Monday, June 16, 2008

Expansive approach to cyber-bullying

One of the very best nights I have had in Montreal during my time (fast drawing to a close) at McGill was attending the book launch of my colleague Shaheen Shariff's new book, Cyber-Bullying: Issues and solutions for the school, the classroom and the home, published by Routledge.

The venue was packed, and the event was recorded and sent out live over the internet to be "attended" by folk, including Shaheen's husband, who could not attend on the night. Shaheen gave a lively presentation on the topic of cyber-bullying, making very clear the kind of position that anyone buying the book is going to encounter.

As an international collaborator on a project led by Shaheen (funded by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council) that is now drawing to a close, I was reasonably familiar with the expansive stance that Shaheen takes. But the book pulls it together beautifully, with impressive breadth and depth.

Refusing to cave in to purveyors of risk and scaremongers of whatever persuasion, Shaheen mounts a sustained case for taking an educational approach to cyber-safety, cyber-bullying, censorship,and other related themes that is truly worthy of being called "educational". Well informed by years spent studying and working in educational law and policy before entering the academy as a full time educationist, Shaheen advocates going far beyond knee-jerk reactions to bad behaviour on the internet and making  concerted attempts to identify and address underlying causes that are grounded in widespread adult social practices of intolerance and discrimination.

The book is a study befitting the seriousness and complexity of its subject. The book's accessibility belies this complexity, and it offers a very fulfilling and challenging read.

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