Like you, I received a few “Peace on Earth” holiday cards and they reminded me of the blog I wrote in January 2015 on peace education.
Another reminder was the fact that I just co-authored, Lessons for Creating a Culture of Character and Peace in Your Classroom: A Playbook for Teachers, (Information Age Publishing) with two peace-loving veteran teachers, CJ Moloney and Patricia McGinty.
I decided that a good way to start this New Year was to answer the question: What is Peace Education? “Peace” has been defined as a “state of being that encompasses harmony and balance of mind, heart, and action.”
The objectives for character and peace education are to help students learn and practice such traits/skills as caring, empathy, compassion, responsibility, commitment, respect, courage, perseverance, trust, honesty, cooperation, integrity, kindness, tolerance, gratitude, diligence, justice, wisdom, self-discipline, and love.
Most Peace Education Programs encompass the virtues that underscore good character and citizenship. The program objectives are offered with the hope that they will help:
- students learn alternatives to violence, and adults and students learn 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 cooperation, shared decision-making, analysis and critical thinking;
- enhance students’ self-esteem enabling them to imagine life beyond the present;
- students to recognize and express their feelings in ways that are not aggressive or destructive by using conflict resolution strategies, being empathic, and engaging in nonviolent action in relation to problems both personal and societal;
- 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 Programs properly implemented in schools “improve school climate, help students learn alternatives to violence, address the acts of violence in a student’s school and community, nurture the seeds of compassion rather than hatred, competition, and revenge, and helps create a school and home atmosphere that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors.”
“Cooling the Climate Using Peace Education in an Urban Middle School,” Middle School Journal, November 1998
Many Peace Education strategies, “woven into the day-to-day fabric of school life,” are planned primarily through instructional methods such as:
- cooperative learning,
- reflection circles,
- student leadership programs,
- case studies,
- peer mediation programs,
- using posters and bulletin board messages,
- using special teachable moments, and,
- creating ways of teaching character and peace in subject matter areas with units and lessons that incorporate peace themes.
To help you and others to implement a peace education program at your school, these questions should be discussed by all personnel (including parents and students):
- What is a peaceable school? (Examples are out there for review and for ideas.)
- What are the concerns, if any, at the school?
- What does the group want to do and how will they do it?
- What resources will be needed; i.e., professional development?
- What strategies will be used to start the program?
- What happened after the plan was implemented?
- What changes need to be made after the first six months; at the end of the first year?
You should also know that The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) support the idea that “teachers play an essential role in helping young people obtain the knowledge, skills, and perspectives to envision their role in creating a more peaceful world.”
The Institute has a teacher award program that selects “six outstanding American middle and high school teachers each year to receive education, resources, and support to strengthen their teaching of international conflict and the possibilities of peace. The Peace Teachers Program expands to new states each year, ultimately working towards a network of 50 alumni educators across the U.S.”
Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director, Character Education Resource Center Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego