Today’s youth are coming to age in a world with violent conflicts of unmatched magnitude. The scope of these crises range from the intra-personal reflected by the high rates of depression and anxiety to the macro levels of continued development of weapons of mass destruction, armed conflicts between states and ethnic groups, the spread of racism, gender inequality, community violence, the huge and widening gap between the rich and the poor throughout the globalized economy, massive violations of human rights and the degradation of the environment (Hague Appeal for Peace, 2005). No longer is anyone on the planet exempt from the consequences of these global problems. In an analysis of these calamities and the extent to which they permeate the daily lives of so many, it is not presumptuous to say that we are living in a culture of violence.
While it could hardly be argued that education for peace is critical in these times, Peace Education has been minimized because of the public perception that it is a “soft” discipline. In
T the United States, public education is widely thought to be an objective transference of knowledge that encourages successful citizenship. In my life experience, this purpose is often found to be synonymous with "adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy"(Education, 2010). The perception of education for peace is that the curriculum that most American children are receiving is laden with the promotion of values such as competition, militarism, ethnocentrism, and unchecked capitalism. Proponents of Peace Education believe that “in order for democracy to work, individuals must feel a connection with each other that transcends the selfishness, competitiveness, and brutal self-interests of an ever expanding market economy” (Giroux, 2001, p. 62).
Although many disciplines are encompassed within the spectrum of Peace Education (i.e. Human Rights Education, Disarmament Education, or Education for Sustainable Development), practitioners are explicit with their agenda and social goals. In order to discuss a Peace Education intervention, the first step is to define these goals. The framework that is particularly relevant is the “Flower-petal” model (Figure 1) created by Toh and Cawagas (2002).
Topics within the Peace Education Flower Model include:
Educating for Dismantling the Culture of War (also known as a Culture of Violence): The goals of this theme are to encourage a moral commitment to non-violence, to recognize the Culture of War around and within the individual, to acknowledge the roots of violence and visualize the potential for peace, take steps towards abolishing the arms trade and understand and practice the principles of Conflict Resolution.
Educating for Living With Justice and Compassion: The objectives of this subject include raisingawareness of the consequences of profit driven development. It also consists of a thorough examination of lifestyles and the way in which they connect to crises, such as poverty, urban slums, rich-poor inequalities, and hunger. Connections of lifestyle to racism, sexism, classism, and environmental degradation will be included as well.
Educating for Building Cultural Respect, Reconciliation and Solidarity: Lessons for this aspect of Peace Education will not only emphasize “enjoying and celebrating diversity,” but move towards developing a deeper understanding and a strong sense of empathy and responsibility to advocate for those groups who are suffering injustices. An examination of past conflicts and reconciliation processes, both successful and failed is an important component of this topic.
Educating for Promoting Human Rights and Responsibilities:In order to teach about the responsibilities that we have as global citizens to protect the Human Rights of others, it is vital to raise awareness of those rights and how they are violated around the world. A critical goal for this theme is to explore the role of Human Rights education in peacebuilding.
Educating Living in Harmony with the Earth: A foundational principle of this petal is that humans are not separate from nature. This implies that our actions have reactions within the natural world and currently this has caused a state of environmental emergency. Lessons for this petal will include exploring the limits to growth, as well as the visionary and practical actions of the sustainable development movement.
Educating for Cultivating Inner Peace: The goals of this unit include introducing students to tools that help them to manage their own emotions. These tools include but are not limited to: how to react to feelings of anger and sadness, techniques for calming ourselves, non-violent communication, deep listening, and encouraging outlets for self-expression.
An educator who is informed by this structure will use the petals as themes in order to organize a curriculum. The shape of a flower is used to show the organic interconnectedness of the categories (with a useful metaphor of sharing “roots”) in a holistic vision.Whether in a formal (structured school setting), non-formal (an education program that has less structure such as camp), or informal educational context (all other modes of learning such as from the media or peers), the six principles of Peace Education will be used as the foundations for my methodology. Each principle encourages critical thinking for in-depth examinations of not only the problems facing the world today, but the roots of these conflicts. Equally important is the balance of discussing the crises with discussing and acting upon viable solutions. Without the emphasis on action, learners are left feeling depressed and disempowered. All of the sections share a goal of transforming learners into peace activists.
