Wednesday, February 5, 2014

KIPP and character education

I had a recent discussion about KIPP prompted by Barry Swartz's Ted talk 
  

I  liked his idea of rules replacing moral thinking . He however did not end so well praising KIPP schools which I am sure he is unaware is an eg of 'pedagogy for the poor ' focusing on test prep - drill 'n skill - their character education is a combination of rules and incentives to comply to the rules - more about being compliant than moral character development . He spoke about respect for learning - kids need a love of learning- to become life long learners - you respect the learning of others .

I got the following response

Saying KIPP's character education is just rules & incentives is disingenuous. Here's what they write: 

"During each school day, in every lesson and every interaction, we focus as much on developing character – traits such as zest, grit, self-control, hope, love, gratitude, social intelligence and humor – as we do on academic preparation. "

Are "zest, grit, self-control, hope, love, gratitude, social intelligence and humor" considered "rules" in your book. 

A supportive review of Jay Mathews book defending KIPP

here is an article http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/04/exploring_moral_development_de.html    in KIPP schools.  The article sounds great but when you solve problems using extrinsic motivation rather than allowing kids to autonomously engage in the moral act of restitution , you teach kids to think – what’s in it for me – what will be done to me – what will I get and this trumps all lessons on moral thinking and behavior



 From an interview with Alfie Kohn
Eric Gurna: Well, one of the founders, of KIPP Charter Schools was at this particular conference, and he was describing his school system and he said that his students go to school nine and a half to ten hours per day, then go home with some homework, and then come to school on Saturdays and over the summer too.

Alfie Kohn: He should be ashamed of what that does to children’s lives. This superficial criticism of KIPP schools is “that’s not scalable; you’re not going to be able to do that to enough kids and enough schools to make a difference from a public policy perspective,” so any gains they get are atypical and un-replicable. I wouldn’t send a dog to a KIPP school, the way they treat children. First of all, ask the basic questions about what makes for a great school, the kind you’d want to send your kid to. First, how much say do the kids have about what they’re learning? To what extent are they brought in on the decision-making? “How do we want our class to be?” If we need guidelines at a school level, kids learn how to make good decisions, by making decisions.

Let’s look at KIPP. Even the teachers have limited discretion about what they do. Number two, do they get the kind of great, again, interdisciplinary, team taught, student directed, project based learning, where the point is to understand ideas from the inside out, or is it all about showing better scores on bad tests? Third, when there’s a problem, do you work with kids to try to solve the problem, or do you bribe or threaten them to into mindless obedience? It’s about “work hard, be nice”, and “nice” you get the sense contextually doesn’t mean a compassionate, generous human being, it means “you do what you’re told, you obey authority without questions, or else we publicly humiliate you,” and conversely have a token economy program of the sort that was developed in mental institutions some years ago. The program itself at its core, is anti-child. The fact that they also believe that kids should be subject to it for more hours in the day and the week is unsurprising and more depressing. Are they able to pump up the test scores? I’m willing to stipulate that they can, a lot of people have challenged that, because they also cherry-pick the students and throw out the ones who aren’t going to make them look good. They say they don’t. I’ve read people who have example after example where they do, but let’s assume they don’t. Let’s assume you can turn a school into a factory, which is what this is, where you reward or punish students into doing exactly what they’re told, not questioning authority and becoming thinkers, and you make them stay there long into the night, sacrificing social, moral, emotional, artistic, physical development, all in the service of being socialized to comply with authority and get better at taking test. I am willing to grant that they can raise test scores. If they figured out a way to do this in the usual six hour a day, five day a week thing, I’d still find it horrifying, but the face that they are sucking up a lot of these kid’s childhoods by demanding extra time adds insult to injury.

