The Golden Rule is a valuable ethics tool. No question about it. Its best feature is that it compels an ethical point of view, causing us to think about the impact of one’s conduct on others. This simple shift of perspective—that’s the other virtue of the Golden Rule: it’s simple; a child can understand it—-distances us from the powerful ethics alarms-muffling effects of non-ethical considerations, which are primarily our subjective wants and needs, and forces us to look past them to more ethical objectives.
The Golden Rule is not, however, a panacea, or even the most useful ethical system. It doesn’t work in complex systems , or when multiple inter-related interests are involved, or when chaos looms. You can’t run a successful business, organization or nation using only the Golden Rule; you can’t have a coherent legal system, or the rule of law, or a banking system. Yet there are a lot of people, many of them with advanced degrees, best-selling books and millions of followers, who continue to practice Golden Rule malpractice and preach that it will solve all society’s ills, despite the fact that the most cursory examination of history and human nature makes it blindingly clear that much as we would wish it otherwise, this just isn’t true. Some of these people are well-meaning, good-hearted chumps. Some are insane. Many are fanatics. Some of them are con-artists. All of them are dangerous.
The latter was illustrated when the fifth-graders in Lincoln, Nebraska’s Zeman Elementary School received flyers on how to deal with bullying. (To get the side issues this blog deals with periodically out of the way at the outset, the incompetent and naive advice the flyer contained is one of an endless number of examples of how the education establishment is inadequately trained, staffed and regulated to be trusted with the welfare of young children, and how any parent who blithely entrusts their offspring to public schools without monitoring them closely is irresponsible, because teachers and school administrators cannot be trusted to exercise good judgment.) The flyer contained some “rules” for bullied children to apply after and during bullying episodes. The flyer was disavowed after the Lincoln, Nebraska school system’s Facebook page melted from the abuse poured on it by shocked and disgusted parents, and so far, at least, nobody has transcribed all of what is barely readable on this photo of it, and I don’t see or type well enough to do it myself:
Here is a partial version, however, and it is sufficient to illustrate the problem. (My horrified reactions are in bold):
1. Refuse to get mad. Anger is a feeling we have toward our enemies, not our buddies… (And remember, people who punch you in the face and call you ugly are your buddies!)
2. Treat the person being mean as if they are trying to help you. No matter how insulting or mean they might sound, be grateful and thankful that they really care about you…( You know, like the racist thugs holding the fire hoses really cared about the civil rights protesters in Selma!)
3. Do not be afraid. Fear is something we feel toward enemies, not buddies… (Good to know! Silly me, I always thought fear was something we felt toward people and things that we had good reason to believe would put us on a respirator.)
4. Do not verbally defend yourself. We defend ourselves from enemies, so we are treating the other person as an enemy, not a friend. (Friends help each other. Punch yourself in the face, too!)
5. Do not attack. We attack enemies, not friends. If I attack you back, I am treating you like an enemy, so the bully will in turn treat you as an enemy… (OK…wait, WHAT? The bully attacks me because he’s my friend, then you attack me (WHO ARE YOU???) , and because of that the bully treats me as an enemy? And if he attacked me while he was being my friend, shouldn’t he be nice to me when he’s my enemy? What the hell is going on here???)
6. If someone physically hurts you, just show you are hurt; do not get angry. If someone hurts you, you want them to feel sorry and apologize. (Good luck with that.)
7. Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims is because the victims tell on them. (Huh. Interesting. Then why do bullies attack their victims before they tell on them? And if they are really attacking me to show they are my friends, don’t I want them to hate me, so they’ll leave me alone?)
8. Don’t be a sore loser. No one likes a sore loser. Would you like to play with someone who gets all upset when they lose? (Sorry, I can’t type when I’m laughing….this is too ridiculous. Actually, given a choice, I’d rather not play the “Let’s punch Jack in the groin” game at all, thanks.)
9. Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs. Make a joke out of it or agree with the put-down. (Or, you can save time and just indenture yourself to the bully as a slave.)
I’m trying to choose the worst rule, and I’m stumped. With the exception of #9, which can be effective if a child is a nascent stand-up comic (and indeed, many comedians and comics are created by developing such defense mechanisms as children…many of them are also emotional basket cases for the rest of their lives.), they are all equally terrible. The rules defy too many principles of ethics, common sense and logic to take in. The duty to report misconduct? No, this is wrong. Self-defense? Wrong. Self-respect? Courage? Self-reliance? Wrong. Insisting on responsibility, fairness, respect, and accountability? That’s no way to go through life, kid!
The kind of adult that such advice is likely to create will be submissive, vulnerable, a perpetual victim, a bad citizen, parent, employee and friend. Also perpetually bruised, filled with rage, and perhaps a hermit. Or dead.
This wishy-washy, magical thinking, Care Bears life advice appears to have come from a certifiably batty website called Bullies2Buddies, the creation of a sincere, credentialed, certified, educated, dangerous psychologist named Israel Kalman, who you see above. He is welcome to his theories, of course, but he is not welcome to the harm they do when passed along to children who have to deal with real life conflicts, not abstractions. Kalman appears to exist in some parallel universe where good triumphs over evil with no assertive resistance or action whatsoever. He is certain that the solution to every problem is to turn the other cheek, smile, and play along, because most people are good, and everything will work out. His philosophy, in fact, sounds like it was devised by Anne Frank….before she was killed, of course. He is also John Lennon, Neville Chamberlain, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez, the Berrigans, Barack Obama, Barney the Dinosaur and my grandmother, all wrapped up in a neat package of homilies and nostrums—“All you need is love, love…Love is all you need!” that has won him a frightening number of consulting contracts.
