Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Elizabeth G. Dinkins, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Daniel J. Castner, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gregory K. Hillis, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Paul M. Pearson, Ph.D.


This dissertation was an explorative study of student experiences of a first-iteration Catholic curriculum created to respond to the epidemic of adolescent bullying, from an expansive and holistic perspective (Huggins, 2016). The curriculum used in this study was inspired by themes from the writings of Thomas Merton (1915-1968) a Catholic monk, Civil Rights activist, inter-religious bridge, and non-violent resistor (Merton, 1975; Merton, 1983; Merton, 1989). This qualitative study utilized the methodology of educational criticism and connoisseurship (Uhrmacher, Moroye, & Flinders, 2017) using the Christian Humanistic ethic as a lens to examine and explain the emergent theological themes of the students’ engagement and shared interpretations of the first iteration 10-day curriculum. The curriculum utilized activities surrounding the themes of order, balance, rhythm, and harmony as the path to happiness, as stated in No Man Is an Island(Merton, 1983). Through the use of reflective dialogues, meditation, and kinesthetic learning opportunities such as a drum circle and a collaborative game, the students explored the importance of self-discovery, unity, group dynamics, and healthy communication skills as a positive response to bullying, stigmatization, and peer isolation. Through the activities and open-ended reflections four overarching themes emerged from the students’ shared experiences of the curriculum: a) all humanity has worth and value; b) it is essential to develop common ground with others; c) peace and calm are better avenues to resolve conflict than aggression and anger; and d) happiness is found beyond mere material possessions.