Put differently, those kids who can‘t handle the ―choice 
to leave their zoned public middle school are driven out of KIPP because either they can‘t uphold the contract, or because they simply decide that 62% more school time, two to three hours of busywork nightly, and the militaristic social climate is just not for them. From  http://www.jceps.com/PDFs/07-2-06.pdf


Character education the KIPP way is great - great slogans and absolute obedience 
Knowledge is power and power is money and I want more of it


Molly Stern – comment from Bridging  differences
Thank you for pressing the issue on discipline in KIPP schools. I worked in a KIPP school in Brooklyn for almost a year. I resigned midyear in large part because of the discipline issues that you are bringing up in your letter. I also had major concerns about how the administration was treating teachers (the teachers in the school where I worked unionized the year that I was there), though that is another issue. Though I worked primarily in a KIPP school in Crown Heights, part of my job required that I regularly visit the other KIPP schools in New York, particularly KIPP Infinity which is supposed to be a shining example of the KIPP model.

It dismays me that Mr. Witney did not acknowledge the existence of public shaming in KIPP schools. I experienced forms of public humiliation every time I was in a KIPP school. A few examples that I have personally seen in KIPP schools (none of which were particularly extreme in the context of how the schools were run) are students being forced to stand outside of a group and "track the wall" (stare into a corner) for talking out of turn, students being given demerits from their "paychecks" publicly for things like lack of "self control" (there are actually character categories in which kids receive demerits and some teachers call out those categories as they're giving demerits), kids being forced to sit on a bench at the end of the day and face the wall doing nothing (this was called Wall Street), and whole groups of students being punished by being forced to sit silently at lunch or in class for extended periods of time because of the actions of one or two students with statements like, "Well because so-and-so decided to speak out of turn, now we all have to sit here silently." Even when all students were behaving in exactly the way that was expected of them and therefore no shaming tactics were being employed to control students, I was still horrified by the amount of time that students in grades 5 through 8 were forced to be silent and were not allowed to express themselves spontaneously.
I could go on about other things that I found to be oppressive, but I'll leave it at that. I hope that Mr. Witney at least addresses the disciplinary practices that are widely acknowledged and used in KIPP schools as opposed to avoiding the issue by talking about how KIPP schools that are functioning well feel.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Baumrind's Authoritative Parenting

I have shared the The differences between Conditional mand Unconditional Parenting  . What about Authoritative parenting.? Authoritative Parenting features in Baumrind schema of Parenting styles – Authoritarian , Permissive and in the middle Authoritative parenting style. The parenting author Myrna Shure whose books focus on problem solving said to me that her approach does not fit into any of the categories described by the Baumrind schema. It is clear that authoritative parenting= conditional parenting.

Dr Ross Greene was asked why he did not elaborate on Plan A techniques = helping parents impose their will in a more effective way. He replied that helping parents to make their kids more compliant will get in the way of parents becoming better collaborative problem solvers. When combining approaches kids get 2 different messages and it is confusing. When the going is tough parents tend to fall back on their old ways, because it is easier to punish, give consequences and rewards than to solve problems in a collaborative way

'Authoritative Parenting -is defined as  high in control and warmth; mature demands of and responsiveness to children; allows lots of discussion and considers children's opinions before making final decision; have set rules and guidelines; use rationale and logic when disciplining. 

This sounds good but the reality is that when parents are highly controlling using rewards and punishments, the warmth and empathy becomes rather perfunctory and conditional and kids concerns are not taken seriously. Rules and guidelines are not formulated together with kids but in a unilateral way and discussions are usually about the logic of the 'imposed ' punishments and consequences.

The proof is in Diana Baumrind on writing on parenting. It leans heavily on control through extrinsic motivation and warmth and love is conditional. In his book Unconditional Parenting  and in the articleRethinking Baumrind's autoritative parenting  Alfie Kohn writes the following.


