Author John Marsden criticised over bullying comments

Author John Marsden is facing criticism for comments he’s made about bullying.

Marsden, best know as the author of the ‘Tomorrow’ book series, has been a teacher for several decades and runs two schools north of Melbourne.

The author has defended comments he made saying that bullying was just “feedback” from other children. Marsden said some “pure unadulterated bullying” does occur, most is prompted by what he called the “unlikeable behaviours” of the child who is being bullied.

Marsden says those experiencing bulling should first look at their own behaviours and see if they themselves are to blame. The educators advice to children is to “look at your own likeable and unlikeable behaviours and try to reduce the list of unlikeable behaviours and unlikeable values and unlikeable attitudes and over time that will probably have a significant effect”.

The author made the comments as he was promoting a new book he has written he Art of Growing Up which argues that the education system is trying to cover too many issues.

His comments have been condemned by bullying experts. Naomi Priest, an Australian National University Associate Professor, who researches the impact of racism and bullying on young people told the Sydney Morning Herald that Marsden’s take on bullying was “flawed”.

“It is a very limited and flawed understanding of bullying to characterise it as just about an individual’s character traits that are unappealing,” Priest said.

Marsden dismissed research suggesting that children from non-anglo backgrounds were more likely to experience racism saying in his experience conflict occurred because children form some subcultures were not ‘westernised’ enough. The author drew upon his time teaching at Geelong Grammar in the 1980s.

“At Geelong Grammar they had quite a high percentage of students enrolling from Asian countries and their acceptance depended very much upon how Westernised they were,” Marsden said of his time at the school. “If they were able to speak English fluently and wear the clothes that Anglo kids wore and listened to the same kind of music, then they were fully accepted.

“There was absolutely no racism involved,” Marsden added. “But if they weren’t yet at that stage then there was a gulf between them… It didn’t necessarily result in bullying, although sometimes it did, but more often it was sort of a gap between the two subcultures.”

Marsden denied his views were racist.

OIP Staff

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