Town Hall #3:  Who is a Peace Educator? 

 prepared by Amy Braunstein

-         Bob Stewart introduces Anne Goodman (panel facilitator, currently teaching at Menno Simons College )

-         Anne Goodman:

-         It’s possible to cooperate across geographical boundaries

-         Friday workshop focused on “who is a peace educator?” 

-         Voice of women workshops/kits

-         Introduces panel


1)      Joy Warner, Hamilton Culture of Peace

-         Everyone is a peace maker

-         Leadership is important but should not we must be careful not to see leaders as saints

-         Empowerment and hope are important

-         Structures and institutions are important but we also need individual hope

-         Importance of “the everyday warp and woof”, especially “women’s work” (remembering the details) – quote:  “For the world to survive, everyone must act like women”

-         Important to convince people that they have an important role in cultivating peace in all spheres of life

-         Robert Waldrop (sp?):  weakness of relying on words ® we must live out the culture of peace, the culture of violence has a weakness – it is not productive, it is costly

-         Big question:  how do we live our productive lives?  We must examine our lifestyles. 

-         Gandhi:  we must be the change we want

-         Are we living the culture of peace? 


2)      Brandon (last name?)

-         Everyone has the potential to be a peace educator

-         Everyone knows right from wrong

-         Three frogs theory

-         Peace education:  know what is right and follow it thru

-         Peace educators should fight the cause of war – hate – not war itself

-         The opposite of a peace educator is a hate-monger (ex: Social Darwinists, Nazis)

-         Differences between peace educators (different agendas, ideals, methods…)

-         What if peace is achieved?  (in Iraq , for example)  Must continue with our work as peace educators – it’s important to maintain peace after it is achieved


3)      Leah Wells, Waging Peace ( California )

-         Waging Peace teaches nonviolence in classes and promotes peace education in California

-         What goes on in a peace education classroom?

o       Intangible

o       Finding students’ strengths and interests

o       Students teach too

o       Teaching the students where nonviolence has worked

o       Obstacles: 

§         Criticism that peace education is indoctrination

§         Overburdened teachers

§         Students’ “nonlinear” lives (family problems…)

§         Tendency to teach for tests

-         Who are peace educators? 

o       Risk-takers

o       Flexible

o       Getting the message out (to school boards, media…) – the goal is to be faithful

-         Promote careers of conscience (for example, socially conscience engineers, mechanics, occupational therapists…) – it’s not necessary to be an “activist”

-         For more information:


4)      Allison Jones, McMaster student and labour activist

-         Academic, labour activist (CUPE – McMaster TA’s)

-         Everyone approaches peace differently

-         It’s important to “shoot for the stars” but the small stuff counts too

-         Academia needs to become more involved in peace movements

-         Importance of process/facilitation

-         The labour movement is not always seen as the most nonviolent movement

-         However, there is an initiative to cooperate with peace activists


5)      Larry Fisk

-         Has been a “peace educator” for many years but what is a peace educator? 

-         Importance of recognizing students’ enormous potential

-         Peace education is revolutionary

-         Inspired by youth

-         Books:

o       Paula Friere:  Pedagogy of the Oppressed

o       Ivan Illich: Deschooling Society

o       Paul Goodman: Compulsory Miseducation

o       Larry Fisk: Patterns of Conflict; Paths to Peace

-         What makes us think that we are different from any other culture, that we don’t have blinders on ourselves  - article:  “Seeing Beyond our Certainties”




-         Anne Goodman

o       Noticed a synergy between panelists – we can all be peace educators

o       Ursula Franklin:  earthworm metaphor – our work is not glamorous, we are like earthworms, we must transform decaying vegetation into something useful

-         Penny Sanger

o       We need to make plans

o       Conscience Canada ( Victoria ):  Peace Tax Fund

-         Anne Goodman

o       “Freedom of conscience”

-         Anne Weisz

o       Self-declared “troublemaker”

o       Peacemaking can have negative consequences (For example, abused women who try to make peace with their abusers)

-         Joy Warner

o       Warns again not to see people as saints

o       Tension between non-cooperation with evil and the possibility of conversion