 She describes parenting as being "authoritarian" on one side, "permissive" on the other side, or "authoritative" (read: just right) in the middle. In reality, though, her favored approach, supposedly a blend of firmness and caring, is actually quite traditional and control-oriented -even if less so than Option 1. In fact, a close reading of Baumrind's research raises questions about the recommendations she offers, particularly her endorsement of "firm control."To begin with, Baumrind (1972) has argued against unconditional acceptance of children by their parents, declaring that "the rule of reciprocity, of paying for value received, is a law of life that applies to us all." She continues: "The parent who expresses love unconditionally is encouraging the child to be selfish and demanding" - suggesting that an economic model for human relationships may go hand-in-hand with a dim view of human nature. She also assumes that "structure" in the family requires the use of extrinsic motivators and "contingent reinforcement," which she strongly supports. She approves of spanking, dismisses criticisms of punishment as "utopian," and declares that parents who don't use power to compel obedience will be seen as "indecisive" (Baumrind 1996)
Unfortunately, the research she cites to show that authoritative parenting works best doesn't support any of these positions. Her original findings were interpreted as proving that a combination of warmth and "firm control" (or "enforcement") was optimal. But another researcher who looked at the data carefully (Lewis 1981) discovered that the positive outcomes for children of authoritative parents didn't actually seem to be connected to the use of firm enforcement at all. Kids whose parents were warm but not controlling did just as well as kids whose parents were both - probably, she suggested, because control in the traditional sense isn't required to create structure and predictability as Baumrind (and many others) assumed. By the same token, Baumrind seemed to blur the differences between "permissive" parents who were really just confused and those who were deliberately democratic. There were no problems with the children of the latter parents, suggesting, in the words of another psychologist, that "a close look at Baumrind's actual data may reveal significant support for child-centered parenting" (Crain 2003) even though Baumrind has created a very different impression because she personally opposes that style. Subsequent research using Baumrind's formulation seems to support this view. A huge study of teenagers (Lamborn et al. 1991) did indeed find benefits from what was described as "authoritative" parenting, but that term was defined to mean that parents were aware of, and involved with, their children's lives, not that they were even the least bit punitive or controlling. Another study (Strage and Brandt) similarly cited Baumrind by way of suggesting that parents need to be both supportive and demanding, but it turned out that being demanding when their children were young was unrelated, or even negatively related, to various desirable outcomes. By contrast, the extent to which the parents had been supportive, and also the extent to which they had encouraged their children's independence, had a strong positive relationship to those same outcomes.



Differences between Conditional and Unconditional Parenting

Conditional Parenting
Focus                                                    Behavior
View  of  Human  nature                     Negative
View of Parental Love                         A privilege to be earned
Strategies                                            ''  Doing to ''  - control via rewards , punishments etc

Unconditional Parenting

Focus                                                  Whole child ( including reasons, thoughts, feelings )
View of Human nature                       Positive or balanced
View of Parental love                         A gift
Strategies                                            ''  Working with '' (  collaborative problem solving )

Conditional Parenting or Typical View of Difficult Children:

 Guiding Philosophy: “Children do well if they want to”.
  Explanation: Children’s difficult behavior is attention-seeking or aimed at coercing adults into “giving in”.
 Goal of treatment: Induce children to comply with adult directives.
  Tools of treatment: Use of reward and punishment programs to give children incentive to improve behavior.
 Emphasis: Reactive focus on management of problematic behavior after it has occurred.

Unconditional Parenting -Dr. Greene,Ablon  Collaborative Problem Solving Approach  View:
  Guiding Philosophy: “Children do well if they can”.
  Explanation: Children’s difficult behavior is the byproduct of a learning disability in the domains of flexibility, adaptability, and frustration tolerance.
  Goal of treatment: Teach children lacking cognitive and emotional skills.
  Tools of Treatment: Teach children and adults how to work towards mutually satisfactory solutions to problems underlying difficult behavior.
  Emphasis: Proactive focus on solving and preventing problems before they occur.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Empathy and CPS Parenting

There are  2 approaches to empathy that are found in different parenting styles. Progressive parenting uses empathy with compassion. Traditional parenting uses empathy or perfunctory empathy.

