Starting or Stepping Out with the Right Foot by Robert N. Meroney

“Nay, but make haste; the better foot before.” – William Shakespeare, King John, 1595

If one wants peace among mankind to begin and persist, what better way than to begin by “starting out with the right foot” at an early age in a setting of learning. So many of our bad habits, beliefs, and attitudes are instilled at a very early age which makes them extra hard to change or lose.

Years ago, I took my children with me to a sabbatical year in Karlsruhe Germany. We entered them both in German public schools (Grundschule and Gymnasium), but later my son attended the high school at the military base maintained for military service dependents. Given the multiracial mix of our military, he met and studied with kids who were white, black, Chicano, and Asian. He had a good experience there, and he had the opportunity to judge other kids based on how they behaved and not just on how they looked.

At the end of the year on our way home, we stopped by to see my mother, who unfortunately and frankly was very bigoted. She made some very negative comments in front of my son about how “All blacks are xxxxxxxx.”   My son responded by saying, “No grandma that is not true, I had good friends in school in Karlsruhe, and they were not that way at all.”   I was very proud of his response, and I am also glad he had the opportunity to learn through personal experience, which will remain with him all his life.

It is my own personal belief, that God did not make any second-class people. Fortunately, a number of people of good will around the world have concluded the same. There have been deliberate efforts to expose the young to different races, religions and cultures by integrating them at an early age in joint educational experiences. Let’s consider such initiatives which challenge ingrained prejudices and hates especially among communities in conflict.

The Hazelwood Integrated College, Newtownabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland is one of 65 schools (45 primary and 20 post-primaries) and 17,000 students who are committed to genuine reconciliation between catholic and protestant communities based on understanding and accepting diversity through educating children together. https://www.integratemyschool.com/   Hazelwood, founded in 1985, serves students from ages 11 to18.   The school is committed to removing social, cultural and religious barriers such that their graduates can live together in understanding, respect, and harmony. Experiences at integrated schools are being collected in The Big Small Stories project capturing, recording and archiving the memories of the pupils, parents, and teachers. http://www.nicie.org/thebigsmallstories/

In Israel, a nation with a population 75% Jewish and 21% Arab, there has traditionally been no joint school attendance of the two groups. There are now six Hand in Hand schools teaching 1,580 pupils through the age of 12. The Hand in Hand schools bring together the two cultures by teaching in two languages (Hebrew and Arabic) with two teachers from each culture, but in one classroom.   Their mission is to build a shared society “One school, one community at a time.” Their goal over the next ten years is to create a network of 10 to 15 schools, supported by their local bi-cultural communities. In March Hand-in-Hand co-founder Lee Gordon received the Brock International Prize in Education (prize consists of $40,000, a certificate, and a bust of Sequoyah[1] )   https://www.handinhandk12.org/inform/why-we-exist

Today, Integrated Schools are being promoted around the world. In Turkey integrated schools are used to teach Turkish kids and Syrian refugee children in a common environment. In Charlotte, North Carolina, integrated schools are busing students to balance racial compositions and socioeconomic status among whites (45 percent), blacks (35 percent) and Latinos (13 percent). Similar schools are also now present in previously war-torn areas like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Cyprus, and Croatia. Integrated schools are believed to be essential in contributing to the healing of the wounds that afflict conflicted societies, easing the path towards peace, reconciliation, and Integration.

As important as the “right foot” forward, we should recall the words of Richard Harvey, in Plaine Perceuall the peace-maker of England, 1590, who was the first to record the antonymic “wrong foot” phrase in print:

           “Thou putst the wrong foote before.” [2]

 Remember,

“People are hard to hate close up, so move in” –Brené Brown in Braving the Wilderness, 2017

[1] Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith who created a written language for the Cherokee nation in 1821 to encourage literacy among his people. Soon the literacy rate among Cherokees was higher than surrounding European-American settlers. The initiative resulted in similar initiatives in Canada, Liberia, and China. Today there are some 21 scripts, used for over 65 languages.

[2] https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/150300.html

 

Bob Meroney is a Senior Research Scientist/Scholar and Emeritus Professor in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University. He has been an active member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club and regularly researches a range of topics on modern life, issues and politics that serve to spark deeper conversations among friends and colleagues.

The Restorative Justice Paradigm Shift by Lindsey Pointer

What is “justice”?

Take a few moments to think about that question. It is a word we use a lot. “Demand justice.” “Seek justice.” “Justice has been done.”

But what do we really mean when we use the word “justice”?

Often times, justice is understood as retributive harming: an eye for an eye. In the justice system, schools, workplaces, and internationally, we look to punish those who have violated rules or laws. Punishment involves responding to harm by causing reciprocal harm. This is often justified through the reasoning that it will deter future negative behavior. However, what researchers have found is that punishment, regardless of the context, results in feelings of stigmatizing shame on the part of those punished. This experience of shame leads those who have been punished to reject their rejecter (those in authority) and the rules of their rejecter’s system. Through this dynamic of shame, punishment actually often leads to an increase in future harmful behavior and an adversarial relationship between those who have caused harm and the people and system responsible for “doing justice.”

