Marriage course is a child of Redlands
By NELDA M. STUCK
Our Town Editor

REDLANDS, California

A portion of the Redlands High School curriculum is going nation-
wide all due to the Charles Dibble Fund; its president, former Redlands
resident Kay Miller Reed of Berkeley; and Char Kamper, RHS psychology
 teacher/author.

Kamper's three week curriculum titled "Connections: Relationships and
 Marriage," is now being taught in 32 states and in 162 California high
 schools.

The program has been accepted for use thoughout the state of South Dakota and
 Kamper will travel to Pierre, S.D., in August to train some 60 teachers who
 will implement the material.

She has just returned from a conference in Chicago on "Religion, Culture and
 Family," meeting with writers, professors and medical researchers who are
 active in marriage education. She travels this weekend to Washington, D.C.,
 asked back for her second "Smart Marriage, Happy Families" conference
 presentation. After South Dakota, she will stop on her way home for a day of
 teaching the curriculum in Utah.

"Learning important skills can still be fun and interesting for kids," said
 Kamper who teaches two Advance Placement and three regular psychology classes
 in the RHS Social Studies Department.

"Most people will say, 'Here's something you should know; read this book." But
 that doesn't work with teenagers. There is wonderful information and
 literature out there, but if that is the method they use in teaching it, it's
 going to stay on the shelf.

"I was just trying to find a fun and interesting way to teach some very
 important concepts. The kids do learn things about their relationships and
 their readiness to marry, but they have fun at the same time doing it."
It all started with "Charlie" Dibble's dream of a program to develop skills
 necessary for happy marriages.

Dibble, a longtime resident of Redlands who died in 1991, established the
 Dibble Fund for Marital Enhancement with his wife Helen, who resides at
 Plymouth Village, hoping to incorporate a program into junior and senior high
 schools to head off potential problem marriages before they start in these
 years of disintegrating marriages, family life and society.

Kay Reed oversees the fund and learned about Kamper, who had been teaching a
 marriage project in the  RHS classroom for three years.

"She came down, sat in my classroom and watched me teach," said Kamper. �She
 called three weeks later and asked if I would write out the marriage unit I
 taught my students. It took nine or 10 months.

"She started to market it, mainly through phone calls and sending out copies
 to people. We were listed in some brochures and catalogs and she contacted
 conferences that we had a curriculum, and a teacher and can we come tell about
 it.

"Nobody was doing this but us," Kamper said as the two women began to attend
 conferences in San Francisco and Sacramento. "Teachers here in California
 started using it and liked it. Last year we were invited to speak at the Smart
 Marriage Conference in Washington. By that time they were looking for school
 programs and there were not very many available.

"It's just been amazing," Kamper said of her curriculum's acceptance. "I'm
 more overwhelmed than anything else. I knew there was a need for this with my
 own students and maybe there were some other teachers who might be interested,
 but the result has been more than anybody, including myself, has anticipated."

Last year, the American Bar Association in Oklahoma used her "Connections"
 curriculum as the basis for a video program they sponsored on communication
 and marriage skills.

"The state of Florida in April signed a bill in their legislature that
 marriage training in their high schools be mandatory," she said. "They will be
 attending the Smart Marriage Conference and will be looking at the program
 which they might want to use."

Kamper said "the various programs now available are each different, and I
 wouldn't say we are competing with one another. In fact, in Washington, the
 school programs people will meet to see how we can work together. We're more
 partners than competitors."

The Dibble Fund made possible the professional printing of all materials, with
 the teacher's curriculum running less than $100 for a school to purchase, and
 each student workbook about $2.50.

Kamper said that she has been informed by USA Today newspaper that a cover
 story planned for their July 14 issue includes information on her RHS program,
 and interviews with RHS students.

"My class is not a replacement for premarital counseling, which they still
 need," she said. "It's an awareness for understanding the dynamics of
 relationships better - with your parents, your friends, your dating, whether
 you are mature enough to handle a relationship as important as marriage.

"This 'Connections' sort of walks the kids through different types of
 relationships and gives them opportunity to build skills in certain areas."

After two weeks and 10 class sessions on understanding basic relationships and
 self esteem, healthy dating relationships, effective communication and
 conflict resolution, Kamper takes her students through marriage.

"The first day they are married, going through the wedding where many of the
 boys want something simple at the beach and the girls see ceremonies with
 lovely flowers.

"The following day they get children," Kamper said. "It's a very short
 honeymoon. They draw from the bag the number of children. It's one to six; you
 don't know what you're going to get. They have to decide the ages, names and
 genders. But my one stipulation is the children must be at home. None of this
 out of the house and self supporting. No! you're feeding them."

Kamper said the students draw their jobs, including salary, from her bag the
 following day. They have to construct a family budget that includes their
 children, housing, food, car insurance, and baby sitting.

The fourth day the card drawn from the bag is a problem. "Every marriage has a
 problem, and that is the time the family struggles the most," Kamper said. Her
 cards list in-law, loss of job, a spouse going back to school, a wife getting
 a job or leaving a job etc.

"Some of them are quite significant such as the death of a family member.
 Nobody is ever thinking about that when they get married, only that it's going
 to be wonderful. One time the 'minister' drew the problem of an extra-marital
 affair.

"Marriages that survive have learned to work together, to walk shoulder to
 shoulder. I am not going to leave just because things get rough. We have to
 work through a problem.

"The next day, we can't leave them in crisis, so we plan family fun - a
 vacation, and I have them use monies from their budget to have a good time.
 Where would you go? What would you spend?

"In the end they evaluate what they have learned."

About 2,000 students have been through the 'Connections' experience at
 Redlands High alone, and Cal State San Bernardino is now doing a statistical
 study of the results here and in other school districts in California based on
 student testing before and after the program.

Back to School Programs.

Smart Marriages HOME.