“If we are to reach real peace in this world … we shall have to begin with the children.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Happy New Year!
Let’s talk about peace education, another program that is found under the “Character Education Umbrella.”
Peace education programs encompass the virtues that underscore good character and citizenship. The objectives are to help:
- students learn alternatives to violence, and adults and students to create a school and home environment that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors;
- students learn skills including identifying bias, problem solving, sharing and co-operation, shared decision-making, analysis and critical thinking;
- enhance students self esteem enabling them to imagine life beyond the present;
- the young recognize and express their feelings in ways that are not aggressive or destructive; using conflict resolution strategies, being empathic and engaging in nonviolent action in relation to problems both personal and societal; and
- students understand the nature of violence, examine the causes of conflict, stress the benefits of non-violence, and how to handle conflict.
Rhonda Jeffries and Ian Harris note that peace education efforts improves school climate, address the acts of violence in a student’s school and community, and helps create a school and home atmosphere that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors. The authors report that peace education efforts help students learn alternatives to violence, nurture in students the seeds of compassion rather than hatred, competition, and revenge.
(“Cooling the Climate Using Peace Education in an Urban Middle School,” Middle School Journal, November 1998.)
Here is useful framework for program implementation:
Seven Phases of Planning a Peaceable School
Phase Activity Question
- Develop a focus What is a peaceable school?
- Specify needs What are the concerns?
- Reaffirm commitment Why should we take action?
- Identify principles What do we want to do?
- Design a model How do we get there?
- Select an approach What strategies do we use?
- Implement plan Are we ready to get started?
I would add a Phase 8: Evaluate progress / What happened after you implemented the plan?
A typical peace education curriculum and its instructional strategies focus on conflict resolution and problem solving that are personal, community, national, and global. The intent is to offer students alternatives to violence, and assist both adults and students to create school and home environments that are peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors.
Some strategies used by teachers and other school personnel include:
- peer mediation programs,
- encouraging students to assume leadership roles, using special teachable moments,
- keeping the peace message before all school personnel,
- creating ways of teaching peace in subject matter areas with units and,
- lessons that incorporate peace themes.
“Peace is woven into the day-to-day fabric of school life primarily through instructional methods such as cooperative learning and constructive controversy and conflict resolution programs such as ‘Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers.’ Through developing and maintaining peaceful relations with diverse schoolmates, students actually experience what they need to establish in society as a whole once they become adults.” (Johnson and Johnson, 2006).
“The pedagogy used in peace education is cooperative, participatory and active, including case-studies, storytelling, role-plays, empathy activities, negotiation and mediation practice, journaling, reflection circles, and alternative futures exercises. The learning objective of peace education aims to transform conflict through dialogue and nonviolence, and particularly where peace education affects youth conflict is transformed across generations.” (Kevin Kester, 2008)
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…..” Martin Luther King, Jr. (Remembrance: 1-19-2015)
Readers interested in a list of web sites about peace education are invited to send an email to character @sandiego.edu.