Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Last week SCMA put on a program organized by Jason Harper, about peer mediation programs in high schools. The stars of the program were undoubtedly the three high school students trained as mediators at University High School, who described how they spend every sixth period preventing fights and dealing with a whole range of other conflicts that break out among high school students. The adult mediators in the audience were struck by the maturity and poise of these students, and their obvious mastery of the fundamentals of the mediation process. This program has become so entrenched in this particular school that students often try mediation before calling each other out into the schoolyard for a fight. But peer mediation can do […]

I try to avoid second guessing juries, even when they don’t come out the way I might think they should. And I generally would not say that any acquittal in the criminal justice system shows that the system is not working. That’s because our criminal justice system is supposed to be based on the premise that it is better that ten guilty men go free than that one innocent person is convicted. A wrongful conviction might be used as evidence that the system is not working. But an acquittal, even of a guilty defendant, shows the system is working the way it was designed. But if the acquittal in the Zimmerman case can be taken as evidence that the system […]

I heard a great story tonight from a college professor. Near the beginning of this professor’s course on political philosophy, a student proclaimed that there was no such thing as justice. “I’ve read Nietzsche,” the student said, “and so I know that there is only power. Justice does not exist.” The professor asked the student to give the course a little more time to test his assumptions. “But I’m warning you,” the professor advised. “If you still think the way you do by the end of this semester, you are not going to get a very good grade.” “You can’t do that,” the student said. “Why not?” asked the professor. “Because it’s not fair!” The professor told us how pleased […]

Jared Diamond’s new book The World Until Yesterday considers what we in modern societies can learn from the few remaining traditional societies. Most of his examples come from New Guinea, where Diamond has spent a lot of time over many years. Diamond doesn’t fall into the trap of romanticizing traditional societies. He reminds us that as horrific as modern warfare can be among “civilized” nations, at least people in the developed world can, for the most part, travel unobstructed almost everywhere without fear of attack by enemies. That is not the case in many tribal cultures, where people live very circumscribed lives, often unable to travel outside their clan’s territory, otherwise they are likely to be killed by members of […]

I find myself charged with an unexpected project, trying to figure out how to deal with the probable demise of one of the largest court-assisted ADR programs in the country. At the same time, the court system is also implementing drastic funding cutbacks that are likely to increase backlogs and reduce the availability of court services, suggesting that mediation is needed more than ever to resolve disputes that the court system is less and less capable of resolving. The elimination of funding for the LA County Superior Court ADR program, expected to take place by June of this year, combined with these other cutbacks, presents a unique opportunity for other organizations–such as the Southern California Mediation Association, of which I […]