The ultimate goal of Peace Education is to educate our citizens to embody the wisdom and capacities for supporting a Culture of Peace. The Campaign Statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education state that:
“A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional, sustained and systematic education for peace.”
The Campaign Statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education is available online at
A fundamental activity in the Peace Education curriculum is to dialogue about the various meanings and perceptions of ideas such as: peace, conflict, culture of peace or violence, and Peace Education itself. This very process will enhance the critical thinking of the students that is a skill that can be generalized to all learning. The perception of “Peace” by one individual may not have the same meaning to another. The following discussion will be the definition of terms that will be utilized through this paper:
“Peace” and what Johan Galtung, the grandfather of Peace Studies described as "positive peace "are interchangeable in this document. Galtung (1964), who first explained these differences in the Journal of Peace Research in 1964, wrote that peace is not only an absence of violence ("negative peace"), but also a process where participants creatively work towards non-violence in terms of interactions with: oneself, others, communities, the government and the environment (Galtung, 1964). Violence is not to be confused with conflict in this context. To work for peace, one attempts to avoid and even eliminate violence. Yet, it is understood that conflict is a very natural and necessary part of life. Conflict provides an opportunity to reflect upon one’s actions and assess situations for possible change. The violent reactions to conflict are contrary to PE which allows individuals and groups to change through education, mediation, negotiation, and living by example.
Prolific author and founding Director of the Peace Education Center at Columbia University, Betty Reardon (2001), defined the Culture of Violence as:
“…the aggregation of world views, ways of thinking and problem-solving that lead to the continuous use of violence and armed force. It permeates social attitudes, individual and group behaviors, and human relations from the most intimate and fundamental to the most distant and institutional. In a culture of war and violence, human inequality is assumed to be natural and violence in the pursuit of social and political purposes is legitimized as necessary and inevitable” (p.196).
More and more, it is being recognized that if individuals and groups continue in this way of interacting with ourselves, each other, and the environment, it will be to the irreversible detriment of all species. All of these crises are inherently interwoven at the roots, as are the ways of working towards their solutions. The alternative vision to a Culture of Violence has been further defined by the United Nations
“The Culture of Peaceis a set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.”
(UN Resolutions A/RES/52/13 : Culture of Peace and A/RES/53/243, Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace).
The actions that bring individuals and societies closer to the realization of a Culture of Peace include taking a critical look at the conditions under which violence thrives. This begins at a very personal, reflective level as individuals learn how to understand their emotions for more conscious decision-making (versus knee-jerk reactions). Intra-personal goals for creating a peaceful culture also include raising self esteem, learning how to express oneself, and gaining a sense of agency. The next stage extends to interactions within and between groups; including relationships with friends, families, neighbors, communities, states, and even fellow global citizens. On an interpersonal level this means communicating non-violently, participating in the decisions that have an effect on micro and macro scales and actively working for social justice. Promoting a Culture of Peace emphasizes empowering under-represented groups to allow for their voices to be heard. There is also an essential component of confronting those practices that are unsustainable for the environment and the non-human living beings. As the connections between attaining a culture of peace and halting the degradation of the environment become clearer, the examination of the choices that support our lifestyle and creatively implement alternatives will take place.
Transforming a culture of violence into a culture of peace entails working through the stages from intrapersonal awareness (micro) to global peace and justice (macro). Examining both conflicts and social movements from past, present, and future perspectives is equally important in order to understand that violence does not occur in a vacuum. The following framework (Figure 2) was designed by Haavelsrud (1996) to illustrate the implications of contextual conditions in Peace Education. This framework is useful to empower learners to make connections between what they are learning and the world around them. Additionally, it allows them to see their place in the world and create future visions for the change that they want to create. Just as the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization) constitution states: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”(UNESCO, 1945).
My masters in Peace Education classmates and I at The United Nations Mandated University for Peace!