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May 3, 2016 0

Labeling Behavior, Not People

language graphicWith 28% of stu­dents ages 12 – 18 years old cur­rently report­ing hav­ing been a tar­get of bul­ly­ing, con­cerns about bul­ly­ing in schools have moti­vated hun­dreds of books to be writ­ten and a wide vari­ety of pro­grams to be designed and imple­mented with the goal of turn­ing the tide of bul­ly­ing. Many of these books and pro­grams aim to change the behav­ior of “bul­lies.” And herein lies one of the prob­lems that makes it so chal­leng­ing to change the dynamic of bullying.

First, what is it? Bul­ly­ing is the repeated actions or threats of action directed toward a per­son by one or more peo­ple who have or are per­ceived to have more power or sta­tus than their tar­get in order to cause fear, dis­tress or harm.

When most peo­ple pic­ture a “bully” in their minds, they see some­one who is big­ger than every­one else and goes around intim­i­dat­ing oth­ers. Because of this per­cep­tion, if you ask a room full of stu­dents if they have ever been a “bully,” chances are no one will raise their hand. Ask the same stu­dents if they have ever excluded some­one, called some­one a name, spread rumors or picked on some­one because of the way they look, you will find that many hands – if not all – will go up.

This tells us that there is a dis­con­nect between being labeled a “bully” and actu­ally engag­ing in bul­ly­ing behav­ior. As long as that dis­con­nect exists and we con­tinue to use the label “bully,” we will not be able to engage stu­dents in real con­ver­sa­tions that chal­lenge the social norms around bul­ly­ing. By iden­ti­fy­ing bul­ly­ing as a behav­ior rather than a label assigned to a per­son who exhibits the behav­ior, a few things happen:

  1. Stu­dents are able to self-reflect on their actions with­out fear of judgment;
  2. Stu­dents are able to rec­og­nize that the dif­fer­ent behav­iors that peo­ple choose play an impor­tant role when instances of bias or bullying—whether active or pas­sive occur; and
  3. Stu­dents begin to make con­scious deci­sions to respond in par­tic­u­lar ways when inci­dents occur and ulti­mately, take respon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing sure every­one is treated with respect by becom­ing an ally.

We live in a soci­ety that often uses labels to stereo­type and sim­plify peo­ple. Unfor­tu­nately, bul­ly­ing is not a sim­ple con­cept and it is up to edu­ca­tors and fam­i­lies to engage the young peo­ple in their lives in bet­ter under­stand­ing that bul­ly­ing refers to a behav­ior and not a per­son, and that it is a behav­ior that all peo­ple at some time in their lives have engaged in.  Under­stand­ing this dif­fer­ence empow­ers and moti­vates young peo­ple to move from being a bystander to an ally.

 

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April 11, 2016 0

Time to Require Equal Pay for Equal Work

Diverse Business Team Discussing Work In Office

It’s April 12, 2016 – Equal Pay Day, the sym­bolic date that women need to work until to catch up with what men had earned by last Dec. 31.  The fact is that women who work full time, are paid an aver­age of 79 cents for every dol­lar paid to men — and on aver­age, African Amer­i­can and Latina women are paid even less.   It’s not a day to cel­e­brate, but it is a teach­able moment to focus on the need­less, costly, and dis­crim­i­na­tory gen­der wage gap – and on what we can do about it.

One high-profile exam­ple of unequal pay is that mem­bers of the U.S. Women’s Soc­cer team, the best team in the world, are paid less than their US male team coun­ter­parts.  Five mem­bers of the team recently brought a wage dis­crim­i­na­tion suit against U.S. Soc­cer with the Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­nity Com­mis­sion (EEOC).

Progress in Recent Years

  • In August 2014, Pres­i­dent Obama signed two direc­tives aimed at clos­ing the wage gap for Fed­eral work­ers.   First, an Exec­u­tive Order pro­hibiting fed­eral con­trac­tors from retal­i­at­ing against employ­ees for shar­ing their salary infor­ma­tion, mak­ing it eas­ier for women to dis­cover and address pay­check inequity. And, sec­ond, the Pres­i­dent instructed the Depart­ment of Labor to cre­ate new reg­u­la­tions requir­ing fed­eral con­trac­tors and sub­con­trac­tors to report salary infor­ma­tion to the gov­ern­ment, expos­ing salary inequities and thereby encour­ag­ing con­trac­tors to close the wage gap on their own.
  • And in Jan­u­ary, the EEOC issued com­ple­men­tary “Pro­posed Enforce­ment Guid­ance on Retal­i­a­tion and Related Issues.” ADL joined two dozen other national orga­ni­za­tions on a let­ter, drafted by the National Women’s Law Cen­ter, sup­port­ing the pro­posal and sug­gest­ing way to clar­ify the pro­tec­tions and safe­guards even further.

 

Learn, Raise Aware­ness – and Pro­mote Fairness.

On this Equal Pay Day, let’s com­mit to spread­ing the word about the dis­crim­i­na­tory pay gap between men and women – so we can close it.   Here are two great ways to get the word out:   MTV Pay Equity

  • MTV’s Emmy Award-winning “Look Dif­fer­ent” anti-bias cam­paign has cre­ated the “79% Work Clock” — a clock that chimes every day at 3:20 p.m. – sig­ni­fy­ing 79% of the 9–5 work­day, or the time, after which, women are no longer paid for equal work.  Their web­site includes a 79-Percent Cal­cu­la­tor to help indi­vid­u­als find the cor­rect time set­ting for their per­sonal work clocks based on their work hours and race — and to learn more about the gen­der wage gap in America.
  • The Anti-Defamation League recently devel­oped a High School les­son plan on the gen­der wage gap that pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity for stu­dents to reflect on their own opin­ions about sex­ism, under­stand the gen­der pay gap and its var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions, and con­sider ways that it can be overcome.

