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Big Brother comes to Australian schools

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by Izzy Kalman (February 2008)Australia is taking bullying increasingly seriously, which is not surprising in light of a recent lawsuit in which a school was ordered to pay over a million dollars for failing to stop a child from being bullied.

An Australian company is now marketing a video recording system called Bully Buttons. When kids feel they are being bullied, they press the nearest Bully Button and cameras start filming.

Of course everyone thinks this is a wonderful idea. That is the beautiful thing about Big Brother (which happens to have the same initials as Bully Buttons). It sounds so good that no one can see any reason to object to it. How nice to have a Big Brother always available to watch over us and protect us from each other. The company, of course, doesn’t want to be seen as Big Brother, but the fact that the company feels the need to defend itself in advance from such accusations speaks for itself: “We don’t want it to be too pervasive or Big Brotherish,” the company manager is quoted as saying. I guess they only want it to be adequately “pervasive and Big Brotherish.”

But what does it do to our freedom…to our moral development..to our social relationships? Imagine living in a world in which you had better be careful to be nice to everyone all the time or the authorities are going to pounce upon you, and of course your behavior will have been filmed so you can’t deny what you did. You are no longer free to act as you wish. You are no longer free to learn from experience in treating people different ways. Even if you can’t stand someone, you had better make believe you like the person because if you show any hostility, it’s on tape and you get punished. Mainstream society uphold honesty as a major value, but its Big Brother anti-bullying policies are promoting forced phoniness.

Anti-bullying policies want kids to have positive relationships. But what kind of relationships can you expect them to have when they are pressing Bully Buttons that get them in trouble with the authorities?

Anti-bullying policies are meant to get kids to treat each other morally. But is where is the morality when the purpose of your behavior is avoidance of punishment? Being nice in order to stay out of trouble is not moral behavior, it is self-centered and cowardly behavior.

As an adult, would you like to have all of your interpersonal interactions under the scrutiny and control of government officials? My guess is that most of you would say, “No.” Well, if it’s not okay for us as adults, why should it be okay for kids? Why start them on a course in childhood that we detest as adults? What kind of a world are we preparing them for with these Bully Buttons?

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