Last Updated 13 Apr 2020

The Need for Academic Integrated Conflict Resolution in Education

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The conflict between individuals aged 13 to 19 is so high that the need for academically integrated conflict resolution programs is quickly becoming a focal point of those involved in the educational world. Parents, teachers, and psychologists alike have all expressed horror that the rising number of youth offenders, violence in the schools, racial intolerance and the like has rapidly risen among their teenaged children, students, and clients. It has become second nature for students to solve their conflict with verbal confrontations and physical altercations.

Tragically, the use of guns either aimed at the person that they believe to be the cause of their angst or at themselves in suicidal attempts is sometimes the heartbreaking epilogue of an inability to properly deal with conflict. It seems as though students don't know how to peacefully resolve the conflicts that they find themselves in on a day-to-day basis. A conflict resolution-training program that is integrated into a student's academic program will encourage students to learn the methods of peaceful mediation.

It will induce students to apply the methods of conflict resolution into their day-to-day disputes not to mention the positive impact that it will have on their academic achievement. "A conflict exists when actions come into opposition. Conflict can occur within an individual, group, organization, institution, or nation. Conflicts can cross boundaries. They can occur between individuals and institutions, and across cultures. How we manage or resolve conflicts is the central issue.

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Today, underlying the violence that surrounds our schools, neighborhoods, and communities are conflicts which have never been addressed or have been improperly resolved. Indeed in a diverse and complex society, Conflict Resolution Programs are much needed and an important component of all schools. In the 60's and 70's this need was understood by the Quakers and peace activists. In the early 1980's, Educators for Social Responsibility examined alternative strategies of dealing with violence. The Children's Creative Response to Conflict, the Community Board's Program, and the Peace Education Foundation were in the forefront of the movement.

In 1984 the National Association of Mediation (NAME) was formed which served as a clearinghouse for information and training for school- based conflict resolution programs. In 1983 the National Institute of Dispute Resolution (NIDR) was formed to promote the development of conflict resolution tools and processes. Several types of programs have now emerged in schools of a collaborative and cooperative problem-solving approach involving processes such as negotiation, conciliation, mediation, fact finding, and arbitration.

The Gandhian method of conflict resolution, called "satyagraha", or truth force, is concerned with human needs and recognizes the importance of resolving the "conflict triangle": the attitude, the behavior, and the goal incompatibility itself. For Gandhi the desired outcome of a conflict is in the creation of a better social structure, and a greater degree of human unity. " (C. W. Post Library on Nonviolence). Conflict resolution in the inner city schools is quickly becoming an epidemic.

Many schools have implemented preventative programs which include both uniformed and undercover armed guards to metal detectors to metal detectors in the school hallways. "... Though one New York City study suggests the effectiveness of metal detectors, many experts fear that detectors do little more than create a false sense of security in schools" (Witkin, 1998). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects that a conflict resolution program that is integrated into an English literature class has on students in an urban high school in New York.

According to Johnson and Johnson (1996), conflict resolution programs can be divided into three ways. There is the cadre or total student body approach, which trains certain students to become peer mediators or training every student in the school in constructive conflict management, respectively. Levy (1989) and Maxwell (1989) divide conflict resolution programs into two categories: curriculum-based programs and peer mediation programs. Curriculum based programs are preventative in nature and focus on teaching students to about conflicts and the alternatives to violence as a method of resolution.

They emphasize social skills, empathy training, stress and anger management, attitudes about conflicts, and bias awareness. The third division is a division of skills-oriented approaches and academically oriented approaches. Opotow (1991) has found skills-oriented approaches to be those in which students are taught the interpersonal and small-group skills which are needed to resolve conflicts constructively (D. W. Johnson, 1997; D. W. Johnson & F. Johnson, 1997); in the academic approach students are taught the intellectual procedures and cognitive skills for managing conflicts such as academic controversy (D. W. Johnson & R. Johnson, 1979, 1995a), violence prevention (Prothrow-Stith, Spivak, & Hausman, 1987), and critical thinking (Paul, 1984; Seigel, 1988); and the last approach is the structural-change approach which emphasize changing the school structure from a mass-manufacturing approach to a team based, high-performance organizational structure (D. W. Johnson & R. Johnson, 1994) and providing a cooperative context for a management of conflict (Deutsch, 1973; D. W. Johnson & R. Johnson, 1994).

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