They say Peace Education is dangerous and subversive and teaches students to be rabble-rousers.
We say Peace Education empowers students to live happier, healthier and more productive lives. It teaches them the value of contributing to society and to their community. It teaches them that creating positive change is not up to someone else, it is up to them! Peace Education provides tools for better communication, for better relationships and more healthy interactions with the people in the students’ daily lives – their parents, their teachers, their friends and their community. Peace Education provides a context for students to develop compassion, better listening skills and tangible conflict transformation techniques which will help them throughout their lives.
The “Solutions to Violence” class explores peacemaking through the eyes of Gandhi, Dr. King and a host of other famous peacemakers whose lives and teachings are revered worldwide. The class promotes thoughtful discussion, respect, creativity and critical thinking and writing. Students become better writers and articulators during the semester and often take on special projects outside of class which contribute to a more peaceful community, like organizing canned food drives, becoming part of youth resource councils for their cities and writing grants for renewable energy resources, to name a few.
They say Peace Education should be extra-curricular, not a part of the regular school day.
We say that Peace Education must be a part of the standard curriculum so that students can learn the legitimacy of nonviolence and peacemakers throughout history. If Peace Education is relegated to a “once-a-year” event, it will not receive the credibility and thoughtful study which it requires to internalize peacemaking. If we want our young people to go out and become the peacemakers of the world, we must give them the classroom instructional time to develop those skills. We would not expect them to grasp all the finite details of Algebra in a one-day seminar – why would we expect the same about peacemaking?
Many schools have Anger Management groups, Peer Mediation and Leadership classes. “Solutions to Violence” is special because it examines peacemaking from a historical perspective and makes the material relevant to students’ lives in a meaningful way. Students report healthier and happier attitudes and behaviors after taking “Solutions to Violence.” Their grades tend to improve in their other classes, as well. This class is important because it follows the Patch Adams philosophy – that every teacher is a student and every student is a teacher.
They say there is not enough time in the school day to address peacemaking. Teachers are already too busy!
We say teachers *are* too busy to add extra lesson plans. They have so many needs and requirements with the advancement of placement tests, standardized tests and teaching students to take these tests and pass them! One of the goals of peace education is to partner with colleges, universities and credentialing programs so that teachers are being trained to teach peace education in schools as a permanent part of the curriculum.
“Solutions to Violence” explores many kinds of violence in our world – like hot and cold violence, structural violence, interpersonal violence and academic violence. Academic violence is particularly relevant to students who have been continually let down by our educational system and who have grown to distrust teachers, administrators and school in general. There are students for whom tests are daunting and depressing, and after each multiple-choice exam feel like failures. There are teachers who feel stifled and offended by the trend toward standardized testing which limits their creative license as a teacher and human being.
The strategy of implementing “Solutions to Violence” as a standard part of high school curriculum works in tandem with training teachers to fill the needs of schools utilizing this semester-long class. Eventually, student teachers will be able to teach “Solutions to Violence” in preparation for teaching future classes.
They say it’s too difficult to fund Peace Education.
We say it is far more costly not to fund Peace Education. What will be the cost to future generations who grow up without knowing the fundamental skills necessary to be peacemakers?
We must believe that Peace Education is worthy of receiving funding through grants, through permanent teachers’ salaries, and through community-based initiatives. Where we spend our money gives clues to where our priorities lie. Therefore, we must find creative and permanent ways to compensate teachers for teaching the most important subject in school: Getting Along With Others.
It is important to be thinking about funding Peace Education, to be partnering with peace and justice groups, with school districts, and with organizations whose donors believe in teaching peace. There is no right or wrong way to approach funding for peace education. Many communities have anti-violence grants which never get spent. Many district have student needs which go unfulfilled due to the lack of funding. It is up to us to be resourceful and to make sure that Peace Education is on the radar screen in our lifetime.
*Leah C. Wells serves as the Peace Education Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.