Is peace education “different” from education?

Peace education takes place in most classrooms worldwide, though usually unintentionally. I think most teachers hope to install in their students a sense of compassion, kindness and self-awareness. In recent years, there has also been an increased focus on environmental studies— what Dale Snauwaert refers to as planetary ethics. Many of us think that humans are born with certain basic ideals and values: you shouldn’t harm others, you shouldn’t lie, you should help someone in pain. Because we assume that these values are innately present in us all, we tend to take them for granted. This, perhaps, is why peace education has not received the attention it deserves in the school system.

Many of us think that humans are born with certain basic ideals and values: you shouldn’t harm others, you shouldn’t lie, you should help someone in pain. Because we assume that these values are innately present in us all, we tend to take them for granted.

When advocating for peace education, I think it important to establish that it is indeed different from education (if not, we can simply add a peace class in the curriculum, and voilà, we’ve done our part)… What can peace education teach that normal education cannot? Well, first, I think it’s necessary to point out that we all hold prejudice (against teenagers, Israelis, women, Black Americans, Buddhists, rapists, nuns, catholic priests, “tree-huggers”…). We are all products of our culture and our societies. Dale Snauwaert quotes Immanuel Kant: “we only have access to the world as we see it through our eyes. We filter out certain things, and let other things in. We construct our experiences.” Our mind projects (perhaps unconsciously) our culture.

This is where peace education is different from “normal” education. Peace education seeks to raise self-awareness, so that we can recognize our own prejudices and presumptions, and actively work to change them. Peace education is not only about acquiring knowledge, fostering imagination, and encouraging critical thought (as are the most noble goals of “normal” education); is it about putting all these skills to use. If education is a weapon, then peace education is the instructions of how to use it (to the benefit of all). That is where I see the difference.

Peace education seeks to raise self-awareness, so that we can recognize our own prejudices and presumptions, and actively work to change them.

What does it mean that peace education is normative?
Norms refers to shared values. When we say that peace education is normative, then, it means that we wish to install a set of common values in all people; a framework we can all work within; a set of principles we can refer to when interacting with each other. Again, it is important that we don’t take values for granted. Values are culturally constructed! I don’t think peace education seeks to establish a static common value system, but rather the ethical tools to examine different norms and value systems. If we are “peace educated” we know that our values are not innate in all humans, but rather culturally constructed. One shared value we all might have is openness: we must be open to the other’s perspective, and always seek to understand the other. As Kwame Appiah (2006) states, “people are different […] and there is much to learn form our differences” (p. xv).

 

References:
Appiah, K. (2006). “Chapter One: Introduction: Making Conversation.” In Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W.W. Norton.

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Reardon and Snauwaert: A comparative analysis of two peace educators

Internationally recognized as a founder of peace education, Betty Reardon’s work has inspired a generation of peace educators, including Dale T. Snauwaert. In this short essay, I will compare and analyze the views and contributions of these education theorists.

According to Reardon (1988), “[e]ducation is a social enterprise conducted for the realization of social values” (p. 23). The central questions, then, when re-imagining education systems is what values should be included, and how these values might be transmitted. When applying this definition to peace education, another question arises: What is peace? Enthused by Reardon’s work, Snauwaert (2012) asks whether or not peace is a fundamental value. Both educators recognize the significance in defining peace as such a definition will determine the legitimacy of peace education.

While there is still contention on the definition of peace as a human right, Snauwaert and Reardon provide compelling support for peace being a global moral duty. Snauwaert, in particular, promotes the notion of a moral community and all human beings having a moral standing, deserving moral consideration (Snauwaert, 2012). This view springs from cosmopolitanism, defined by Reardon as “the value of universal moral inclusion grounded in respect for human dignity” (Snauwaert, 2012, p. 50). The challenge for education is to help each individual identify him/herself with the global community. Echoing the ideas of Paolo Freire, the individual must be enabled and made to realize his power to change his surroundings. Furthermore, the individual must find meaning and power in relationships.

Between Reardon and Sneuwaert, the former has a more refined view on the importance of relationships in creating peace. Her concept of peace is based in feminism, specifically the importance of wholeness, integrity and interdependence (Reardon, 1988). Snauwaert, on the other hand, pulls his definition of relationship and peace from the Earth Charter. He understands peace as “the wholeness created by the relationship with oneself, and then with others” (Snauwaert, 2014). Again, education plays a pivotal role in fostering such relationships, and is therefore an essential tool in creating and promoting peace. As James Smith Page (2004) states, “[p]eace is ultimately about relationships, [so] peace education itself is also about relationships” (p. 10).

within a cosmopolitan philosophy of peace education, pedagogy must be inquiry-based, dialogical, value-based, and empowering

Moving on from peace and peace education, the last point of analysis is pedagogy. In a co-authored article, Reardon and Snauwaert (2011) conclude that within a cosmopolitan philosophy of peace education, pedagogy must be inquiry-based, dialogical, value-based, and empowering. Reardon is especially well-defined in her vision of a dialogical model of learning, referring to the teachers as an “edu-learner”. I see this term as an urge to move away from dictatic, hierarchal learning practices, and in the process leaving behind cultures of obedience and dehumanization, both of which serve as fertile ground for war and violence.

This comparative analysis has highlighted how Reardon’s work has served both as a foundation and a continual source of inspiration to Snauwaert, among others. Peace education as a field is still in progress, but the concepts of a global moral community, peace as relationships, and the “edu-learner” stand out to me as cornerstones in its future development.

References:

Reardon, B. A. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reardon, B. A., & Snauwaert, D. T. (2011). Reflective Pedagogy, Cosmopolitanism, and Critical Peace Education for Political Efficacy: A Discussion of Betty A. Reardon’s Assessment of the Field. Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice, 5 (1), 1-14.

Smith Page, J. (2004). Peace Education: Exploring Some Philosophical Foundations. International Review of Education 50(1), 3-15.

Snauwaert, D. (2012). Betty Reardon’s Conception of “Peace” and its Implications for a Philosophy of Peace Education. Peace Studies Journal 5(3), 45-52