Meet Ian Harris
Dr. Ian Harris is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Education Policy and Community Studies and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He conducts research in peace education and male identity. He teaches classes on community education, peace education, modern philosophies of education, male identity, cultural foundations of education, nonviolence in education, community development, and domestic violence.
Harris is the author of Peace Education, Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities, Experiential Education for Community Development (with Paul Denise), and Peace Building for Adolescents (with Linda Forcey). He is director of the International Peace Research Association Foundation, and a founding board member of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2004, he helped to launch a new publication, Journal of Peace Education. Harris received the Peace Educator of the Year Award from the Consortium for Peace Research and the UWM Outstanding Teaching Award in 1997 and the UWM Distinguished Service Award in 1999. Harris earned his undergraduate degree at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and completed his M.Ed. and Ed.D. at Temple University (UWM).
Read chapter 2 of the book, Peace Education, by Ian Harris and Mary Lee Morrison. In it they lay out what they see as the purpose, levels, and various strategies for peace education.
In order to eliminate war and violence humans must understand, desire, and struggle to achieve peace. If and when the desire for peace becomes strongly rooted in human consciousness, people will strive for it, demanding new social structures that reduce risks of violence. Peace education provides not just a way to promote such a desire for peace within the human mind but also knowledge about peacemaking skills so that human beings can learn alternative nonviolent ways of dealing with each other (Harris & Morrison, 15).
Reflection Question: What “strategy for peace” is most aligned with your world view?
I have always been a believer in the power of metamorphosis. Human beings not matter where we are in the life cycle are always evolving. We are, I believe both biologically and intellectually wired to change as needed so we can thrive. Thus, peace education is more closely alligned to my world view in that it supports the teaching of values and skills needed to change how one seeks to manage conflict and at the same time provides the tools necessary to do so effectively and to empower others in much the same way.
In my world view, it is very difficult to envision a “one size fits all” peace strategy. Rather, varying applications of each as necessary to facilitate peacekeeping, peacemaking and/or peacebuilding that all people can live their lives without concern for basic human rights and have opportunity to actualize their full potential.
Recently I saw a photo of a placard at South Africa’s Freedom Park. It alludes to my ideal world vision, reading,”… most people on our continent lived in highly organized societies in which the social and economic well-being of the community was a shared responsibility…” In my ideal world vision, we are like an heirloom quilt made up of the richness of the world’s many cultures; each patch separate with its own character but joined together creating one beautiful panoramic story. Peacefully coexisting through respect and appreciation.
How do we get there? Each situation is different. In some situations peace through sustainability; in some teaching alternatives to violence (peace education) or universal love (pacifism) or in extreme cases, policing (peace through strength); in all cases eliminating poverty, abuses against women and children, economic and environmental exploitation (peace through justice).
The strategy for peace that is aligned with my world view is peace education. By me being a teacher, coach, and mentor, I regularly preach and act upon responsible decision making. I believe that I’m capable of making a difference in my community and change violent behavior and beliefs.One of my favorite units that I teach to my student is family and social health. That particular unit focuses on how to be a loving family member and socially involved to make a positive change. I teach about respect, responsibility, values, beliefs, coping skills, act of kindness, effective communication, conflict resolution and the list goes on. I stress how important these thing are and drill these things into my students. I tell my football players that the time and effort they put into the game will help them in the game of life. Having time management, teamwork, perseverance, leadership, sportsmanship, resiliency, and dedication. The world could operate better with peace. If we can continue to educate people on peace education, we could possibly change people beliefs and reduce the violence.
“An individual can march for peace or vote for peace and can have, perhaps, some small influence on global concerns. But the same individual is a giant in the eyes of a child at home. If peace is to be built, it must start with the individual. It is built brick by brick”.
Peace through justice is the strategy most aligned with my worldview. Specifically, I believe disrupting social constructions and institutional inequality through increasing equity is imperative for peace. Though, I realize peace through politics attempts to discuss this, I believe that the justice and on a human level and through understanding. Politics implies policy must alter this; however, policy does not alter culture efficiently or practically. At this point, I believe that the most effective change for me would come through the justice level. I am passionate about social enterprises and viewing them as a means to overcome oppression because it promotes cultural uniqueness while allowing for economic development which gives power. Moreover, I do not have a “world-view” simply because I find it inherently problematic as assuming there is an absolute truth or society that one should strive for. Yet, I do agree that our society must create spaces where people can function and promote their own way of life. Henceforth, I can do through this through empowerment and creating these atmospheres.
Overall, have the relationships fostered in your educational experience, between teacher and student, leaned more toward the partnership model or the domination model? How have these models manifest themselves in the classroom?
The strategy that I most agree with and live my life is Peace through Justice, and Peace through Transformation. Though I agree with Peace through Sustainability, and institution Building I don’t think that they are as transformative in my own life as is Peace through Justice. I think that advocacy and action for change are the most meaningful and significant ways that I go about living and sharing peace with others. Pacifism is a concept I would like to explore more. Though I would consider myself a Pacifist in most cases, I have never been in a position where I have been personally effected by war, violence firsthand (physically that is). As far as Institution Building goes, organizations like UNESCO need to continue doing what they are doing promoting peace throughout the globe, but that these institutions are not enough to teach peace on their own.
