bullying in schools today.
“If you use the word bullying,” he says simply, “the kids aren’t going to relate, and if the kids aren’t relating then you’re not succeeding in what you’re trying to do. Bullying is a complex problem, and if you don’t take a complex approach, if you don’t look at complex solutions, then how are you going to address a complex problem?”
Some of the complex solutions that Dias included in his presentation involved innovative school-based programs like decided to prepare and serve nothing but locally grown and purchased food in the cafeteria, or banning clothing with prominent branding from school grounds.
The unconventional approach of the talk struck a chord with the crowd, and particularly with Beachburg Public School principal Michelle Belsher.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” she says. “It wasn’t about preaching about things, it was about talking from the heart about all those things you need to do every day in order to make sense of the world. A totally different angle on anti-bullying.”
For more information on Jer’s Vision, visit their website at www.jersvision.org.
Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist