Wednesday, June 07, 2006

conflict resolution for kids

Our local newsweekly published an editorial last week about conflict resolution among students in the public school system. The editorial covers all the bases in terms of students bullying each other, race, sexuality, et cetera.

I'm not against conflict resolution, nor do I argue with children learning to settle their problems amongst themselves. What I do have an issue with is the suggestion within the article that it is natural for bullies to overassert themselves physically and that discussion among age peers is the best way to solve the problem of bullying.

Obviously, as we see such an increase in the severity of school violence, our schools have many problems. What drives a child to feel that they must have a gun at school for protection? What insults and physical abuse drives children to unleash hell on an entire school?

The writer mentions attending a variety of schools and being part of school bodies ranging from a mere 400 students to schools with upwards of 4000 students in size. Schools of either size are grossly large in terms of what children actually need in an educational environment. I have a whole utopian idea of what truly good schools would look like, but we'll file this under different rant/different day.

We are to assume that bullying is a normal part of life, so we need the school to teach our kids to learn how to deal with the bullies they will certainly face throughout their life after school. But that just isn't true. Certainly there are places and people that never tire of a good fight. There are certainly many situations throughout life that one could find themselves in which violence may be seen as the natural outcome, even if we don't often actually find ourselves in those situations. But where in life do we often have to confront a bully?

Instead of conflict resolution, many of life's schoolyard bullies might better have a little police intervention. I know that that's quite a jump, and I'm not suggesting it's always necessary. But if we stop suggesting that childhood assault is no more than simple bullying, we might start to progress to a point where we can confront the bullies and teach them that what they are doing is wrong, is often assault. And there's the point. If it's assault when grown ups do it, why is it bullying when kids do it?

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