Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Zero Tolerance Teaches The Wrong Stuff

Here's a story making the news today:

A six-year-old American boy has been ordered to spend 45 days at a school for troublemakers after he brought his favorite Cub Scout camping cutlery to school.

Zachary Christie took out the combination knife, fork and spoon at lunch, in violation of the school policy of not bringing in knives.The Delaware school officials immediately suspended him and sent him off to reform school for 45 days. His mother, having better sense, withdrew him and will home school him.

As a mediator and peacemaker, I see the results of school zero-tolerance policies destroy relationships, children, and people. It is a concept born of fear and bereft of common sense. More dangerously, it does not teach children how to deal with conflict or violations constructively. Instead, zero tolerance polices teach kids that he or she who has the most power wins--exactly the wrong lesson we need to teach our future leaders if we want our species to survive another generation or so on this planet.

The solution is to invest in relationships and create the space, time, and resources to deal with conflicts and offenses appropriately. Can we teach school leaders not to be fearful of children? As a Cub Scout, I am sure Zachary is proud of his camp utensil and has great memories. Why wouldn't he want to bring it to school? An enlightened leadership at the school and in the school district would see this very obvious motivation of a six year old and respond appropriately. Imagine what the results would be if instead of investing in fear-based, one-size fits all policies that spectacularly blow up in the adminstrators' faces, the same energy were devoted to problem-solving, collaborative thinking and teaching, and compassion, even for six year olds?

Get rid of zero-tolerance policies. Invest in leadership and peacemaking skills. Model these behaviors. Our students and schools will be much better places because of it.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Radio Shows on Peacemaking

If you haven't been listening to Fix Your Conflicts! in November and December, I have had some great guests, including Bill Saa, a peacebuilder in war-torn Liberia, Gladis Benavides on cross-cultural conflict, the Resolutionary himself Stewart Levine, Barbara Raye, executive director of the Victim Offender Mediation Association, Michael Maloney on common sense and communication, Max Factor III, Esq. on social justice and mediation, and Mark Tombach on teaching values to teenagers. These have been great conversations--even the network engineer didn't want the shows to end!

This Monday its Nan Burnett's turn to talk about staying centered as a mediator and about her new book. Nan is a high conflict mediator in Denver and hosts the annual Rocky Mountain Retreat around mediation, inner work, and spirituality.

You can access and download the archived shows at http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001eUYSOg60wv0ltMKfVT7fYeDQTc7RUcFagoyyEADxRFkWeUR9PsC9QoUHaY1TAedjt5HDZm4WWOYR2UMNrozmkHDDsmqBpp493mA8MEiy8GOHbQvAeuFMTYn0e3mopQswa6SPHnYsrq4= and listen live on Mondays 11 am Pacific at worldtalkradio.com. Check it out!

Another Radio Show!

I was approached by another network to do another radio show and, after listening to the pitch, decided what the heck! On Thursday December 6, 2007, I debuted on wsradio.com on The Doug Noll Show. Unlike Fix Your Conflicts!, The Doug Noll Show will be pure call-in. I am inviting guests for the next month or so as we ramp up, but by mid-January, its all advice, all the time. The Doug Noll Show airs Thursday evenings 8 pm Pacific at wsradio.com. The shows will also be archived at http://www.lawyertopeacemaker.com/radio-archives.html so you can pick them up there as MP3 files for your iPOD.

My goal is to spread the word about how mediation and peacemaking can transform our everyday lives. Thanks for making this goal come true by listening in and supporting the shows.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Faith, Spirituality and Peacemaking

I received a really interesing email question from the Reverend Sam Propsom of Alberta Canada. His inquiry and my answer follow.

Good afternoon Mr. Noll.

I hesitate to write, as I am sure you have a much better use of your time than to answer my questions, but as Jesus said, "You have not because you ask not." So here goes!

I am writing a short review of chapter seventeen of your wonderful book, Peacemaking.... for a Doctor of Ministry course on conflict management.

In my paper I have done an evaluation, but am now stuck a bit, because in the next section I am supposed to "comment on your chapters' compatibility with a biblical worldview."

While reading the chapter I found numerous biblical parallels, yet you don't explicitly refer to any spirituality influencing your thinking. I've researched your life on the internet and there is a reference to having done BSF [Bible Study Fellowship] and being married in a Lutheran Church, but other than that your faith-life is held kind of closely. (By the way, I appreciate people who simply live their faith).

It seems to me that you are writing as a peacemaker, who happens to be a Christian and whose thinking is greatly formed by biblical categories, but are not writing a treatise on Christian mediation.

Would this be a fair assessment?

Thanks in advance for reading this. I know we all need to be careful about answering emails, so if you can't answer this, I understand.

If you do have the time and the inclination to answer this briefly, I would appreciate it.

Rev. Sam Propsom

My answer:

Dear Sam,

Because the book is utilized around the world in many different cultures and faith traditions, it is intentionally ecumenical. You will find the philosophical principles of peacemaking that I write about in every faith tradition. In fact, you will find me quoting variations on the Golden Rule from 8 major traditions on pages 230-231.

My own spirituality is defined in several ways. I call myself a follower of Jesus. If you were to peg me in a Christian theology, I might be most comfortable with the Gnostics or with the mysticism of St. Frances of Assisi. The Gnostics, of course, were eventually declared heretical by the mainstream Church because they believed in direct experience with God rather than through the intercession of a priest. Nothing like challenging the power structure to get yourself burned at the stake. Assisi was also feared by the Church, but his life was an example of profound Oneness with God. These ideas and others like them have more personal meaning for me than biblical teaching.

Obviously, my practice is deeply informed by my spirituality. One cannot see the transformations I witness on a daily basis and have the hubris to believe that they are solely caused by the presence of the peacemaker. There is clearly a higher presence and power at work in my peacemaking.

Finally, as a professional peacemaker, I am a little wary of peacemakers that label themselves by their faith. Sometimes, I have seen people use the scriptures of their faith traditions to justify and rationalize unhealthy behaviors or to exhort behavioral change in ignorance of the underlying conflict dynamics. I am also careful in considering scriptures in their entirety as texts of peace. For example, the Old Testament is full of war, rape, death, slavery, disempowerment, and destruction, sometimes instigated by an wrathful, retributive God. Not exactly the stuff of peace. On the other hand, the essential teachings of Jesus are fundamental across faith traditions. So I tread cautiously, and I am quietly guided by my own Inner Light and spirituality.

Anyways, I hope this gives you some idea of where I am coming from. My spirituality grows, deepens, and therefore changes as I do this work so you can view this small essay as a snapshot of where I am today. I think your question is so good that I am going to post it and this response on my blog site unless you have an objection.

Thank you so much for your email.

Blessings and peace,


{Note to readers: The book is called Peacemaking: Practicing at the Intersection of Law and Human Conflict. It is a textbook I wrote and was published in 2003 by Cascadia Publishing House.}

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