“Educating for Peace and Global Awareness”

A conference sponsored by the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa , Oct 3-4, 2003 .

                       

“If we are to reach real peace in this world,

  if we are to declare war on war,

  we must begin with the children”  Mahatma Gandhi

 

This conference, along with related peace education initiatives now in full swing at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education, represent a big step forward in peace education in Eastern Ontario.  Most importantly, the conference demonstrated the eagerness of teachers in training to begin to learn the theory and practice of peace and global education, and the commitment of the Dean and a core group of faculty members to present it to them.

 

About 300 people attended the conference.   A large majority of those registered were student teachers, with local and area teachers making up the next largest group.  Others attending included leaders of NGOs and teacher federations, and practitioners of aspects of peace and global education.

 

The Friday evening programme was an introduction to peace education – the whys and whats involved. Keynote speaker Dr Joanna Santa Barbara of the Centre for Peace Studies, McMaster University , gave examples of peace education, the desire of young people for meaningful work and the necessity for peace education in schools, specifying its nature at all levels.  Panellists – Vicki Shannon, a rural school principal; Vern Redekop, a specialist in conflict resolution, and US peace educator Ian Harris from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – enlarged on these themes from their own experience. Next day participants learned some of the how of peace and global education.  They chose two from 38 workshops (some in French) which included topics as diverse as climate change, peace building responses to school violence and “I can’t find my feet” – theatre as a tool for peace.  Evaluation of reports from the participants is now under way but a brief look appears to affirm strongly the positive, enthusiastic remarks at the conference.

 

The conference is part of several new peace and global education initiatives at the Faculty.  These include an annual student teacher retreat, bilingual internet resource development, Faculty workshops and curriculum development.  These have been developed over the past many years mainly by two Ottawa based groups, Educating for Peace and the Global Educators’ Network, whose work was largely voluntary. Funding remains a difficulty. This conference was a labour of love for those faculty members who committed their professional skills and long hours to pulling it off.

 

It was a step ahead, but only one of many first steps toward planting peace and global education firmly in Canada ’s public school system.  This week (Nov 17-23 2003), the week of the second National Conference on Peace Education, “A World Fit for Children” is also Anti Bullying Week, inspired (with an amazing website) by an Alberta group.  This Saturday in British Columbia the University of Victoria holds its “Learning And The World We Want” conference.  Small citizen groups and faculties of education throughout the country are making these initiatives happen. 

 

Courses in the skills and concepts of peace and global education should be mandatory for teachers and students.  But there is far to go before Ministries and other formal structures of the education system recognize this obligation to their clients – our children, grandchildren and their teachers. Moving from today’s culture of violence to a culture of peace requires cultivating the values and attitudes that would inspire learners to put into action the skills and knowledge acquired in peace education” …. “Peacemaking requires a dynamic, continually renewed process of education.” 1.

 

With the recent provincial election in Ontario there are signs of hope that teachers, some of whom are already engaged in this vital task, will regain the governmental support and respect they need.  The next steps will have to come from citizens – from parents, school councils, NGOs, teachers’ federations and many, many others.

 

1. Rationale and Approaches to Peace Education, Betty A. Reardon and Alice Cabezudo, Hague Appeal for Peace 2002

 

Educating for Peace, www.global-ed.org/e4p