Conflict resolution must become a subject that, from grades K-12 in public education, has to be consumed and comprehended by students.
The goal of the American public education system, for the most part, was designed to manufacture citizens who can be highly functional in the job market. Upon the rise of technology, many thinkers and job creators declared America’s public education system outdated, asserting that it is not able to produce individuals who can thrive in a competitive marketplace that’s both globalized and digitized. That observation has helped to usher in the STEM and STEAM movements, initiatives built on the ideology that exposing students to, and equipping them with knowledge of, science, technology, engineering, arts and math will help them succeed in the 21st Century.
It’s with that precedent in mind that I encourage anti-violence activists in places like Chicago and Philadelphia, two of the five biggest cities in America where gun violence is prevalent, to demand, either on a local or federal level, that conflict resolution becomes a subject matter that, from grades K-12, has to be consumed and comprehended by students (anything less than a C at any level of schooling in this subject should be considered unacceptable and should be considered as grounds for requiring students to repeated the grade), a request which will require urgency on behalf of the petitioners and, from governments, massive investments in curricula and expertise. The return on this investment is obvious: a citizenry less prone to violence and more likely to be civil when disagreeing.
The aforementioned proposal is, by no means, the answer to completely eradicating gun violence. Such a thought – the idea of no violence whatsoever – would be a utopia, though not realistic, given that jobs, for a particular segment of the population, are few and (illegal) guns are plentiful. But dramatically decreasing the probability that gun violence will occur among young men of color, black men ages 15-25 in particular, is an outcome that most, if not all, Americans can support.
As stated this week at City Hall by the Philadelphia Police Commissioner during a hearing on gun violence, not all the homicides or attempted murders are drug related, some are actually “over a girl.”
One afternoon when standing on a Philadelphia street corner, while rain fell gently from the sky, I talked to a former gang member about fatal shootings that took place just blocks from his residence. I wanted to know his thoughts on it, but more importantly, I sought to understand why it was happening. His answer to me was simple and wasn’t far-off in circumstances to that of Philly’s top cop Mr. Richard Ross: young boys are using deadly force to resolve their conflict and earn and maintain street cred. This course of action is troubling, and, all the while, is becoming normal – prevention and intervention, in this matter, should be applied.
While Mr. Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, fights for, and the populous converses about, a proposed soda tax to pay for quality pre-K, so should a dialogue commence about the type of curricula taught in pre-K. When the School District of Philadelphia and the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia communicate about truancy programs, they should also discuss the logistics around materializing a 12 year-long course – and the standards upon which the subject matter will be created – on conflict resolution. Just like we, as Americans, deemed it unacceptable that students were graduating high school without the proper technological capacity, so, too, should we deem it unacceptable that many youth are graduating the public school system without the ability and desire to solve their problems peacefully.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™