The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The Smallest Elephant in the Room

Stu Cabe’s Speeches Revealed District 7’s Incompetence in Handling Bullying Crisis
AP Newsroom

You are not a “little elephant.” Your mistakes don’t make you less-than. You are never a lost cause. You weren’t born incapable of being a good student, a good friend and the type of person others can look up to. 

But you’re not a “big elephant,” either. You’re not intrinsically better. You need role models just as much as anyone else. You can’t pick right, be right and do right without fail, and you certainly can’t expect your peers to follow you when you try.

A big elephant vs. little elephant frenzy swept through the halls and classrooms of EHS after keynote speaker Stu Cabe visited each District 7 school for Anti-Bullying Week, Feb. 26-March 1. Cabe is an actor, a former teacher and the CEO of Ovation Co., an anti-bullying for-profit that offers speeches and workshops by Cabe himself.

At EHS, the speeches were slightly different for each grade. Most of us, bar the seniors, heard something like this:

In the 90s, baby rhinos were being slaughtered by young elephants in a wildlife preserve in South Africa. Over 50 rhinos were killed before the reserve brought in some adult elephants – some role models – to straighten out the youth. 

The big elephants fix the little ones through example. Role models are good. You get the point.

It’s a riveting story. It would’ve been a great analogy for a school environment if the adult elephants at the reserve had symbolized the actual adults – the teachers, custodians, monitors and administrators, among some – at our school. 

Instead, in a speech with the sole intention of suppressing bullying, Cabe created a literal hierarchy. He deemed some students “big elephants” and some little ones, and he said the little should follow the big. In a speech about coexistence, he divided us.

But a bad analogy is not a crime, and Cabe is not the villain here. He’s an entrepreneur who was paid to speak, and speak is what he did. He did seem genuinely devoted to spreading kindness.

And yet, despite all the ways in which his elephant claims came off too strong, the overarching message of kindness in his speech was not nearly strong enough.

The Ovation Co.’s mission statement, and Cabe’s goal in speaking to us, is to encourage students to “be nice.” 

“No elaborate pillar structure, no ‘five-step program,’ no acronyms or clever play on words,” the Ovation Co. Website says. “Just Be Nice. The brilliance of [Cabe’s] message lies in the simple, tangible way it can be applied and recalled.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, but no bully is going to hesitate to belittle, exclude or throw slurs at another kid because someone once told them to “be nice.” It’s too simple, and it’s not tangible enough. 

Bullying is not simple. It’s systematic. It’s a vicious cycle, and speeches don’t stop it. Kids don’t bully because no one taught them to be nice. Kids bully because they are insecure, lonely or deep in pain. You’ve heard it before: Hurt people hurt people. 

“Tangible” action would be the district putting the school-board-confirmed $3,000 and probably more they spent on bringing Cabe here to implement reliable support nets for both bullies and victims. “Tangible” action is not words from a stranger we’ll never see again.

Reflecting on the events of the last couple years, it’s clear that bullying is a deep-running and hugely shameful crisis in District 7. In bringing Cabe here, the district completely avoided addressing any of it. They simply put a mouthpiece on a stage to recite fairytales. 

The “big elephants” felt warm and fuzzy for an hour. The little ones sat in shame. Nothing changed.

If Cabe’s speech proved anything, it’s that District 7 wildly misunderstands how to attack bullying. It’s trying to crush something more pervasive than Tiger Den coffee on a Monday with one foot, when it needs a stampede. 

So, to my peers, I say: You are neither a “big elephant” nor a little one. You are a teenager. You have your “little elephant” moments and “big elephant” moments. You’re probably trying your best with what you’ve got, and comparing yourself to anyone else does no good. 

And to the people who make decisions, I ask you: Have empathy for the bully, compassion for the victim, substantial funding and expert input when you’re banishing this massive, sticky, ugly mess clinging to our schools.

And please, no more speeches. You’re wasting your money.

About the Contributor
Sami McKenney
Sami McKenney, Opinion Editor
Sami McKenney is a junior, a second-year journalism student, and the opinion editor of The Claw and Tiger Times Online. She is one of two presidents of Creative Arts Club, an officer of NEHS, and a member of NHS, NFHS, French Club, and the Ethics Bowl team. Outside of school, Sami can be found almost every day at Turning Pointe Academy of Dance, either in classes or in rehearsal for its pre-professional company: Tour Dance. Additionally, she is an avid reader, cat lover, and Taylor Swift enthusiast. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism and is extremely grateful to be part of such a supportive program and capable team of staff members with whom to start her journey!