Friday, January 19, 2007

World Conflict Simplified

Is it a question of escalation?

Let’s put it in context.
As a teacher, I often deal with these kinds of issues and frankly, I prefer using the classroom as an example of human interaction to my family. With 24 – 30 kids to deal with, I see and deal with a wider variety of issues.

I think we need to have some ideals. Let’s agree, for the sake of argument that:
1) people are good (which puts someone like Saddam in a whole different category. There is no excuse for genocide.)
2) people want to protect themselves.
3) people will act on their beliefs.

You have to buy one idea more. Kids experience frustration and anger for the same reasons that everyone else does.

What causes a conflict in a classroom?
a) a right seems to be infringed upon
b) an action is misconstrued
c) a pre-determination is made about the other party’s motive or interest.
d) Others?

I have found that in only a few cases (and these few cases represent those kids that you worry will grow up to be ax murders) kids are not mean. They express needs that they cannot meet – however ineffectually.

If you buy all of this, I would like to say that adults are like little children. The greater our fear that we will loose rights, freedoms or property, the greater our capacity to behave like children. We throw problem-solving skills out the window. We are not concerned about why there is conflict. We want to retaliate. Our first step is to position ourselves politically and then if that fails we leap right to step two - all out war.

And like children, there is no figuring out who was right or wrong at the end of it. We pick up the pieces and carry on.

If you listen to two children who you’ve pulled apart, each will know exactly why they are in battle. They know exactly what the other did. Usually, they cannot express what it is that they did to get them there.

My solution has been to discover where the conflict became unacceptable. Conflict is normal. It is only the outcome that determines whether it has been acceptable or not. That moment is the first act of aggression. That’s it.

Kid number one called a name, broke a pencil, pulled some hair. Kid number two retaliated. They are both wrong. I make it perfectly clear to each kid where it was that he or she went wrong and we go from there.

What role does the teacher play? Big brother? Do we have an organization that is supposed to deal with these kinds of issues on the world’s stage? I think we do. The United Nations?

This is why countries should not unilaterally invade other countries. In the world playground, countries are kids trying to bash out solutions to their problems. It didn’t work when we were kids. It won’t work now.

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