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 […]

The most high profile negotiations in the world this weekend took place in Geneva, where the U.S. and Russia announced agreement on a framework for the surrender of chemical weapons by the government of Syria. Apparently discussion of this issue has going on for a long time. The idea of disarmament by the government of Syria did not simply arise in response to its recent chemical weapons attack. We might therefore try to analyze this agreement using modern principles of interest-based bargaining. Syria and Russia have an interest in resolving a terrible civil war (they are hoping to resolve it in favor of the government of Syria). They also have an interest in trade and decent relations with other countries in […]

Wayne LaPierre owes an apology, or at least an explanation, to Antoinette Tuff, the Georgia school employee who successfully talked down a gunman who entered her elementary school with an assault rifle and some 500 rounds of ammunition. Remember it was NRA spokesman LaPierre who responded to the Newtown shooting by advising us that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to rely on a good guy with a gun. That’s right, he said that more guns is the ONLY way to stop violence. Antoinette Tuff instead showed that engaging in an hour-long empathetic dialogue with a dangerous gunman might be an equally effective way to stop a bad guy with a gun. In fact, […]

Using the tools of mediation, we delve into the root causes of problems, and we try to solve those problems in a non-adversarial way. Take the problem of excessive gun violence, for example, much on the public mind since the horrific Newtown massacre. Sadly, much of the debate on this topic is fairly superficial, and much of it reflects the typical confrontational way in which we resolve conflicts in our society. On one side we hear advocates talking about banning weapons; on the other people talking about how their rights are being infringed. We may be losing an opportunity to identify shared values and find common ground to reduce the underlying problem of gun violence. I heard a panel discussion […]

This is eight year old Martin Richard, who has achieved immortality as an international symbol of peace. Martin was killed on Monday for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His mother also suffered a brain injury and his sister lost her leg, when a bomb exploded near to where the family was standing while they were watching the finish of the Boston Marathon.