Progressive parenting which focuses on the whole child including his motives and feelings takes seriously a child's concerns. Getting a clear understanding of the child's concerns is critical for solving problems in a collaborative way= Plan B. Here we use 'empathy with compassion'. 

 Traditional parents uses ' empathy ' to get compliance. When we use reflective listening or empathy we say to kids that they have been heard. This technique is sold as having magic powers to produce instant results. So when a mom uses Plan A=adult imposing adult will, it sounds like this.

 Mom:  you can't go to a friend more than twice during the week
              Kid:  you are always   so unfair 
             Mom: Hmmm. It sounds like you think what I have proposed isn't fair. That makes you feel angry , doesn't it !?
(parody) -             Kid: Yes, But    …well, I guess that I can live with it. (Pause) Gosh, thanks for taking the time to understand me! I feel all better now!
This is called ' perfunctory' empathy and is rather apathetic and indifferent .The child perceives that their concerns are being ignored and is resigned to the fact that her mother will never see her perspective.

From   Ross Greene interview -Lost at school  on empathy and collaborative problem solving

 As I describe in Lost at School, there are three ingredients required for resolving a problem collaboratively.  first is to gather information from the kid so as to achieve the clearest possible understanding of a kid's concern or perspective on the problem you're trying to resolve (I call this the Empathy step).The second is to communicate the adult's concern or perspective on the same problem (I refer to this as the Define the Problem step).And the third is the brainstorming of solutions that will address the concerns of both parties (I've called this the Invitation).Perfunctory empathy – which is not a desirable thing – relates to the first ingredient, and refers to the tendency on the part of adults to gloss over or rush through the process of information seeking, thereby achieving an insufficient level of understanding of a kid's concern or perspective, guaranteeing that the kid's concern will remain unaddressed, and perpetuating challenging behavior in response to that problem.
Why do adults do this? Well, we are pressed for time (of course, if we don't take the time to understand the concern or perspective setting the stage for a kid's challenging behavior then we're going to be spending a lot of time dealing with his challenging behavior).Often adults use perfunctory empathy because we're certain we already know what the kid's concern or perspective is (my experience is that we're often wrong).And often it's because we're not sure what words to use to "drill" for more specific information. But in many instances it's because we're worried that if we take a kid's concern into consideration, somehow our concern won't be taken into account. Now…and this is rhetorical question…why are there so many adults who are worried that their concerns won't be taken into account?'

Plan B = both concerns 
 So if a kid is not happy to go out to play in recess, a Plan B would go like this. The challenge is to make sure we use ' empathy with compassion' and not ' perfunctory empathy ' in the CPS process.

Teacher – I have noticed that you are not so keen about going out for recess-play lately.
Kid – Yes
Teacher – so what's up?
Kid – I just don't want to go out.

Teacher - getting empathy wrong using perfunctory empathy

Ok so you don't want to go out for recess – the thing is that I don't mind you staying with me every once in a while, but sometimes I have to leave the classroom and there won't be anyone to watch you .Do you understand?
Kid – Uh –huh
Teacher- Do you think we can come up with a plan so of what to do when I need to leave the classroom, and you don't want to go out for recess. Do you have any ideas?

Teacher – getting the empathy step right
You don't want to go out for recess; can you try to help me understand why?
The kids concerns could be that she does not feel socially accepted or there might be bullying or there is something else going on and only she can give us information. Often it takes a bit of drilling down to get a clear idea and understanding of her concerns.

By using perfunctory empathy and paying lip service to a child's concerns we are going to come up with a solution that does not deal with the underlying problem.

There are times when a kid comes over to us, upset about something and is just looking for empathy. She just wants someone to listen and empathize and feel for her. We can use reflective listening and empathy to help her get over the emotional hurt.

But when we want to collaboratively solve problems we need to use ' empathy with compassion'.





