Date of Award

5-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Kristina Passman Nielson

Second Committee Member

Phyllis Brazee

Third Committee Member

Joanne Boynton

Abstract

The field of education continually changes direction as new philosophies and techniques are discovered and implemented. These changes are sometimes based on the societal beliefs of the time or the cultural shifts that take place within society. Presently the movement of public education in the United States is toward Standards Based Education reform. Vast amounts of money, time and energy are being expended in order to turn this reform movement into a reality. In some communities these changes have been adopted and implemented rapidly, which has in turn placed both students and teachers under stress. The Standards Based system focuses on the academic progress of the individual student with no consideration for social, emotional or interpersonal skills. Missing from the educational reforms of the 21st century is Restorative Justice and Restorative Practice, which would provide this balance.

Often thought of as an alternative to mainstream discipline, Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices are the natural successors to punitive discipline. Academic education reform has been quickly evolving and so too should our philosophies regarding the social/emotional curriculum, discipline, problem solving, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness.

Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices have been proven to be successful tools to reduce school suspensions, expulsions, reduce recidivism among students previously labeled as problems and lessen the population in the “school to prison pipeline”. Each of these above populations nationally include large numbers of students; if these students are important enough to overhaul the entire education system, then they are certainly important enough to receive the benefits of peace education so that they will be able to become responsible members of their respective communities, as well as effective global citizens.

In a world faced with global environmental, economic, religious, ethical, corporate and governmental miscommunication and misunderstanding, those with an understanding of mediation, restoration and justice will become increasingly more important as we move into the future. Those who possess these skills and have the understanding of how to use them will be the leaders that emerge to solve not only global problems but community and family issues as well.

Responsibility for shaping the future rests solely in the present. In an effort to provide a more well-rounded and progressively educated student, we have chosen to overhaul our current educational and teaching model. In order to fully complete this process we must look at the student inclusively through all aspects of what it means to be responsible and well educated: this includes more than academic learning exclusively and must include the umbrella field of peace education, and more specifically, the practice of Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices. Standards based education works toward placing increasingly more responsibility with the student, Restorative Justice is in line with this philosophy.

In this paper, I discuss the benefits of Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices for Middle School students, and illustrate this through a presentation of a small pilot project. Finally I give some further action steps for the future.

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