PEACE EDUCATION THEORY

(This report comes from an interactive one hour discussion at the (PEC) meetings held in Durban, South Africa on June 23, 1998 at IPRA's seventeenth conference. Thanks to Frank Hutchinson from Australia who took the notes that made this transcription possible. Names of the respondents are not included because no accurate record was kept of all the people in attendance.)

Traditional distinctions in peace education are couched in terms of negative and positive peace. These distinctions can be seen in peace through strength which uses peacekeeping strategies to deter violence, peacemaking which helps disputants resolve their conflicts, and peacebuilding which tries to motivate students to want to be peaceful. Negative peace education tries to put out fires while positive peace education tries to stop fires (conflicts) from breaking out in the first place.

Further distinctions in peace education come from the content taught, the pedagogy or teachers style, and the skills that students learn in order to become peaceful people. Peace education content started out discussing the causes of war and the attempts of international systems to avoid war. In Japan peace education was originally defined narrowly as ‘anti-atomic bomb’ education. More recently, largely influenced by third world perspectives, there has been a broadening of the notion of peace education to include the study of the origins of Japanese militarism. Peace educators around the world are dealing with other issues, e.g. structural violence, cultural violence, personal violence, racism, and environmental destruction.

Peace education operates differently in various global contexts. What does it mean in globalization and particular regional interests? Questions were raised about practical strategies that link theory and practice, especially in the context of countries experiencing war or having recently experienced war. What different peace education content is addressed in societies that are not at war but still experience high levels of crime, ethnic conflict, and domestic violence? How can insights gleaned from these different contexts be used to help each other? Are our key concepts universal? How are they interpreted by separate cultures in specific contexts?

The works of Elise Boulding and Paolo Freire were mentioned. Boulding was acknowledged for feminist peace theorizing about personal and interpersonal violence and her emphasis upon future thinking and the key role of international nongovernmental organizations in promoting peace. Paulo Freire contributes an emphasis upon developing a questioning attitude towards the violence of the status quo and a pedagogy that relies upon a dialogue between teacher and pupil where both together seek alternatives to violence. Peace educators produce critical thinkers who question the emphasis upon militarism found all around the world.

Peace educators establish democratic classrooms that teach cooperation and promote positive self esteem among their students. Teachers serve as peaceful role models to help to counteract images of violent behaviour young people receive through popular culture and in their homes. Their teaching style adjusts to the developmental needs of their pupils, respecting the various identities and concerns about violence students bring to the classroom.

Other issues concerned the difference between teaching separate peace education classes versus integrating peace themes into existing curricula. In many different countries teachers are starting programs that don't use the terms "peace education' to describe them. Rather, they are calling their programs conflict resolution, violence prevention, anger management, etc. What is the source of this reluctance to use the terms "peace education?" How can we overcome it? In general people want immediate solutions to the problems of violence they fear. Peace education, because it provides a long term solution, is not seen as necessary and is not grabbing the kind of support as does conflict resolution which helps put out fires.

A key issue is: How can educators contribute to making a peaceful person? This would include feminist insights into peace theory as well as a certain orientation towards peaceful values, beliefs, and behaviours. A peaceful person should display a certain ‘groundedness’ that implies not being in a constant state of anger and frustration. What does it mean in social skills and democratic participation? What kind of contribution can peace education make to building ‘a culture of peace?’ Peace educators re-conceptualize literacy to include socio-emotional literacy and the 2Rs ( Reconciliation, Recovery of social imagination about alternatives to violence) How is peace education transformative?

What does it mean to be ‘transformative’? How can peace educators empower their students to take action to end violence? Peacekeeping may be a valuable ingredient especially in keeping bullies from disrupting classes and in keeping warring parties from each others throats. Otherwise, threats of violence can undermine attempts at peaceful pedagogy. What skills should peace educators teach in order that their students become effective peacemakers? How can we help students embrace the values and behaviour of nonviolence? How can we get broader acceptance for peacebuilding approaches to violence?

What is the difference between peace studies and peace education? How do these two concepts overlap? Earlier within the International Peace Research Association peace education was seen as a means for propagating the findings of peace researchers. Peace education is quickly becoming a field of its own as teachers all over the world are looking to insights from peace theory to help them make their schools more peaceful and resolve bloody disputes in civil societies. Students in peace studies classes learn about the causes of war and alternatives to violence. Peace educators figure out how to teach those concepts to different age levels in different contexts. Insights into the international sphere provided by peace studies may not seem relevant to educators whose schools and communities are experiencing violence and whose students are being shot. How do the micro issues of violence relate to the broader macro cultures that glorify violence throughout the world?

(The author of this transcription, Ian Harris has taken the liberty of including a definition of peace education provided Fran Schmidt of the United States. Ms. Schmidt, the founder of Peace Works in Miami, Florida, was not able to attend the PEC meetings.)

Peace Education is about empowering people with the skills, attitudes, and knowledge:

*to build, maintain, and restore relationships at all levels of human interaction.
*to develop positive approaches towards dealing with conflicts -from the personal to the international.
*to create safe environments, both physically and emotionally, that nurture each individual.
*to create a safe world based on justice and human rights.
*to build a sustainable environment and protect it from exploitation and war.

Peace education is based on a philosophy that teaches nonviolence, love, compassion, trust, fairness, cooperation and reverence for the human family and all life on our planet.

Skills include communication, listening, understanding different perspectives, cooperation, problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, conflict resolution, and social responsibility.

Peace education leads to peaceful living.


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1998.  Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
The Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
Last Update: 13 Jul 2000