Monday, November 4, 2013

Should Parents be friends with their kids?


Lots of parenting articles and books admonish parents - Be a parent, don't be your kid's friend. And when I see this I recall the following Biblical sources usually cited when discussing the parent –child relationship.

In this week's Parasha-portion Genesis 31:46, we read how Jacob- Ya'akov instructs his BROTHERS to gather stones and form a mound. This mound   was to be a monument and a witness to the treaty between and Laban and Jacob. The obvious question is that he had only one brother   Esau and he was not around. Rashi answers that Jacob referred to his sons as ' brothers' because they identified with his struggle and were committed to him. The relationship between Jacob and his sons could be described as an older brother-sibling relationship.
Further on in the Book of Genesis 45:8 , Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and he says that G-d has placed him as an Av= father to Pharaoh.  Rashi explains that the word Av=father as being a friend and a patron = from the Latin/greek  'pater'.  The word patron means a benefactor and protector.
Traditionally kids show respect to their parents by addressing them with the words my father- mother, my teacher. So from these sources the relationship could be described as one of an older brother, friend or mentor.

It is pretty obvious that a parent should not make her kid her confidant and burden her child emotionally with all her troubles and that she doesn't share everything. But being a friend of your kid helps the parent to be a ' real, genuine   and authentic person'. Alfie Kohn Alfie Kohn  reminds us that your child needs a human being – flawed, caring and vulnerable – more than he or she needs someone pretending to be a crisply competent Perfect Parent. If parents don't share with kids things they enjoy or hate, or their needs that they have, kids will never be able to empathy with parents, and see that they are real people who also have needs. Real people are not perfect, screw up and make mistakes. Apologizing to kids not only models how that should be done, but shows that it is possible to acknowledge to ourselves and others that we make mistakes and that things are sometimes our fault, without  losing face or feeling hopelessly inadequate. But apologizing exposes our fallibility and vulnerability and makes us feel a little unsafe when we stand on the perfect parent pedestal, a position of ultimate and unquestionable authority. Even saying thank you to your child in a sincere and genuine way, that without their help you would have been lost exposes your vulnerability. There is nothing to fear because it is when we expose our vulnerability, we create connection and facilitate learning   opportunities.  Brene Brown teaches that it is vulnerability that creates great business leaders and when you shut off vulnerability, you shut off opportunity. If vulnerability is good for business leaders, how much more is it so for parents!

 Another reason why parents fear developing a genuine and warm relationship with kids is that it will compromise their ability to set limits , impose their authority and control them.
In fact the opposite is true. Do you ever wonder why parents and teachers are the last to know when kids screw up or act in an inappropriate way? When kids feel that they are unconditionally accepted and loved by their parents for who they are , and trust them to be their guides and help, kids will come to parents for help. It is our healthy attachments with kids that allow us to be their guides and mentors.

We can set limits in a unilateral way and demand compliance or we can let kids participate in setting limits using the CPS – collaborative problem solving approach. When our concerns and expectations are addressed by the agreed solutions, we are in fact setting a limit together with the child.

As parents and educators we really want our kids to learn to set limits. Instead of giving a list of rules and consequences we can offer them principles and guidelines to help them navigate the world. We want kids to derive limits and guidelines on how to act from the situation itself and what other people need .If so, then our coming up with   limits, and especially specific behavioral limits and imposing them on kids makes it less likely that kids will become moral people who say that the situation decrees a kind of a boundary for appropriate ways to act.

Parents should be friends with their kids, but it is not a friendship of equals but similar to the trust, respect and caring that a mentor shows for his student.

Barbara Coloroso was once asked to help parents with their young teenager. When he was a pre-teen he was such a good kid, he always listened to us. Now he no longer listens to us, just to his teenage friends. She answered the parents that nothing has changed – he used to listen to you, now he is listening to them. When a parent is a friend and a mentor the child is not being compliant but self determined and acts in an autonomous way giving expression to the values he acquired from parents and teachers and has made his own.