Bullies2Buddies may be the most unethical website I have ever seen, worse than Chimpmania, worse than the wide range of misleading, cynical, culture-rotting or manipulative websites that Ethics Alarms has critiqued,worse than any of the horrible pages I exposed on the old Ethics Scoreboard. Almost all of those, in various ways, signaled their true nature; they didn’t engender trust by expounding in sincere and authoritative tones about the power of love and friendship. There are few things more unethical, ignorant, irresponsible or dangerous than advocating the universal application of the Golden Rule.
Pointer: Alexander Cheezem
Sources: Bully2Buddy, Liberty Voice, Evil Autie
83 thoughts on “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever”
Not only will any child of mine be taught to retaliate, they will be taught to go full-force. None of this bullshit “proportional response”, but full on blood-lust.Savage the enemy. Ruin them. Make them fear you finding out they even THOUGHT mean things.
To be clear, that’s generally what I refer to when I say “proportional response”
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Um, the Golden Rule is the “Do unto others” bit, not turning the other cheek.
The latter only works with someone sufficiently human to be shamed, which bullies are not; they are vermin, and should be treated as such.
The Pingback article on “Scripturient”, credits this article incorrectly.
“First, you claim to hate swearing.”
I do. Thanks
“Next, you use “whatever” in a disrespectful way.”
Idiots advocating this schmuckery don’t deserve respect.
“Pathetic. If I’m you, I’d refrain from using language that bullies use.
“Besides, true anti-bullies don’t use rude words.”
No true Scotsman.
Come back with a substantive statement next time please.
And with a name.
This is my opinion only. The inventor of this anti-bully program might be holding on tooth and nail to this program because it is his career and people often stubbornly cling to things when they are invested. Scientists get new theories, they keep what is good and throw away what is bad; sometimes they throw everything away and look at things entirely differently. The creator of the bullies 2 buddies program, in my opinion, should be able to update his theories, admit things that don’t work so well and things that don’t work at all, and evolve, change, and progress instead of staunchly defending his program (my opinion of what he’s doing). If a kid gets mad and hits you over an argument, that isn’t necessarily a case of bullying. Bullying in itself has to be very well defined. In this case, the kid might speak up to the other kid and say, “Hey don’t do that”. To simply show that you are hurt relies too much on others understanding body language What if the person doesn’t look at the person they hit, what if they miss the look, what if it eggs them on? Why not use your words? “Hey, stop that”. To try to befriend the bully (the person mistreating you) makes you, in my opinion, into an egg shell stepping co-dependent, “you’re helping me, you’re my friend, I won’t tell, I’ll be a good sport about being teased and bullied, I won’t show anger (I’ll suppress it-because when we are hurt we are going to feel anger; it is natural), so I’ll minimize the impact the bullying is having on me. You can’t tell someone not to be afraid; it isn’t a switch you can turn on and off. The author of this program has some good points (not automatically getting angry) but it is in the context, in my opinion, of someone who is egged on into being a bully themselves (a reactional bully). This person perceives everything as an act of aggression. Someone bumps into them in line and they think they did it on purpose and it triggers anger and they strike back. With regards to name calling, showing that a name bothers you can egg someone on to keep calling you that name, so if you laugh it off, it takes away the fun of saying it. But that doesn’t mean you are going to try to make friends with the name caller; that’s ingratiating behaviour in my opinion. Being a good sport means you don’t whine and complain when you don’t get your own way; it is about someone who sees themselves as a victim when they don’t get their way, “I want to be first in line”, “I want to hold the sign again”, this is not advice to give to someone who is being bullied in my opinion. Being a good sport in this context means suffer in silence with a smile on your face (that’s how I see it). Constantly telling on someone for every little thing can turn someone into a target, a tattle-tale isn’t the same as someone who musters up the courage to ask for help. When I was a substitute teacher, a young boy was being stabbed in the back with a pencil every day for three months straight. I’m not sure of the details or why it didn’t stop but the boy walked up to me with his shoulders up and told me what was happening. I took immediate action. The bullied didn’t even deny it; it was two of them. They smirked at me instead, “Yeah, we stab him, so?” I had the victim of bullying get the principal and had the principal come to the classroom. The two bullies were escorted out of the room and didn’t return for the entire day. The look on that boy’s face was pure relief. I spoke to the bullies and explained that what they were doing was wrong. There was shift from the entire class. When the boy first approached me, the others looked almost apathetic; afterward, when the two bullies were removed from the classroom, it looked like a lightbulb had gone off; “This is wrong; this isn’t how we treat one another”. I know the author says that he isn’t talking about cases of assault, but bullying can lead to acts of assault and verbal abuse hurts too. I think, in my opinion, he has to revamp his theories, keep what is good, and expand on the rest. Just my opinions.
I know it’s been a bit since you posted your comment, but I have only seen it, and this article recently. Please don’t judge Israel Kalman or his Bullies to Buddies program based on the flier the Nebraska school sent out. That flyer reads like a parody of the actual program. This flier looks like someone read his seversal articles and the free manuals on the site (manuals are only accessible if you sign up for his free newsletter). Then they tried to cobble together bits and pirces from several, in random order, and tried to paraphrase most of it. I’m not sure about in 2014, but I do know that now the free manual “How to Stop Being Teased and Bullied Without Really Trying” May be copyrighted, but can be shared verbatim with a couple minor caveats.
Many of your comments were quite similar to Kalman’s advice. I think that if you were to read his manual, you might find that you agree with his advice and that it is far more reasonable than that flyer is.