Guest Columnist

Teach conflict resolution

Ferida Nuhanovic (left), seventh grade language arts teacher, listens to students as Judy Goldberg, an attorney and conf
Ferida Nuhanovic (left), seventh grade language arts teacher, listens to students as Judy Goldberg, an attorney and conflict circles facilitator for the Kids First Law Center’s Youth Peace Project, reacts during a lunchtime check-in with leaders from the seventh grade at McKinley STEAM Academy in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The students are working with staff and outside groups like the Kids First Law Center to learn about conflict resolution strategies to cope with violence in the surrounding neighborhoods and possibly at home. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Education is a big issue. We all agree, I think, that we need an education system that prepares our children for success. Recently there have been articles about what should be included in the school curricula. For example, a personal finance course for all high schools will start this fall. An excellent addition.

But there is another area that desperately needs to be part of the curricula: conflict resolution Young people today are growing up in a time when our society is deeply divided and people are bombarded daily with words and actions that are poor examples of how to handle disagreements. There is an environment that validates attacks upon others rather than respectful dialogue.

I believe schools can play a bigger role in meeting the needs of our children with subjects like conflict resolution. Our children need to be taught from an early age that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than to resort to either passive or active violence. Skills in anger management and in time management are related skills that can be included.

An important activity is taking place at McKinley Middle School In Cedar Rapids according to an article in the Sunday Dec. 22 Gazette (“Feeling safe”). The Youth Peace Project offers circles in relationship restorative practices and conflict resolution to middle schoolers in the district. It‘s an outgrowth from the Kids First Law Center and is showing a good record of success. We congratulate all those involved with this program.

Obviously such programs require staff that are well-trained in these areas and committed to reducing the incidents of violence now so prevalent in our society and in the world. It also encourages continuing education programs for adults, particularly parents, and perhaps leaders, who could benefit from exposure to alternative ways to approach problem situations and to reinforce these ways with their children.

Primary emphasis on the idea of success as having the big job, the accumulation of wealth, the celebrity status, or other sources of power is an environment that is not responding to the full range of human needs. It has not produced productive ways to live a good and satisfying life. It has created much stress on our children, and has not been good for society as a whole. Let’s take a forward step by expanding on the things the McKinley program has shown to work.

Sally McMillan lives in Iowa City.

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