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Resolving Conflicts with the "Bad Boys"
Jail gave Tom Hastings a lot of time to think about conflict resolution. On today's show we got hear some of his reactions to the arrest of the young man he calls the Christmas Tree Bomber, but we didn't hear about his prison terms for protesting nuclear weapons. More to the point, we also didn't get to his work doing conflict resolution with young male Somali immigrants at Madison High School, kids he lovingly calls the "bad boys."
They were coming out of a war zone. The principal said they were tangling with everyone. There were something like 80 Somali kids, and they were fighting 150 Russians, 250 Latinos and 250 African Americans. They weren't getting along with anybody.
Hastings says he didn't see this anger springing out of U.S. actions in Somalia or other Muslim countries. He says it was all teenage identity group issues. His approach was to help them "decode" American culture — to let them know that if they hit someone, the U.S. justice system could well catch up with them.
But he also says those teen identity issues are affected by events like the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud on charges of attempting to blow up a bomb at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square. He says this will trickle down to how Somali students are viewed by their peers. The focus of his teaching was a message that he hoped would resonate with children who had lived through war: "ways to solve conflicts so you never have to back down, but you never have to get physical."
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