Some remarks about violence in schools

Defining violence can be more complex than you first think. Is it from the structures or from an individual? Can you separate those? Based on the lecture discussion it can be concluded that for example violence at school is by no means a new phenomenon but likely to be to some extent even accepted and as old as the institution itself. School is very fruitful institution when we talk about violence. School is big and important institution on everyone’s life course and has lots to do in our growth and development. When considering the nature of violence, we came to the conclusion, that the school itself is producing violence. And if we think further, it isn’t only the school, because the way that school is constructed comes from the society and its regulations. Do young children have any other way to act if the basic situation is that they are forced to go to school, which is obligatory for everyone?

Should we then just accept presence of violence as part of school’s mission of preparing pupils for life? Sociology is centered around the  primacy of agent versus structure. Our societies are built on the generally accepted monopoly of power exercised by state actors. Thus it can be stated that violence-free schools are too much to ask from children when us adults are simultaneously raising them to accept violence built in the very structures of our society that guide our actions. Judging on the general discussion among the world’s adult population, violence and bullying seem to continue being our common denominator in 2017 as well. Nevertheless there have been attempts to eradicate violence at schools. One of the most recent projects in Finland is Kiva koulu program, which we will focus on in our group work later on during this course.

Violence and school sports

How about sports. It is okay to tackle and “beat” someone in the sports field but not at the playground? What if children are just “playing hockey”? And is it okay to beat someone at football court.. You can bully someone there as well.
As an example from the field of sports, we can identify, that there exist some rules – what is wrong, what is right. But who defines, where goes the limit of bullying and justified behaviour, which is understandable in the certain context? According to Sonja’s research, students seemed to be struggling to understand situations from other person’s points of view and to realize the consequences of their actions. How we could teach them that kind of understanding and way of thinking? If we think about teachers, we might end up wondering if they understand the student’s perspective. The thing is, that even if we can’t directly define violence, we have to underline that it is always and in every situation unacceptable.

Gender and school violence

But then comes the next question:  Who can tell is it violance or bullying or not? The person getting bullied, the one who is doing it, or the one standing by? How to define that? Of course, in every society and culture people have some kind of common understanding of what is right and wrong and we also have some kind of consensus of the definition of violence . However, sometimes perception of violence can “blur” and and lead to negative consequences. Who to blame? Not so easy question to answer.

In recent years the media has highlighted the effects of games to young people’s perceptions of violence.  In 2001 Nea Porsanger did her master’s thesis about young people’s thoughts about violence. In this study, results showed that adolescents also seem to think that media has a big role in their perceptions and attitudes. At the same time young people named school to be the best place to talk about violence and change attitudes, even though the main responsibility of moral education and what is right or wrong was seen as a family’s task.  Porsanger’s study also brings out how often young people define violence first as a physical violence, which is something you can easily see happening. Whereas mental violence has many different aspects that are more difficult to grasp and define.

In Porsanger’s study the gender also came to the picture. Young people perceived boys more often to be violent. If we go back to the prevailing perceptions in society, is especially physical violence more acceptable for boys? From our point of view it is. There is even this phrase “boys will be boys” referring that it is more “natural” for boys to fight and brawl. The society really is part of producing violence. Then violence is explained as an individual’s natural capability. On the contrary when the conversation comes to mental violence, for example backbiting, it is often perceived as a tendency for girls. If no one – parents, teachers or other educators and children themselves – don’t adhere to these questions, a certain kind of acting happens again and again “because of the gender”. Like Carrie Paechter writes in our course book (page 140), first we expect people to be male or female and then we expect them to behave masculine or feminine way, just based on a child’s genitals.

School violence, technology and potential futures

Based on arendtian notion of centricity of technological advances in violence, we wonder if this development could be reversed? As seen over and over again in the history of civilization, advances in technology have often been strongly connected to quest for more powerful warfare. Could the current social and artificial intelligence innovations change that course? One aspect that can potentially differentiate our time from the earlier ones is naturally the use of digital technology and the way it has rapidly spread to all spheres of life. One example of the potential futures includes Finnish mobile game Mightifier that strengthens pupils’ social and emotional skills. Teachers who have utilized the tool report reduced bullying and better atmosphere in their class rooms. It will be seen if with the new generations schools will become the first frontiers without violence. The new generations with technology on their side can surprise to the upside.

 

Ryhmä B
Emma, Reetta, Maikki ja Pauliina

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One thought on “Some remarks about violence in schools”

  1. Thank you so much, group B!

    You had managed to grasp the topic of the lecture, but even better, you managed to take it further and were able to ponder on structural violence and where violence actually ‘lurks’ in schools. This is exactly the idea of these group meetings and blog posts.

    I have to throw a quick question here; can the definition of violence be the subjective feeling of the ‘victim’ of violence (as in “I felt unsafe, threatened, I was afraid that there would be violence”)?

    Looking forward to your KiVa -presentation, and to reading more of your thoughts throughout the course.

    -Iida

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