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Peace is not a new concept. People have been studying peace ever since there was conflict, loss, and the realization that we take peaceful times for granted. Peace education, as in peace taught in schools, on the other hand, has been forming mostly over the past three decades. There are several aspects of peace education that are essential knowledge when going to teach peace. In order for peace education to happen the teacher needs to take into consideration the child’s personal history, the environment provided for learning, definitions of peace, the criticism of peace education, the rationale for peace education, the skills, knowledge, and attitudes it aims to develop, and how it relates to the general peace movement.
Peace research began as a response to World War II and the publics concern about a nuclear war. It started as a social science that looked at the problems of war in a systematic way as well as the quest for peace. These studies began in France at the Insititute Francais de Polaemologie and in a few graduate programs in the United States, such as Stanford, Northwestern and Yale. It focused primarily on foreign policy changes in a hope to prevent a World War III. The critics agreed that there needed to be peace research, but they believed it needed to be broadened. As it stood, peace research consisted of researching conflict not peace, and problems not the solutions. Over time these criticisms grew until the 1960s when they were coupled with the Third World Liberation movements, which created small scale revolutions and mounted up to the Indochina war. This was a turning point in peace research. Researchers began focusing on “positive peace” instead of reactionary peace. In 1966, John Galtung established the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO). Shortly after the establishment of PRIO, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) opened. These institutes remain to this day reputable and thoroughly used by scholars. In the United States, the peace research movement was taking form through colleges by publishing scholarly journals, such as the Journal of Conflict Resolution at Swarthmore College.
The end of the 1960s marked another shift in peace research. “We must gather together all the elements of this new world and organize tem into a science of peace.” (Montessori, 31) Peace science, as it was now deemed, was shifting from physical violence and war towards structural violence, such as capitalism, racism, colonialism, and imperialism.
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Peace Liberation Movements Personal History Social Science Nuclear War Third World Yale Critics Decades Stanford
The shift inspired the United States to develop more radical means of peace, i.e. peace education. “Historians refer to this developmental shift as the ‘democratization of peace research.’” (Daniels, 102)
Peace studies (irenology) is defined as the “systematic, interdisciplinary study of the causes of war and the conditions of peace.” (Daniels, 103) Thus, in the 1970s peace studies began to be integrated not only into graduate programs, but undergraduate programs as well. It draws from history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, physics, religion, linguistics, among others.
The peace education movement is part of the larger trend toward the acceptance of courses in social problems as necessary and legitimate components of the college curriculum. Its strong emergence is one culmination of the turmoil of the 1960s: Vietnam and students’ disgust at the close ties between the academic community and the military-foreign policy establishment; the depersonalization, overspecialization, and insensitivity to value questions of much of American education; the emergence of the counterculture with its emphasis on community building and rebellion against individual competition and achievement; and finally, the struggle to find workable strategies for effecting fundamental change in important American institutions. No institution has been more shaken by these upheavals than the university. The resulting fluidity in course requirements and offerings has finally made it possible to start peace programs on many campuses.” (Washburn, 1971)
All the institutions that created peace study courses had a similar approach in how to create the curriculum. It was created by the faculty and students, using many different disciplines, and remained very open to change. They also had a strong religious affiliation that supported their call for peace education.
The new realm of peace studies encountered a few problems when first beginning. Once the field of peace studies expanded past the study of physical and structural violence, it began to encompass many aspects of peace. Some of the problems the field still struggles with today. Defining peace studies became a major task for all institutions that offered it. Though there are several elements to the definition that are shared, such as:
. The purpose should be to involve large numbers of young Americans in some form of lifetime commitment to shaping a more just and peaceful world order through clarification of value perspective and development of action strategies and goals.
. The key issues and subjects should include the interrelated values of war
prevention; worldwide economic welfare, social justice, and global ecological
institutions and processes; tension reduction and conflict management domestic
institutions and processes as they affect foreign policy; science, technology and
their effects on global political development.
. The perspective or approach should be explicitly and critically concerned with
values, future time oriented, global, and transdisciplinary.
. The teaching methods should encourage student participation and interaction; use a
variety of teaching media, and offer possibilities for testing and action outside
the classroom. (Washburn, 18.)
