Maybe it’s a side effect of getting older, but I find it harder and harder to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice.
As a teen, I remember editing the expression of my opinions. As an adult, I can hardly keep my opinions to myself.
During a visit to the Holocaust Memorial and Intolerance Center in Glen Cove a few years ago, I was introduced to term “upstander.” Unlike a bystander, an upstander recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. In fact, the speaker made the powerful assertion that the Holocaust never could have occurred had there been more upstanders.
She went on to explain that during the Holocaust, there were the victims and perpetrators, but the largest group, by far, were the bystanders. She concluded that if some of those bystanders had actually spoken up and become upstanders, the injustices never could have occurred.
She turned this into a lesson for the children, encouraging them to stand up to bullies. She said that if they witnessed someone being mean in the school lunchroom or on the playground, it was their job as a human being and good person to stand up for the person being bullied.
According to the National Education Association, approximately 160,000 students stay home from school each day out of fear of being bullied; 86 percent said they’ve seen someone else being bullied; and 90 percent do not like seeing someone bullied. Nevertheless, fewer than 20 percent try to stop it. When bystanders intervene, more than half of the time they can stop bullying within 10 seconds.
So, as we send our children back to school, let’s send them back with this valuable lesson: Every time you speak out for what’s right, you’re making the world a better place. Wishing you all a wonderful school year.