-         Allison Jones

o       The left can sometimes be characterized by a “lefter-than-thou” attitude

o       Judgment of those who are not activists

-         Brandon

o       Tension between those pursuing political paths and those pursuing activism

-         Rae (last name?), McMaster Student

o       Important not to see Gandhi, Martin Luther King as saints

o       How are we defining “activism”

-         Allison Jones

o       Addresses the question of peace education in the labour movement

o       The labour movement is sometimes criticized for working within the capitalist system

o       Labour movements are taking initiative to work for social justice

-         Joy Warner

o       We must look at our styles of organizing

o       Importance of getting the labour movement on board

-         ?

o       Was involved in the Anti-Vietnam movement

o       Was forced to choose to dissociate from violent activists (Che Guevara, for example)

-         Andy Dwornik

o       Addresses Brandon :  hate is not the cause of war, greed is the cause of war

-         Shirley (last name?)

o       Half a million people marched in Florence (anti-war, anti-globalization)

-         Yanis (last name?)

o       Let’s take a practical approach to making peace educators since we agree that everyone has the potential

-         Joy Warner

o       Top-down approach vs. bottom-up approach to establishing peace education – both are important

§         Lobbying ministers

§         Students and Parents applying pressure

§         Voting for peace education

§         Visiting ministers

-         Brandon

o       Who is vs. who can be a peace educator

o       Agrees that greed is behind war but stresses that we must fight hate

-         Larry Fisk

o       Sometimes feels reluctant towards peace activism (because of its sometimes violent tendencies)

o       Story about business executive – for many in Canada , we have an “other” – big business…)

-         Anne Pearson, Interfaith Group

o       Criticizes the cost of coming to the conference

o       Asks about evaluation forms ® would like to make suggestions about format (ex:  small group discussion)

o       Suggests that future conferences specifically consider faith perspectives

-         Amy Braunstein, McMaster student

o       What is the role of “the right” in peace education? 

-         Burt

o       “Love thy neighbour” is an element in many faiths

-         ?

o       Addresses Rae’s question about defining “activism”

o       False dichotomy between activists and academics

o       Education is activism

-         Erich Weisz

o       “Husband of the troublemaker”

o       Expresses delight in attending the conference

o       Says he loves peace but there are circumstances when war is necessary (ex: 1939)

o       Importance of the way we live our lives, honesty

-         Derek (last name?)

o       Responds to Anne Pearson’s criticisms, puts her in charge of fundraising

-         Anne Goodman

o       Suggests that fundraising be added to Monday’s session

o       Adds that conference organizers did recognize the problem of cost

-         Larry Fisk

o       Revised his concept of the “other” – each of us has his/her own idea about who we can best work with

-         Allison Jones

o       Reiterates false dichotomy between activists and academics

-         Brandon

o       Right/left exists in any organization

-         Joy Warner

o       “Not from the right, not from the left, from the heart”

o       Agrees that war was necessary in 1939 but peace education (and other measures) could have prevented the situation


Notes provided by Eleanor Alexander:

Town Hall Session

•Anne Goodman of Menno Simons College at the University of Winnipeg introduced herself as the moderator of the panel discussion and introduced each of the panel members in turn

•Joy Warner has been incredibly involved in NGOs and in faith-based community work

            •Brandon Gallant, student at the University of Waterloo

            •Leah Wells of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation of California

            •Allison Jones, graduate student in sociology at McMaster, and union organizer

•Larry Fisk, retired professor, involved with CPREA; former chair of Peace Studies at Mt. St. Vincent

•Each of the panellists offered their thoughts on “Who is a Peace Educator?”, before a plenary discussion

•Joy Warner offered the “banal, but important” answer that everyone is a peace educator, and that it is important to beware of the “saint syndrome”, which intimidates mere mortals. She argued that a life lived with integrity demonstrates a stronger message than formal structures such as workshops, and that convincing people one at a time that they can all be peace educators is a difficult, but important task. She acknowledged the importance of formal structures, but encouraged an emphasis on empowering people. She noted that practices generally performed by women, such as remembering details, noticing emotional nuances, and keeping the peace, contribute to a culture of peace. She asserted that “for the world to survive, everyone must act like women”.  Warner drew on the ideas of Robert Waldrop, a Catholic worker in the U.S., to point out that verbal challenges to the dominant system are not sufficient. She reminded us that, as long as we pay the bills of the war system, and demand cheap food gas, and other consumer products, we are contributing to the culture of death. Warner closed with a reference to Ghandi, noting that “we must be the change we want to see in the world”.