I appreciate all of the methods, courses, and ideas that have evolved over time regarding peace studies. Though, I would like to extend the study of peace all the way before kindergarten. I believe peace studies should happen at all ages, beginning in the home. There are several things parents can do to help their children take on the world. In her seminar on “Compassion is for Sissies” at the Globalization Conference, Dr. Sharon Shepela outlined a twelve step process on how to raise moral children. These twelve steps fall under three main categories: Develop Empathetic Reactions, Internalize parental/community standards of right and wrong, and Acquiring habits of courage, skills, and experience. These steps are:
. Help understand consequences of actions
. Help children put themselves in others places
. Help kids to see commonalities between ourselves and others
. Show them they are loved and cherished
. Guidelines for acceptable behavior
. Discipline through reasoning and discussion
. Show children by example how to treat others
. Explicitly condemn to your children acts of hatred and violence
. Give children frequent opportunities to perform small acts of kindness
. Use everyday opportunity to foster compassion and caring
. Emphasize children’s power to positively affect others’ lives
. Don’t stereotype girls’ and boys’ capacity to empathy
Most importantly, in my opinion, it is necessary to listen to children as people with valid opinions and ideas. If this happens at home, the children with be less likely to accept the passivity and complacency that is often unintentionally taught in schools. When begun in the home, it is much easier to make “A commitment to peace education [which] leads to a commitment to end sexism and racism and to the quest for ending the inequities that are manifested in every aspect of society- in the home, at school, in the workplace.” (Brock-Utne, 72)
When teaching peace, whether it is in the home, school, or daily life, it is important to be aware of the rhetoric used. When definitions of peace were first emerging, there was a large emphasis on peace as reactionary.
“What is generally meant by peace is the ceasing of war. But this concept, a purely negative one, is not the real concept of peace. Does not the history of mankind teach us that what we call peace is the forced adaptation of the vanquished to a state of submission which has become final, to the loss of all that they have loved, to the giving up of the fruits of their labour and of their conquests? Such a situation although it marks the end of fighting, cannot be given the name peace; on the contrary it is precisely that adaptation that constitutes the true moral tragedy of war.” (Montessori, 5)
The idea of negative peace is exactly what Maria Montessori spoke of. Negative peace is peace defined as the absence of violence, versus a definition that stands on its own. When people define war, they use words like, “violence” “power” “action” “blood,” which are all very strong words. When asked to define peace, most people use words such as, “calm” “quiet” “tranquil,” which all label peace as passive. Pacifists are not pass-ifists. This definition makes peace sound less appealing, almost boring, instead of something that is very exciting and can be very action oriented. As time passes the definition of peace and the words revolving around it, are slowly changing. “Instead of just being the absence of war, peace [is] now seen as involving co-operation and non-violent social change, aimed at creating more equitable and just structure in a society.” (Hicks, 6)
Within these new definitions of peace, we find many different ways of understanding and achieving peace. The first of these is peace education as peace through strength. This type of peace is strongly enforced in the government and armed forces. It is based on past and current history with an underlying need to maintain military power. In his book I’d Rather Teach Peace, Colman McCarthy said, “if we were going to win peace through war, it would have happened a long time ago.” I believe this relates to peace through strength, because acts of war are committed in order to maintain strength or achieve strength. “The means used to achieve the end must always be congruent with the end desired, that is non-violence is not merely a tactic in the struggle for social justice but is a way of life which should exert its influence on everything we do.” (Burnley, 74)
The next type of peace is peace education as conflict mediation and resolution. This type emphasizes the analysis of conflict, personal to global. This is a non-violent approach, but when using this type of peace education, one needs to be careful not to recreate the inequality with unequal balance of power that one is trying to overcome.
Peace can also be seen as peace education as personal peace. This is defined by the need for empathy, which is a process of education. This exemplifies the need to transform the hierarchical structures at all levels of society. Personal peace begins with the self, and from there can emit to all those surrounding.
Peace education has also been referred to as teaching the world order approach. This recognizes that structural violence is an obstacle to peace. If we want to achieve peace in the world we need to adopt a global perspective. The institute for World Order (IWO) founded in 1966 encouraged four values as the manifestation of positive peace. These values are the minimization of violence, the maximization of economic welfare for all on the planet, respect for human rights, and environmental balance. The IWO brought the first four editions of the Curriculum Guide to peace education as well as assisted colleges in establishing full peace studies programs, through support and funding.
