To the Editor:
I read with interest Ron Avi Astor and Rami Benbenishty’s essay ““Zero Tolerance For Zero Knowledge,” (Commentary, July 27, 2005). My interest grew partially from having just finished reading Elliot Aronson’s book Nobody Left to Hate: Teaching Compassion After Columbine (Worth Publishers, 2000), which reviews many of the strategies schools typically use to address student-safety issues, and then suggests an instructional strategy.
Mr. Aronson writes that we should be teaching youngsters “specific ways to gain greater control over their own impulses, and how to get along with others so they can resolve interpersonal conflicts amicably.”
He also recommends “structuring the classroom experience so that it promotes cooperation rather than competition and, in the process, motivating students to listen respectfully to one another, help one another, and begin to care about one another.” As the book shows, this can be done using cooperative learning.
Having been a school administrator for 25 years at the elementary and middle school levels, I know that most of us collect yearly data on school climate and safety. We also have implemented various programs and strategies to address such problem behavior as bullying, fighting, and showing disrespect to adults and other students. Some of these efforts, I believe, have had an impact. But I was reminded by reading that we could do more.
Broadmoor Elementary School
Colorado Springs, Colo.