Restorative justice offers a shift in how we understand justice and the pursuit of justice. Rather than retribution, justice is understood as healing and the pursuit of respectful social relationships. Central to the restorative approach to justice making is the questions, “How can we respond to harm without causing further harm?” Restorative justice seeks to put things right for all involved, while also modeling peaceful and respectful behavior in the justice response and providing an opportunity for learning.

One of the best ways to understand this restorative shift in the concept and implementation of justice is to look at the questions asked. Whereas the punitive concept of justice focuses on violations of laws and appropriate punishment, restorative justice focuses on how the people involved have been affected and what can be done to make things right.

The Restorative Shift
Punitive Justice Questions Restorative Justice Questions
1. What rule/law was broken? 1. What happened?
2. Who did it? 2. Who was affected?
3. How should he/she be punished? 3. What can be done to repair the harm and make things right?

Bring to mind a situation in your life where you have experienced an injustice. First, try applying the punitive justice questions. What are the outcomes? How are the relationships impacted? Next, try applying the restorative justice questions to the same situation. How did this shift in the questions you asked and the concept of justice you pursued change the situation? As you go through your day, try the same exercise with stories in the news and problems you encounter with your family, friends and colleagues. You will be amazed by the difference this shift can make!

 

Lindsey Pointer is a restorative practices facilitator, trainer and researcher and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand with support from a Rotary Global Grant Scholarship and the Fulbright Program from the U.S. State Department.

 

Rethinking Our Ideas, Paradigm Shifts and Peacebuilding by William M. Timpson

(Adapted from William M. Timpson’s (2002) Teaching and Learning Peace (Madison, WI: Atwood.)

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela (1994) argues for a paradigm shift, a new vision that can help keep us free from the bitter desire for revenge when we have felt wronged or persecuted, a motivation that too often leads to an escalation of violence and reprisal. Imprisoned for twenty-seven years on Robben Island for his ceaseless work against apartheid, a system of brutal subjugation of the black majority by a privileged white minority, Mandela had every reason to be consumed by anger. Instead he pushed himself and those around him to identify a higher ground outside that prison of oppression and reprisal.

Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me. It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew it as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken away from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity (p. 624).

So often the violence needed to sustain oppression only sparks a round of violence in response. In our classrooms, organizations and communities, we can help people see the interconnectedness among all peoples, between their own privileges, for example, and the sacrifices of those who have had to make do with much less. We can help people recognize the sources of prejudice that lurk in the unexamined crevices of their own psyches. We can help them help others rethink their biases.

One of the real joys of learning is that flash of insight when something first makes sense, when you break through “conventional wisdom” and see a creative new possibility. Thomas Kuhn’s (1970) classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, describes the process by which the prevailing paradigms that define our thinking gradually give way to new models as counterevidence grows. Galileo was persecuted as a heretic when he dared to suggest that the earth was not the center of the universe. In some areas of the U.S the word “evolution” has been purged from science texts as creationists push to have alternative theories represented.

If we turn to the classroom or organization, we can see instances where people have felt hurt by a particular comment and lashed back in anger. Some people vie for attention. Others want control. A few may feel helpless much of the time. The work of Dreikurs (1968), in particular, offers some ideas for understanding how these motivations can play out and what options instructors have. Knowing some of this could also help you handle the emotions that surface around revenge, in particular. Naming the underlying motivation can go far toward helping students unpack the danger inherent in revenge and move toward alternative responses.

Dreikurs hypothesizes the following relationships between a person’s inner motivation or goal and how you might be feeling when you come into contact with that person. Knowing about these ideas can provide a useful tool for intervening when conflicts arise and revenge rears its ugly head.

  • Someone seeking revenge for something in the past can produce feelings of hurt in others; dealing with emotions openly and sensitively can help a group, and an individual, move on.
  • Someone seeking power will typically produce feelings of competitiveness in others; periodic reminders about cooperation may help.
  • Someone seeking attention will often generate feelings of annoyance in others. Naming the behavior for what it is can help others identify the source of their frustration and address the issue in a constructive manner; e.g., agreeing to a ground rule that maximizes participation, that allows everyone a chance to speak before any one individual gets to speak a second time.
  • Someone acting helpless can engender feelings of inadequacy in others. When some people just can’t get an idea, it may be best to get others involved, to point those people toward other resources on campus.

 

References

Dreikurs, R. (1968) Psychology in the classroom: A manual for teachers. New York: Harper and Row.

Kuhn, T. (1970) The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mandela, N. (1994) Long walk to freedom. Boston: Little Brown.

 

Bill Timpson has been on the faculty at Colorado State University in its School of Education for many years and a member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club where his focus on sustainable peacebuilding in Burundi, East Africa, has been supported by two Global Grants.