The Department of Psychology at the University of California Los
Angeles issues a newsletter as part of its School Mental Health
Project. This project is partially supported by the US Dept. of
Health and Human Services. The Winter, 2005 issue had a feature
article on "Bullying." In general, the article was comprehensive,
well balanced, and supported by research. However, there were several
aspects that were disconcerting, with widespread implications for
educational, political, and social issues. The authors cited a recent
article in the American Educational Research Journal by Watts and
Erevelles. These authors studied school violence from the perspective
of "the intersection of critical race theory and materialistic
disability studies." They concluded that "school violence
is the result of the structural violence of oppressive social conditions
that force students (especially low-income, male African-American
and Latino students) to feel vulnerable, angry, and resistant to
the normative expectations of prison-like school environments."
As a result of this and similar research, the UCLA newsletter called
for "comprehensive systemic change." The authors wrote:
"When a student misbehaves, a natural reaction is to want the
youngster to experience, and others to see, consequences. It is
hoped that public awareness of consequences will deter problems.
For these reasons, a considerable amount of school time is devoted
to discipline and classroom management.
"To these ends, schools increasingly over rely on negative
consequences and control techniques. In doing so, school staff model
behavior that can foster rather than counter development of negative
values and can produce other forms of undesired behavior. Moreover,
the tactics often make schools look and feel more like prisons than
"To move beyond over reliance on punishment and control strategies,
there is ongoing advocacy for social skills training, positive behavior
asset building, and character education. Relatedly,
there are calls for greater home involvement, with emphasis on enhanced
parent responsibility for their children's behavior and learning."
Ostensibly, this UCLA logic appears to be sensible and rationale.
Let's say there is a fifth grade class with a violent, aggressive
student. Let's call him by the generic name "Johnny" to
avoid ethnic identification. Johnny is labeled "a troubled,
at-risk student." He is assigned to a guidance counselor who
will pull him out of class twice per week to have a chat, and be
a support for him. A school social worker will be assigned to the
case. She will contact the family and try to arrange assistance
for domestic issues. Johnny will be eligible for a specially funded
after-school program. In this program, he will get individual homework
assistance, he will get to play in the school gym, and will even
get free pizza with a can of soda. With all of this love and attention,
Johnny will no longer be violent and aggressive.
There is another child in this class of 30 students. Let's call
him "Jimmy." Jimmy comes to school every day, a little
disheveled and a little dirty. Jimmy is hurting inside, but no one
knows it because Jimmy doesn't bother anyone and doesn't cause any
trouble. One day, Jimmy gets up from his seat, walks over to the
bulletin board, and sets fire to it. Suddenly, the teacher notices
Jimmy. "Jimmy, what got into you," the teacher exclaims,
" your were always such a quiet, good boy." Jimmy was
sent to the school board for a suspension hearing. At the hearing,
the truth about Jimmy's domestic turbulence was revealed. Finally,
Jimmy got the help he needed from Family Court.
In many respects, this situation is analogous to the Arab-Israeli
conflict. Two recent reports from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees*
and UN Development Programme** reveal some interesting
1. There are more than 5000 different ethnic groups in the world
distributed in 190 independent countries.
2. In two countries out of three, there is at least one substantial
ethnic or religious minority group representing at least 10% of
3. Around 900 million people in the world face some form of discrimination
because of their ethnic, racial, or religious identities.
4. There are about 22 million refugees in the world under the
auspices of the UNHCR. Of these, 13 million are living outside
of their country of persecution.
5. As you are reading this, there are about 35 ethnic or communal
conflicts going on around the world, mostly in Africa and Asia.
Yet, there are few people in the world that are aware of these
many ethnic conflicts and refugees. However, almost everyone knows
about the 3 million Arabs that have been living in the UNRWA refugee
camps for 55 years. The whole world seems to be concerned about
the "plight of the Palestinian refugees." They are always
in the news because they dispatch suicide bombers to blow up buses,
schools, and hotels. Why do young men don a suicide bomb belt and
go out to kill themselves, along with 30 others whom they never
met? According to UCLA logic, they do this because they feel frustrated,
angry, and desperate. Why do they feel that way? Because they have
been living under "harsh, Israeli military occupation"
since 1967. If they only had a little microstate of their own, they
wouldn't feel that way. So according to UCLA logic, remove the "occupation,"
give them their own state, and they will throw away their bomb belts
and return to raising goats and growing olives. The same logic can
be applied to the shooting of Qassam rockets in the Gaza Strip.
Why do the Arabs keep shooting Qassam rockets at civilian homes?
Because Jewish settlers came to Gush Katif and built nice homes,
schools, farms, and businesses while the Arabs are still living
in squalid refugee camps. So according to UCLA logic, remove the
settlers and give the homes, schools, and farms to the Arab refugees.
Then the Arabs will be content, and will no longer feel a need to
shoot Qassam rockets. That seems like a simple, logical formula
for peace and tranquility in the Middle East.
To understand the fallacy of applying UCLA logic, one has to understand
that there are major differences between a 10-year old school bully
and an Arab terrorist. The school bully is still a child who needs
to learn respect for life and property. He needs to learn the concepts
of diversity, tolerance, and compromise. He needs to learn that
there are verbal techniques for resolving conflicts between peers.
The Arab leaders who dispatch suicide bombers are mature adults,
many of whom have advanced academic or religious training. They
should have learned these things already. They should know that
barbaric terrorism has no place in civilized society. They should
know that conflicts should be resolved through negotiated compromise.
Yet the US, UN, and EU are still eager to throw hundreds of millions
of dollars at them each year to help them achieve their goal of
"an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."
Perhaps our world leaders believe that giving the Arabs another
state will reduce their violence and help to prevent a nuclear war
in the region. The logic is flawed.
How long will it be until some more of these other 5000 ethnic groups
decide that they would also like to have their own independent mini-state?
How long will it be until they learn that to obtain attention, support,
and money for their cause, they need to blow up buses, trains, and
* UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees, 2000
** UN Development Programme, Human Development Report, 2004
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC
Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.