Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The imp of the perverse

This story is not the sort of thing we normally talk about on Cannonfire. But it points to a psychological conundrum I've long wondered about.

Here's the gist: A new study indicates that bullies are a greater problem in schools with anti-bullying programs.
The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be more likely to become a victim of bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.

The results were stunning for Jeong. “Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact — some positive impact.”

The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.

Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it.
What interests me here is not the issue of bullying per se. Let's zoom out to address a larger issue: How do we tell young people not to do certain things without putting malign ideas in their heads?

When I was young, schools made a big deal out of "glue sniffing." We were warned in no uncertain terms that this practice was dangerous. But the truth is, I probably would not have known that glue sniffing was a thing if the school had not made me aware that the practice existed.

I've read elsewhere that hard-hitting anti-smoking campaigns -- campaigns that expose students to images of diseased lungs and dying cancer patients -- tend to have the opposite of the intended effect.

My suspicion is that if a school were to institute a strident campaign against arson, the hallways of that school would soon fill with smoke.

There's a long-untenanted house in my neighborhood. The owner of the property once told me that, to the best of his knowledge, nobody has ever broken in. Ah...but what if he were to place a very large "NO TRESPASSING" sign in the front yard?

Poe called it "The imp of the perverse." That's his term for the voice that tells us to do things "merely because we feel we should not."
There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.
Maybe Hollywood movies decrying crooked politicians have taught politicians to be crooks?

If warnings against evil propagate evil, how can virtue take hold?
Comments:
Fear of the "Imp of the Perverse" may explain the opposition to sex education, although I would prefer to attribute it to the resentment that someone else may be having more fun than you.
 
Speaking of Poe and conspiracies, have you ever figured out what killed Poe?
 
Oh, please do a piece on Poe!

Regarding how virtue is to take place, the following from the i ching:

You can't fight evil head on, for evil will match you, move by move. The only was to counter evil is to make energetic progress in the good.


 
The death of Poe is an easy one. First thing you have to understand is that he lived in Baltimore and didn't really have the money to relocate. Thus, he killed himself.

Mystery solved.

The I Ching bit is interesting. But how do you make "energetic progress in the good" when comes to, say, explaining to schoolchildren why sniffing glue is dangerous?
 
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