Ways to Solve a Problem
Tarry L. Lindquist, educational consultant, created this lesson using material from State of Washington v. Herschel C. Lyon, which she wrote with Julia A. Gold and Margaret Fisher. Staff at the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) edited and updated the lesson in 2012. For more information, contact AOC Court Services, 1206 Quince Street SE, PO Box 41170, Olympia, WA 98504-1170. For an electronic copy of this lesson, or to view other lesson plans, visit Educational Resources on the Washington Courts Web site at: www.courts.wa.gov/education/.
One class period (approximately 45-50 minutes)
1 blank piece of paper for each student
(Plan to spend about 10-15 minutes on this section of the lesson. It is effective practice to stop every few minutes and check for understanding by asking if there are any questions.)
Our country declared its independence from England over 200 years ago. At that time we said every person had a free and equal opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Sometimes one person's pursuit of happiness interferes with that of another person. To help with the conflicts this interference can cause, the citizens of this country agreed to certain guidelines for their behavior. These guidelines are what make up our system of laws.
The reasons for conflicts between persons vary. One person might not know or understand the law. Another person might choose to deliberately break a law. Laws do not cover every possible situation. Sometimes one person comes into conflict with another individual. Sometimes the conflict is between an individual and the government. At other times a person may offend the general will of the people.
These disputes need to be settled in a way that fits the democratic principles of our society. The resolution might be stating the rights of both parties; determining guilt or innocence; directing one person to make up for harming another; or imposing a fine or sentence as punishment for breaking the law.
A trial, called litigation, is one common way to settle disputes. [Write the following on the board after working with the teacher for a definition appropriate for the ability level of students:
(1) Litigation – one party files a lawsuit (legal contest carried on by the judicial process) against another person and they have a trial in court to resolve the dispute]
Litigation is when two or more persons who are in conflict use the judicial process, through a lawsuit, to present their arguments and evidence before a third party who is not involved in the dispute. This third party makes a decision. The third party can be a judge only or a judge and a jury.
However, going to trial usually should be the last way people try to solve their problems. People should try to work out their problems. Three common ways of settling disputes without going to court are arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. [Write the following on the board:
(2) Arbitration – a third party, called an arbitrator, hears the complaints and makes a decision that the parties have agreed in advance to accept. This is a process less formal than a trial.
(3) Mediation – the parties talk with the help of a third person, called a mediator, who helps them find a compromise or a common ground on which they can agree to a solution
(4) Negotiation – the parties talk face to face and try to settle the conflict or reach an agreement]
"The Tap Dancer," written by Arlene Gallagher, from Update on Law-Related Education, Winter 1986
Pat and Chris lived in an apartment building. Pat's apartment was directly above the apartment Chris rented. They were pretty good friends. Sometimes they went bowling together. Their friendship ended when Pat decided to become a professional tap dancer.
"I don't have anything against tap dancers, Pat," said Chris. "But do you have to practice every evening? The noise is driving me crazy."
"Sorry," said Pat. "But I have to practice if I'm going to be a pro. Besides, it's a free country, and I can do whatever I want in my own home. My home is my castle, as they say."
"Sure," said Chris. "But what about my rights? You're disturbing the peace. My peace."
Assign each group one way of the four ways to settle the dispute between Pat and Chris. Give the students time to work out a little drama. Coach those who are having trouble getting started. After about five minutes, ask for a group to volunteer to present its play to the rest of the class. Try to have all the groups present their enactments of dispute resolution.
(1) identify the process used,
(2) name the solution, and
(3) discuss the strengths and weaknesses of that method to resolve a dispute.
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