Sunday, October 20, 2013

Self Esteem or Self Compassion

It is generally accepted that a negative self esteem and self concept gets in the way of a person dealing with setbacks and failure, but the research shows that also  high self esteem does not buy very much and can be very problematic. Despite the research the belief in ' self esteem ' is so engrained. Teachers and parents are told to praise and compliment kids and help their   ' self –esteem ' by reflecting on all their positive attributes. So why is ' self esteem ' problematic and what can be done instead to foster success?

The problem with fostering self esteem with praise is not because kids are over –praised or don't deserve praise – it is praise itself. Praise is a way of getting kids to experience success as a reward and esteeming of the self. Instead kids should experience success and failure as information they need to make changes or  become even  more successful. The problem with self esteem is the focus on the ' self'.

The SDT  Self Determination theory talks about 2 types of self esteem. Contingent self esteem is experienced by people who are preoccupied with questions of worth and self esteem and are strongly motivated by the desire to appear worthy to self and others. Their worth is seen as dependent on ' achievement ' and appearing in certain ways. Whether such individuals come away with positive or negative conclusions, the very fact that one's self esteem is in question suggests a psychological vulnerability. Non- contingent self esteem characterizes people for whom self-esteem is not a concern or issue. Success and failure is experienced as information and does not implicate self –worth ,even when they lead to a reevaluation of their actions and efforts. These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love.

The psychologist Eric Fromm talks about 2 types of people -   the ' To have '  people whose self worth and esteem depends on their 'having' .It leads to people being overly attached to possessions, achievements , and relationships. ' To be '  people focus on how they experience the world rather than on having.

'To have '  people view the ' self ' as an 'object' which needs to be appraised , judged and evaluated, the more positive , the better. In contrast SDT and religion see the Self as a process where a person makes meaning of experiences and integrates and assimilates them into his personality.

The research shared by Kelly Mcgonigal  
describes what helps people to deal with setbacks and change and what gets in the way.

The first experiment she shares deals with people who are dieting and are invited to participate in an experiment testing the effects of food on mood. Each person chooses their favorite donut, eats the whole donut and is given a big glass of water which leaves a full and uncomfortable feeling. This triggered feeling of guilt amongst the dieters. The question was would the feelings of guilt help dieters resist subsequent temptations.?  In order to test this , the dieters were given a ' taste experiment '  - to eat as much as they needed to,  from a  wide choice of candy  (so everyone had something they liked) in order to evaluate the taste of the candy. One of the test groups was exposed to the following message. In a very by the way fashion , they were given a 3 point message -  they were made aware of their guilt feelings of indulging in the donuts , they were told that it is human to error , it does not so that there is something wrong with you , everybody indulgences here and there and thirdly – so don't be hard on yourself. The group that was exposed to the   message calling for self-compassion ate 40% of what the group not to exposed   to the self- compassion message ate. People who are hard on themselves and have guilt feelings end up despairing, saying can never change and what the heck and then indulgence even more .

In another study shared by  Heidi Grant Halvorson  participants who failed an initial test were given a chance to improve their scores. One group were encouraged to boost their self –esteem by affirming and validating positive qualities. Another group was encouraged to exercise self –compassion and not to be hard on themselves. Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25% longer and scored higher on a second test, than the participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self compassion is effective because it is non-evaluative. It allows people to look at their mistakes and flaws with kindness and understanding. People then focus on the self as a process and not as an object. You don't judge   yourself harshly nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your positive qualities in order to protect your self-esteem. Setbacks and mistakes are part of being human and essential to the learning process. When the focus is on the process, rather than achievement, the journey rather than the destination you are more likely to be more accurate in assessing your abilities and coming up with a better plan which will help you reach your destination.

People who view the self as an object react by saying ' How could "I"  ( capital I )  do that ?  have feelings of guilt and shame which get in the way, while people who said '  How could I do THAT, did not focus on the self but on their  actions and were successful in changing.

