I have been searching for an affiliation that meets my professional goals (and budget). For a long time, I was a member of NCTE. Even that went through an evolution – attending, attempting to balance philosophical and practical presentations, applying to present, convincing others to join me for a presentation and so on. I tried NAME for a year, and while it had some benefits, there were also some pretty significant drawbacks, both personal and professional. I saw a call for proposals for the International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education and the topic, proximity and cost all appealed to me. So did the fact that my proposal got accepted.
At first, I was concerned that the attendance was so small, but I think that may have helped. Everyone who attended a session was committed to the topic. For the first time ever, I think, I did not attend one session that I regretted. I came away inspired by the work happening in Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, and Louisville. Moving forward, I see the need to balance a few things –
- Long-term vs. short-term – many of the programs are serious about wanting to get to the root causes of conflict. This, obviously, takes time. Some students don’t have that much time and that often became a call to “get them while they’re young.” (I teach high school, so that was discouraging.) Also, some conflicts can reach a dangerous level of intensity pretty quickly, so we need to develop more effective emergency interventions as well.
- Within and without – Most presenters advocated working with given systems, however flawed (i.e., the police, the courts, etc.). Some argued that such an approach amounts to tacit cooperation.
- Ideal vs. real – There seemed to be a gap between the design of certain programs and the implementation – at times a pretty serious one. Given limited resources, we must do all we can to close that gap. In other words, we have to do a better job of using what we have in place already before considering programs like the Alternatives to Violence Project.
A commitment to the notion of restorative justice requires regular training, time, personnel, money, space, and commitment. I think it can work. We need to keep students in school. One of the many challenges we have to address before that / at the same time is getting them to school in the first place.