Anoka Anti-Bullying Effort is Economic Development?

The War on Differentness
Today’s news reminds us that many parents, kids, and teachers in the Anoka County schools continue to oppose policies designed to prevent bullying of LGBT kids, and others. To them, such policies represent “politically correct (PC)” frivolity, or “promoting the gay agenda.”

But this isn’t just about politics or PC gotchas. There are a lot of other pretty solid reasons for supporting such initiatives. Common decency. Constitutional equality. The Golden Rule.

But since those arguments haven’t swayed opponents of anti-gay bullying initiatives yet, here’s another reason that might resonate on the right.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

In the book “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” author Alexandra Robbins makes the case for Quirk Theory.

Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.

Quirk theory suggests that popularity in school is not a key to success and satisfaction in adulthood. Conventional notions of popularity are wrong. What if popularity is not the same thing as social success? What if students who are considered outsiders aren’t really socially inadequate at all? Being an outsider doesn’t necessarily indicate any sort of social failing. We do not view a tuba player as musically challenged if he cannot play the violin. He’s just a different kind of musician. A sprinter is still considered an athlete even if she can’t play basketball. She’s a different kind of athlete. Rather than view the cafeteria fringe as less socially successful than the popular crowd, we could simply accept that they are a different kind of social.

To support her theory, Robbins cites many examples of people who were “cafeteria fringe” in high school – “geeks, loners, punks, floaters, nerds, freaks, dorks, gamers, bandies, art kids, theater geeks, choir kids, Goths, weirdos, indies, scenes, emos, skaters, and various types of racial and other minorities” — but later were a resounding success in the adult world. J.K. Rowling. Bruce Springsteen. Steve Jobs. Tim Gunn. Bill Gates.

How many jobs and exports do you suppose those marginalized cafeteria fringers have created for the cafeteria core dwellers?

As for LGBT students, George Mason University Professor George Florida employs a “Bohemian-Gay Index” to find that the more “gay friendly” a city is, the more economically successful it tends to be.

So, maybe this anti-bullying business is about more than just fluffy PC-ness?

Schools can’t eliminate bullying, but they can do more. Robbins finds that teachers and administratrators aren’t nearly as neutral as they claim to be in the War on Differentness. They enforce social hierarchies by creating institutional mechanisms for celebrating athletics, cheerleading and a few select activities over all others. Teachers and administrators set the social cues by who they choose to befriend, praise or spend time with. And they too often turn blind eyes toward subtle and not-so-subtle cruelty.

So, Anoka anti-bullying champions, keep fighting the good fight. It’s the right thing to do. Besides, the jocks could use some more jobs right now.

– Loveland

8 thoughts on “Anoka Anti-Bullying Effort is Economic Development?

  1. Jeremy Powers says:

    What you say is true. Those traits that are appreciated by most people are scorned in high school. I think most of us recognize what jerks we could be at times in high school. It is one of the negative aspects of modern schools – the kind of pack-mentality, kangaroo-court aspect. And cities/regions that are gay friendly are also more prosperous. But making high school more pleasurable – or at least less threatening – to people who are different should be everyone’s goal, even if there is no financial or emotional return on investment.

    My lesbian daughter got through high school with a good group of friends, a thick skin and a black belt in tae kwon do. All of them came in handy.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Thanks for that post, Jeremy. Here’s hoping your daughter didn’t need the Tae Kwon Do for anything other than fitness and recreation.

      Beyond physical bullying, there are now so many new ways to be a jerk, electronically, casually, invisibly and anonymously. Bullying has always been around, but it’s easier than it used to be.

      1. Bruce benidt says:

        Love the economic argument for doing the right thing. And the testimonial to the value of not being normal. Nicely written and paced response, Jeremy, as always.

        A wholistic view of economics is radical. It takes in human and environmental values, not just short-term financial figures. An airplane seat mate last week talked about coal being our cheapest source of energy. “Unless you figure in the long-term health and environmental costs of air and water pollution,” I said. And it was if I’d said “I have pancakes in my nose.”

  2. bertram jr says:

    Ah.

    All well and good Loveland, but the fact remains: this “anti-bullyng” bit is simply the resharpened speartip of the gay agenda (aka legitimacy for an act that the majority are opposed to). Not to be confused with “sanctity” or even the term “human decency” mind you.

    There’s just no getting around it.

    I’m gonna wait for Lambert to weigh in on “love, Montevideo style”, anyway.

  3. I reject the notion that most Americans are against the gays. They are not. There is a disparity when it comes to gay marriage, admittedly. Read your polling data.

    Second, being gay is how you were created. Like white. Black. Tall. short.

    But just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend there is a gay agenda and the majority of Americans are against it. SO WHAT? The “majority” do not get to decide questions of constitutional civil liberties. Thank God.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    Robbins also makes an argument that the focus on No Child Left Behind-style standardized testing also drives geek oppression, since it puts a high value on conformance and non-creative talent. I’m not as convinced about that argument. It feels like schools can both insist on foundational skills and still support creative learning. Not sure it has to be an either/or.

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