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Peace Education Themes
The 10 major themes featured below are often used by educators in the field of Peace Education. These topics can be used to design stand-alone classes or used to enliven or modify existing curriculum. The thematic areas are offered below are not an exhaustive map of the terrain of peace education, but rather some signposts and suggestions for those interested in designing curriculum with peace related themes.
1) Personal Education for Peace is based on the idea that peace begins within the individual. It cultivates practices that center, relax, and create harmony within the individual. The focus is on empowering student to make positive changes in their lives and community by cultivating self-awareness and compassion in the face of difficulties.
Personal education for peace might include strategies such as meditation and visualization, relaxation, yoga, tai chi, artwork, song and dance, story-telling, affirmation use, emotional literacy, self-esteem building, cooperative games, and inclusion activities.
2) Culture and Media Literacy encourages students to critically appraise the values and assumptions underlying their own culture, as exemplified by religion and ideology, language and art, popular media, and the empirical sciences. In our time, information is consciously manipulated in a more sophisticated manner than was previously possible. For example, marketing agencies use social scientific research to manipulate emotion through imagery, to produce a greater likelihood for our purchasing products. Students and teachers committed to media literacy explore questions such as: What does this image or story tell us about our culture and beliefs? What biases are revealed by the way in which this situation is being represented? Who benefits from such a representation?
Students are then in a position to make more informed choices.
A list of media literacy resources can be found at: http://www.medialiteracy.com/top_10_media_literacy_education_sites.htm
3) Conflict Resolution Education addresses approaches for understanding the nature of conflict, mediation and negotiation skills, emotional literacy and anger management, communication and listening skills, facilitating the understanding of different points of view, and community or team building. Conflict resolution education has been incorporated into schools in North
America and Europe to a greater extent than any other category of peace education.
4) Human Rights Education is based on the belief that we all have the inherent right as human beings to live free from violence, and to be treated with dignity and respect. Students learn about national and international law upholding human rights, explore their own values and attitudes regarding diverse groups of people, and acquire skills in applying human rights in daily
life. They may also study human rights abuses in their own and other countries, and consider actions they might want to take to defend and promote human rights.
5) Development Education focuses on issues of economic justice between ‘developed’ nations and ‘developing’ nations, or within one’s own nation, with the aim of creating a socially just and inclusive society for all. Distribution and control of food and other basic resources are examined within the context of current political and economic systems, increased population growth, and greater consolidation of resources in the hands of fewer people. Issues such as human working and living conditions, quitable pay, child labor, equality of the sexes, fair trade agreements, and environmental damage may be addressed.
Try the website of the Institute for Economics and Peace for a range of resources in this area at http://www.economicsandpeace.org/Education and Equal Exchange offers activities and curriculum for elementary schools: http://www.equalexchange.coop/educationaltools
6) Nonviolence Education offers a vision of social transformation that is courageous – questioning power structures and challenging injustice, while cultivating the discipline to transform internal violence and remain compassionate toward those who oppress. Nonviolence education explores the principles and vision that animated such great
leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Aung Sun Sui Kyi, the Dalai Lama and many others. Nonviolent revolutions have taken place around the world animated by the philosophy of practice of nonviolence and this form of education can provide an important lens for rethinking the way that history is represented, shifting the focus to grassroots movements for change. Nonviolence educators often emphasize that people power can play an important role in addressing structural violence –
power imbalances and oppression – that must be shifted before peace-building and conflict reconciliation can take place in the long term. There is a strong emphasis in nonviolence education on achieving peaceful ends through peaceful means.
Nonviolent practitioners explain, “there is no way to peace, peace is the way”.
For more about nonviolence education visit: International Center on Nonviolent Conflict http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/ (inquire about the Force more Powerful Videos), Metta Center www.mettacenter.org. For information about Martin Luther King’s
Philosophy visit: http://www.ctnonviolence.org/ and http://www.kinginstitute.info/.
7) Disarmament Education endeavors to understand, “the factors underlying the production and acquisition of arms; the social, political, economic and cultural repercussions of the arms race; and the grave danger for the survival of humanity, of
the existence and potential use of nuclear weapons.”
This knowledge empowers students to contribute, as national and world citizens, to the achievement of effective disarmament.
Links for Disarmament Education:
8) International Education seeks to foster a sense of global citizenship. Students learn about international political systems, how they work, and their historical context. In the past international education has focused particularly on the United Nations, but the recent information revolution has opened other arenas for international response to international problems. For example, the number of international NGO’s and grassroots organizations addressing global issues has increased exponentially over the past several years. International education can address how to make these trends accessible to more people, and how that participation can translate into international policy.
The Oxfam website http://www.oxfam.org/ is a useful starting point for collecting information and resources in this
9) Environmental Education. Many agree that “life on Earth has entered its most precarious phase in history.” Climate change and its resulting effects – famines, floods, storms, etc – as well as shortages of limited resources such as oil, coal and gas can no longer be overlooked. Such environmental issues stress human social and economic systems, and can lead to violent conflict. Some educators look at the earth as a limited resource, which must be used wisely. Others emphasize the inherent value of
nature regardless of its use, and believe that nature is a deep source of meaning essential to the flourishing of healthy human
consciousness. Environmental education considers how to balance respect for nature and its sustained health with human needs.
10) Peace History. Most of us remember learning history as if the human story were one long series of wars and conquests. Peace history on the other hand, tells the story of peacemakers and the movements of which they were a part. This is an inspiring history of courageous struggle, a history in which people are not powerless, and in which individuals and social movements contribute to change at local and international levels through nonviolent processes. By learning about past successes in peacemaking and resistance to injustice, we can build on lessons already learned.
Teaching a People’s History provides historical resources for US history: http://zinnedproject.org/about/a-people%E2%80%99s-history-a-people%E2%80%99s-pedagogy
Author: Arthur Romano