Peace education is also the abolition of power relationships on a local, national, and global scale. This approach aims to raise awareness of structural violence and makes a strong effort to help people identify with the struggles of all oppressed people. This approach really takes the saying, “No one is free when others are oppressed” to heart. And it is through the notion that we are all connected that people begin to be uncomfortable in their lives, and are morally forced to learn and struggle for peace for all people.
With all of these different definitions of peace, peace education has hit a few bumps in the road to implementation. After the big push for peace studies programs in the 1980s in universities and colleges, the idea has slowed down. Those programs are still in existence, but there are rarely peace classes in the high school, junior high, elementary school, and kindergarten. The fact is, “peace is [an] alternative way of being, behaving, and organizing, [which] can be learnt.” (Hicks, 8) I believe that if we are going to strive for peace education, it has to start bottom up. There are four main points of rationale that I believe are relevant to the implementation of peace education: it is congruent with the aims of education, the nature of childhood socialization, the need for political education in a democratic society, and complements education ideologies.
The aim of education is to help children understand the world, interdependence; develop enquiring minds, the ability to question, and the respect for diversity. Peace education focuses on how the world is connected and completely intertwined. Peace education challenges students to question authority, develop curiosity and self motivation to change the world. Peace education focuses on the similarities between peoples of all nations, and celebrates the differences.
The nature of child socialization is an important reality to understand because children come into the classroom already having learned violence, and the idea of negative peace from the media. These children understand war, but have a very difficult time defining peace. It is the job of the school to intervene while these and other prejudices are forming. In his talk, “Artists in a Time of War,” Howard Zinn speaks of a woman who raised her child without the influence of the media. She taught non-violence and peace in her home, and to her child. She received a call from her sons’ teacher saying that she needed to teach her son how to fight because the other boys were beating him up, and picking on him because he didn’t fight back. The mother was appalled and told the teacher, “No, it is your job to teach the others how to wage peace.” This story strikes me as particularly relevant because this allows us to imagine a classroom where everyone was taught peace instead of violence. These problems of beating up and competition wouldn’t exist.
In peace education there is a need for political education especially because we live in a democratic society. If children are encouraged to become civically engaged at a young age, there would be a higher voter turn out rate, and the children would feel a sense of empowerment, that they can truly do something to better our nation. Speaking from personal experience, I did not learn anything about politics until this year, my sophomore year in college. I had a lot of catching up to do when I leapt into the peace and justice world at St. Olaf. If children are taught from the very beginning about the structure and the realities of politics, they will become active and make our nation a true democracy. These children will be educated about rights, justice, power, freedom, participation, and human welfare.
There are several different educational ideologies. There is liberal humanitarianism, utilitarianism, the child-centered approach, and the reconstructionist approach. Liberal humanitarianism is passing down basic cultural heritage through education. Utilitarianism is equipping students well for defined situations but it doesn’t really provide critical thinking that will aid in undefined situations. These two ideologies are not used in peace education. Peace education uses the child-centered and reconstructionist approaches. The child centered approach values self-development, self-reliance, and social harmony. The reconstructionist approach gives children the potential instruments of changing society. Both of these ideologies are empowering to children.
Peace education teaches many skills, attitudes, and knowledge. It inspires critical thinking, cooperation, empathy, assertiveness, and conflict resolution. Students embody the attitudes of self-respect, respect for others, ecological concern, open-mindedness, vision, and commitment to justice. Peace education also gives students the knowledge of issues of conflict, peace, war, nuclear issues, justice, power, gender, race, ecology, and futures. (Hicks, 13)
Among all of the wonderful innovations of peace education, there is criticism. Some people are afraid of “the contentious and politically charged discussion of peace, war, and disarmament.” (Hick, 40) My first argument against this fear is a question. How are children supposed to learn about peace if it is not allowed in the classroom and is not being taught in the world? “It is nearly impossible to educate a child to make peace on the block while making war in the world.” (Herndon, 117) The struggle for peace is hard enough, and children will have a hard time learning it when they don’t see it in the world or in the schools. If the critics are afraid of the charged discussion, what do they think about discussing race in the classroom?
The critics also state that children don’t have enough history to back up the ideas and beliefs they are being taught about peace, war, and disarmament. It is true that they have not been taught all of the history that these studies are based on, but they have been taught the ways of the world, so they already know about violence, war, and hatred. Plus, they will learn the history later. What they need to learn growing up are the ideas of non-violence, economic welfare, social justice, ecological balance, and participation. Children are born with the idea of justice. One of the most frequently said phrases by children are, “That’s not fair.” Peace education expands the students’ ideas of fairness to the whole world.
