The Whitney Kropp story: What’s wrong with teaching kids the ‘Golden Rule’????

30 Sep

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: At the core of bullying is a basic lack of respect for the individual who is being bullied, no matter the pretext for the bullying. The Tanenbaum Center which honors the work of the late Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum has a really good definition of the “Golden Rule” which is stated in an interview with Joyce Dubensky entitled, The Golden Rule Around the World At the core of all bullying is a failure to recognize another’s humanity and a basic lack of respect for life. At the core of the demand for personal expression and failure to tolerate opinions which are not like one’s own is a self-centeredness which can destroy the very society it claims to want to protect.


The Daily Mail has written an excellent synopsis of the bullying incident involving Whitney Kropp in the article, You shall go to the prom! Bullied teen who was saved by kindness of town after cruel prank shows off her new hair ahead of big night:

Whitney Kropp, 16, elected to homecoming court earlier this month – only to find out it had been a prank by popular students

  • Facebook page set up in support of sophomore, and donations pour in for her hair, make-up and a dress for the homecoming dance tonight
  • More than 1,000 showed up at homecoming game last night to support her
  • ‘The kids that are bullying you, do not let them bring you down,’ Whitney said after ceremony…

But her triumph turned to humiliation when she found out from other students that her nomination was nothing but a prank by the popular kids at the school – and she was told that the male student who was elected with her had withdrawn.

She said the prank hit hard and she even considered suicide.

But in an impressive show of support, her community rallied around her.

Local businesses offered to pay for her homecoming dress and shoes, for her to get her hair done, and even to buy her homecoming dance dinner.

A Support Whitney Facebook page has received more than 100,000 likes, after her heartbreaking tale of bullying resonated with hundreds of thousands around the country.

A natural question is whether “values education” in schools would affect the number of instances of bullying? For a really good description of the goal of “values education,” see Teaching Values in School: An Interview with Steve Johnson

The Tanenbaum Center which honors the work of the late Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum has a really good definition of the “Golden Rule” which is stated in an interview with Joyce Dubensky entitled, The Golden Rule Around the World

At its simplest, it’s really just “being kind.” Caring about other people. That means putting that kindness into action and treating people with compassion. It means trying to understand people’s beliefs and needs. It means not harming others and actively working to eliminate harm….
What concrete steps can people take to start to put the Rule into practice?

Practically, there are steps that institutions and individuals can take to make a difference.

Institutionally, there are anti-discrimination and accommodation policies you can put into place to ensure that employees aren’t unduly thwarted in their ability to practice their religions. Educational institutions can make sure that teachers are properly trained to create inclusive, multi-cultural and multi-religious classrooms. And hospitals can work proactively with patients who may not want treatment that conflicts with their religion.

There are also things we can all do on the individual level. We can notice people who are not from our own group – people who have different practices or beliefs – and be interested in them. We can be curious about who they are and what their lives are like, without applying stereotypes. We can ask questions with curiosity and respect and truly listen to and digest the answers. And we can be willing to share about ourselves, our own beliefs and our own experiences.

Finally, we can work together, whether in workplaces, schools, community groups or governments to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints are
involved in decision-making. By making all voices heard – and really listening to each of those voices – we can solve many of the problems we face together.

And when we do that, we’ll get to the gold.

Some form of the “Golden Rule” is found in most religious traditions.

Misunderstandings Which Could Divide Religious Conservatives and Secularists

There are probably as many chances for understanding and misunderstanding as there are people. For many secularists, they probably wince when they hear some person like this blogger state that they believe The Bible is the inspired word of God. The question inevitably turns to what does that mean for me and how I will be treated? The honest answer is, it will probably vary depending on the individual. Still, although there are certain individual passages of The Bible other religious texts which can be harsh, the admonition is to look at the entire book, as in the case of Christianity. Christians are clearly mandated to love their neighbor.

On the other hand, many Christians and others of faith assume that because they take a strong stance for their belief, many of those who are secularists will automatically dismiss them and their beliefs. Again, this may or may not be an individual perception. If there is anything good which can come out of these tragic instances of bullying, perhaps it will be to spur people on to greater understanding with the intention of being tolerant of people who are not like us.

Anthony B. Robinson, President of Congregational Leadership Northwest has an excellent post at Crosscut, which although written specifically about religious tolerance, is really a good piece about tolerance in general. In Why Religious People Can Be More tolerant Than Secularists? Robinson writes talking about Rabbi Jonathan Sacks thoughts:

The secularist may argue for tolerance. Tolerance is a hallmark virtue of modernity, and certainly a necessary one. But is it sufficient?

At least sometimes, tolerance masks indifference. The person who breezily declares that, “Well, all religions are really just the same, only different paths up the same mountain,” may not be that helpful or persuasive to those whose faith is at the core of their life and culture. People who dismiss religious faith often end up dismissing people of faith. They lack the vocabulary and points of reference to enter into some of the most important conversations….

We need people who have mined their own religious traditions deeply. We need people who are used to carrying diamonds and so know something of the value of rubies. We need people and communities of faith that are both deeply rooted in their own tradition and radically open to people of other faiths and traditions.

Sometimes in modern and Western cultures we imagine that the person best equipped to be truly tolerant is the person without any deep or particular religious or world-view commitments of his or her own and who, as such, is assumed to be open to all. It is the myth of detached objectivity.

Sacks argues for a different option, something more and something deeper than tolerance: a radical openness and respect for the faith and traditions of others, because one is so deeply rooted in one’s own.

Religious people need to mine their own religious traditions which will lead them back to the “Golden Rule.” Secularists need to examine the practicality of the “Golden Rule.” The “Golden Rule” is the beginning of tolerance.

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