Although we’ve made some progress in the fight for equal pay, much more needs to be done.  ADL and a broad coali­tion of civil rights and women’s groups sup­port The Pay­check Fair­ness Act (PFA HR 1619/S 862)), which would give teeth to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it unlaw­ful for busi­nesses to pay men and women dif­fer­ent salaries for per­form­ing sub­stan­tially the same work. The PFA would make it ille­gal for com­pa­nies to retal­i­ate against employ­ees for dis­cussing salary dif­fer­ences and open­ busi­nesses up to civil lia­bil­ity for salary inequity.

By rais­ing aware­ness and demand­ing leg­isla­tive action, we can speed the day when the alarm clock rep­re­sent­ing the wage gap rings later and later in the day – until we will not need it at all.

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March 15, 2016 0

Bias, Bullying and Bad Behavior in Politics: What’s the Takeaway for Youth?

Group of Friends SmilingThe polit­i­cal dis­course has reached a point where we have to ask our­selves: What should we tell our children? 

Young peo­ple watch and emu­late what adults say and do. For that rea­son, many adults—parents, neigh­bors, teach­ers, care­givers and yes, even politicians—are role mod­els to chil­dren.  These values—using accu­rate and appro­pri­ate lan­guage, stand­ing up for one’s beliefs, check­ing our­selves when it comes to bias and stereo­types, dis­agree­ing with­out being disagreeable—are imparted  by direct teach­ing and mod­el­ing through words and deeds.  In fact, many would argue that what we do has a much deeper impact than what we say.

The cur­rent polit­i­cal climate—which has been per­me­ated with hate-filled lan­guage, bias and bullying—is counter to what so many adults are try­ing to teach young peo­ple. We have wit­nessed stereo­typ­ing of many groups includ­ing women and immi­grants, threats to ban Mus­lims from liv­ing in the coun­try and pro­nounce­ments that Islam “hates” Amer­ica, mock­ing of dis­abled peo­ple and polit­i­cal can­di­dates attack­ing one another based on their phys­i­cal appear­ance.  Recently, at a cam­paign event, a sup­porter, unpro­voked, punched a pro­tes­tor in the face, say­ing “next time, we might have to kill him.” While this may seem like an iso­lated inci­dent, it’s the tenth cam­paign event in which there has been violence.

Things have got­ten so heated that one can­di­date vowed to stop the behav­ior, relent­ing that “my kids were embar­rassed by it.”

Has this polit­i­cal dem­a­goguery had an impact on young peo­ple? Has it trick­led down to the youngest among us? Of course it has. Mus­lim chil­dren are express­ing fear and sad­ness, ask­ing their par­ents if they are going to have to leave the coun­try after the elec­tion.  Recently, an Indi­ana high school bas­ket­ball game erupted into scream­ing and insults; the pre­dom­i­nately white team yelled at the oppos­ing play­ers and fans, who were a pre­dom­i­nately Latino team, chant­ing “no com­prende,” “speak Eng­lish” and “build the wall” (refer­ring to the pro­posal that a wall be built on the Mex­i­can bor­der to keep immi­grants out).  Latino and other immi­grant chil­dren worry that they may be deported when there is a new pres­i­dent in the White House.

Elec­tion years usu­ally present great oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tors to expose stu­dents to civics and the Amer­i­can elec­toral process. How­ever, this year has left many feel­ing hes­i­tant and unsure about how to raise the topic; and specif­i­cally, how to approach the neg­a­tive and biased dis­course that’s over­taken the cur­rent debate. One angle edu­ca­tors can take is to turn the rhetoric into a teach­able moment by address­ing the following:

  • Under­stand Lan­guage. Pro­vide stu­dents with an under­stand­ing of the lan­guage of bias so they can make sense of what is going on and how to talk about it. This includes under­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence between bias (thoughts and atti­tudes) and dis­crim­i­na­tion (actions), how stereo­typ­ing can lead to bias, and the var­i­ous forms that bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion can take (e.g. racism, Islam­o­pho­bia, sex­ism, homo­pho­bia, anti-Semitism, etc.)—from inter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the insti­tu­tions in our society.
  • Chal­lenge Bias. When biased lan­guage and stereo­types are used—in the polit­i­cal debate or elsewhere—point it out and find ways to chal­lenge it.  This sends an impor­tant mes­sage to young peo­ple about not being a bystander to injus­tice and it also gives you an open­ing to dis­cuss cur­rent events.  This can be done with­out endors­ing or crit­i­ciz­ing par­tic­u­lar candidates.
  • Think Crit­i­cally. Help stu­dents think crit­i­cally about what they are hear­ing and see­ing. This means mod­el­ing and teach­ing them to ask ques­tions that get to under­ly­ing motives and causes, as well as under­stand­ing how per­spec­tive shapes points of view. It also includes teach­ing young peo­ple not to take “facts” and infor­ma­tion at face value just because adults in posi­tions of power make an asser­tion. Inspire stu­dents to ques­tion the facts and do their own research.
  • Be An Ally.  Most impor­tantly, encour­age your stu­dents to act as an ally when they see bias and bul­ly­ing by pro­vid­ing exam­ples and help­ing young peo­ple prac­tice the var­i­ous ways to show ally­ship.  Show­ing them that there are many ways to be an ally by mod­el­ing it your­self is an impor­tant reminder that sup­port­ing the tar­get, “stand­ing up,” and not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the bias are some of the var­i­ous ways to do some­thing and not feel powerless.

Politi­cians and can­di­dates come and go—however, the impact edu­ca­tors can have on stu­dents will make a dif­fer­ence with the next gen­er­a­tion and beyond.

(more…)

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