Peace and Pedagogy
reviewed by Rahat Naqvi - August 02, 2015
Never before has the concept of peace been so vital. People are living in times of global upheaval, violence and turmoil, making it imperative that we provide our future generations with pedagogical experiences that promote a sense of well-being and peace. Teachers, schools, education systems, and curricula offer possibly the best opportunities in which to enable these experiences to come to fruition. Molly Quinn addresses this very important topic in her book. Through her work with teacher educators, teachers, middle grade, and elementary students in New York City, Molly Quinn uses the medium of Social Studies to theorizeto rethink and reimagine peace (p. 8). This is the main premise of her book.
Chapter One provides an overview of the theoretical concepts, and it positions teaching for peace within the greater context of a vocation of humanization (Freire, 1970, 1993, p. 6). People need to be provided with meaningful experiences, in order to comprehend their social realities. It is by reading the word that we begin to understand how to read the world. The author draws a compelling image of peace framed within the concept of how education will lend itself to nurturing peaceful experiences for students. This is a deliberate and thoughtful endeavor that begins from within. Particularly salient to the idea of peace is that of relationships and responsibility, and the manner by which we may begin to enact this as an integral part of curriculum aims, both within school and post-secondary settings. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me . . . (p. 7).
Chapter Two describes an inquiry project entitled Picturing Peace, conducted with aspiring elementary teachers through a university Social Studies course in New York City. It provides an overview of how the inquiry question was positioned and contextualized within the context of the course. Of particular interest is Quinns approach through which she engaged her students academically, professionally, pedagogically, conceptually, autobiographically, and experientially. Students in this course provided what Quinn calls pedagogical play responses through various mediums, including art and performance. Students were also asked to reflect on the meaning of peace, and depict it through a digital photo and a written two page response.
In Chapter Three, the author describes the main themes that emerged from this inquiry project along with some examples of digital pictures as well as excerpts from student responses. A thematic analysis of these themes clearly demonstrates the strong link between seeing the unseen and careful reflection on our lived experiences. It also uncovers the nature of meaning making and deeper understandings that provide learners with opportunities to think about their past, their present, and most of all how they live and enact the concept of peace, within their lives, including both their personal and professional spaces.
Chapter Four expands further on emerging understandings of peace through the lens of student experiences. With this inquiry, Quinn builds a framework that emphasizes notions of pursuing acts, experiences, and discourses around peace, consciously and purposefully. Of particular interest in her discussion around these ideas is her characterization of peace, as the experience of being in time, engaging past, present, and future. Peace is qualified as desirable and affirmative in nature, bringing forth feelings of power, control, and empowerment; characterized also by what Quinn calls a sense of with-ness through which students become more aware of connections, relationships, community, solidarity, and cooperation and finally calling for an ethics of responsibility, advocacy and action (p. 51).
The chapter engages the reader with the question of practice and pedagogical enactment. What might such an understanding look like in practice? Quinn identifies three major themes, in light of student responses: (a) a peaceful teacher present to and with students; (b) a relational (intersubjectivity-centered) curriculum grounded in context and community; and (c) an explicit design for teaching peace and enacting peace practices (p. 62).
Chapter Five provides examples from a peace curriculum. Peace projects were undertaken with East Harlem first graders and in the South Bronx with fourth grade students. Of particular interest is the example drawn from a peace curriculum in a first grade classroom in a charter school in East Harlem. The author describes several initiatives taken by the class as a group. Community Promises are displayed on the Grade One walls and each class member is referred to as a peace maker. In addition, the class has a specifically designed peace corner, where there are countless materials of interest. It is frequently used by all students and is considered a safe place. The pedagogies described in this chapter provide clear directions of possibilities, where explicit curriculum endorsing peace can become a valuable tool for younger generations. The chapter also highlights the importance of vested interest on the part of teachers to establish and promote such a culture within their four walls and beyond.
Chapter Six provides a window into childrens understandings of peace. Quinn interviews four children in a charter school in East Harlem and five fourth graders from a school in the South Bronx. The students in their interviews discuss images of peace and pictures they have taken to depict peace. What is most striking in the conversations retold and analyzed by the author is the impact of pedagogical practices deliberately, thoughtfully, and intentionally taken up by the teachers within their teaching contexts. The student responses shed light on the diverse ways, in which they enact and visualize peace. The links between what they experience in the classroom, as a tool and their emerging understandings of violence, suffering, and peace are described through the conceptual framework designed by the author.
Chapter Seven is a reminder of the extensive scholarship in the field of education on the subject of peace education. Particularly salient is how the author discusses three key interconnected, and mutually constitutive relations of self/ourselves, other/others, and world(s) in which we dwell. She also focuses on the mind, heart, and body, and highlights the complexity of connectivity across these various experiences and spaces.
Peace and Pedagogy provides an excellent framework through the voices of teacher candidates and children. The book inspires readers to envision and enact a curriculum that impacts practice as well as the self. The author thoughtfully captures the quality of relationships, as well as the plurality of experience and the plurality of narrative and representation. The chapters successfully weave together the perspectives of prospective teachers and young children, providing the reader a very comprehensive analysis of various approaches that can consciously be lived and created in places of learning and beyond. This inspiring book invites readers to envision further research-based projects that can potentially address the critical issue of living and enacting peace in a world on the verge of a crisis.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsburry Academic.