Meet Betty Reardon
Betty A. Reardon is the Founding Director Emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education, an annual intensive residential experience in peace education. Since 1982 the IIPE has been held at universities and peace education centers in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Central America. For this work she received a special Honorable Mention Award from UNESCO in 2001. Among her other initiatives in the international peace education movement, she initiated and served as the first Academic Coordinator of the Hague Appeal for Peace Global Campaign for Peace Education. Having taught as a visiting professor at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad, she has 46 years of experience in international peace education and 33 years in the international movement for the human rights of women. She has served as a consultant to several UN agencies and national and international education organizations. Her widely published work in the theory and development of peace and human rights education, and in gender and peace issues, recognized in the awarding of the 2008 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Peace Studies from the Peace and Justice Studies Association, is archived in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at the University of Toledo Libraries. She is the recipient of the 2009 Sean McBride Peace Prize awarded by the International Peace Bureau, the oldest of the many nongovernmental peace organizations, founded in 1891, awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2010 (National Peace Academy).
Peace education has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people over the course of many years and historical events. Hence, peace education has evolved over time – each rendition or approach responding to or addressing challenges and issues relevant to the time.
To explore this evolution read Peace Education: A Review and Projection by Betty Reardon.
In this report Dr. Betty A. Reardon presents reflections on the substance, evolution and future of peace education – a field of which she has been a keen observer and a very active participant for some thirty-five years. Within an area of common purposes, a broad range of varying approaches are noted. Discussed in the report are, for example: conflict resolution training, disarmament education, education for the prevention of war, environmental education, global education, human rights education, multicultural education, nuclear education, and world-0rder studies. The author finds that peace education, always marginal in relation to mainstream education, now faces less resistance than earlier and the culture of peace concept steadily gains currency (abstract).
Reflection Question: In your own life, have you experienced any of these approaches to peace education? If so, to what historical event do you think it was in response? If not, which of these approaches do you think could have been of benefit to the learning communities of which you’ve been a part?
Multicultural education was very present in my classrooms and schools growing up. I grew up in a very diverse community (the Bay Area in CA) and to my knowledge, the school district in which I grew up, is one of very few that is still very committed to bussing across district to ensure schools are diverse and represent the diversity of the city’s population over all. After Brown v. Board of Ed, schools were no long officially segregated, but in urban areas today, most schools are still quite segregated due to the neighborhood-based segregation along social, class and racial lines. So my teachers and schools focused a lot on appreciating diversity and I think this was in response to the long and sad history in the US of segregation and discrimination against non-white or non US-born communities residing in the US. So much opportunity or lack thereof can be afforded to individuals based on the quality, type and level of education they received.
I was raised in a Mennonite family. Along with the Quaker church, the Mennonite church is one of the historic peace churches. Members historically received conscientious objector status during U.S. wars for religious reasons. They often did alternative jobs rather than go to war, such as work in hospitals for the mentally ill. I received a lot of peace education in my home. In his youth, my father had appeared before a draft board to get conscientious objector status during the Korean War (though he aged out before he was granted it). My parents told me these stories and taught me to be a pacifist and I adhere to that perspective today even though I no longer attend a Mennonite church (I attend a church that is ecumenical and active in social justice).
I’ve tended to see advocacy for peace as an extreme minority view. I received virtually no peace education in the public schools I attended K-12. Some of this might be because of my age. I’m 50 and I attended school during the Cold War when we were regularly taught about the evil of the Russians at school. Multicultural education and the environmental movement hadn’t gained momentum then.
I am encouraged by all of the stories of younger participants in this course of peace education they’ve received in public schools. I was also encouraged by Reardon’s view that “Peace education faces less resistance than ever before…” Taking this class and hearing the views of some of the teachers helps me to feel encouraged that I may not be such a minority in my advocacy of peace. In the last two years, I’ve relied on some resources such as Teaching for Tolerance and the Howard Zinn outfit for lessons that challenge the traditional narratives in history. In the Reardon article, I learned about the Educators for Social Responsibility. I want to check them out.
By the article’s terms, I realize that I’m already a peace educator, and I have a great opportunity since my students come from around the whole world. But there’s a lot more that I can do to touch on the “seven blossoms” of Daryn’s framework. (I think that framework is on the mark, by the way).
I have experienced environmental education as an approach to peace education as a student American University. Prior to this, I have never taken a class on multicultural education, environmental education, or been involved in peer counseling or other peacebuilding groups and educational atmospheres. My experience with environmental education was focused on the “greening” schools movement and was in response to recent push for “No Child Left Inside” and the increase in green certified schools. The class has an approach of decreasing the “banking method” and advocating for our own self advocacy, interest and approaches to resolving conflict.
