Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13
Topics
Discussion
Announcements
 

Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future


reviewed by Kevin Gary - March 15, 2013

coverTitle: Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future
Author(s): Susan Gelber Cannon
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1617354260, Pages: 246, Year: 2011
Search for book at Amazon.com


Susan Gelber Cannon’s Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future is a useful resource for K-12 educators, especially at the middle school level. Under the organizing frame of peacemaking, it offers numerous hands-on examples and resources for educating for peace. Transcending the curricular wars (pun intended), Cannon’s theoretical underpinnings are generous, drawing as much from the scholarship of character education as she does from critical pedagogy. There is a practical what-works spirit that animates the book, filtered through the lens of an experienced teacher. Though referencing many research voices, Cannon’s primary source is her own teaching experience, citing throughout her many successes and what she finds works as a teacher.


Contributing to the scholarship of peace education, Cannon “aims to change an existing belief system—a culture of acceptance of war as a method of solving international problems—to a new paradigm—one in which human rights, social justice, sustainable development, social action, and creative diplomacy are promoted…” (p. xxiii). Towards this end, her book is organized around three essential parts for building peace: thinking, caring, and acting. Each part contains three chapters that begin with a brief explanation of the theory and scholarship that supports peace education and then features activities, learning strategies, and key assessments that Cannon incorporates into her own teaching. And each chapter concludes with a student feedback section that cites selected anecdotal comments from her students (all positive) that document the impact that her peace pedagogy has on her own students.  


By “thinking” Cannon means developing in students the required critical thinking to analyze and understand the world from a social justice perspective. Moving quickly from theory to practice, Cannon explains how she does critical thinking with students, listing multiple strategies that she employs to enable her students to find their own voice. A key dimension of Cannon’s thinking section is directed towards the development of media literacy and critical imagination in students. Peace education must, Cannon insists, teach students to critically consume media, as well as critically read history. With these aims in view, Cannon shares how she develops media literacy in students with her units on 9-11 and the presidential elections. These guide students into becoming critical consumers of media messages and savvy at crafting balanced and informed messages.


Turning to history, she begins by imparting to students a solid knowledge base of the multiple cultures and perspectives that have shaped history. She then has her students ponder “what could have been” as part of her history “Utopia Project” (p. 40). A related project is the “Giver Utopia Project.” This assessment develops her students’ critical imagination by having them imagine and create a just, sustainable community. These open-ended projects, notes Cannon, require that teachers be comfortable with relinquishing control, playing more the role of facilitator and at times moderator so as to encourage “students to deeply listen to each other when they share ideas . . .”(p. 49).


Thinking, Cannon underscores, must be joined with caring. Care refers to turning classrooms and schools into caring communities that extend care beyond the classroom to the entire world. Moving beyond the classroom, Cannon describes how her school, Episcopal Academy, creates structures that nurture an ethos of care throughout the school community, including strong parental involvement, uniform sweaters with ten stripes that symbolize and remind students’ of the school’s ten virtues, and a strong advising program that makes personal connections with families. In addition, middle school students participate in “an ungraded class designed to give them time to engage in self-discovery and age-appropriate exploration of life issues” (p. 56). Within her own classroom, Cannon infuses care with a strong emphasis on multicultural education, using multicultural literature, poetry, and prose to cultivate empathy. Again, she features several of her concrete projects that do this very thing.  


In her final section Cannon addresses “action.” Action means local and global actions that create a more just world. Again, chronicling several classroom assessments and school wide initiatives, Cannon shows how she and her school successfully develop students’ civic engagement. We must, argues Cannon, help students “develop their own tools” for solving problems (p. 166).


Considering her own school in light of cultivating care, Cannon remarks, “Fortunately, as in many schools, there are several structures in place in our middle school to enhance connectedness and cooperation among students, teachers, and families” (p. 55). This quote brings to mind the many schools, especially public, urban, lower SES schools that lack such structures. Episcopal Academy, with an advertised teacher-student ratio of 7:1, a rate of 100% of students going on to four-year colleges, and academically gifted students, sounds like an oasis immune to the scripted curricular controls, punitive teacher evaluations, obsession with test scores, and class sizes approaching 30 or more, that increasingly press in upon so many teachers.


While Cannon’s practical approach to teaching peace is appreciated, one wonders how her projects might be enacted in lower SES schools. An awareness of how her pedagogy is situated and privileged is missing. Cannon’s approach seems far afield from the popular teacher-centered approaches found in books like Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. Peace education must reach a larger audience, but I fear that mainstream educators reading Cannon will reach what a visiting teacher to Dewey’s Lab school concluded a century ago: the methods in use here “‘do not work under the same conditions that we are subject to’” (Dewey, 1990, p. 93).  Phillip Jackson suggests that this excuse accounts for Dewey’s limited reception in mainstream education. While I would prefer that teachers everywhere be guided by the constructivist pedagogy of Think, Care, Act, most instead are drawn to Lemov’s controlling, teacher-centered techniques. Why is that? That is the question Cannon’s next book needs to explore so that her valuable ideas gain greater traction.


References


Dewey, J. (1990). The School and Society / The Child and Curriculum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Lemov, D. (2010). Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.





Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 15, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17055, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 8:47:29 AM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
 
Article Tools
Related Articles

Related Discussion
 
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Kevin Gary
    Goshen College
    E-mail Author
    KEVIN GARY is Associate Professor of Education at Goshen College in Goshen, IN. His research focus is in the philosophy of education; specifically, he is interested spirituality, religion, and liberal education. His most recent publications are “Boredom, Contemplation, and Liberation” (2013) and “Liberal Education and Reading for Meaning”(2010).
 
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue

Submit
EMAIL

Twitter

RSS