A 17-lesson curriculum guide was written by a licensed psychologist and a developmental psychologist for the teachers’ use. Each lesson takes approximately 45 minutes or less and each occurs approximately once per week for the entire class. Additional activities in the guide are provided if a teacher wishes to extend the learning.
In the early years of the program, the teachers were introduced to the ideas of forgiveness and the curricular materials in a workshop directed by the authors of the curriculum or others associated with the project. We envision other methods as the work expands. Audios of the workshop, for example, may become available for download.
Forgiveness is taught by the classroom teachers primarily through the medium of story. Through stories such as Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Cinderella, Dumbo, and Snow White, the children learn that conflicts arise and that we have a wide range of options to unfair treatment.
The curriculum guide is divided into three parts:
- First, the teacher introduces certain concepts that underlie forgiveness (the inherent worth of all people, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love), without mentioning the word forgiveness.
- In Part Two, the children hear stories in which the story characters display instances of inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love (or their opposites of unkindness, disrespect, and stinginess), toward another story character who was unjust.
- In Part Three, the teacher helps the children, if they choose, to apply the five principles toward a person who has hurt them.
Throughout the implementation of this program, teachers make the important distinction between learning about forgiveness and choosing to practice it in certain contexts. The program is careful to emphasize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. A child does not reconcile with someone who is potentially harmful, for example. The teachers impress upon the children that the exercises in Part Three of forgiving are not mandatory, but completely optional.
The first-grade curriculum is similar to this one with the exception of the choice of stories. In first grade, the centerpiece stories are from Dr. Seuss.
From Enright, R.D., Knutson, J, & Holter, A. (2006). “Turning from hatred to community friendship: Forgiveness education in post-accord Belfast” – Presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, November 7, 2006.
We considered eight principles when devising forgiveness education:
- The learning should take place in a non-stressful environment, such as a family setting or a classroom.
- What is discussed initially does not center personally on the child but instead on story characters. The child sees first that story characters have conflicts. Next, the child sees that there are many ways to solve and deal with conflicts and that forgiveness is one of those ways. Next, the child sees that forgiveness does not directly solve a situation of injustice. Instead, forgiveness is one way of dealing with the consequences of injustice.
- Once a child understands what forgiveness is and what it is not and understands the nature of interpersonal conflict (when one person acts badly, others can be hurt), he or she is ready to explore the pathway of forgiveness, the “how to” of forgiveness. This, again, is best taught by having the child first see others (story characters) go through forgiveness as a way to model it.
- Then it is time for a child to start trying to forgive someone for a real offense against the child. This is best accomplished initially by choosing a small offense (e.g., being pushed on the playground) and only later building up to more serious injustices.
- As children learn about forgiveness, the instruction should be developmental.
By this we mean that at first the child can see a story character forgiving one other story character for one offense. Then the child should begin to reason that if a story character can forgive one person for one offense, maybe that story character can forgive that same other person again and again, learning to generalize forgiveness across situations.
- Next in the developmental sequence, the child learns that the generalization can occur across divergent other people so that he or she can forgive a variety of people for a variety of offenses.
- Then in adolescence comes the more mature idea that “I can be a
forgiving person.” In other words, forgiveness is not just something that one does in a behavioral sense, but instead forgiveness can go beyond actions to an internalized response that is part of the self, part of one’s identity as a person. It is here that the desire to forgive becomes more stable and enthusiasm for this moral virtue begins to develop. It is what Aristotle called “the love of the virtues.”
- Finally, the developmental pathway leads to a motivation of giving forgiveness away to other people in the community. The adolescent, as part of a class assignment, might, for example, consider talking with counselors or families to introduce them to what forgiveness is, how people forgive, and the benefits for self and others when forgiveness is properly understood and practiced.
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 4377-4399). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
How can you create a forgiving community for oppressed people? Don’t you first have to validate the injustices by solving them? Forgiveness without such validity seems weak.
One can validate oppression by acknowledging it and calling it what it is: unfair. One can own one’s legitimate anger over the oppression. Yet, if one waits to actually solve the injustice before forgiving, then those who are oppressing win twice: once with original and ongoing oppression and second by having the oppressed people living under a constant state of unhealthy anger or resentment. That resentment, over time, might be so strong as to destroy individuals and families within that oppressed community. Forgiveness without a correction of the injustice at the very least solves that one problem of destructive resentment.
Learn more at Healing Hearts, Building Peace.
I am in an unfortunate situation at work. My boss is overbearing to such an extent that I no longer want to work here. Yet, because of my current circumstances, I cannot leave my position. If I seek justice from the boss, I could be fired. So, what do you recommend?
When we forgive, we do not necessarily get the best result of a whole and fair relationship. If you forgive your boss, which I do recommend if you are ready, then at the very least, your resentment can lessen and so your inner world will not be as disrupted as it might have been. The forgiving may help you to have sufficient energy to apply for other positions if this opportunity arises. Even without justice in the workplace, you are taking steps to guard your inner world.
Learn more at What is Forgiveness?
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The Kat Trio, formally known as The Ekaterinburg (Russia) Classical Trio, is composed of Victoria Gorbich (violin), Vladislav Gorbich (Clarinet), and Joseph Ross (pianist). The trio’s unique Russian arrangements and seamless transcriptions of timeless melodies feature classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards, including Scott Joplin’s rags.
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The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo is comprised of pianists Stanislava Varshavski (born in Kharkov, Ukraine) and Diana Shapiro (born in Moscow, Russia), who began playing together in 1998 after meeting at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. After studying in Israel and the US, both pianists completed Doctoral degree studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011.
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Miles McConnell is a classical guitarist from central Florida who has studied and performed around the world and who is now based in Madison, WI, where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2010. Miles has just returned from his performance at the Classical Guitar Retreat at the Cathedral of the Isles, on the isle of Cumbrae, in Scotland.
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