•Brandon Gallant agreed with Joy Warner’s assertion that everyone has the potential to be a peace educator, saying that everyone inherently knows what is good, but may not follow this knowledge. He shared a powerful story of 3 frogs, which stressed the vast difference between deciding to do something, and actually doing it. Other key points Brendon raised included:

                        •Peace activists are not fighting WAR, but rather, its cause, HATE.

•Recognizing the differences between peace educators is good; we represent “pieces of peace” all trying to work together

•What happens if we realize peace? This is a concern particularly for those focussing on a certain area; eg. Iraq. We must ask ourselves

                                    “Do we want peace?”

                        •Peace requires work, maintenance, effort.


•Leah Wells focussed the first part of her talk on what peace education looks like in a classroom, based on her experiences teaching semester-long high-school classes on non-violence. Some of her “best practices” for peace include:

•Help students realize that they can trust themselves; help people to figure out their own talents. She believes in stressing the ideas of “careers with a conscience”

•Promote an atmosphere where students see themselves as teachers. She is proud to say that when she is absent, her students teach class.

•Focus on the interconnectedness of issues, at the local, national and international level

•Recognize and understand the impedients to learning in the classroom; including students’ messy home and social lives, overburdened teachers, etc.

•Ms. Wells also highlighted the key traits of peace educators: risk-taskers, creative innovators, flexibility.

            •She recommended that people go to

•Allison Jones situated herself as a panel member as an individual, an academic with a specialization in peace and ethnicity, and a labour activist, but reiterated the idea of not being an expert on peace. She spoke on her understanding of peace educators, noting that as a teenager, she idolized Martin Luther King and set herself the goal of winning a Nobel Prize. However, she has since come to recognize the importance of all types of work, whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes. Jones also noted that the labour movement has not always been seen as a non-violent movement, but pointed out that there is a large and growing movement within the union movement which is focussed on environmental work and the effects of globalization.

•Larry Fisk introduced himself as someone who has been a peace educator for 20 years, without knowing it for the first 20 years. Now that he has retired from a career as an academic, he is absolutely convinced that education is the way to go forward. He referred everyone to a 6-page essay he’s written on “Who is a Peace Educator? Where Does it all Begin”, posted at Fisk closed by recommending several works on peace and education:

•Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed; which is a difficult read, but a fundamental book on radical pedagogy

                        •Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

                        •Paulo Freire and Ira Shor, A Pedagogy for Liberation

                        •Paul Goodman, Compulsory Miseducation

•Patterns of Conflict: Paths to Peace. Edited by Larry Fisk, John Schellenberg. Broadview Press. 2000.

•Article by Larry Fisk. “Can we see Beyond our Certainties in Politics and Peace?” In Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace Studies, May 2001.



Question Period / Discussion with Panel


•Anne Goodman summarized highlights of the town hall session and shared a metaphor by Ursula Franklin that the work of peace educators is like that of earthworms, preparing the soil for when the seeds are ready. She then opened the floor for discussion.

•Penny Sanger emphasized the importance of going forward, and pointed to Conscience Canada and the Peace Tax Fund as avenues of action.

•Emmy Weisz introduced herself as a troublemaker, and then introduced the dimension of abused people, particularly women, and the need to connect with that situation.

•Rae of the Skydragon Centre noted that, especially with situations of abuse, we cannot have peace without justice. She celebrated also the humanity evidenced on the panel, with laughter and smiles.

•Joy Warner, in response to Mrs. Weisz’s concern around abuse, called upon Ghandi’s principle of non-cooperation with evil and also the Christian idea of hating the sin without hating the sinner.

•Allison Jones pointed out the importance of being good to each other, within a movement, recognizing our limitations and demonstrating compassion for one another. She noted her experiences of having people take a “Lefter than thou” attitude.

•Larry Fisk and Brandon Gallant shared their struggles of integrating activism with their respective vocations of academic and aspiring politician.

