Peace education “involves students and educators in a commitment to create a more just and peaceful world order” (Harris & Morrison, 2003, p. 4). It has 10 main goals:
- To appreciate the richness of the concept of peace
- To address fears
- To provide information about security
- To understand war behavior
- To develop intercultural understanding
- To provide a “futures” orientation
- To teach peace as a process
- To promote positive peace, or peace accompanied by social justice
- To stimulate a respect for all life 10. To manage conflicts nonviolently
Peace education takes many forms–some more focused on negative peace (the reduction of violent conflict) and others more inclusive. Peace making, or conflict resolution education, involves the learning and utilization of conflict resolution strategies. The narrowest programs focus on student-to-student conflicts, often utilizing peer mediation. In peer mediation, trained students help their peers resolve conflicts.
Human rights education is one form of peace education that is intended to address injustices related to political oppression, prejudice, and abuses of civil, political, social, and economic rights. Most human rights education programs take as their basis the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This type of education encourages the eradication of social ills well beyond violent conflict.
International education aims to help students better understand the ways states provide for their citizens, in terms of both security and other essential needs. Teachers try to elicit among their students the feeling that we are all global citizens. International education often focuses on globalization and its impact on humanity. At the college level, it might include study-abroad programs.
Many peace education programs draw on the work of women’s studies scholars. Such programs emphasize what has been called the three C’s: care, compassion, and connectedness. Environmental education, although traditionally not a main emphasis of peace educators, has received far more attention in recent years. It stresses the need for ecological security and encourages students to reduce waste and limit their consumption. Community-based environmental education is a form of peace education that enables students to participate in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of educational activities aimed at resolving local environmental concerns that the students themselves have identified. Community-based service, also known as service learning, can be a useful peace education strategy.
In higher education, many schools offer peace studies courses, although most often they are embedded in social sciences curricula. The Peace and Justice Studies Association compiles the Global Directory of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Programs (available for order from http://www.peacejusticestudies.org/resources). This guide is currently in its seventh edition and features 450 undergraduate, master’s degree, and doctoral programs in more than 40 countries and 38 U.S. states. An online edition is available with up-to-date information.
Some universities have established innovative peace education programs on their own. James Madison University, for example, has incorporated peace education into its elementary education program. An innovative approach is to create an entire program based on peace, or what historian Riane Eisler has called “partnership education.” The Peace Education Center at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, trains educators in what it calls a “pedagogy of engagement.” The pedagogy draws from a variety of disciplines and approaches that emphasize inquiry, reflection, and transformation. In 1993, the Human Rights School began at McMaster University. This undergraduate interdisciplinary program offers a 24-credit minor. In contrast, the Lindeman Center for Community Empowerment Through Education at Northern Illinois University is an adult education program through which the university partners with the community to provide a variety of educational sessions.
Some programs focus on international human rights law. The International Human Rights Law Clinic (IHRLC) is one of seven clinical programs at Washington College of Law at American University. It provides students with full case responsibility for human rights litigation. Participants work with two types of clients: those seeking asylum and victims of human rights abuses. St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida, has also established an international human rights law program.
In the past, human rights or peace education have rarely been part of health or medical training programs. The Harvard School of Public Health has developed a program that includes a course on human rights for public health practitioners. It also offers a health and human rights seminar series, in collaboration with the International Federation of the Red Cross; the Danish Center for Human Rights; the McGill Center on Ethics, Law, and Medicine; the International Commission of Jurists; and the Society of Women Against AIDS in Africa.
One concern about peace education courses is that they may focus exclusively on content, or the material that is taught, and pay little attention to the teaching and learning methods used. The use of passive, competitive instructional methods is common in higher education. College classrooms tend to be what Riane Eisler called “dominator structured.” The large lecture hall creates a structure in which the professor or instructor is the “sage on the stage” and the students are sitting in nice, even rows, facing forward. This structure is not ideal for student collaboration. Moreover, students have very little voice in the authority structure of a typical college classroom, as professors generally select the material to be included, the methods of delivery, and the assignments to be used.
Given that positive peace addresses the synthesis of many different content areas–history, women’s studies, race and ethnic understanding, environmental awareness, and much more—their highly specialized training may not adequately equip professors to teach about and work for peace in the most impactful way. As noted previously, another barrier to implementing education about and for peace in higher education is related to the lack of training many professors have in teaching methods. Thus, while those charged with teaching peace education courses specifically or integrating peace education content into their existing courses are likely very capable of teaching about peace, they may not be well trained to use peaceful teaching methods. Because they are under such tremendous pressure to become professionalized, young graduate students also tend to focus most of their time on research and publication, not on learning to teach. Faculty wishing to integrate education about and for peace must overcome these difficult, but not insurmountable barriers.
- Eisler, R. (2000). Tomorrow’s children. Boulder, CO: Westview.
- Finley, L. (2004). Teaching peace in higher education: Overcoming the challenges to addressing structure and methods. Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution, 5(2).
- Freire, P. (1974). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press. Galtung, J. (1996). Peace by peaceful means: Peace and conflict, development and civilization. London: Sage.
- Harris, I., & Morrison, M. (2003). Peace education, second edition. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
- Jacoby, B. 1996. Service learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Kleiman, P. (2008). Towards transformation: Conceptions of creativity in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(3), 209-217.
- Lin, J., Brantmeier, E., & Bruhn, C. (2008). Transforming education for peace. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
- McCarthy, C. (2002). I’d rather teach peace. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.
- Pepinsky, H. (2006, December). Peacemaking in the classroom. Contemporary Justice Review, 9(4), 427-442.