Transforming Education for Peace
reviewed by Claire Bischoff - January 15, 2009
Title: Transforming Education for Peace
Author(s): Jing Lin, Edward J. Brantmeier, and Christina Bruhn (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1593119054, Pages: 360, Year: 2008
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Attending to local and global news coverage can easily lead to despair about the possibility of peace in our time. In the face of terrorist attacks in Mumbai and continuing genocide in Darfur, among countless other acts of social and environmental violence, individuals may feel impotent and hopeless. Yet Transforming Education for Peace gathers essays designed to illustrate that peacebuilding is possible in our everyday lives, in our interactions with others, and in our intentions to be understanding, compassionate human beings (p. xiii).
The first volume in a new series on Peace Education from Information Age Publishing, Transforming Education for Peace endeavors to promote a paradigm shift away from a negative understanding of peace as the absence of violence toward a positive understanding of peace as an actively negotiated harmony in which all people have a stake. Essays in this book are diverse in genre, from case studies of peace education efforts to theoretical meditations, but what unites them is an underlying faith that ordinary people can make changes for peace in their lives and in the world. Thus, while the collection is aimed most specifically at educators and researchers who wish to be inspired by ideas for peacemaking and its study, it also appeals to everyone who wants to join a global movement for peace.
Transforming Education for Peace is divided into four sections. Essays in Part I examine the connection between cross-cultural understanding and peace education, beginning with Jingjing Lou and Heidi Rosss account of middle school students in China and the United States taking and exchanging photographs and accompanying narratives to learn more about their own and each others social worlds. Carol Radomski describes interviews with seven United States host families of Muslim exchange students, adding to the dearth of literature on the hosting experience and its relation to intercultural understanding. Two pieces focus on teachers roles in building intercultural empathy to undergird peace: Rana Al-Smadi analyzes a method of professional development that helps teachers create cultures of equality and respect in increasingly diverse school settings, and Edward Brantmeier utilizes critical ethnographic action research to assist high school teachers in developing curriculum units that promote intercultural empathy. These chapters demonstrate that affirming diversity while developing common understandings is crucial for peace education.
Contributors to part II report on various efforts to foster peace. The authors of the first two chapters recognize that people need to know about options for peace to practice them, thus the Gemstone Peace Education team developed and taught peace education curriculum to fifth graders and Koji Nakamura surveyed the attitudes toward peace of student teachers in Japan enrolled in an education course designed to promote teachers knowledge about peace. Both Grace Feuerverger and Nele Noe reflect on examples of peacebuilding education in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they associate peacebuilding with critical self-reflection and with psychological health and safe home environments, respectively. Next, Helga Stokes studies design conversation in two European schools and one U.S. school district as an educational process that promotes peaceful communication and undergirds consultative, cooperative power structures, and M. Ayaz Naseem argues that the Internet can promote peaceful dialogue and understanding through his close reading of a website devoted to conversation about issues of importance in South Asia. The section concludes with Mayumi Terano and Mark Ginsburgs invitation to ponder global efforts to set standards of peaceful human activity through their investigation of Japan and Indias implementation of UNESCOs Culture of Peace Program. The breadth of the essays in part II enables us to hope that education indeed can promote individual and social transformation for peace.
While parts I and II highlight specific instantiations of peace education and research, the final two sections are more theoretical. In part III, the authors realistically name the challenges and pitfalls of peace education, starting with Roger Boshiers personal take on the disappointing implementation of a peacebuilding and human security program at a Canadian university. What follows are two superb essays that suggest a framework through which to consider the entire volume. First, Ian Harris offers a typology for peace education evaluation, examines the complications of evaluation, and realistically assesses what we can study empirically in peace education. Harris piece helps put some of the shortcomings of the research presented in the previous sections into perspective within peace education research. Second, Tony Jenkins critiques utopian aims of modern education and the disconnect between pedagogy and content and recommends peace as a unifying purpose for education.
In the final section, two essays explore the transformative power of a paradigm shift for peace education. Irene Zoppi and Alice Yaeger discuss the need for peace training with soldiers that includes redefining strength, humanizing the other, and healing inner wounds. Jing Lins reflection on a global ethic based in universal love and reconciliation offers a guide for future peace education and research efforts.
Transforming Education for Peace is ambitious in scope, with an international collection of authors from a range of professional backgrounds investigating peace education and research in a host of global settings and through a myriad of methodologies. Unfortunately, at times, this impressive range is achieved at the expense of internal coherence. Further, a few of the essays would benefit from additional editing; their potentially strong contributions to the collection are lost in confusing organization and unpolished prose.
This being said, the volumes ambitious scope largely is an asset. To limit the authors or examples of peace education and research to just one context would belie the necessity of international cooperation for peace. As such, the book is an example of scholars and practitioners working together, united by the cause of peace, and its breadth insures its relevance to classroom teachers, educational researchers and professors, and even the general public.
Further, that the question of peace education and research is explored from so many vantage points means that important questions and theoretical debates are dealt with multiple times throughout the text, always through a slightly different lens. For example, authors offer definitions of peace education that are similar, though not identical. This invites active reading and participation in the debate of exactly what is meant by peace education and toward what it is aimed. Similarly, certain values, principles and assumptions about peace education emerge throughout the text, such as claims that inner and outer peace are interdependent and that knowing about other people and cultures is an important piece of interacting more peacefully across difference. The conversational quality of Transforming Education for Peace makes for an intellectually stimulating read and encourages all of us to take up the cause of peacebuilding in our own contexts.