By Jacqueline Haessly, Ph. D.
Educating our young for peace and nonviolence poses challenges to parents and educators who seek to create a culture of peace with justice in their families, their classrooms, and our world.
Educating our young for peace and nonviolence consists of three distinct yet intertwined components.
Effective Peace Education programs are as concerned about the environment for peacemaking as for the content which is taught. This then is the first essential task of effective peace education. Peace educators work to create an environment of peace and safety within the home, the classroom, and in the community through processes which 1) foster affirmation of the individual and others, 2) develop effective communication skills, 3) encourage respect for diversity; 4) promote nurturing touch; 5) build trust among people; and 6) provide opportunity to learn cooperative skills fostered through games played and work shared. When children and adults learn to respect, treasure and even celebrate diversity, when they learn to communicate effectively and when they learn to play and work together to achieve a common goal, then they can better understand how to get along with each other and expand their desire to resolve conflict in new and creative ways.
The second challenge of effective peace education programs is to empower participants to view conflicts in new and different ways. Effective peace educators address both the theory and practice of conflict resolution and alternatives to violence. Moreover, such programs address issues of peaceful resolution of conflict within the family as well as in the classroom, the workplace, the community, and in national, and international arenas. In such programs, which often include peer mediation training, children and adults develop skill in creative thinking, and learn to consider alternatives and choose from among them in seeking to resolve conflicts that arises. Those who have participated in peace and conflict resolution programs learn to view conflict as a given of human life, presenting each one with challenges to be met and problems to be resolved for the mutual benefit of all. Peace in the family, the community and our world is most likely to occur when parents and young people are educated in the processes of critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and non-violent responses to conflict through classroom and community education programs.
Third, effective peace education programs address a growing call for education for global awareness and cultural diversity, including an awareness of an international dimension, one which clearly articulates the interconnection between peace within the family, peace in the classroom, the workplace and the community, and the establishment of a just peace in the world. Any effective image of a peaceful family, classroom, and world must take into account the need for deepening our awareness of, respect for and affirmation of cultural diversity. We need to learn about the world and its peoples, not for narrow personal, corporate or national gain. Nor is it enough merely to call for acceptance of peoples different from ourselves. The rich diversity of peoples and cultures who share life with us need be celebrated and treasured in all their glorious fullness, a constant reminder of the magnificence of the works of a spiritual force who gives all life meaning.
Knowing that youth who are educated today will be the decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow, educators rightly ask, “What will empower our young to live their lives as peacemakers? What pedagogy best leads participants in peace education programs to examine attitudes and values, and develop knowledge and skills in areas critical for creating peace within the family, the classroom, the community, and the world.
Adapted from Weaving a Culture of Peace, Jacqueline Haessly, 1999