Considering School-Based Forgiveness Programs: learning from the Old Order Amish
Repository Posting Date2016-03-17T12:56:29Z
Author(s)Kueny, Angela M.
Author DetailsAngela M. Kueny, RN
Lead Author Sigma AffliationGamma
Other Title(s)Medical and Behavioral Concerns Affecting the Family
Session presented on Sunday, July 26, 2015: Purpose: The purpose of this presentation is to report findings from a focused ethnographic study about forgiveness promotion in schools within a Midwestern Old Order Amish community; secondarily, these findings will be compared to reported non-Amish school-based forgiveness programs. With this information, recommendations for future nursing practice and research can be made. With increased school shootings, bullying, and mental health issues in schools in recent decades, interventions focused on building healthy relationships and preventing violence is needed. Children who work through forgiveness training, psychotherapy, and/or school programs have decreased anger, improved well-being, increased forgiveness, and increased academic success. Forgiveness also provides the opportunity for building trusting relationships between individuals and groups, forming stronger communities. Channels in which forgiveness is taught in communities outside of church services or psychotherapy are not well understood or tested. Additionally, there is a paucity of nursing research focused on the development, implementation, or outcomes of forgiveness programs for children. There is an opportunity to look to Old Order Amish communities for strategies to instill forgiveness in children to receive individual and community benefits. Forgiveness is an essential pillar to Old Order Amish spirituality. The nation observed how the Amish readily forgave after a school shooting in 2006 killed five Amish children and injured five more. With a deeper look into the intentional introduction of forgiveness to children in the Amish community, it can be better understood how forgiveness can permeate a community to be readily used by its members. Methods: This analysis was derived from a larger study of how forgiveness is taught within the Amish community. Chain referral sampling of Amish bishops, teachers, families, and community members was used to illustrate the various roles and perspectives that people take to teach children about forgiveness. Data sources included formal and informal interviews, participant observation in schools, homes, and community, and Amish publications used within school or home settings for children. The primary investigator and author with two research assistants used inductive qualitative analysis first through coding and then developing overarching themes to describe how the Amish teach forgiveness to children through school. Results: The results show that the Amish have a unique model of approaching forgiveness in a proactive manner, teaching children the values underlying forgiveness before they experience any transgression. Amish schools are an extension of the values within the community, and the values emphasized include thinking of others before self, humility, and discipline. Their approach to forgiveness is through the Christian lens of the Amish belief system but works effectively to develop children with a readiness to forgive. Schools include exercises that teach children about forgiveness and develop the skills of forgiveness through storybooks, wall hangings, written lessons, and practicing apologies and forgiveness in front of the classroom. Robert Enright and colleagues developed and tested school-based forgiveness programs in Ireland and the United states. After being exposed to curriculums related to forgiveness, children who experienced previous transgressions demonstrated not only improved forgiveness, but also decreased anger and depression. Conclusion: The Amish community provides a model that deepens an understanding of techniques or approaches used to develop values and practices related to forgiveness; these techniques and approaches can build upon already-existing non-Amish forgiveness programs to reach an audience of children who may or may not have already experienced transgressions. Nurses are in a position within the schools to be able to implement health promotion interventions that aim to reduce violence, improve mental health, and improve academic success. In collaboration with social work and psychology disciplines, nursing can contribute to the forgiveness science with rigorous experiments and theory development to test the effectiveness of school based forgiveness programs. These findings can help to produce effective school based forgiveness programs that train children prior to transgressions, prevent violence and revenge, and improve well-being.