Monday, January 01, 2007


"All secondary pupils in Scotland should be given ID cards in an effort to stamp out bullying, according to a teaching union." [BBC News, December 27th 2006]

If combined with an effective system for using and controlling the ID cards, this measure might possibly deal with one particular manifestation of bullying - stealing pre-pay lunch cards.

But what is the likely effect on other types of bullying? In order to believe that it is worth eliminating a single type of bullying, you have to believe one of the following propositions.
  • this will have no effect on other types of bullying
  • the total amount / severity of bullying will be significantly reduced, even if the elimination of this type of bullying triggers an increase in other types of bullying
  • other types of bullying are someone else's problem
Perhaps the reason why this measure is being recommended by teachers unions is because this particular type of bullying (stealing lunch cards) is one that is particularly difficult for teachers (as well as parents and other authorities) to ignore. Instead of dealing with the root causes of bullying, let's just deal with the types of bullying that generate the most hassle for teachers.

But there's another reason why this measure won't work - it is based on a false assumption about the purpose and nature of bullying. This measure may prompt the school bully to invent new ways of stealing your lunch, but it is not going to stop the school bully taking your lunch card and dropping it down the toilet. Bullying is not a zero-sum game.

But doing something - however ineffectual - seems better than doing nothing. So it seems tempting to latch onto a new technological device - the mysterious ID card.

See my earlier posts: Identity Cards, Purpose Tacked On Afterwards.
Later post on Root Cause
- covering some theoretical as well as practical issues.

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