President's Corner

Guns and Butter: Stepping Up to the Plate

by Sarah D. Jerome

Remember when you studied the economic impact of guns (defense) and butter (domestic) on the national and world economies in Economics 101? Who could have imagined that guns (violence) and butter (obesity) would become synonymous with the deadliest threats to the well-being of our children.

Childhood obesity takes a toll on children. Obese children suffer from serious diseases, such as diabetes, that interfere with their ability to live productive lives and to learn and grow. Schools are intervening in this crisis by adopting wellness regimens, increasing students’ physical activity, re-examining their menus and attending to all aspects of students’ physical, emotional, mental and intellectual health. These schools provide excellent models for establishing partnerships with schools and families to improve the health of our young people.

AASA is on board as well. Through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Association, AASA works with local school district leaders and state affiliates to encourage action around healthy eating and active living in schools and in the community. Visit www.aasa.org for resources to help you design a wellness program for your school district.

While we see tangible progress in the fight against childhood obesity, gun violence is a different story. The risk of handgun violence is more prevalent in the United States today than in previous generations. Perhaps the presence of 223 million firearms in the United States or the fact that one in four households has a handgun elevates this issue to the status of a public health crisis. High-profile cases like Columbine and Virginia Tech momentarily rivet our attention, yet few politicians have rallied to change the laws. Our apparent paralysis to end gun violence continues.

School superintendents can take action. Host community dialogues to address the issue of gun violence in our schools and among our children. Educate our parents and youth on gun safety, violence prevention and the public health impact of gun violence. Design education and prevention workshops around the issue of gun violence and its effects on youth. Develop advocacy groups to promote reduced availability of guns in society.

Support federal legislation to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale and possession of guns and ammunition by the general public and to promote more thorough background investigations and increased waiting periods for registered gun purchasers. Work with the entertainment industry to stop promoting and glamorizing violence in the popular media. Call on all governments of the world to join these efforts to curb violence among our youth.

We have much important work to do together, and I have faith that together we can succeed.

Hero Profile: David and Roger Johnson

David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson have influenced thousands of educators in the United States and around the world through their research and professional training at the Cooperative Learning Center (www.co-operation.org/ pages/peacemaker.html) at the University of Minnesota.

The Johnsons teach positive interdependence, individual accountability, interpersonal communication, trust, leadership and conflict resolution.

Their work on managing conflicts constructively led them to develop the Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers Program, which aims to resolve conflict through integrative negotiations, peer mediation and reconciliation. This program has been implemented throughout the world.

Given the discord and disequilibrium worldwide, the Johnson brothers’ work on cooperative learning, conflict resolution, civic values and peace education are important lessons for us all.

Sarah Jerome is AASA president in 2007-08. E-mail: jerome@ahsd25.k12.il.us