The next criticism is that peace is taught with a bias. I find this criticism extremely interesting because history is also taught with a bias, but I don’t hear these critics denouncing the teaching of history. Peace is a-political. Everybody wants peace; it is just the means of achieving it that separate people. I believe that every course is taught with a particular bias because the teacher comes into the classroom with their own opinions and ideas. At the same time, the students come into the classroom with their own experiences, histories, and ideas, which is affect how the class runs, and possibly the material that is covered.
There is a fear that if taught peace, children will begin to feel guilty for all of the suffering in the world. I believe there is some truth in this fear. It is a cause for caution. One reason children are so beautiful is that they have not gained a tolerance to violence and suffering. Children still cry when they see people suffering, and they want to make it better. When taught in the correct way, peace education can be very empowering and deter any student from becoming overwhelmed or guilty. The information needs to be presented in a way that states the problem, and allows the students to come up with a creative solution. When students are informed that they can change the world for the better and struggle for justice, they will not be discouraged.
The last criticism is that nobody will learn useful information to help solve real problems. This criticism is based off the misinformation that peace is soft, silly, and not useful. Some people believe that peace should not be taught because it is soft and has no solid base, such as science or math. These people fail to take into consideration the ideologies that accompany peace education, such as non-violence and conflict resolution which require much more complex thought processes. Peace education is an exacting, challenging, and rewarding task.
Along with the criticisms of peace education, there are assumptions that teachers need to be aware of. Some teachers believe that students can’t be trusted to learn on their own. It is the job of the teacher to instill knowledge onto the students. This is very contrary to the social and cognitive constructionist approaches of psychology, which see the teacher as a guide that gives support to the students on their paths of discovery. The assumption that the ability to pass a test is the best way to select and determine students’ potential is also extremely dangerous. This method of determining students’ potential rules out all of the children who do not prove their knowledge through tests, and thus we may lose many Van Gogh’s and Beethoven’s because testing is not comprehensive. This goes along with the assumption that the academic procedure and scientific method are more important that investigation. Knowledge is not an accumulation of facts and information; it is the process and the journey that gives the most knowledge. One has to be able to think creatively and outside the box if one is going to think about peace. Knowledge is amazing because teachers can’t really teach it. It has to come from the students processing information, applying it to their lives, and the way they internalize it. That is why the assumption that students only learn what the teacher teaches is ridiculous. Students notice everything. The first thing children asked me when I did my clinical at Longfellow Elementary was, “What’s that in your mouth?” I never dreamed that the children would notice my tongue ring immediately and remember that about me. The same applies to teachers in all of their actions, whether it is in the way they talk to the children or when disciplining students. If a teacher punishes a child for talking, that child will learn that he/she is supposed to be silent. The teacher did not mean to encourage passivity, but in fact, that is what the students learn.
All of the assumptions stated above are not based on peace education. “[Peace education] is built on principles of shared decision-making, non-hierarchical or flat structure, rotation of jobs, group work and group exams, and helping and caring for each other.” (Brock-Utne, 70) “Education for peace is an education for cooperation, for caring and sharing, for the use of nonviolence in conflict solving. An education that fosters competition, conquest, aggression, and violence is an education for war.” (Brock-Utne, 72)
The peace education movement uses concepts from all four theoretical frameworks for analyzing social movements. Peace education uses resource mobilization with the establishment of PRIO and SIPRI along with other institutes dedicated to peace research. The funds needed to install peace studies programs came from these institutions along with other private donations. Because peace is an issue that affects everyone and began being implemented on college and university campuses, there was a social network set up between institutions of higher learning. Curriculum was created and shared among these institutions. The peace education movement also uses some of the ideas from the social constructionist theory. The peace educators believe that the struggle for peace needs to begin in the classroom and it is a struggle that unites all people. Organizations such as Educators for Social Responsibility began to form, which gave people something to belong to. They all believed in “social and emotional learning, character education, conflict resolution, diversity education, civic engagement, prevention programming, youth development, and secondary school improvement.” (www.esrnational.org/aboutesr.htm, 2003) The peace education movement also used New Social Movement Theory. It believes that there are many social conflicts that occur, in different contexts of living, such as, cultural, social, political and economic. When defining areas of conflict, there is a formation of identities of people that work against these conflicts. The political process theory comes into play in the very beginning of the peace education movement. There needed to be a political opportunity for this to surface, and the threat of a nuclear war certainly gave the people something to rally around it a time that was relatively unstable.
