“A Year of Social Justice” at Anne Arundel Community College

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

This is a short interview that took place at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD after my social justice presentation on October 1, 2014.

Interview at Anne Arundel Community College on social justice, October 1, 2014

Interview at Anne Arundel Community College on social justice, October 1, 2014

Making the Work Life and Personal Life Links to Conflict Resolution Skills

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

I recently (10/14/14) visited Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH.   While there, I ran two programs: one for faculty on understanding the field, and the second for students on career and personal skill awareness.

I’ve come to realize that we need to make a strong case to undergraduates about the value of conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills in both their personal and professional lives.   This is particularly important in community colleges where most students are focused on job preparedness.  In community colleges today two overriding policy agendas are advanced: workplace preparation and academic completion.  Both priorities can be promoted by having students recognize the connection between conflict resolution abilities and work/personal applications.

I have previously written about the need to focus on soft skills in careers (“The Importance of Conflict Resolution Skills in the Workplace”). These skills are equally important to succeed and navigate one’s personal life.   Life presents daily conflicts and points of difference that need to be worked through.   As a first step, I recommend that everyone (especially students) take the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment.  U.S. Institute of Peace has a version on its Global Peacebuilding Center website that you can use for free.  Once completed, you will know your “default” approach to conflict, and can consider how to leverage that approach, or develop different approaches.

At Sinclair Community College I had students work in groups of 5 to examine typical life and work situations where they might be called upon to use conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills.  I have attached three of the case studies that I used with students: Problems at the Roller Rink, New Employees at the Diner, and Getting Along at Home.

I also recommend chapter 6 of my book, Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource.  In their chapter titled “Developing a Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies Program,” Jen Batton and Susie Lohwater discuss how conflict resolution skills apply to everyday life and the world of work.

My visit was written about in the October 21, 2014 edition of The Clarion, the student newspaper of Sinclair Community College.

PROBLEMS AT THE ROLLER SKATING RINK PDF, David J. Smith 10.2014

NEW EMPLOYEES AT THE DINER PDF David J. Smith, 10.2014

GETTING ALONG AT HOME PDF, David J. Smith, 10.2014

Final Day of National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar: Visits to State Department, Organization of American States, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

The final day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar was held on Monday, October 20.  The day was designed as a “field day” with visits to peacebuilding related institutions for educational programs and briefings on their work.

Meeting the Lauren Fisher

Meeting  with Lauren Fischer

The first visit was to the U.S. Department of State.   The group was hosted by Lauren Fischer of the U.S. Diplomacy Center, State’s public education arm.  Lauren shared information on the plans for the center which will open in 2 years.   The center is expected to host educational groups, including community colleges.   She was followed by Dan Langenkamp from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.  He explained the bureau’s work and shared that 70,000 refugees come to the U.S. every year: the largest number of other country.

Stats of where refugees are coming from

Where refugees are coming from

After the State Department, faculty visited the Organization of American States, the oldest regional organization in the world. The  Department of  Human Development, Education and Employment hosted the group.   Nichole Duncan shared with the group scholarship opportunities at OAS, Juliet Mallet Phillip discussed the broader work of OAS,  Ana Maria Ortiz talked about education opportunities, Lina Sevillano shared by the Rowe Fund, and Yadiro Soto briefed the group on the peacebuilding work of  OAS.  Other specialists also covered other aspects of the work of OAS.

Visiting the OAS

Visiting the OAS

Finally, participants were hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Christina Chavarria and Kristin Thompson ran an educational program to the group.  An aspect of the program was visiting the Some Were Neighbors exhibit.

With Christina Chavarria at the USHMM

With Christina Chavarria at the USHMM

Third Day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar

By: David J. Smith, October 19, 2014

Teaching peace,  case studies, nonviolent strategies, and human
rights were featured on the third day of National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar held on October
19.

Colman McCarthy  preaching peace

Colman McCarthy preaching peace

The morning started with Colman McCarthy advocating for the need to teach peace studies.  He was followed by a presentation from representatives of  the Student Peace Alliance, Sally Kaplan and Dan Kahn.

Presentation by the Student Peace Alliance

Presentation by the Student Peace Alliance

During lunch, Karina Korostelina of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution discussed identity and the crisis in Ukraine.  She was followed by Hardy Merriman from the International Center on Nonviolence Conflict who presented a mock lesson on teaching about nonviolent activism.   Jean Schindler then shared about the opportunities for students participating in the Emergent Leaders Network.

