“Teach Your Children Well”:
Ethical Challenges and Suggestions
for Conflict Resolution Education
I am proud to be a member of the ACR
Education Section, and honored to have
been a conflict resolution educator since
my initial membership with N.A.M.E.
(National Association for Mediation in
Education) in 1986.
As a Professor of Education and a conflict
management scholar, I strongly believe that conflict
resolution education [CRE] is one of the most
important areas of our larger conflict management
field – it lays the foundation for generations who
embrace the importance of constructive conflict
management. Over the last thirty years, many
have contributed to CRE successes as members
of N.A.M.E., CRENet (Conflict Resolution Education
Network), ACR, and related professional associations.
ACR, in particular, has made significant contributions including member-developed curricula and
programs used around the world, as well as the development of Standards for Peer Mediation that are
the guiding document for excellence in the largest
CRE component in domestic and international work
(Recommended Standards for School-Based Peer
Mediation Programs, 2007). My comments about
ethical challenges in CRE are not a critique of what
fine scholar-practitioner-educators have already
accomplished, but are encouragement to the CRE
field to address two fundamental challenges.
Domestically and globally many students are
in physically and/or emotionally unsafe learning
environments. These stressors take a toll on
their academic, physical and mental health as the
National Center for Education Statistics confirmed
in its 2010 report. Even with the efforts and
enlightenment of the last thirty years, that report’s
findings are troubling; for example, eight percent of
students report being threatened or injured with a
weapon on school property, 10% of students aged
12-18 reported having hate-related words used
against them in school, and 35% reported seeing
hate-related graffiti at school. And American school
children are not unique in their condition. The World
Health Organization, in its 2009 report entitled
“Violence Prevention – The Evidence: Preventing
Violence By Developing Life Skills In Children And
Adolescents,” confirmed that children across the
globe face violent and unsafe learning contexts.
WHO calls for provision of more social and emotional
learning [SEL] and CRE to alleviate these conditions.
Even today, many students are not taught how
to deal with conflict or create communities in
which social aggression is not acceptable. Joseph
Durlak and his colleagues reported in 2011, these
In a national sample of 148,189 sixth to
twelfth graders, only 29%–45% of surveyed
students reported that they had social com-
petencies such as empathy, decision mak-
ing, and conflict resolution skills, and only
29% indicated that their school provided a
caring, encouraging environment.
Thanks to the work of the Collaborative for
Academic Social and Emotional Learning, a leader in
producing and reporting research on the impacts of
SEL and CRE, we have gold-standard research that
proves the positive impacts of this work. Two recent
meta-analyses deserve special mention because
they contain such essential knowledge for all
educators (not only conflict resolution educators)
that it is critical to report on them briefly here.
John Payton and his colleagues in a 2008 report
reviewed 317 studies involving 324,303 children in
K- 8 schools in the U.S., and in the report quoted
above Joseph Durlak and his colleagues reported
results from 213 school-based, universal SEL
programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through
high school students (again in the U.S.). Both of
these analyses report that when the students
learning with SEL and CRE were compared with
students who didn’t have this access, the students
with SEL/CRE had significantly improved social and
emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic
performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point
gain in achievement.
About the Author
is a Professor of
Philadelphia, PA) and the
Director of the
in Teacher Education
project since 2004.
Tricia S. Jones, Ph.D.