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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Bullying and our competitive edge

October 14, 2010

Who do you think you are?

Great gobs of  vitural ink have been sloshed around describing America’s “decline.” In a recent Newsweek story about the 100 best countries we didn’t even make the top 10. We’re Number 11.  But, it’s not like Newsweek dropped a bombshell. We’ve all noticed the slippage for a while. From family problems to school problems to dysfunctional legislators to holy book burners.

Oh yes, my friends, we’ve got Trouble with a Capital T that rhymes with D and that spells DECLINE. All the pity party laments boil down to just one thing: “America’s lost its competitive edge.”

Oh yeah? Not so fast, dude. Sure, we may be losing the competition for top world ranking in stuff like education, health, quality of life, economics, and political environment. But what about Top Dog status in stuff that really matters? For example, when it comes to vying for popularity within their peer group no kids on Earth come close to the clawing, biting, sheer grit of American teens.

In light of recent horrific in-your-face school bullying plus the cyber predator stealth assaults launched from smart phones and PCs, I think I’ve figured out what’s driving at least part of it. It’s competition. And we’re scary good at it.

I’m sure we’d all agree that we hate bullying behavior. And it goes without saying we hate bullies. Every last one of them. But for the record, there is no them. It’s all us. From time to time, to one degree or another, consciously or un, we all dismiss other people as unworthy of respect. Folks, that’s the core of bullying. And we behave that way when we’re competing with each other.

Think about it. If you’re hotter (or cooler) than me or I’m hotter or cooler than you, we may distrust each other. We may try to bring each other down in thought, word or deed. If you’re smarter than me or way stupider, you’re on my hit list. If you’re fatter than me or thinner, if you wear more or less expensive clothes, if you’re a super jock or a super geek… watch out! ‘Cause whatever we are that’s “different” may be seen as a threat to someone else’s never-ending quest for votes, money, power, friends… love. And we all know what happens when we feel threatened. We attack. Sounds ruthless, but we’ve gotta get real. We’re on the edge here. Each one of us adults and kids, we’re socialized and primed to compete with each other and often that means giving each other a hard time.

So, you still in this competition or are you ready to opt out?


UPDATE: 2/2/12: Just got this great bullying awareness and prevention info-graphic from @MAT@USC aka, Master of Arts in Teaching… because it is an art!

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