Cyber-bullying has become a prevalent phenomenon in most schools across Canada and the US. Do educators and government policy makers know how to deal with these issues in the best way possible without causing even more problems for young people?
Dr. Shariff takes a lot of guesswork out of how to deal with cyber-bullying with all of its complexities and hardships. Actions such as censoring student websites or searching for e-mails, for example, are rooted in legally positivist approaches that do not provide the most effective means of preventing cyber-bullying. On the contrary, school discipline policies are least successful when they merely serve as a reactionary mechanism to unwanted behavior. Schools have an obligation to monitor inflammatory student speech, but it is equally important to recognize that educators have a duty to cultivate an educational atmosphere that is consistent with the moral and political principles essential to expanding democratic values.In other words, when cyber-bullying becomes pervasive within a school, we cannot simply place the blame on students. Instead, we must look at the systemic forms of discrimination that pervade the institutional setting and the school climate, revisit the values and beliefs that our schools and constitutional principles impart, and select educational measures to ensure that these values promote acceptance and respect among students.
Dr. Shariff provides some important alternatives to the reactionary approaches that are prevalent in schools today. We need to adjust our lens to start a rich context for discussion and dialogue about the definitional complexities and the biological, environmental, and systemic influences that shape and perpetuate the content of student expression in cyberspace. Further, the author hopes that it motivates readers to engage in a responsible process of analysis, which avoids reliance on reactive decisions that lead to the kids of battles on which the media is always eager to report.
Dr. Shariff believes that school discipline is best achieved when it incorporates an element that educates students about both moral and political principles. We need to teach students to keep the spirit of justice alive in themselves, and to embrace the need to be compassionate, respect the rights of others, and be self-conscious about the consequences of their actions.
This is a book that parents and educators must read and re-read. Thank you for such an excellent book Dr. Shariff!
Dr. Shariff is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at McGill University.
Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth
Rating: 5 Stars