We’ve all heard of Goldie Hawn. I was recently thrilled to discover that she is not only a wonderful actress. She is also a wonderful human being who deeply cares about kids and puts her money where her mouth is. And I am especially thrilled that she is promoting resilience to bullying rather than protection.
I have been fond of Goldie ever since her TV debut as a ditzy, giggly blond on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In show of the late ‘60s – early ‘70s. I must also admit that it gave me pleasure to know this adorable blond is actually a fellow member of my Jewish tribe, providing a welcome counterweight to that other famous Jewish “Goldie”–Golda Meir–the “iron lady” who coincidentally reigned as Prime Minister of Israel during the very same years Laugh-In reigned on TV.
Sure, we all know Goldie Hawn. But who in the world is Izzy Baird, you may ask? Izzy is a bright, eloquent high school student who has shown a clarity of vision lacking in older, more learned social scientists.
My friend and trainee, youth motivational speaker Brooks Gibbs, brought my attention to an article by Izzy Baird in the Huffington Post, A Mindful Cure to Bullying. The article describes her school’s social/emotional skills program, MindUp, sponsored by Goldie’s philanthropic Hawn Foundation . Now, we might have expected expect the delicate Ms. Hawn, who often capitalizes on her aura of fragility in her screen roles, to add her voice to the chorus of celebrities denouncing bullies and calling for everyone to protect victims. Instead, Goldie is funding a program that empowers victims with the wisdom and resilience to handle bullying on their own.
But what particularly hit me is the amazing coincidence that there is another “Izzy” making the same criticisms of the anti-bully movement that I have been making for a decade-and-a-half. How impressive that a mere high school student who, like all other kids her age, has certainly been subject to anti-bully programming since kindergarten, has been able to free herself from this indoctrination!
Izzy begins her article by citing the same research study I recently spotlighted, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington. As she informs us, the study found that “students in schools with anti-bullying programs are actually more likely to be bullied than students in schools with no anti-bullying programs.” The logical conclusion from the research is that these programs should be abandoned because they are counterproductive. However, like virtually all other researchers who discovered that anti-bullying programs are failing, the Arlington researchers concluded we need to intensify efforts to protect schools from bullies. Take what isn’t working, they believe, do it more intensively, and then it’s going to work!
Izzy B. deserves credit for thinking more like a scientist than the scientists. She wisely asserts, “It is time for us to turn the bullying conversation around. We have seen that targeting bullies does not work, so we need to find a new approach.”
It apparently takes the innocence of a child to reveal that the emperor is naked.
For a decade-and-a-half, ever since the Columbine massacre spawned the worldwide war against bullies, I’ve been warning that trying to reduce bullying by targeting bullies is counterproductive, that it unwittingly intensifies bullying while fostering emotional weakness, and that the only reliable way to reduce bullying is by teaching kids not to be victims. Izzy B. has arrived at the same conclusions:
“Up until now, our society has been trying to reform bullies while treating victims as martyrs. By focusing on bullies, we have actually given them more power. Instead, we need to shift our focus away from bullying behaviors and concentrate on building the inner-strength of all students.”
How did the young Miss Baird attain such insights? It’s thanks to her exposure to her school’s MindUp program funded by Goldie.
MindUp is not an anti-bullying program per se. It is an intensive training for all students in mindfulness. Nevertheless, as Izzy informs us, it does a far better job at reducing bullying than any of the highly regarded anti-bullying programs.
How does mindfulness reduce bullying? By putting individuals in control of their own minds. As Izzy B. informs us, when kids develop the ability to objectively look at bullying behavior without letting themselves be emotionally affected, the perpetrators derive no pleasure from it and quickly stop.
The value of mindfulness is no secret. Over the past few decades, it has developed into a mainstream tool of the mental health professions. Izzy Baird touts its benefits for reducing anxiety while increasing self–esteem, empathy and academic performance.
We send our children to school to prepare them for dealing with the challenges of life. This requires not only the development of academic skills, but of cntrol over one’s own thoughts and emotions. I heartily commend Goldie Hawn for making her own money available to bring this essential education to our children and Izzy Baird for bringing sense about bullying to the public.
I would like to close with Izzy B’s final paragraph, as I couldn’t have said it better myself:
“Current bullying programs are not working and the consequences of bullying are too great for our society to do nothing. By continuing our current ineffective anti-bullying efforts, we allow bullying to flourish and tacitly accept it; at the same time we send a message to people who are bullied that they have no power. If we stand by and continue to promote the prevailing anti-bullying programs, we will continue live in a world plagued by suicide, anxiety and depression. It is critical that we take bold steps to change our approach to fighting bullying. And mindfulness just might hold the answer.”
From the mouths of babes…