Jean Schindler

Jean Schindler

Google chat with Lindsay Padilla from Solano Community College

Google chat with Lindsay Padilla from Solano Community College

In the afternoon, Rhonda Fitzgerald engaged participants in activities that might be used in a Sustained Dialogue training.  This was followed by several faculty who attended last year’s program talking about what they are doing at their colleges.   This was followed by Lindsay Padilla for the Stanford Human Rights Education Initiative talking about her approaches to teaching human rights.  The day ended with Nabil Al-Tikriti from the University of Mary Washington discussing the work of Médecins Sans Frontières.

Nabil Al-Tikriti of the University of Mary Washington

Nabil Al-Tikriti of the University of Mary Washington

Coffee breaks were sponsored by  Street Law, Inc. and CCID: Community Colleges for International Development, Inc..

Second Day of 2014 National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar Looks at International Humanitarian Law, Development of Peace and Conflict Studies, Promoting a Peace Agenda, Technology, and Film

By: David J. Smith, October 19, 2014

The second day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar was held October 18 at Northern Virginia Community College/Alexandria.  The day included a range of presentations and experiential activities.

Welcome from Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Dean of Liberal Arts

Welcome from Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Dean of Liberal Arts

The program started with David Smith giving an overview of the field with a focus on peacebuilding in community colleges. Dominic Kiraly talked about using online learning to promote peacebuilding and shared about USIP’s Global Campus which provides free accessible courses for colleges and universities.   Allyson Neville-Morgan and Kaeley Pruitt-Hamm talked about the work of the Friends Committee on National Legislation in promoting a peace agenda.

Discussing online education

Discussing online education

Cindy Epperson from St. Louis Community College shared her experiences in teaching about international humanitarian law and human rights.  She is a former teaching fellow in the American Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Law program.

Approaches to teaching peace

Approaches to teaching peace

In the afternoon, two peace-related films were viewed.  Beyond the Divide, produced by Quiet Island Films was shown first. The film documents efforts to bridge differences between the peace and veterans communities in Missoula, MT. Afterwards Jan Selby, the produced/director, talked with the group.  She was joined by Dan Gallagher and Betsy Mulligan-Dague, the principal actors in the film.  This was followed by the Pultizer Center on Crisis Reporting showing Seeds of Hope, about violence against women in Africa. Jon Sawyer, Kem Knapp Sawyer, and Mark Schulte talked about the center’s work.

Skyping with the producer and actors from Beyond the Divide

Skyping with the producer and actors from Beyond the Divide

Today’s coffee break was sponsored by The Democracy Commitment.

First Day of 2014 National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar Hosted by USIP

By: David J. Smith, October 18, 2014

Inside USIP

Inside USIP

The first day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar “Teaching About Global Conflict and Peacebuilding” was hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace on October 17.   The program started at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.  37 faculty and program staff listened to USIP experts talk about a range of peacebuilding work.

First day of seminar was hosted by USIP

First day of seminar was hosted by USIP

Nadia Gerspacher, Director of Security Sector Education, addressed the issue of improving police work in zones of conflict.  She talked about the challenges of militarized law enforcement in conflict zones and the need for police to develop counter narratives. She also talked about the need to change the objectives and mission of police from security forces to security services.

Listening to a presentation on by USIP staff

Listening to a presentation by USIP staff

Elizabeth Cole of the Center for Applied Research on Conflict shared her work in reconciliation and the importance of teaching about history.  One struggle in considering reconciliation is the lack of a unifying definition.

37 faculty and program staff were in attendance

37 faculty and program staff were in attendance

The Global Peacebuilding Center is USIP’s public education arm.  Megan Chabalowski engaged the group in activities that focused on considering and defining peace and conflict including visiting the “peace well.”  She also provided copies of USIP’s Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators.

Megan Chabalowski talks about interpretations of peace

Megan Chabalowski talks about interpretations of peace

Finally, Britt Manzo for the Center for Middle East and North Africa shared with the group USIP’s extensive work with Israelis and Palestinians.

Britt Manzo talks about the Israeli Palestinian conflict

Britt Manzo talks about the Israeli Palestinian conflict

The day ended with a visit to the terrace on the 5th floor of the USIP building.

