Now more than ever, teaching peace is of utmost importance in our country. In the face of such terrible acts, we should be teaching our students about nonviolent responses to violence rather than the retributive and retaliatory acts which are at the forefront of our national dialogue. Peacemaking is a teachable skill, and one which takes commitment and discipline. How can we expect to create peaceful homes, schools, communities and nations if we do not explicitly train our students in the ways of nonviolence?
In my nonviolence class during the past week, we have been talking a lot about hot versus cold violence. Hot violence is the violence which makes you shrink back in horror. The terrorist attacks this week in New York and Washington, DC were examples of hot violence. Cold violence, on the other hand, is the kind that is more quiet and often legitimized by society. Examples of cold violence, in my estimation, are the 25% of youths in America who live in poverty, or the nearly 40,000 children who die every day as a result of malnutrition and hunger.
We get so angry about hot violence. It makes us indignant because it is in our faces. As long as we don’t see the violence, we are not motivated to take action. Why did we not allocate an emergency $40 billion to alleviate the mass poverty in our country, or to provide health care for the millions of Americans without any? Or to provide salary increases for the seriously underpaid teachers who deal daily with the effects of family, community, school and institutional violence?
Cold violence is a tragedy, just as hot violence is. Just because a child dies in quiet, and not in a fiery blast, does not mean that the death is less significant and that the child was any less special. We need to be teaching our young people how to handle the violence they experience on a personal level as well as the systemic violence which perpetuates inequality and injustice all over the world.
Classes in peacemaking teach our young people that hatred toward an entire people does not make the world a better place. Classes in peacemaking teach our young people the scope of their power and the importance of their voices. Classes in peacemaking teach our young people that their lives are special and that in the midst of mass-marketing strategies and consumerism, that an authentic alternative exists. Classes in peacemaking are the only real response to the many forms of violence to which young people are exposed. If peace is what we want, peace is what we should prepare for. Teaching peace lays the foundation for a more fulfilling life.
*Leah C. Wells is Peace Education Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.