•Rae noted the importance of humanizing Ghandi, Martin Luther King, et al., rather than elevating them to saint status. She also expressed curiosity about the way the word “activist” is used by different people.

•David Adams of the culture of peace raised a concern about labour’s role in the peace movement. Allison Jones responded that labour sometimes gets a bad rap, sometimes justifiably, because labour works within the capitalist system and because of the adversarial dynamic of bargaining. However, she noted that there is a lot happening now within the union movement, in regard to peace and justice, and that it is always “a tough dance” when groups form alliances while having significant differences.

•Joy Warner her experience of working with labour groups, as part of the Hamilton Disarmament Committee. She found it challenging, because of the bureaucratic process, and the more formal style of management. She also noted that the leadership of the union movement is “way ahead” of the rank-and-file on social justice issues.

•Dave       ?   Noted the great changes that can occur for individuals, noting that as a student activist, he had helped to run an underground movement for draft dodgers, and he had held Che Guevara as a hero, citing the motto than violence was necessary.

•Andy Dwornik addressed Brandon Gallant, arguing that greed is the cause of war, and hate is just the instrument. As an illustration, he pointed out that Hitler was successful because of the loans he received from several banks.

•Yiannis Laouris encourages a practical emphasis, on HOW to be an educator.

•Penny Sanger offered a suggestion to labour activists of organizing weekend retreats to educate members on social justice issues.

•Joy Warner noted that there is a tension between top-down and bottom-up approaches, suggesting that two important events would be having a groundswell of parents and students calling for peace education, along with the support of governments who will allocate money to support peace education.

•Larry Fisk shared a story of a chance meeting with a father and son at the Calgary Saddledome, when Fisk himself was in the depths of depression and anxiety. The father was a corporate executive with a huge corporation, who had worked in South America. He shared a concern about ethics in business, and he and Fisk exchanged email addresses, after Fisk noted his concern about socially and environmentally destructive processes in Latin America. Fisk’s noted that, after an email exchange, the executive had asked that peace activists do not give up on men like himself, writing that “I hope you don’t write us all off”.

•Anne Pearson, co-chair of the Hamilton Interfaith Group, celebrated Bob Stewart for organizing the conference, but shared a concern about the cost of the conference excluding people, and suggested that the structure of the conference should include more small-group work.

•Amy Braunstein expressed a concern that the discussion has been limited to work with the left side of the political spectrum, although there may be people or structures challenging the status quo within more conservative bodies.  

•Katherine Covell of the Children’s Rights Centre of the University of Cape Breton revisted the question of “Who is an activist?” by encouraging an end to the false dichotomy between activism and academics. She also stressed the importance of remembering that there can be activism in everything we do, noting that “the way we live is what we teach”.

•Erich Weisz celebrated the Conference, but raised the question of whether there are circumstances in which war is necessary, citing Germany in 1939 as one example.

•Derek Paul of Science for Peace first acknowledged Anne Pearson’s criticism about the accessibility of the conference and suggested that she become one of the fundraisers. Secondly, he suggested that SSHRC grants might provide another source of funding, although they need to be applied for well in advance


•Panel chair Anne Goodman acknowledged that a lack of accessibility can be seen as a form of structural violence. She then turned to the panellists for closing thoughts.


•Larry Fisk reiterated the idea that each person has their own type of work to do, to contribute to the peace movement.

•Joy Warner suggested that peace work should come “not from left, not from right, but from the heart”. She replied to Mr. Weisz’s comment about the need for war, suggesting that if there had been good peace education in Germany, Hitler would never have come to power. She closed by noting a concern for civil rights, now, in Canada.

•Anne Goodman closed by celebrating the work of the conference, and reiterating the importance of making sure that everyone feels included. She drew attention to Joan Engel of Alberta Learning as one of the few government representatives. Goodman then shared a story of meeting an unlikely peace activist on her plane trip, in the form of a 35-year-old female military recruit in the midst of basic training. In front of many other recruits, mostly younger men, the woman had stood up to an order that the recruits  unneccessarily, violently, kill rabbits. Goodman celebrated her courage, and noted that “our work can be anywhere”.