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What Our Actions Teach Our Children

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Message Missy Beattie
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My youngest child was an entomologist when he was in grade school. More interested in insects than sports, he'd spot a flying bug when he was on the soccer field and abandon the game to run and get a better look at the creature. Of course, he was teased. I'd tell him to ignore this and practice the moral truth of The Golden Rule-"treat others the way you want to be treated." When he was in lower school, he came home one afternoon and told me about a new program his teacher had introduced called "Conflict Resolution." Seems the students would receive instruction in behavior management to learn the negotiation skills necessary to avoid an ass-kicking. This would be accomplished through talking, listening, and coming to a mutually satisfying agreement, circumventing the violence that is a byproduct of out-of-control tension. In other words, these youngsters would learn the art of diplomacy. How ironic. Especially since the U.S. Department of Education labels conflict resolution "The Peaceable School Approach." According to the agency:
Young people cannot be expected to promote and encourage the peaceful resolution of conflicts if they do not see conflict resolution principles and strategies being modeled by adults in all areas of their lives, such as in business, sports, entertainment, and personal relationships.
In all areas of their lives? So, how would a teacher or parent answer the question that many students today would pose: "Why doesn't President Bush practice conflict resolution?" And what a good question that is. We promote the concept of a peaceful approach to problem solving in our schools. Teachers educate our children, and so do we as parents, to prevent aggressive behavior, to handle issues rationally, to brainstorm, listen, accept another's point of view, and to yield, finally, a solution that is a positive plan of action. We are employing these lessons to prepare our young not just to be useful during the upheavals of youth and adolescence but as maps for the realities that will occur throughout their lives. And as all this good intention is molding our children into little diplomats, our elected officials voted to give George Bush the authority to wage war. Congress continues to fund this war. And Bush, who has called himself both the peace president and the war president, has the audacity, despite his record of Iraq failures, beginning with the invasion itself, to request an escalation of troops. Meanwhile, this president has refused to allow the flag-draped coffins of our loved ones to be shown on television because the image might, just might bring the devastation of war death to a level of attention above shopping or sports in the conscious minds of our citizenry. So why are we embroiled in a quagmire of an atrocity of a war? Why have more than 3,050 American troops died? Why have at least half a million Iraqis been killed? Why have thousands of soldiers and Iraqis been maimed? Why are we practicing torture? Why have we violated the Geneva Convention? And what about the children of Iraq? Imagine asking them if they'd be interested in learning what we teach our students here in the United States of America-"The Peaceable School Approach" to problem solving. Diplomacy. Conflict resolution? How utterly reprehensible and tragically hypocritical.
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Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a (more...)
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