Oct 24, 2011

Bullying, Library Books and Maccabees

October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. A recent article in School Library Journal pointed out a startling statistic that of the more than 43,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 18 attending public and private schools surveyed about bullying in a study,  over half of them had been victims of bullying or had bullied other students. 

Bullying, like most any other topic, lends itself to examination through the teachable moments books can provide.  In thinking about Kar-Ben’s catalog, the books that present tropes for understanding bullying best are Hanukkah and Purim books. Both holidays are about the oppression of people by bullies who seek power and domination. Tilda Balsley’s book Maccabee! tells the story of the Maccabee revolt against Antiochus, a figure who meets each of the parts of the primary definition of a bully (from www.stopbullying.gov):

Imbalance of Power: people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves

Intent to Cause Harm: actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm

Repetition: incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group

As a reader of Balsley’s book, I am most captivated by a refrain that repeats several times:

Sometimes it only takes a few,
Who know what’s right, and do it, too.

Whether it is a bully, a bystander, a school administrator, teacher or parent, maybe this is the best teachable moment that the story of Hanukkah inspires: a problem—even a pervasive and devastating one—can be alleviated when someone—bully, bystander, advocate—who knows what is right takes action.

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