Though I am a huge environmentalist, I don’t see it as a strategy of piece that is particularly effective. I align more with Peace Through Justice and do believe in the ability of the law to uphold the rights of the people. Unfortunately, the people who design the laws are not always humanists; laws often discriminate against some group or another. Additionally, since the law is enforced by humans who have opinions, emotions, etc. (not righteous robots), there will always be problems with upholding the law.
My preference for peace through justice arose recently, after serving 3 months on a Grand Jury in DC. It was amazing to see people from every walk of life together in a room, fighting for justice. There were often differences of opinions based on people’s personal experience, but being given the responsibility of determining one’s potential future, the members of the jury took it extremely seriously which gives me hope for the law. Of course this also revealed many of the systemic problems with the justice program in the United States, but my peers, ultimately, gave me hope.
Another reason for this view is based on daily life: having rules and people enforcing the rules to make you accountable, does usually work. Most people abide by most rules. If they didn’t, we’d have a lot more problems, large and small. I think usually the law (and rules) stop working when people feel disenfranchised and therefore act out against the law. When citizens feel that their representative law makers are more accurately representing their interests then perhaps they will have more interest in following the laws instead of acting out against them.
I most align with the ideas of peace through justice or peace education. I like the focus of peace through justice on the basic human needs and rights. Through my studies in educational development I am faced with a lot of questions on how to best serve the oppressed and disadvantaged. In order to achieve a sense of peace in many countries, poverty and poor living conditions need to be eradicated. Although this is a seemingly impossible task, I believe that one of the best ways to attempt this is through education. Which, brings me to the idea of peace education. A lot of my studies here at AU involve poverty, malnutrition and poor living conditions’ effect on education. Through education some of these obstacles can be overcome. Through positive education involving peace education even more can be done. I believe in starting from the ground up- at a young age to foster and encourage these ideas of peace.
I agree most closely with the strategies of peace through justice and peace through sustainability. Aspects of other strategies (pacifism, institution building) also appeal to me, but I see the greatest impediment to peace as social injustice and inequality. I don’t believe that humans will ever be conflict-free (which is why pacifism is difficult for me to align with), but by eliminating the structures that allow violence to continue, we’d be preventing the roots of conflict from forming. Also, I think that such a strategy can successfully involve more people because it exists outside the realm of traditional politics, a realm that definitely is guilty of perpetrating as much violence as any.
The principles of peace through sustainability are attractive on a more philosophical, theoretical level. The interconnectedness of all being is something that isn’t often emphasized outside of organized religion. But a recognition of our codependency not only on each other, but on our environment is what will propel this strategy for peace through the long term, more so than the short term goals of an institution or political party, for example.
Richard Cambridge: Of the six strategies of peace mentioned, pacifism is most aligned with my world view. I was struck by two statements by Dr. Harris I.e. “Peace is a positive concept that implies much more than the absence of war”; and “To a large extent, cultural norms and messages determine behavior in a given society”. The first statement emphasizes the point that one has to think and act beyond all forms of war (and aggression). The nation state system is inherently warlike and warfare by any means necessary is a natural part of the interaction of nation states. Why then the need for Departments of W ar/Defence, Homeland Security etc. why are defense budgets so large and almost sacrosanct? Why do politicians speak about “killing” so easily? Why are parades with military bands and formations so popular? And why is one of the most popular sports in the USA so laced with warlike terminology? Point is, there is little hope for mitigating and promoting peace when all nation states thrive off of the institutions and symbols of war and aggression. Pacifism will require the deconstruction and abolishment of a number of institutions and practices. Perhaps, Costa Rica and Iceland with no armies, have shown the way.
I also wonder about the primeval instincts of mankind. Survival, we are told and taught on the survival of the fittest, the ability to kill or be killed, and the instinct of protecting the young and perpetuating the species. It was of course much more than this, but these notions abound even today. States behave in this fashion, and uless the “fight for survival” instinct is completely muted, war by any means will outstrip the quest for peace. Peace education based on pacifism is a path forward, even if it takes a while
Hi Dad. Given your wonderings about the “primeval instincts of mankind,” I recommend you check out “Human Nature Isn’t Inherently Violent” by Alfie Khon (https://peacelearner.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/alfie-kohn-human-nature-isnt-inherently-violent1.pdf). I also recommend checking out “Violence and Human Nature” by Howard Zinn (https://peacelearner.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/howardzinn-violenceandhumannature1.pdf). Both are excellent readings that go to the heart of your question and concern.