Peace education has been evolving over the past three decades and still has a long way to go. Currently, it is really only in institutions of higher learning that teach conflict resolution, peace studies, and non-violence training. I believe peace education needs to begin in the home and follow a child through kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school, college, and grad school. If we implement peace education into schools worldwide, we will raise a generation of children that will be prepared to creatively solve the problems that the current general is causing, plus problems that have been around for centuries. Peace education needs to be something that we not only teach in schools but embody in every aspect of our lives. I believe this is how the revolution will begin. It will begin with the children.
“It seems so self-evident as to be almost a childish statement to assert that only two things are needed in order to establish peace in the world: above all, a new type of man, a better humanity; then an environment that should no longer set a limit to the infinite desire of man.” (Montessori, 26)
www.esrnational.org/aboutesr.htm , 2003.
Brock-Utne, Birgit. Educating for Peace: A Feminist Perspective. Toronto: Pergamon Press, 1987.
Brock-Utne, Birgit. Feminist Perspectives on Peace and Peace Education. Sydney, Pergamon Press, 1989.
Daniels, Marta. Peace is Everybody’s Business: Half a Century of Peace Education with Elizabeth Evans Baker. Huntingdon, PA: Janiata College Press, 1999.
Herndon, Terry. We, the Teachers: Terry Herndon on Education and Democracy. D.C: Seven Locks Press, 1983.
Hicks, David. Education for Peace: Issues, Principles, and Practice in the Classroom. New York: Routledge, 1988.
Montessori, Maria. Peace and Education. Adyar, India: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1962.
Reardon, Betty. Education for Global Responsibility: Teacher-Designed Curricula for Peace Education, K-12. New York: Teachers College Press, 1988.
Thomas, T.M. Global Images of Peace and Education: Transforming the War System. India: Prakken Publications, 1987.
Global Transformation through Peace Learning Systems
Over the past 15 years, I have worked on peace education programs in communities in the US and abroad and have personally seen community members, teachers, and students from a diverse array of social backgrounds engage in the work of transformative education. Peace education strives to empower future generations to use “the capacity and inclination to make peace, to bring about a nonviolent and just social order” with an overt normative understanding that the manifestation of these changes will be “the primary indicator of a maturing of our species” (Reardon, 1993, p. 56).1
Peace education trains and supports students in exploring how to more effectively analyze and respond to conflict and social inequality. It aims to develop tools for building a more sustainable and just world for all.
On numerous occasions, I have had the honor to witness young women and men that have experienced lives filled with violence step more deeply into leadership roles in order to bring about nonviolent change in their communities and schools. I have seen young people that lost friends to violence transform the desire for revenge into a passion for teaching their peers about nonviolence and encouraging them to fight for economic and racial justice in their communities. I have seen adults that carry the pain of having lost a close loved one to gang violence regain a sense of hope by teaching younger children how to constructively engage with conflict. I have watched as high school students in a wealthy suburb initiate difficult conversations about racial and religious discrimination in their homes and communities, while challenging the unspoken benefits they received as a result of these discriminatory systems. These are the kinds of moments in workshops and community-based education that provide inspiration for peace educators.
Often transformative education is framed in terms of ‘deep change’ at the individual level, with the focus mainly on moments where large shifts in personal understanding, purpose, and sense of possibility seem to occur. While these moments of change are important, these shifts occur within a larger context, often through sustained engagement within and across various educational communities and through a series of encounters supportive of such change.
A focus on only specific moments in which a shift occurs can be misleading because it misses the larger processes of transformation. Our challenge then is to more deeply understand these snapshots of change (a powerful moment resulting from a single
workshop or training) by widening our view to see these changes as part of the broader educational system of which they are a part. This wider view helps us understand the complex dynamics at play in transformative education.
In this article, I will highlight the presence of peace learning systems that integrate formal and informal education eﬀorts at the community level. My hope is that this article will spark a conversation about the most effective ways to understand and support the growth of these peace learning systems and trace the linkages between local, regional, and transnational peace education efforts. I believe these peace learning systems are necessary to transform the dynamics of violence and injustice.
