Teaching about International Conflict and Peace
reviewed by Betty Reardon - 1996
Title: Teaching about International Conflict and Peace
Author(s): Merry Merryfield & Richard C. Remy
Publisher: State University of New York Press, Albany
ISBN: 0791423743, Pages: 374, Year: 1995
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Teaching about International Conflict and Peace should be welcomed by practitioners of social and global education in North America. It deals effectively with one of the issues most essential to education for social responsibility: conflict. Within a context of effective social education methodology, it provides a useful map of curriculum building and offers well-described, amply tested approaches to teaching in an excellent first part, Linking Content, Methods and Educational Goals. This first section is complemented by a second, Essays in International Conflict Management and Peace, providing some sound substance as the base for planning the content of curriculum.
Merryfield and Remy have put together a resource that should be widely used in social education as an introduction to the vital concern of international conflict. It presents a strong rationale for the inclusion of international conflict in the curriculum, the joint effort of editors representing the relevant methodological and substantive fields, and joins this rationale to a methodological approach emphasizing values, reflection, and participatory learning that develops skills of cooperation and understanding of varied cultural perspectives. Merryfield, in collaboration with a secondary social studies practitioner, Steve Shapir, sets forth a framework for the planning of a unit from a preparatory phase that assesses the community and school conditions and factors related to the instructors as well as the instructional process, through an assessment technique that calls on the students to apply their learnings to the conceptualizing and planning of an approach to conflict reduction. This performance-based assessment is the product of a backwards building curriculum planning process that begins with clearly identifying goals as the critical knowledge and skills students are expected to learn. Between the goal setting and the assessment the authors provide directions for five planning steps to produce a readily usable unit on racial conflict in South Africa, as well as the outline of a replicable curriculum development process.
This process can be applied to the other cases of conflict or to the conceptual issues presented in the nine essays that comprise Part 2. Among these excellent essays by well-qualified scholars are such issues as peace building, control of the military, peaceful settlement, economic cooperation, human rights, self-determination, and environmental conflict. All of them develop central concerns of international conflict and peace, and are helpful introductions to these concerns that all secondary school social studies teachers should be able to handle in their classrooms.
One hopes that this work will be widely used and offer an opportunity for some revisions in a second edition, for, from the perspective of a peace educator, there are some elements I believe should be considered in a book bearing such a title. As I read it, it seemed to me a more apt (plural and particular) title might be Teaching about International Conflicts and Selected Concerns of Peace. What I missed most of all were essays on conflict theory and the process of conflict formation and transformation. Morton Deutschs distinction between constructive and destructive conflict is an essential element to consider in any work on conflict so that it can be understood that it is not conflict, per se, that is the obstacle to peace, but rather how conflict is conducted.1
The very useful glossary might be extended to include definitions of nonviolence and of violence and its various forms so as to extend and emphasize these key concepts referred to in Chad Algers article on peace-building (pp. 127-162).
Finally, when dealing with global issues and emphasizing differences in cultural perspectives, it seems to me we should make more use of scholarship from other parts of the world, particularly from those nations that Elise Boulding2 refers to as the two thirds world, much of which is available in English, and an important portion of that is produced to serve the same purposes as this fine volume, to educate children and youth for peace.