Linda Lantieri, Founder Director of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program of Educators for Social Responsibility says, ‘Our children have learned how to deal with feelings of anger without harming others.
They know that anger is an appropriate response when reacting to horrible atrocities and that it is important to acknowledge and recognize these feelings. They are also aware that many other feelings hide beneath the surface of the anger iceberg’, including shock, fear, guilt, despair. Yet they have learned between the stimulus for their emotions and a knee-jerk reaction we have the option to choose how we might respond.’
The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), a programme of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR), is a research-based school programme in social and emotional learning. It is the nation’s largest and longest-running school programme focusing on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. RCCP is charac-terized by a comprehensive strategy for preventing violence and creating caring and peaceable communities of learning, which is implemented over several years.
The primary goal of RCCP is to ensure that young people develop the social and emotional skills needed to reduce violence and prejudice, form caring relationships, and build healthy lives. Currently, RCCP serves 6,000 teachers and 175,000 young people in 375 schools nationwide, including the New York City Public Schools.
In 1993, ESR Metro initiated one of the largest scientific evaluations of a school conflict programme ever conducted, involving 5,000 children and 300 teachers from 15 public elementary schools in New York City over a two year period. The findings revealed that compared with children who had little or no exposure to the curriculum, children receiving sub-stantial RCCP instruction from their classroom teachers developed more positively. They perceived their social world in a less hostile way, saw violence as an unacceptable option, and chose nonviolent ways to resolve conflict.
Some of the key findings of an independent evaluation of three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in RCCP’s Atlanta site were: 64 per cent of teachers reported less physical violence in the classroom; 75 per cent of teachers reported an increase in student cooperation; 92 per cent of students felt better about themselves; over 90 per cent of parents reported an increase in their own commun-ication and problem-solving skills.
Linda Lantieri says, ‘Our children have learned the healing power of love and respect and understanding. They see the connection between the way they treat one another and the way they will treat the world when they are in charge. They have learned that violence has its root causes in such things as poverty. These children who have been learning the skills of peacemaking since they’ve been in kindergarten also understand how hate grows ñ how it counts on us now knowing our targets and therefore ignoring their needs and cries.
‘I want to celebrate those in our country who, in spite of such a challenge, are keeping hope alive and deepening our inner lives through connection and soul searching. Across the United States, we are gathering in community events, prayer vigils, and taking moral action. We are reclaiming our sense of meaning and purpose, community and connection, as individuals and as a country.
‘I want to say to our children that there are many of us who have not given up on the power of nonviolence. Nor have we given up on providing a safe, caring and supportive school environment that welcomes all children into the classroom. I want to say to our children that I will continue to pray and struggle and work for a world where their thoughts and feeling are heard; a world in which thoughtful dialogue about complex and controversial issues is welcomed; a world in which prejudice, discrimination and hatred have no place; a world in which there are many opportunities for children to engage and actively participate in our democratic process as we meaningfully contribute to improve the lives of others and improve the world around them.
‘I want to tell our children that I believe and will struggle and work for Gandhi’s words to become a living reality: ‘If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children; and if they grow up in their natural innocence we won’t have to struggle. We won’t have to pass fruitless, idle resolutions but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which the whole world is hungering’.
Linda Lantieri is also Director of the New York Satellite office of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
FURTHER INFORMATION : RCCP Program Director, 23 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02131, USA
WEB SITE : http://www.esrnational.org