Sunday, April 5, 2009

Responding to conflicts and problems nonviolently

In today's newspaper a write speculates as the reasons why so many mass killings are occurring. The writer largely blames problems related to the current financial crisis. I have wrestled with the same questions while conducting research over the past five years and have come to a different conclusion.
I do not claim that what I offer is the answer; rather, perhaps a contributing factor. I have found that when problems and conflicts arise in our schools teachers ignore them, respond with punishment, or send the person(s) involved off to an expert to solve the problem. These problems are seen to be disruptions to the learning rather than learning opportunities.
If these problems and conflicts are transformed into learning opportunities, then the capacity of teachers and students can be enhanced to respond nonviolently. If teachers and students behave as passive participants in the problems and conflicts, they they will not know how to respond nonviolently to these events when they occur later in life.
Restorative justice theory offers us a way to understand this new response to problems and conflict. Restorative practices offer us skills to use when responding to problems and conflict nonviolently.

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