Visiting the USIP terrace with a great view of DC

Visiting the USIP terrace with a great view of DC

Teaching Social Justice By Experiencing Social Injustice

By: David J. Smith, October 6, 2014

A long line of educators including John Dewey and Maria Montessori have advanced the importance of experience as  being essential to learning.   I have found that making students uncomfortable and slightly disoriented can lead students to reconsider strongly held notions and opens the door for the possibility of new awareness.

I was recently invited to Anne Arundel Community College near Annapolis, MD to be the kickoff speaker in the college’s “Year of Social Justice.”   My first thought was to give a lecture on social justice, including its history and importance to  Americans, especially blacks, Latinos and others who have often been marginalized.  In thinking more, I realized that most of the students I would be speaking to had not experienced racism and other forms of discrimination.  It seemed that merely talking about social justice would do little more then leave them with a possibly boring history lesson.

My wife  and I with our children had recently attended a performance of Toast  by a group based in DC called the Dog & Pony Show.  The company presents theater as experiential  in nature with the audience expected to be part of the event.  In Toast, which focused on a group of scientists considering uses for a toaster, the cast and the audience engaged in a participatory process of brainstorming for ideas. The experience provided  an opportunity to work with others in the audience and the cast. I felt at the end that we had accomplished an important objective and bonded as a group.

How could I use a similar approach with the students coming to my presentation?  I realized that to understand social justice, one has to experience social injustice.   It’s hard to explain injustice: one needs to feel it.

As students entered the auditorium  for my event they were presented with either a “white” or “multi-colored” index card.  This was done randomly.  Once in the auditorium signs were posted that read:  “white card holders sit in front” and “multi-card holders stand in the back.”   I cited a fictitious ordinance as requiring this division.   Students were clearly uncomfortable.  I had faculty observers tell me that many were angry and frustrated, especially those that had to stand in the back.

"Chief Stonewall" explains the new ordinance

“Chief Stonewall” explains the new ordinance

I then entered: not as me, but as “Chief Bob Stonewall” of the campus safety office. In role, I explained that a new ordinance had been passed requiring this division for a range of reasons including cleanliness, orderliness, religious and local tradition, and finally, because “white” and “multi-colored” card holders liked and expected this division.  After explaining the penalties for violations, I asked “Any questions?”   I got  silence at first (maybe students were just too shocked!).   Then a few in the back raised their hands  — at first I didn’t acknowledge them.  “I’ll get to you people in the back, after I talk to these citizens in the front first,” I said.   Eventually, a  few students in front started to raise questions as to why an ordinance was necessary. There seemed to be enough seating for all they said.  And besides, the reasons I offered seemed nonsensical to them.

"White cards" in sit in front; "Multi-colored" cards stand in back!

“White cards”  sit  in front; “Multi-colored” cards stand in back!

Then coming out of role, I asked the students in the front whether they felt privileged: they did.   We talked about privilege as an aspect of social injustice. I shared the following quote by Martin Luther King. Jr:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

and this quote by Helen Keller

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

and then asked what we should do.   The “white” cards felt that the standing “multi-colored” cards should join them.   I  then asked each student sitting to walk up to a standing student and invite them personally to sit with them.  In an auditorium this caused some chaos, but forced the privileged students to take some action to reach out to the oppressed ones.

Together we then explored notions of social justice.  I asked students how it felt to be standing when others were sitting.  Students felt excluded, wronged, and mad. Some also talked about how this might cause them to think they were inferior.  The students sitting in front recognized that merely the chance of them getting a “white” card was not justification for them to be in a position of privilege over others.

Students working on their social justice action plan

Students working on their social justice action plan

I also talked with them about the history of segregation in their own area.   Until 1966 public schools in Anne Arundel County (like much of the country) were segregated.  Most of these millennials had no understanding of this history.  One faculty member recalled  how difficult it was when integration took place in the county.

Reporting out their plans. I had them wear the chief's hat!

Reporting out their plans. I had them wear the chief’s hat!

Finally, I had students work on a “Social Justice Action Plan.”  In groups, I had them identify social justice issues of concern to them, and  how they might work on these issues individually and collectively.   After reporting out, I had members of each group sign the flip chart paper they used, and provide their emails.  And I charged them with continuing to work in their new groups — “white” cards and “multi-colored” cards together-  to improve conditions in their community and the world.

I was interviewed by college media after the program about my thoughts on social justice.  Also, the Campus Current, the college’s student newspaper, published an article on the event on 10/27/14.

Anne Arundel Community College's Campus Current, 10/27/14

Anne Arundel Community College’s Campus Current, 10/27/14