Michael Gelfand

I watched the entirety of President Obama's speech yesterday.  I applaud his efforts, as well as his emotions.  While the frequency of gun violence may be diminished by more background checks and the other measures proposed by President Obama, as a society and as members of the world community, we also need to deal with the underlying reasons that people are violent. Throughout the world, children are taught read, writing, and arithmetic.  They are taught history and geography, and possibly art, music and civics.  But it is extraordinarily rare that they are taught communication, problem solving, goal setting, and conflict resolution.  These life management skills can have a profoundly positive impact on graduation rates, college admission and career success. They also have a significant and beneficial impact on the depth and length of relationships, as well as the cessation of violence.  

Imagine a world in which kids are taught how to communicate effectively and non-violently.  my friend Bill Harman can tell you about the Grauer School in Encinitas at which they’ve designed the entire curriculum around these values.  I can tell you about a non-profit foundation and program I helped found over twenty years ago called Overcoming Obstacles that teaches these concepts at Middle and High Schools across America, and now in several countries.  http://www.overcomingobstacles.org/   Guns are clearly a problem.  However, while we slowly move toward policies that will reduce their numbers and keep them out of the hands of known risks, we should simultaneously be working to eliminate the underlying causes of violence of all sorts.  We have the tools to help people be better people.  We should encourage our elected officials to propose and enact legislation that expands our mental health programs, and that teaches our children how to be more effective human beings.

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