“If we are to teach real peace in this world, If we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with our children” –Mahatma Gandhi
According to the dictionary, “Peace education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviours to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment.”
If one reads, and then re-reads the above definition, one may realize that what we term as “peace education” is in fact, an instinct that most of us subconsciously possess. Therefore, it is essential to realize and question why the world needs a separate and more elaborate branch of education solely dedicated to this instinct.
Speaking of peace, and therefore of war, one usually finds the Anglo-Zanzibar War hilarious. The Anglo-Zanzibar War was a military conflict fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted around 38 minutes, marking it as the shortest war in history. Though it lasted 38 minutes, the amount spent on equipment, the displacement of soldiers and general distress among people on both sides could never be reversed. And this, is one of the biggest reasons the world needs peace education: the irreversibility of war, the permanence of it and the damage it causes to everybody directly and indirectly involved in it.
Peace Education can be divided into three major disciplines; Conflict resolution training, Democracy education and Human Rights education.
Learning to manage anger, “fight fair” and improve communication through skills such as listening, turn-taking, identifying needs, and separating facts from emotions, constitute the main elements of programs under Conflict Resolution Training. Participants are also encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to brainstorm together on compromises.
In the democracy education training, participants are trained in the skills of critical thinking, debate and coalition-building, and promote the values of freedom of speech, individuality, tolerance of diversity, compromise and conscientious objection. The program’s aim is to produce “responsible citizens” who will hold their governments accountable to the standards of peace, primarily through adversarial processes.
The idea behind Human Rights education is to familiarize participants with the international covenants and declarations of the United Nations system; train students to recognize violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and promote tolerance, solidarity, autonomy and self-affirmation at the individual and collective levels.
One of the latest approaches towards Peace Education has been a movement to gain insights gleaned from psychology which recognize the developmental nature of human psychosocial dispositions. Essentially, while conflict-promoting attitudes and behaviours are characteristic of earlier phases of human development, unity-promoting attitudes and behaviours emerge in later phases of healthy development. This is popularly known as Worldview Transformation.
Though it seems like a relatively new concept, peace education has been a significant proposition by educators throughout the world since a very long time. One of the first Europeans who used the written word to espouse peace education was Comenius (1642/1969), the Czech educator who in the seventeenth century saw that universally shared knowledge could provide a road to peace.
In 1912 a School Peace League had chapters in nearly every state in the United States that were “promoting through the schools …the interests of international justice and fraternity”.They had ambitious plans to acquaint over 500,000 teachers with the conditions for peace.
Many of the leading peace educators early in the twentieth century were women. Jane Addams, an American woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, was urging schools to include immigrant groups as well. At about this same time an Italian woman, Maria Montessori, was traveling through Europe urging teachers to abandon authoritarian pedagogies, replacing them with a rigid but dynamic curriculum from which pupils could choose what to study.
The horrors of World War II created a new interest in ‘Education for World Citizenship.’ Right after that war Herbert Read argued for the marriage of art and peace education to produce images that would motivate people to promote peace.
The first academic peace studies program at the college level was established in 1948 at Manchester College, in North Manchester, Indiana, in the United States. Soon thereafter the field of peace research developed as a “science of peace” in the 1950s to counteract the science of war that had produced so much mass killing.
In spite of its tremendous growth in the twentieth century, peace education has not taken hold in school systems around the world. A few countries have used United Nations mandates to stimulate formal school-based peace education activities but most countries have ignored them. Some countries like the Philippines and Uganda have mandated peace education in the public schools but lack resources for training teachers in the various complexities of this new subject.
As you read this article, 151 out of the 162 countries of the world are involved in some form of conflict and yet, there is no structured Peace education program in place in a single one of them. It is only us, the youth, who can change these numbers and hopefully the generation after us will not have to see just 11 peaceful countries in their world.
Richa Shivangi Gupta
Picture Credits: Kunal Raj