Transformative Education—A Systemic View
Education and individual transformation always take place in a larger systemic context. This is especially significant for those of us who are interested in preventing violence and playing a role in transforming oppressive social conditions that give rise to violence because it places the educator in a position that demands social action in addition to and as a part of the teaching role. In other words, as the social conditions change, so do the educational possibilities; likewise, as individuals engage in transformative learning, their ideas of what kinds of education and community are possible also shift. If a student goes to a school where there are frequent rocket blasts and where their school could potentially be targeted, this impacts their learning, worldview, sense of hope, and ability to act as peacebuilders. If we stop the immediate violence, new fields of possibilities can emerge for that person.
If we are focused on shifting violence, one of the primary challenges is that violence is an effect of complex systemic dynamics, and therefore, disrupting or transforming those dynamics requires complex multi-level intervention. If we take urban youth gun violence in the US as an example, the need for thinking in more complex terms about the problems of violence is evident. Those dynamics of violence are often fueled by economic inequality and lack of opportunity, by underfunded schools, by the presence of gangs and the underground economy, and by high levels of police surveillance, frequent harassment, and disproportionately high levels of police violence toward youth of color (disproportionate minority contact). These dynamics take place as a result of the historical and continuing practice of racial and economic discrimination not only by individuals but also through institutional practices and policies. We might argue then that to
transform these dynamics, we need systemic solutions (e.g., ways of generating meaningful work that pays a living wage; a movement toward educational change that allows communities to participate in making their schools stronger and to develop education that is responsive and relevant to student needs; creating greater police accountability through community policing and civilian oversight; etc.).
One challenge for individuals and organizations interested in transforming violence is how to develop and sustain multi-level interventions. In all likelihood, no single individual or organization is in a position to respond to all these issues, nor would such a response be advisable given the huge array of knowledge and skills needed to engage in these activities. Widespread community ownership of these processes is necessary for the change to be sustainable over time.
Education plays a potentially important role in addressing this challenge. It can provide spaces and support for those impacted most directly by these dynamics to find solutions to their own problems and connect with allies in the change process. It can also assist with institutionalization of peace processes: generating training for police about nonviolent intervention, offering classes in schools about strategies for peacemaking, and providing spaces for people to think through how best to organize themselves to advocate for their needs. Ideally, peace education can unlock the creative potential of a community to disrupt the cycles of violence.
Emergent Peace Learning Systems
We are often taught to think of education primarily in terms of the classroom environment within a school, a setting where learning is largely set apart from many of the other spaces we occupy in our daily lives. Large-scale education systems in the West initially sought to respond to the need to ‘efficiently’ educate large numbers of people for the routine work that dominated much of production during the industrial revolution. In this model, teachers worked in isolated classroom spaces that were easy to regulate and control; this is what many have referred to as the factory model of education.
Current practices in peace education have moved away from that traditional factory model of education. If we think about all the places where people develop their understanding of any specific topic or even sense of what is possible related to human behavior, it is difficult to pinpoint any social location in which learning does not take place. We learn in our homes, on the street (sometimes with strangers), when we travel, and through a host of institutions we engage with and are embedded within. Even if we just narrow our view to formal and informal education there are a wide range of spaces that are dedicated primarily to education. We can think of pre-schools, public schools, and higher education as examples of formal education, as well as community programs, museums, and community organizations that frequently use democratic and participatory processes of organizing and learning as examples of informal education. Recognizing the breadth of locales where learning occurs and the variety of forms it takes, peace educators continue to develop new approaches to education.
In terms of formal education, schools are at the center of a growing movement for peace education. There are numerous programs with proven results in reducing violence in schools and inspiring young people to lead change in their communities. Programs offering restorative justice2 create opportunities for students, teachers, and administrators to develop their conflict resolution skills and provide alternative approaches to punitive discipline. There are also highly successful peer mediation3 programs where young people take the lead in helping other students to talk before interpersonal conflicts spiral out of control. These programs4 have already resulted in high levels of student engagement and a reduction in the number of fights in schools.5
What I have found in my work is that peace educators and others engaged in education with a focus on violence prevention operate in a highly varied array of environments that include but are not limited to schools. Many people know that the problems of violence require broad, collaborative responses across multiple levels of systems. It is the rule, not the exception, that people engaged in peace education collaborate in networks that weave together formal and informal educators in dynamic and complex ways.
