I was struck with a disturbing thought when reading William Raspberry's column "The Three R's Plus One" {op-ed, Jan. 9} about the need to teach young people the art of nonviolent dispute settlement.

Mr. Raspberry cited TV and movies and our culture as glorifying violence rather than the art of compromise to settle disputes. But we have seen and heard daily for months now our president and our secretary of state using name-calling, expressions such as "kick his ass" and a steadfast rag of no compromise and no face-saving as their rhetoric.

How can we expect our youth to learn to "talk it out" while President Bush and Secretary Baker go about settling an argument with weapons and threats and harsh, noncompromising rhetoric?


William Raspberry's conclusion that his friend may not be naive in asking: "Why don't we try teaching young people that murder is wrong?" is correct. What Mr. Raspberry fails to see, though, is that the teaching of mediation begins not in first grade but in the cradle.

Violence is an endemic family problem. The use of force -- spanking and worse -- is a common, fairly widely accepted form of discipline in the lives of many children whose parents were similarly raised. These parents may know no alternative to maintain control over their children's behavior or to manage their own feelings of anger. Eradicating such child-rearing methods would slash statistics on crime and violence in generations to come, but the task is seemingly insurmountable. Years of individual, intensive therapy are necessary to heal the wounds festering in parents who witnessed violence or were struck themselves as children.

I would call the teaching of nonviolent conflict resolution (i.e., talking it out) the first "R." It certainly is in my kindergarten classroom.

Fortunate children have seen peaceful mediation modeled at home. Unlearning violence is an arduous task, especially for an adult.


William Raspberry's discussion of violence in American cities, and his presentation of the process of "peer conflict resolution" as "the fourth "R" in all our schools, could not have been more timely. The example of violence and the threat of violence, rather than negotiation and compromise, as the preferred method of settling disputes is not limited, however, to television and the movies. The actions of our own government reported in today's newspapers are a far more powerful example of intimidation rather than reason as means of settling disputes.

I fear that the example of President Bush and Congress set the tone far more persuasively for American youth that violence is acceptable as the way to accomplish national goals. Should the president and Congress not find Mr. Raspberry's article persuasive, the efforts of another Post columnist, Colman McCarthy, are also available. Mr. McCarthy's Center for Teaching Peace, and his personal example through teaching students in our capital city's schools a better way to resolve conflicts, are rich resources of the nonviolent tradition in America.

If the president wishes a more authoritative voice than either of these contemporaries in support of nonviolent alternatives to war, I would be bold enough -- as a fellow Episcopalian -- to commend to him the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whose preferred manner of dealing with "enemies" was to love them. The entire section of St. Matthew's Gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount would make an excellent text both for presidents and street gangs. If that is too long, it can be summed up succinctly in these eminently practical words: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:44-45).

REV. EMMETT JARRETT Rector, Episcopal Church of the Ascension Silver Spring