The justice of conflict resolution

Big Picture Blog

By: Annie Sragner, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Imagine you are in grade school with a teacher renown for giving detention to all students with freckles. Some rumors say this teacher once had a bad experience with a kid with freckles. He thinks that freckles are a sign of evil and he refuses to teach any spotted student.

Each day without fail, he assigns detention to every visibly-freckled student that walks into his classroom, without warning or reason. This teacher has been handing out detentions for decades, but his tenure has left him untouchable and unaccountable. The detention hall overflows daily with banished students, all sent there by this one man.

What are the students to do about this problem? Should they boycott his class and possibly fail?  Should they once again report him to the principal, knowing no changes will follow? Should they set the school on fire? Or should they carry on as they always have, and watch this man continue to punish innocent students?

These students are angered by a common helplessness experienced by their peers, all victimized by a powerful authority. They might threaten or throw stuff at the teacher, but he still has to teach and be at school every day. Instead of lashing out and acting similarly to this teacher’s negative behavior, the student’s shared passion can be used constructively to possibly create a school where every student has the right to learn, regardless of complexion.

Instead of reflecting the disgust of a judgmental man, the students have the power to change the social dynamic. In cases like this, repetitive injustice requires a clear-minded student body to seek effective solutions.

When the administration finally acknowledges that the teacher’s behavior is unacceptable and dictates that students are no longer detained for things they can’t control, a lot of students will have the opportunity for a new start.

These students need to know that justice can allow past issues to be settled and laid to rest. The past should be remembered, but treated with the intention of learning from it and moving forward. It might be easier said than done, but human progress should be the top priority.

Gandhi had it right when he said “be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want peace, be peaceful.  If you want equality, treat others equally. If you want to put out a fire, don’t start a new one. This world can be exactly the way we envision it if we act accordingly. We have the tools we need to build a harmonious school; the only thing stopping us our reluctance to do it.

So let’s get on the same page.  It just might start with us. Our generation will be running things soon. 

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