Why the need for peace education in Canada?
My focus on peace education centres around high school
aged students, the group I teach. Adolescents
are our lost generation. They are
aware of the conflicts around them, they are mindful of the costs attributed to
conflict, and they capable of managing and preventing those conflicts with the
appropriate training. High school
aged students have experienced enough of the "world" around them and
have matured mentally and socially to study complex and dynamic disciplines,
such as peace and conflict are.
It is no longer necessary to restrict peace and
conflict issues into an integrated curriculum as it is done now in our
provincial curriculum. I draw your
attention to a comment attributed to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education,
"Peace education is addressed at all levels of our education system in
Saskatchewan. Although peace
education is not taught as a separate subject in our K-12 education system, it
is integrated into our social studies curricula an all levels."
It is time to create an independent peace and conflict studies course for
senior high school students and integrate other subjects into it.
The peace and conflict approach I chose to assert for
students is based upon the recognition that conflict is as fundamental to human
life as is our need for relationships. It
is not uncommon to hear Peace and Conflict Studies programs, whether they are
negotiation courses, mediation training or victim-offender reconciliation
programs, acknowledge that conflict is neither inherently good nor bad.
For myself, it is time to do more than pay lip service to this concept.
The subject of my course material is peace and
conflict. They are inseparable concepts. Human
dynamics are built upon intense relationships, and by now, adolescents have been
greatly affected by them, whether through family, peer, or intimate relations.
They are experiencing emotions that can lead to violence and destruction.
High school students are at an age and place well suited to address how,
mechanically how, to deal with peace and conflict issues.
Peace, and the non-violent resolution of conflicts, is
understandable to adolescents through structures, institutions, and processes,
not through “pie-in-the-sky” ideals, like multicultural pot-lucks or
anti-discrimination training. It is
those very structures, institutions, and processes that high school students
need to learn. They are in tune
with, and in desperate need of, practical solutions.
There is no "fooling" them with wishful philosophies
We need to show adolescents that the differences
between individuals on a day-to-day basis can be handled in a non-violent,
non-destructive, power sharing manner; but that differences, significant
differences, do exist. Only then can
we expect them to use those same principles on more pressing issues.
Most of the resistance I have experienced so far has
come from the Ontario Ministry of Education which perceives "peace
issues" as loosely defined, playful, and quaint, or that "peace"
is covered in history courses with reference to wars and politics.
That image needs to change.
The very nature of peace and conflict studies is an
inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary topic and as such
has enormous hurdles to cross before being implemented across our provinces.
Our high schools today are faced with the same predicament that our
universities were two generations ago, namely, where does it belong in the high
school curriculum: history, social science, economics, environmental studies?
We should draw upon the experience of our university colleagues for their
guidance and patience.
Personally, I have had very positive experiences from
those around me: my School Board Director, Principal, Department Head, and
colleagues have all been very supportive. This
conference and others like it give me hope in the face of my personal setback
As I said at the beginning: adolescents are our lost
generation. They are looking for
concrete practical methods for dealing with world around them: personally,
locally, and globally. Most of their
philosophies have been developed, their ideals set, and their opinions formed.
We need to provide them with applicable techniques that give them the
faith that living peacefully is not only possible, but beneficial.
By John Daicopoulos
November 8, 2002