I can firmly say that this class greatly altered my understanding of both the pedagogical approach to teaching and the influence of environmental racism and degradation. I began to firmly see the link of what we teach and how we teach as integral to the atmosphere we created. Before this, I would have asserted that standardized testing was fine, that the environment didn’t matter and that education reform had nothing to do with peace and teaching sustainability. Luckily, this class altered my entire understanding of what it mean to educate someone and how hierarchy cannot exist in the classroom in order to promote peace.
I experienced multicultural education and cultural proficiency all throughout my elementary-high school experience because there was a large number of foreign exchange students, and many refugees from Laos and Somalia that were in my classes. In addition, I was part of a peer education group in high school called STAND UP SPEAK OUT. It was an initiative to combat homophobia, racism, and sexism because of a problem of inappropriate and disrespectful language being used throughout the school. Students volunteered with partners to focus on one of the three issues, then came up with a lesson plan to teach about the issue to peers surrounding language, images, the media, and historical events.
My elementary and middle schools were very preoccupied with peer counseling, which they organized into a program called “Peer Mediation.” Looking back, it’s surprising how neatly this fits into conflict resolution education, as well as multicultural education. It was a great approach, because kids at that age generally like to be the “boss,” and are more satisfied when they come up with answers to problems by themselves. And although my school district was not very diverse, my teachers did a decent job promoting a multicultural approach to basic lessons, including conflict resolution. This being the late 90s, when popularized ideas about racial diversity affected even rural Indiana, such approaches to peace education were a sign of the changing times. A crude example of this pseudo-commitment to diversity was the range of “token” names given to kids in examples in my textbooks.
But the best peace education I received was from my parents. Their focus on my environmental and international education was the result of their hopes for my future (I think), as well as their own interests. And their frustration with the lack of those peaceful approaches to education in our community.
I’ve experienced multicultural education as a Peace Corps Volunteer, as we trained to transition to life as a volunteer. As was stated in the article, this was developed to aid in areas experiencing ethnic tensions. For us, it really helped to facilitate conversations about living as an American abroad; we were able to discuss cultural differences with Guineans and acquired skills to continue to have those conversations when living in a village as a volunteer.
I’ve experienced environmental education as a student as Leah was describing, as a response to increasing environmental awareness. I never really thought about this as “peace education”, but I see Reardon’s point that it falls more into the realm of “about peace education”.
Currently at my school, we spend a significant amount of time on conflict resolution. I agree with what has been mentioned about aspects of peace education as a response to various wars throughout history, and I think that in schools, this type of peace education is absolutely necessary. Many children need to develop the skills needed to resolve conflicts successfully in order to become productive adults.
I’ve definitely experienced some of these approaches to peace education, often without knowing it. My parents went to a Quaker college and took us to Quaker church for several years. I don’t know if I was really aware of what it all meant at the time- I just knew that we promoted peace- though I’m not sure I was exactly sure what that meant. As a child I just assumed that we were against war, as that was the opposite of peace. My dad’s interest in Quaker lifestyle or mindset surely arose from his father’s involvement in the civil rights movement. My grandfather raised his children to be free of judgment and respect all people. This was passed down to us at a young age. Although I don’t remember much about my experiences with peace ‘education’ in school, this was a huge part of my education. I do remember having ‘conflict contracts’ at school that you were to fill out together with an adult if there was any kind of conflict during class or on the playground between students. We were meant to sit down with an adult and write down what had happened and how we might avoid similar situations in the future and then sign the contract stating that we would do our best to avoid such conflicts using the methods discussed in the future. Now that I am in graduate school and studying international education in such a variety of contexts, the idea of peace education and ‘global citizens’ are terms that arise often. I’m glad to hear that this is something that is being considered in teacher training and curriculum development (though not used everywhere).
Annsleigh Carter: I have had sort of an outside view of multicultural education when I traveled to South Africa. I am not South African, so my study of social justice issues and the legacy of Apartheid in South Africa was more like a multicultural study from the outside. The issues in post-Apartheid South Africa are obviously racial, but I learned that within both racial groups, there are many different cultural traits such as language, religion, etc. In order to understand some of the deeper ethnic tensions in the areas we visited, we had to first understand the cultural differences between Afrikaners and other white South Africans, between Zulu culture and Xhosa culture, etc, before we could even understand the larger conflict between “black and white.”
Daniel Knoll: As I read Betty Reardon’s projections for Peace Education, my first thought is how appropriate it is that we are discussing the various forms of peace education 11 years to the day from September 11th. For the majority of my generation, that day was our first exposure to world violence, and the ensuing war has shaped how we were raised, and how we discuss peace. I find Ms. Reardon’s discussion of multicultural education particularly important when discussing the aftermath of 9/11. The rise is islamophobia post 9/11 is a perfect example of historical event shaping how cultures interact, and a distinct lack of multicultural education that resulted in violence and discrimination towards a group in our society. I would say that my exposure to the peace education Ms. Reardon mentions, in particular conflict resolution and human rights education, received considerable attention once I reached college and could take classes specifically about these approaches. However, I wish I was exposed to a number of the lessons in cross cultural communication and the importance of empathy and tolerance at an earlier age in schools.