There are hundreds of examples of these forms of emergent and novel collaborations amongst peace educators. For example, while working in Japan, I learned that in the decades following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, peace educators there committed to develop and share nuclear disarmament education globally—to be a center for understanding the risks of nuclear war and the strategies for disarmament. In recognizing a need to learn from other peace educators, Japanese practitioners saw the need to engage other educators outside of their immediate locale; they engaged with educators from China, Korea, Singapore, and India to learn alternative educational practices. In the process, some of these educators were then challenged to more deeply recognize the negative impact of Japan’s imperial past on their neighbors and were moved to engage more deeply with other educators in the region to address these injustices. Their curriculum shifted as a result of these encounters, as did some of their priorities and sense of possibility for the field.
As result of local, regional, and international collaboration, peace education has moved toward more integrated interdisciplinary approaches and amassed an eclectic body of pedagogical work and curricula. Increasingly, peace educators have sought to understand “the relational processes impacting on conflicts, poverty and wealth, human exploitation, destruction of ecosystems, weapons proliferation, terrorism, and so on.”6 These collaborations on such a wide variety of concerns continue to spur growing numbers of peace educators to build alternative visions of education that address the complex, fluid, and interrelated nature of local and global problems.
Planetary Education and Action
In developing methods to support the cultivation of ethical, analytical, and creative approaches for addressing violence and building a more sustainable world, peace educators continue to develop new forms of collaboration and educational innovation. The interrelated nature of the social and environmental problems peace educators work on demand systemic and multi-level responses, especially as linkages between the local and global become more clear. This development of networks of affinity and interest is also facilitated by technological advances that allow for greater contact between people via high-speed travel, increased sharing of cultural symbols and values circulated via global media, and the ability to have real-time conversations across great distances via the Internet.
I contend in this article that systemic problems need systemic responses and peace education networks may already provide some of the social infrastructure for those responses. This diversification of collaboration and communication that is happening within the field carries with it increased possibilities for transformative action within complex systems. In particular, peace education networks increasingly have the capacity for more complex social organizing, and they demonstrate in their daily practices that alternative forms of education that are critical of systems of
violence and proactive in their responses to that violence are not only possible but are already present globally.
These networks have the ability to generate multiple spaces for the convergence of people from very different backgrounds, to expand the points of intervention within systems, to multiply the diversity of responses and, when necessary, the power to disrupt and challenge institutions where power is consolidated. Perhaps peace educators are playing their role in the development of what Graeme Chesters and Ian Welsh have termed planetary action systems7 that are developing within larger global social movements.
While a focus on supporting a single intervention or organization in response to violence is unlikely to be effective in the long run, it is not enough to point out these shortcomings. We need to develop more comprehensive approaches for supporting peace education. Numerous researchers of social movements have deepened our understanding of how nonviolent social change occurs. However, more systematic thinking and theorizing about the role of peace education within larger movements for change is necessary to advance this effort, especially when based upon experiences of people engaged in the work of peace education and their allies.
The task is to better understand how people involved in peace learning systems are collaborating and learning together, where the spaces for convergence and collaboration are, what processes are being used to build understanding across lines of difference, and when and how people within peace learning systems mobilize to take action. While the challenges that peace educators seek to respond to are great, so is the opportunity. The growth of these systems will be fueled by the creativity of an increasingly diverse and connected community of people around the world.
If you would like to share your experiences and knowledge on this topic, visit www.peacelearner.org and join to contribute to this user-populated site that I host along with international peace educator Daryn Cambridge (www.daryncambridge.com).
1 Reardon, B. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility, New York: Teachers College Press.
2 ryoyoakland.oega/restorative- justice
3 bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/what- makes-a-good-peer-mediator/719.html
6 Synott,J. (2005) Peace education as an educational paradigm; Review of a changing field using an old measure. Journal of Peace Education, 2(l):3-16.
7 Chesters, G., & Welsh, 1. (2005). Complexity and social movement(s): Process, 211.
Arthur Romano is an international educator, researcher, and consultant specializing in developing sustainable educational approaches for transforming conflict. He has worked in Africa, Asia and the US supporting communities in creatively engaging with conflict and he advises a wide range of organizations on the development of conflict resolution education programs. Arthur currently is a professor […]
Arthur Romano is an international educator, researcher, and consultant specializing in developing sustainable educational approaches for transforming conflict. He has worked in Africa, Asia and the US supporting communities in creatively engaging with conflict and he advises a wide range of organizations on the development of conflict resolution education programs. Arthur currently is a professor […]
Read full bio at: http://www.kosmosjournal.org/contributor/arthur-romano/