Our common inability to learn from 'good news stories' is as disturbing as the persistence of problems such as bullying - not just in schools, but also throughout society. This is particularly disturbing when our so-called 'experts' are found to be as resistant to such learning as the rest of us.
One of the most important 'good news stories' that I have learned so much from is the 'Peckham Experiment'. Two doctors, Scott Williamson and his wife Innes Pearse, having failed to make a particular population healthy in the usual ways (advice about diet, exercise, rest, medicines, etc.), set out to investigate the underlying causes of health.
To be able to observe people, a community centre was built in Peckham, a London suburb, and local families who joined were free to do whatever they wanted, so the doctors could see which behaviours might result in health.
After an initial six-month period of confusion, associated with developing confidence and competence to actually choose rather than be provided with activities, some remarkable things started to happen. In addition to getting healthy, the data shows that over the 12-year study, which involved over 1,000 families, there was not a single case of bullying, little interest in competitive games, virtually no accidents, no marriage breakdowns, and high levels of learning, creativity and sense of wellbeing.
The doctors reflected that it was as if they had created the conditions in which health had become 'contagious', and they identified spontaneity as the core behaviour that resulted in health (given people's genetic and experiential differences). Without consciously setting out to do this, they had actually conducted an experiment on the next stage in the psychosocial evolution of our species, from our present 'socialising' stage to an 'enabling' stage (from imposing agendas on others to enabling and supporting others in clarifying and acting on their own agendas). As long as our schools remain stuck in the 'socialising' paradigm, we will always have bullying; as just one of many expressions of resistance to such an imposition.
As we are a social species, we don't need to be socialised, but we do need to be supported and enabled to develop and act on our socialness. When our society realises this subtle difference, I suspect that not only will bullying end, but also wars, inequity, greed, and all other forms of misery. At least our experts (and politicians and educators) should be learning about this, rather than continually just describing and measuring our problems, and trying to come up with curative and remedial solutions. When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?
More about the Peckham Experiment can be found at www.thephf.org.uk. and about our psychosocial evolution at www.psychohistory.com.
(Unpublished letter, 1 Dec. 2004, to Sydney Morning Herald, following articles on bullying)