new speakers | April 03, 2013

Emily Bazelon, A Speaker on Bullying, Extolls the Virtues of Empathy

While it's commonly said that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,' our new speaker Emily Bazelon begs to differ. A speaker on bullying, with a new book titled Sticks and Stones (playing off the popular saying, check out the book trailer here), Bazelon has become a leading authority on the impact that chronic verbal and psychological abuse has on children. She also has a secondary layer to her work. As she explained to us, the goal of her investigative journalism was not only to understand the impact of bullying on its victims—but also the mindset of those doing the bullying. It's important to understand both sides of the problem, she argues, in order to develop a culture of respect in social environments.

Her work is an important contribution to the conversation about how to deal with bullying in schools. As the New York Times says, Sticks and Stones is an "authoritative and important book [that] should not only be read by educators and parents alike, but should also be taught in law schools and journalism schools." Not only that, but her 2010 Slate coverage of the suicide of Massachusetts high school student Phoebe Prince earned her several prestigious awards. Articulate and honest, Bazelon has spoken about the topic of bullying to students, parents, and teachers, and at the Aspen Ideas Festival, The Texas Bar Association, and at TEDxWomen, as well.

Able to tailor her talks to a specific audience, Bazelon uses her first hand experience researching the way bullying takes place in high schools to pinpoint how to react to bullying—and how not to. She also draws on her time as a legal scholar to address the legal ramifications of bullying both in schools and after class is dismissed. It's important to define bullying in a limited way, says Bazelon. While it is good practice to follow the "if it's mean, intervene" mantra, she says you also have to take into account that bullying typically involves repetitive abuse. Understanding the different types of bullies that exist and the ways that bullying has changed (with the advent of cyber bullying and what she calls "Facebook thugs") is key to drafting a solution to the problem. Further, she says the development of character and empathy from a young age is a crucial component to developing tolerant and safe spaces for both kids and adults alike.

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mental health | April 02, 2013