Challenges for Peace Educators
Imaging is common to the human experience. The idea that people create what they can image finds expression in such diverse places as team locker rooms, corporate boardrooms, and among military strategists. The process of imaging precedes work on a project or dreams about one’s future. In the daily unfolding of life each of us knows the experience of working to bring our image or vision to reality. We know the anticipation that precedes our efforts and we know within the depths of our being the satisfaction we experience when we can finally say “well done!” Just as imaging is important to the process of completing a project, reaching a goal, or planning for one’s future, so too is imaging important to the creation of a family, a community, and a world of peace with justice.
Imaging Peace is a vital component of peace education programs. Let’s explore imaging as an important and common daily human activity, and then explore how important both imaging and naming our activities as peace activities are to creating a culture of peace in our homes, our neighborhoods, our classrooms, our workplaces, and our world.
For each of us, the experiences of imaging may differ. What is common is the process that engages us as we live our daily lives.
- The artist who weaves or composes or paints has a vision of the finished work even as it unfolds in the creative process.
- The gardener who tills the soil and plants the seed in early spring already has a vision of the harvest to be reaped in the fall.
- The woodworker who tenderly carves the branch already has a vision of the toy that will delight the child at play.
- The athlete who imagines the course anticipates the challenges in pursuing the goal.
- The homemaker considering what to prepare for the evening meal has a vision of the gathered family, and perhaps can even smell early in the day the aromas of the casserole that will later fill the air.
- The parent who gently nurtures the life of a child holds fast to an image of the gifts and talents that child may someday bring to the world.
- The educator who expends energy to help a child acquire skill in math, spelling, or care of the environment believes in the ability of the child to succeed.
- The scientist seeking a cure for AIDS or world hunger has a vision reflecting the success of team efforts.
Each of these activities requires an ability to image, to dream and a willingness to act to bring those dreams, those images to reality. But what do these terms really mean? An examination of a few definitions may shed clarity on the place of image and vision in human life. According to Webster, “to dream is to have the ability to imagine something as possible; to have a fond hope or aspiration; to have an ability to conceive of something.” To image is to have “the ability to picture something in the mind; to be able to describe something graphically or vividly.” Imagine is described as “the ability to form a notion in one’s mind; to conceive in thought.” Vision, far from being something concerned with the super-or para-natural, has as one definition, “the ability to perceive something not actually visible but which, through mental acuteness of keen foresight, a breadth of vision can make something possible.“
If imaging is needed for building a birdhouse, planting a garden, preparing a meal or a lesson plan, or planning a team maneuver, how much more necessary is the ability to image, to dream, and to vision to the task of creating a peace-filled family, classroom, neighborhood, and world? Imaging is important for individuals, as well as for community and government leaders who make decisions that lead to the creation of a just and peaceful world.
Peace education programs often include a focus on cooperation, respect for differences, and conflict resolution where students learn to think critically and to resolve conflicts peacefully at the personal and community levels. A number of programs also encourage young people to address critical justice issues and identify ways they can work with community and government leaders to resolve them. A few include a dimension of living peacefully with others in the global village. Seldom, however, does peace education include methods and processes that link imaging with the creation of peace in the family, classroom, community, or world. Effective peace education programs depend upon the ability of each of us to imagine our own families, our own neighborhoods, our own communities, our own nations, and our world at peace!
The ability to image peace can lead both young people and adults to take action needed to bring those images to reality. Thus, one task of youth educators engaged in the process of educating for peace and global citizenship is to assist young people to develop a clearly articulated vision of what peace is, or could be.
Educators who share a concern for peace and global justice might ask themselves: Of what stuff are young people’s dreams made? What is their image of themselves, their families, their friends, their classmates, their neighbors? What is their vision of life beyond their home and workplace? What are their dreams for their future? What do their dreams look like for their world? What gives them ‘shape’?
Young people first develop their sense, their image, of how to live with others in their family; the school and neighborhood provide opportunity to form images of how to live as part of a broader human community. Experiences of family, classroom, and community shape the images young people hold about what it means to live, work, and play competitively or cooperatively with others; to resolve conflicts through violence or peacefully; and to prepare for war or prepare for peace. We need to be aware, then, of the images that inform their young lives.
It is important that people committed to creating a peaceful world future believe that the routine activities of daily life have value and are, indeed, the activities of peacemaking. It is important to name those activities that point to human involvement in a multitude of daily activities related to the making of peace in the family, the neighborhood, and the world.
Thus, peace educators need to help young people name those daily human activities which, when done with care for others, are peacemaking activities. These include the domestic activities of cooking, baking, knitting, sewing, gardening, cleaning and maintaining a home; the friendship activities of discovery, sharing, courtship, and lovemaking; the parenting activities of childbirth, nurturing, and childrearing; the community-building activities of educating children and adults, of constructing, maintaining, and staffing schools, hospitals, libraries, parks and playgrounds, offices, shops, factories, roads, airports, and places of worship; the recreational activities of sport and play; the cultural activities of drama, dance, art and music; the agricultural activities of planting and harvesting; the healing activities of medicine; the scientific activities aimed at new, life-supporting discoveries; the business activities of manufacture, commerce, and trade — performed justly and with care for each other and the environment; and the spiritual activities of story-telling, reflection, prayer, and worship. All these are important to the human spirit and enrich our common humanity. All are signs of community and global peace.
Such images of peace include rural villages and urban areas full of healthy, happy children at play or at school; parents and other adults who have dignified work and adequate means to support their families; hospitals to care for the infirmed; farms to provide abundantly for the needs of all; gardens, parks, and art to give beauty and pleasure to the spirit; temples for worship; all reflected in the places people live out their lives in a global village, all reflecting a small piece of the world at peace. Effective peace educators can encourage young people to imagine these possibilities for creating a peace-full world so that they can direct their energies toward addressing not only problems that face all of humanity, but toward creating a just peace for all.
Educators and parents who share a vision for global peace have a unique opportunity today to make a difference in the lives of young people and give them hope and promise for their future. When young people learn to play and work together with others across generations, to respect diversity, and to seek peaceful ways to resolve the conflicts that arise in daily life, they grow in peacemaking ways. When they are capable of imaging and naming their every day experiences as peace activities, they discover that they are capable of creating peace in the world. Together, we can help our children and ourselves create a more caring and loving and peace-filled world.