PEACE EDUCATION AND PEACE ACTIVISM

Peace educators should not confuse activism with leadership.  The following articles were written in response to the debate on whether there is a role for activism in education.

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Responses (IN CAPS) to a recent Questionnaire on "activist":
 
 5.. Would you consider yourself an activist? If so, how does this relate
to your involvement in Peace Studies? Does it affect how you design and
implement your Peace Studies courses?

THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY DEFINES 'ACTIVISM' AS "The theory, doctrine, or practice of assertive, often militant action, such as mass demonstrations or strikes, used as a means of opposing or supporting a controversial issue, entity, or person."  THE TERM "PEACE ACTIVIST" HAS BEEN
USED NEGATIVELY, AND AS A FORM OF CHARACTER ASSASSINATION TO PUT DOWN PEACE
PEOPLE.  THE USE OF VIOLENT ACTIVISM HAS ALSO UNDERMINED VALID PEACE
ACTIVITY.  I CONSIDER MYSELF A "PEACE LEADER". 

THE A.H. DICTIONARY DEFINES 'LEAD' OR 'LEADERSHIP' AS:
"To show the way to by going in advance. 2. To guide or direct in a course. 3.a. To serve as a route for; take. b. To be a channel or conduit for (water or electricity, for example). 4. To guide the behaviour or opinion of;
induce. 5.a. To direct the performance or activities of. b. To inspire the conduct of. 6. To play a principal or guiding role in. 7.a. To go or be at the head of. b. To be ahead of. c. To be foremost in or among. 8. To pass or
go through; live. 9. To begin or open with, as in games. 10. To guide (a partner) in dancing. 11. To aim in front of (a moving target). --intr. 1. To be first; be ahead. 2. To go first as a guide. 3. To act as commander, director, or guide. 4. To afford a passage, course, or route. 5. To tend toward a certain goal or result. 6. To make the initial play, as in a game or contest. 7. To begin a presentation or an account in a given way."

PEACE EDUCATORS SHOULD NOT CONFUSE THEIR ROLE AS LEADERS WITH ACTIVISM,
GIVEN THE CURRENT NEGATIVE SOCIAL CONNOTATIONS.  (I HAVE KNOWN MANY PEACE
EDUCATORS WHO CLAIM THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE ACTIVISTS, AND ACCORDINGLY
ALSO ARE NOT LEADERS OUT OF FEAR OF THE ROLE.)

THIS AFFECTS HOW I IMPLEMENT MY PROGRAMS AS I WISH TO LEAD (AND TEACH) BY
EXAMPLE.  I ALSO APPLY WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP WHEN
RELATING TO OTHERS (STUDENTS, ETC.)  THIS MEANS THAT PEACE EDUCATORS ARE
MOST EFFECTIVE IF THEY ARE WELL TRAINED, THEMSELVES, IN LEADERSHIP.  PEACE
STUDENTS WILL LEARN MOST IF THEY UNDERSTAND THE PRINCIPLES OF LEADERSHIP AND
KNOW HOW TO CONTRACT FOR A LEADERSHIP STYLE WITH THEIR EDUCATORS, MENTORS
AND/OR LEADERS.

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adapted from a recent message to the CPIdiscussion email listserver for peace educators:

Dear Members,

I would like to take this opportunity to add my comments to the recent
discussion on peace education and activism.

When it was initiated, the primary purpose of this web site
was to be a venue to help promote and advance peace education of
all sorts.  Guided by a general philosophy of inclusiveness, peace education
can not ignore peace activism, and in fact must incorporate it (for those
who would like to debate this, which is fair enough, refer to references
below).  An important task that we should undertake is to discuss if and how
peace activism should be incorporated in peace education, and document our
findings (I would suggest in a Canadian Peace Education Handbook, which is
something that was recommended in our Action Plan from the November 2002
conference).

There will always be "procedural problems" in any venues.  Peace is a big
topic or area to cover, including many functional issues.  Peace education
has a role to play throughout that big topic and cuts across all related
functional issues.  For the most part, in the venues of this listserver and
our conferences, our primary purpose is to talk about peace education rather
than, for example, the 2003 Iraq war or nuclear proliferation, etc..  However, at
some time, it might be most appropriate to include the Iraq war in our
discussion as a specific case study if it helps us to understand and advance
peace education.  I think all Members of the list would appreciate it if
people would ensure their submissions to the list help contribute toward the
advancement of peace education.  Having said that, I can imagine that some
Members might think, for example, that it is important for peace educators
to know what action is being planned January 18 and 19, 2003 with respect to the
Iraq war, while other Members may not share that view.  I suppose in this
example, like beauty, this too can be in the eye of the beholder.   In any
venue (and I am reminded of some recent Christmas party conversations),
every person will get messages that do not interest them - in which case
they can turn a deaf ear, walk away or hit the delete button.   I see it as
a manageable issue (one of many).

Speaking to my role as moderator of CPIdiscussion, I do not wish to stop
discussion (and I do not wish to place my prejudices on others).  I would
like to encourage discussion, and am very happy when I see Members get the
benefit of this (such as the recent discussion on anti-violence programs in
schools).  So I tend to err on the side of minimal moderation (I have only
used it when someone has been blatant in advertising a non-peace product, or
when they are really beyond our scope - which may have been about two
times).

I trust that the 91 Members currently on the List are finding that the
benefits outweigh the costs (e.g.. unwanted messages).  Obviously, it is to
our benefit to share items that add value to our collective professional and
personal lives.  In this way, our Listserver (web site and conferences) will
grow and create even more value to us and others.

Regards,
Bob Stewart
http://www.peace.ca

"The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of
those who look at it without doing anything."
.
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As background to my comments, I urge you to read EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
"PEACE, CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE: PEACE PSYCHOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY" now
available online at http://www.peace.ca/peacepsychologyexcerpts.htm


The United Nations Culture of Peace Program, and this book, contain many,
many references to the need for transformation and change (of many things,
including education and social systems).  That is action oriented (i.e.
activism).  Chapter 23 shows us that peace workers must be able (i.e.
educated) to manage social change and strain.

Specifically recommended in the conclusion (and while they specifically
refer to psychology I would suggest education as a substitute term):
"... peace psychology should be based on both activism and analysis.  While
the idea of political activism is not new, ... students are not currently
trained to practice and pursue it. ... - Because public policy is a
psychological issue, we believe that students should be trained how to think
about, research, lobby, and affect peace.  ... psychologists cannot abdicate
the political dimension of our work.  Our roles as scientists do not require
us to remain politically neutral.  Science itself is value laden; feigning
neutrality is intellectually dishonest and socially irresponsible. ... -
Thus for several reasons, we believe that peace psychologists should be
activists.  First, because peace cannot wait until all the data are in;
second, because we learn from our ideas as we apply them; third, because we
are likely to be better practitioners if we simultaneously test our ideas."

Activism is also discussed in Chapter 30 - Psychologists Making a Difference
in the Public Arena: Building Cultures of Peace, by Michael Wessells, Milton
Schwebel, and Anne Anderson.  To paraphrase only one comment: An important
form of activism by peace educators is to help in the construction of
effective peace organizations.