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New ethics and general boycott: what problems children of Russian-speaking immigrants face in American schools

The new school year is fraught with new hopes and troubles for parents, as well as anxiety. What is the risk of an immigrant child being bullied in an American school? How tolerant are local children and teachers of foreigners, and what can prevent foreign children from adapting among American peers?

Photo: Shutterstock

Politically correct taboos

For the most part, Russian-speaking immigrants assure: for young children, even an initial ignorance of the language does not become an obstacle to joining a new team. First graders grasp English in a couple of months, and quickly find a common language with their classmates. Problems most often arise when Russian-speaking children do not want to follow the new social and cultural attitudes that are actively introduced in schools - especially if attitudes contradict what they hear in the family. In this case, we are talking not only about the attitude towards people of the opposite sex or race, but also about the most, at first glance, innocent things.

“My 7-year-old son got a bad mark for behavior because he convinced his classmates that Santa Claus does not exist. For some of his peers, such revelations became a real tragedy, while my son was sure that it was his duty to tell other children the truth, ”said one of my acquaintances.

Indeed, many immigrants note that 20 years ago there were “taboo” topics in schools that, according to teachers, could cause stress among students. For example, in the classroom, they tried not to discuss terrorist attacks or other traumatic events, and did not encourage if the children had such a desire.

“This approach had its own logic. Since school is a place where a child must go, teachers have been careful to avoid anything that might harm him. If children discussed such things in the club, on the playground, at a party, in a word, wherever the child goes voluntarily, the attitude would be fundamentally different, ”the parents explain.

Bullying and boycotts

However, these days, according to many Russian-speaking immigrants, school policy has changed. Now the "politically correct" taboos are being replaced by a very definite point of view, and not all students are ready to agree with it. According to San Francisco immigrant Yana Ratman, this applies not only to "sensitive" topics of gender or race, for which discrimination is really unacceptable, but also to various social or political attitudes.

On the subject: What is wrong with language schools and how to learn English without them: a teacher's opinion

“These attitudes are so categorical that children are often required not only to agree with them, but also to actively support them. Those students who do not share them become outcasts among their peers. As a result, children are drawn into discussion of issues about which, due to their complexity, they simply cannot yet form their own opinion. For example, when the issue of cutting police funding was discussed, students in California schools were taught that the police were an absolute evil. At the same time, there was a black guy among my daughter's friends, and the parents of his girlfriend were just police officers. They experienced this situation very hard, and, of course, this creates a split both in families and among the children themselves, ”she says.

According to Yana and her acquaintances, the problem is not even that the school imposes an opinion that is different from what the children hear in the family, but that to the opinion of the parents, if it is, according to modern standards, “wrong”, no tolerance is allowed. As a result, children withdraw into themselves, afraid to discuss problematic issues both at school and at home, or go into conflicts with their parents. Such "irreconcilable" topics include, for example, criticism of the BLM movement (even if the person does not hold any racist views, and only criticizes the organization's methods), gender reassignment issues, or discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In addition to conflicts in the family, new school ethics, according to immigrants, is often the reason for bullying a child at school.

“The worst thing is that if children express something different from the generally accepted opinion, they are threatened with complete social isolation. For adolescents, this is death-like, and can indeed lead to suicide. In addition, this position is in conflict with the very same American attitude towards tolerance. Schools proclaim the fight against bullying as the basis of their policies, but when it comes to political attitudes, there is no tolerance for a different opinion, and the position of the teachers themselves often creates conditions for bullying. If teachers try to be more lenient with a different opinion, colleagues and school administrators begin to persecute them, ”explains Yana.

According to Yana herself, she was lucky: her daughter studied at a private Catholic school, where the approach to such things was more moderate. In addition, there were other children in the class who held a different point of view and could correctly formulate it. Even so, the girl felt the threat of alienation.

Photo: Shutterstock

"The school must shape values ​​and set the tone"

In turn, the deputy of the Rock County Assembly in Wisconsin from the Democratic Party, Yuri Rashkin, believes that the new trends in the school are rather positive, even if not everyone agrees with them.

“When my son went to 10th grade, the teacher asked him which pronoun he would prefer as an address. For him - an ordinary heterosexual boy - it was a shock. However, I think this is a great innovation. It means that our society is moving in a more enlightened direction, and the school is exactly the place where a new culture should be born and formed. Yes, it is still difficult for many to accept it, and people are often frightened, not knowing exactly where the line is located, which cannot be crossed. But, nevertheless, it is the school that must form values ​​and set the tone for the discussion of social problems, ”the deputy believes.

At the same time, Yuri Rashkin believes that children in any case should not be subjected to bullying, even if their opinion does not coincide with that of the teacher.

“Bullying children is always wrong and dishonest, and teachers should make sure that this does not happen. Of course, it is the teacher's responsibility to explain to the children that they cannot attack each other and that there are other points of view. Another thing is that teachers are often put under pressure from the system and the surrounding events, and since they are also people, they can become radicalized. But in any case, I am sure that they want the best for their students, ”Yuri Rashkin is sure.

Bullying can be dealt with anyway

In turn, clinical psychologist Olga Podolskaya believes that the practice of not discussing sensitive topics in school is more justified than discussing them in a certain social discourse.

“As adults, we understand that any topic can be discussed culturally and delicately, that is, so as not to injure children. On the other hand, it is clear that children raised in different conditions are unlikely to be able to discuss certain topics delicately and tactfully. In this regard, the ban on discussing any issues looks legitimate. The school brings together children of different ethical views, skin colors, property status and so on, and they all need to learn how to peacefully coexist with each other, ”she said.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

At the same time, Olga notes that in any case there is a concept of the mainstream, and it can be very difficult to get around it. It is where there is no prohibition on discussion that teachers or other children can express their opinion, which, quite naturally, most often coincides with the generally accepted one.

“Unfortunately, if a child does not get into the mainstream, it is quite logical that other children are less willing to interact with him. You can hardly do anything about it. It is quite another matter when a child is declared an organized boycott, when even those who would like to be friends with this child are intimidated or otherwise shut off from communication with him. Relatively speaking, if a child is put buttons on a chair, if they start laughing or calling him names, in a word, if the behavior of other children is organized, we can talk about bullying, ”explains Olga.

According to the psychologist, in this case, you first need to call a spade a spade. Parents should come to school and say bluntly that they have faced bullying.

“Even if it happened because the child disagrees with the teacher, bullying is considered unacceptable in the United States. Almost all schools here have anti-bullying programs. If the situation is provoked by the teacher himself, you need to go to the headmaster or school district, as the child needs protection. And here, in America, such cases are very seriously monitored, ”says Olga Podolskaya.

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