The problem with sin, falling or failing is not in the sin, falling or failure but what happens afterwards – not getting up. Guilt feelings get in the way of recovery and getting up. The verse proverbs 24:15 says that   7 times a saint falls and then he gets up.

Self compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness less anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness and promoting the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness help people and kids focus on the self as process.

 Mindfulness is an open non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. Self esteeming and the focus on ME are just   mental constructions of the mind. In mindfulness and SDT there is no fixed concept of the self to protect or enhance, all facts are friendly and inform one's experiences and behaviors.

According to SDT , people with low self esteem are lacking in supports for and satisfactions of one or more of the basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. They don't feel worthy as they are missing a sense of love, authenticity, or effectiveness. People with high contingent self esteem seek behaviors that support and reassure them that they are worthy in their eyes and others.

The paradox of self esteem of self –esteem ' If you need it , you don't have it and if you have it , you don't need it .

See my blog post on  Motivation and Bob the Builder  
on the effectiveness of different types of self talk. A statement -  I can or will do it as opposed to asking a question will or can I do it ?



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Resolving the heart of conflict depends on the CPS mantra - children do well if they can

This week's Torah-Bible reading Devarim starts the 5th book of Moses, Deuteronomy. Devarim is always read   on the Sabbath before the fast of 9th of Av , a day where Jews reflect on the causes of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem - baseless hatred and destructive human relationships.  The temple will only be rebuilt when people are worthy of a temple by being  loving and caring towards one another.

With so much conflict on a family, community, national and international level one cannot but ask – What's getting in the way?

James Ferrel from  The Arbinger institute , in his highly recommended TedX Talk – Resolving the Heart of Conflict  – takes us first through a family scenario, then corporate life, international politics and then ends off with an emotional story about a father and son. I share here only his ideas and one example from an article not discussed in his Tedx Talk. 

He claims that we actually value problems, mistreatment, trouble, and conflict. He explains that according to Martin Buber, we don't have problems with people whom we count or identify with. We see their humanity and 'are made in God's image'. The others who don't count in our eyes are viewed as objects. It is easier to view or treat people badly if you ' objectify ' them. But objectifying people comes with a consequence – a deep inner need to justify that view. So the heart sees advantage in trouble and conflict, it provides the proof and justification that we are looking for. People then begin to value problems above solutions, conflict above peace and cooperation.

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses last sermon to the Israelites. He recounts their history together, especially the failed mission of the spies. The spies went on their mission with a negative view of the Promised Land. This created a need inside of them to justify that view. So they went into the land 'digging' for problems and trouble. They reported that it is '  a land that eats its inhabitants'. After the report of the spies, this negativity was directed against God himself. To justify this negativity, they said that it was clear that God's purpose in taking them out of Egypt was to destroy them in the desert by the hands of the Amorites.

The way out of this trap is to see the humanity of others and that they are made in God's image. In an article – James Ferrel writes about company executives, employees and representatives of the unions who spent some time in a holiday resort trying to see how they could cooperate much more efficiently. At the end of the 3 days, they attempted to resolve disputes which had been around for more than a year and that were scheduled for arbitration.

'They resolved the dispute in forty minutes , because – during the first 2 days together they solved the heart of the conflict that had been dividing them, which was the mutual objectification and blame for each other. Until they saw their conflict partners as people, with hopes and dreams and cares and fears as real as their own, they needed justification more than they needed resolution and were both unwilling and unable to find creative, mutually beneficial possibilities. They found too much advantage in problems to be able to find lasting solutions.' – James Ferrel.


We can now more easily appreciate how the Collaborative problem solving approach's mantra –' children do well if they can , and not children do well if they want to'-which we can apply to adults as well - , enables us to see their humanity , act with more compassion and instead of making problems worse than they are , make things better for all.