Introduction to Symposium on "ADR's Place in Navigating a Polarized Era"
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Ours is a nation built for conflict, for friction. Such conflict, while painful, can be good. It can signal newfound agency, and it can be a catalyst for dialogue, customized and creative solutions, and ultimately progress. This is what many dispute resolution academics teach their students. But we are caught in such an extraordinarily polarized time, and many wonder what role ADR can and should play in navigating a polarized era. That was the question addressed by Texas A&M School of Law's March 2020 symposium, with the resulting articles - by Baruch Bush & Peter Miller, Jonathan Cohen, Jill DeTemple, Noam Ebner, Deborah Eisenberg, William Froelich, Nancy Rogers & Josh Stulberg, Sharon Press, and Jennifer Reynolds - published in the Texas A&M Law Review and the Ohio State Journal of Dispute Resolution. Many of these articles suggest that while "ADR thinking and skills" are appropriate in dealing with current, divisive issues, they are not sufficient in and of themselves. We need to think beyond resolution - to "conflict engagement," "dispute process theory and strategy," to translations of dispute resolution concepts to make them relevant for public officials and other local leaders. The symposium issue contains examples of such translations. We also need to reconsider some of the pillars of dispute resolution practice - e.g., empathy, understanding, listening, self-determination. Are they always appropriate? Which are needed more, and when? And we need to think of our students not in terms of who they are today, but in terms of who they will be in the future - lawyers, leaders, and our emissaries in determining when and how to use and transform ADR thinking and skills in a nation built for conflict.
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