Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Bully -- Part I

What it Takes to Create a Deficit...

Before continuing with this posting I want to remind people of the previous posting where I recommended a visit to the new blog of a young man named Mat. Please check it out.

Now, on with the current posting...


Just for a moment, consider a particular young man, we will call him George. George is not a real person, but a made-up character, more an accumulation of many characters. Following are some of the more typical ways by which educators, other professionals, and many others might talk of George.


George is often a frustration to both staff and other children. Out on the school playground he is known for confronting and pushing other children, even blackmailing them to get his way. Therefore, it is not difficult to see how George would be frequently described as a bully!

In the classroom George repeatedly does not cooperate with the educational learning objectives, and he can be disruptive to the learning of the other students. He is seen to have some serious difficulties in his ability to learn . Therefore, based on this information, George is not only a bully, he is also learning disabled and behaviourally challenged.

It is reported that George’s family has many difficulties. Apparently his dad can become very angry and even violent, particularly when he has been drinking. His mom seems isolated/removed from school and community. She is perceived as somewhere between just lacking in the realm of parenting skills to a harsher view of being irresponsible in her parenting duties. George often comes to school smelling, clearly not having bathed for some time, and he frequently comes to school with no lunch. So, we now have more information about George – his family is dysfunctional, and George’s difficulties are compounded by a family history of violence, along with alcohol and drug problems.

Many children, and many adults can be described in the manner we have talked of George. But, to talk this way, even to understand a person in this way, there are several disciplines that must be put into practice. I say “disciplines” because these ways of talking and knowing are not part of the usual flow of human experience, they must be learned, and, I argue, it takes something akin to discipline for people to actually think and act in these ways.

What are these disciplines?

1. First of all, time must be understood as something which can be stopped, and must be stopped abruptly on certain occasions. Time must cease to flow -- at our command. A great example is the perceived need to stop time upon George’s bullying behaviour -- to limit our attention to the single episode or episodes which represent such bullying behaviour. Time could be experienced within its varied flows, and, within such flows bullying becomes a glancing moment, along with all other glancing moments. It takes discipline, years of training, to learn NOT to look at life from within these flows. We find ourselves instead learning to understand life by ceasing time at specific and prescribed moments.

2. These stopping points, where we make time cease, are to be used as spaces for the creation of language. Only we are not to see such processes as creation at all, rather we must see them as processes for discovering truth, of assessment, processes for the determination of the correct and accurate language to be applied to this person.

3. Not just any language is applied to George as he is stopped in the bullying moment, it must be a language of deficit. George is to be seen as having certain traits which are given words such as bullying, learning disability, hyperactivity-attention deficit disorder. Many other potential disorders, deficits and spectrums are also available to be applied to George and his family. However, these traits are actually not traits at all, they are indicators of deficit, they are chasms, holes, empty spaces. They connote a tragic emptiness which is to characterize both George, and his family. Deficit is thereby firmly described, it is professionally ascribed, and it is clearly seen to be residing within the very bodies of George, his mom and dad (it takes a curious and bizarre twist in language to see deficit, as if it is not truly an emptiness, but rather, against all the logic of emptiness, it becomes a thing, and as a thing it is therefore able to reside.)

4. Attempts must be made to fill such emptiness. There are typically clear rules about who is able to administer the attempted filling of these deficits. First of all, these people must be professionals. They must be recognized as such, with education and titles. There will be a hierarchy of such professionals, those higher on the hierarchy will determine what type of action must be taken, while those lower on the hierarchy will be designated to implement these actions. Community may be seen as important for the healing, the filling, however, it must be carefully monitored and regulated. The child and family must be protected from the chaos which community is seen to bring. Community is therefore helpful only if is capable of working in accordance with the professional plan.

5. All the above processes must be assigned economic value. Monies are to be attached to each level and each action to be taken. The need for money continues the ongoing process of stopping time, identifying a problem, applying language to describe such a problem, ensuring that the language is firmly within the realm of deficit, and then implementing interventions designed to supposedly fill the deficit.

The ability to learn such disciplines takes numerous forms of training implemented over years. Many of us who work in the therapeutic professions know these discipline processes intimately.

At this point in time George and his family are firmly described with words of deficit, and professionals of various types may be assigned to work with them to assist in filling the described deficits. There is also often a communal overflow in the deficit language, for many others, who are not part of the professional network, will accept the deficit language as truths which knowing persons have placed upon George and his family.

However... I see much hope...

We will explore such hope in an upcoming posting.

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