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Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism from Facing History

Facing History and Ourselves recently launched their new online resource, Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism. Based on their other initiatives, including their core curriculum, I knew it would be good but it exceeded all my expectations. Before I get into why you’ll thank me for bringing this to your attention, especially if you’re a parent (of any age child), principal, teacher, counselor or mentor, it might be helpful to understand Facing History’s mission and why they’re such a strong resource as a whole:

The Ostracism Case Study evolved as part of research conducted by Harvard and Facing History and Ourselves and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. At it’s core, are riveting interviews with girls regarding a simple problem that began among 7th grade friends that escalated into a complicated and serious ostracism issue. (I urge you to listen to the overview of the study. Fascinating.)

A Guided Tour Through The Minds of Middle School Girls

It’s also worth the time to listen to the transcripts of the girls’ interviews. Like me, you may not be able to stop thinking about these word for word transcripts from girls who are only 12 to 14 years old. This is the best tool I’ve come across to help adults understand the world and relationships of middle school girls. I’m going to urge the schools that I work with to consider using this online and free curriculum and to include it as part of their professional development but I think it’s helpful for parents at home, too. The discussion questions are simple but extremely thought-provoking and make a great platform for discussion for girls (and probably boys, too) during their middle through high school years.

An Important String in the Tangled Ball of Bullying

The girls’ descriptions of what happened to cause the complete ostracism of one of the once popular girls — to the point that she was contemplating suicide — reminded me of a recent situation I came across involving 7th and 8th grade girls ignited by Facebook. Both situations involved feelings about a boy, the “pack mentality,” cliques, self esteem, miscommunication, harshness, and cluelessness. They both escalated very quickly and by the time adults were brought in, the situation was so muddy, that it was difficult to actually help. In fact, the involvement of some of the adults at that point actually hurt the situation.

This curriculum would have been useful at the time. Facing History and Ourselves has expertly brought the global history lesson of the devastating affects of ostracism home. Thank you, Facing History.