The strategy I most align with is peace education. Like Sarah, I work with students who believe that when confronted, the only way to handle the situation is violently. Many have learned from an early age that it’s okay to hit someone if they start it. Rogers said that when a new idea is adopted by 20 percent of a population it “becomes unstoppable”. This really resonated with me, as this is what we are currently trying to do in our school community in terms of changing the culture. We have started a student group (Students Together Offering Peace) to target bullying and violence and work on a peer-to-peer level to develop new coping strategies. We use a Positive Behavior Program to reinforce the good our students are engaging in and it’s slowly (but definitely) coming around. We seem to be right around that twenty percent threshold where it’s going to catch on or it isn’t (it is).
Rogers also discusses the importance of modeling these skills and that is what I put a conscious effort into in my daily interactions with my students. For some students, the only opportunity they have to learn those skills are the 7 1/2 hours a day they spend in the building. I do definitely agree with the major disadvantage, that peace education “offers a long-term solution to immediate threats”. I feel as though sometimes I’m reminded daily of how difficult this process is and how challenging it can be to change the mindset of a student or larger culture. However, that is one of the reasons I went into education and went into teaching at the school I chose.
Annsleigh Carter: The strategy of pacifism, or peace through transformation, aligns with my world view. I try to enter every conflict knowing that the only thing over which I have complete control is my own actions, and most often, the act of refusal to participate in a conflict, violent or not, can be the safest strategy for everyone. This strategy especially aligns with my views on gun control. While my refusal to own a gun may make me more vulnerable in this country where obtaining a gun is easy and a right that is protected by the Constitution, I still strongly believe that the only way for gun violence to decrease is for there to be fewer guns. Other than voting and activism, the only real power I have in this debate is to refuse to participate in the gun culture.
Peace through transformation seems to be most similar to my world view. I think that regardless of what the conflict is or was, people have the ability to transform their perceptions, their ideas of the Other and outgroup, and the way they understand their environment. In my research and from various experiences, I’ve seen that even in the most intractable conflicts people are able to transform. Often this is through various forms of contact, mediation, shared history construction, storytelling, and dialogue.
The strategy that most closely connection with my worldview is Peace through Politics (Institution Building). I strongly believe that people, and states, are rational actors. When rational actors come together and build understanding through sharing of information and developing common interests this is the most effective way to build peace (on paper). I find it amusing that I connect with this strategy’s ideals because Mr. Harris goes on to explain that the UN is the embodiment of this strategy. I believe in the mission of the UN and the importance of democracy, free flowing information and the inclusion of women (especially in peace building situations). However, the UN and other institutions face a significant dilemma when it comes to having their decisions and peace building endeavors listened to by states. My belief in Peace Through Politics probably explains why I am often frustrated by the peace building process. There are an ample number of channels in the international sphere that can facilitate peaceful interaction between actors, but too often these kinds of resources are ignored. While the application of this strategy is often difficult, I still believe that an appeal to the rational in each of us is a successful path towards peace.
Hi Daniel. Given your response you might enjoy checking out Elise Boulding’s book, “Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World.” Elise really does belong in this module, but did not make this cut this semester. Hopefully next semester. Anyway, check it out on Amazon.
Peace through politics (or Institution Building) aligns most with my world view. I see myself as a problem solver, as someone who likes to systematically pull apart a problem, brainstorm possible solutions, and evaluate a method that will best solve the problem at hand. I view institution building as the problem solving approach to peace education because it holds the view that humans are rational thinkers and capable of managing conflicts by appealing to a common interest. This strategy promotes peace by proposing alternatives to violence, empowers people to build understanding, and encourages cooperation and sustainability. I see the largest potential for success in peacemaking when people resolve conflicts using an arbitrator or mediator, and are provided with alternatives to violence. This strategy provides people the skills, tools, and alternatives needed to manage a conflict and resolve it nonviolently.
My world view is most in line with both institution building and peace education. It should come as no surprise then that I am a public school teacher – attempting to get students to think critically about the world around them – and working within a complicated institution. I like what Harris says about peace education being about long term goals, but addressing short term problems. I have to accept violence of all types in the lives of my students and the structures that surround them, but I do not accept its permanence.
To Sarah’s point, I think the viable alternatives our students need is not in removing them from their particular location – or peer groups. This would certainly help change the lives of our students, school, and community, but so much of what our students need is simply someone to give them an alternative attitude. You do that everyday that you push them just a little more and give them the love so many of them crave by just being a positive force in their lives.
I can see myself as a “peace educator.” Not currently, no, but with faith: eventually. I am a teacher because I believe that young people need and crave guidance. There are not enough of us willing to do so. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have a strong desire to learn them. This goes for learning how to educate for peace as well. I do think that alternatives to violence need to be spelled out and modeled on a daily basis in certain communities. At Ballou (and I apologize for always talking about it… but it is why I’m taking this class, after all), so many of my students don’t believe that have options when they are confronted. They can not back down for fear of being labeled a “punk,” which, according to them, only brings on more problems. From their point of view, if they deal with their challenger through intense violence, make a show of their willingness to fight, then it’s been squashed. I don’t understand this because I have never had to live this way. My students are shocked when I tell them I’ve never been in a fight. It’s foreign to them. I want them to know there are options, but it’s clear that I am not a peace educator because I do not know what to tell them as a viable alternative for the world in which they live.