There is one line in the reading that stands out to me (and this is an aside that does not directly relate to the question posed). Ms. Reardon writes “The most widespread form of conflict resolution education is skills training as applied to conflicts that occur in schools and the everyday life of students.” This is a particularly meaningful line for me because I have been struggling with the fact that I’ve spent the last 3+ years studying conflict resolution, but my passion lies in education. I had not connected the dots that schools and their students lives are filled with instances of conflict, and as a teacher and educator it is your job to apply the skills learned through peace education to help effectively handle conflict. I’m relieved that the time spent on my major is not a waste, it is in fact very relevant for what I hope is a future in education.
In many ways I was exposed to almost all of these forms of peace education. While many stand out, conflict resolution training first comes to mind. I was in elementary school when violent conflict between students seemed to manifest quickly in to a national crisis—school shootings. In fifth or sixth grade I came home to find that students were killed in Colorado. Students and even teachers cautioned against fire drills as unique opportunities for gunmen [sic] to prey on helpless students. However, in many ways I was fortunate to live in an education community that seemed to understand a deeper cause of school shootings which was the structural and direct violence that impacted students in the form of bullying, racism, homophobia, etc. Every school I attended from elementary school through college targeted violent and non-violent behavior between students as crucial root cause of a greater issue. As a result, many of my schools took a strong stand against bullying, made suicide prevention a key part of battling violence, and promoted peer mediation as a tool to train students and teachers how to resolve, mitigate, and transform violence.
I recall instances of multicultural education and environmental education. The environmental education began in middle school with discussion of the ideas of pollution, recycling, etc. in an effort to cultivate a sense of environmental responsibility and a commitment to preservation for future generations. In college, my environmental education moved more towards education about peace, with a focus on sustainability and “ecological violence.”
Following the events of September 11th, I also experienced a influx in multicultural education as a means for international and cross-cultural understanding. Prior to 9/11, I remember little multicultural education, but I felt that the incorporation of this curricula was imperative during this time. Many people my age were uneducated about other cultures and easily influenced by immature media, leading to many misunderstandings and racist beliefs. Multicultural education served as a means for people to discuss their attitudes and perspectives, and allowed students to better understand different cultures and how to interact with one another positively and constructively.
Richard Cambridge: I have most of these forms of education, but never knew them as part of the broader swath of Peace Education.
The important events which have no doubt influenced these courses/seminars have been the end of the Second World War and the decolonization process leading to the political independence of large parts of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean; the advent of Pax America and the challenges to it by the Soviet Union; the nuclear stalemate of the Cold War; and the emergence of the development theory and practice grounded in socialist and capitalist theories.
This is a fascinating study of the evolution of the idea of peace education. In my own formal education, I remember many attempts at multicultural education. Though I didn’t think of it as peace education at the time, it is certainly something I have adopted in my own classroom.
I graduated high school in the spring of 2001, so the paradigm shifting events of September 11th had not yet happened. In my classroom today, one of my focuses is an understanding of that particular event and how to sort through the rhetoric surrounding it.
As for a historical event that shaped my own experience with peace education, I would argue (and obviously not be the first to do so) the Cold War shaped most of my education. Reardon mentions the inclusion of nuclear education in peace education. I certain feel that a major portion of my schooling was as effort on the part of society to do in a post-Cold War world, where we began to look at what had been done in the name of maintaining the uneasy peace of the Cold War.
I am looking forward to the day when a cultural historian analyzes the nineties and comes to the conclusion that it was the prosperity of the fifties with the social speculation of the sixties. If that makes an sense at all. As Reardon was writing in 1999, it was familiar to visit the myriad strands of peace education and education in general in that decade.
The first time I was surrounded by people invested in environmental education was when I served as an Americorps volunteer in Portland, Oregon. I had never been among so many people with such a monolithic passion. It was initially overwhelming, but also awe-inspiring. They knew their stuff and they had adapted their lives to support their education of sustaining the environment. They made sacrifices to the point of one-up-manship. Who could preserve more energy? Who could get the most uses out of a jar of organic peanut butter? Who spent more time volunteering outdoors? Their common approach to peace education created a community for them which gave them power and presence. I think about this in the community in which I currently work. We also have a common cause, but it is less supportive and, in fact, often feels combative. I think if we (adults working at Ballou) knew more about the root causes to these problems – as did the Portland Americorps folk – we could be more unified in eliminating them.