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Any study of conflict reveals that it can be good or bad. According to the findings of Kenneth Johnson, the guest on this program, conflict that costs us dearly in terms of human potential and financial resources is the conflict we find in our schools.
Costs of conflict nationwide are staggering. If we don’t begin to deal with it more effectively, many folks fear it will become unmanageable. Taking action NOW is the topic of this program, as Dr. Sutton interviews Mr. Johnson on addressing concerns that should be paramount to us all.
Consider, for instance, the school issue of bullying. With all the attention and resources given to bullying over the past decade or two, is there less bullying today?
Consider also those at-risk students who, through no fault of their own, come to school with circumstances and disadvantages that hold them back from the start. Poverty, poor nutrition and health, backgrounds of abuse, alcoholism, drugs and addiction, plus poor readiness skills, cause these youngsters to experience stress and trouble with performance-based standards. Their frustration can lead to behavior problems, a high dropout rate, increased juvenile crime, and a strain on social services, law enforcement and judicial systems. Suicide, the number one cause of death in young people, is, of course, the ultimate concern.
Schools and educators, bound by laws and burdensome expectations, are also under a great deal of pressure. Some of our best teachers leave the profession on a regular basis.
According to Mr. Johnson, resolution of conflict in the schools starts at the community level and involves everyone. In his comprehensive book, Unbroken Circles(sm): Restoring Schools One Conflict at a Time, Mr. Johnson outlines a comprehensive, step-by-step guided process for addressing concerns of conflict while getting everyone involved in the process. In activities of daily circles, for instance, students are taught restorative practices in ways that hold their interest and draw authentic participation. The potential for applied concepts like Restorative Justice is more than encouraging, it’s life-changing.
Kenneth Johnson is culturalist (a social scientist), a Collaborative Justice specialist in the field of Conflict Dynamics, and an experienced mediator and consultant. He’s an expert in what is called Alternative Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice–and he has a big heart for young people. (27:39)
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