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Peace Education

reviewed by Samuel Totten & Toni Sills - 1989

coverTitle: Peace Education
Author(s): Ian M. Harris
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Jefferson
ISBN: 0899503543, Pages: , Year: 1988
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Throughout the annals of history, eloquent peace proclamations have been made by governments, military leaders, religious figures, educators, and artists, but, more often than not, the proclamations, sentiments, and pledges have been ignored. The result, of course, is that violence has been ubiquitous, and lasting peace has remained elusive.

The situation certainly has not improved today, and many actually claim it is worse. Some, in fact, have called the twentieth century “the century of genocide.“1 This is understandable when one realizes that over three times as many people have been killed in genocidal acts (e.g., the Turks’ slaughter of the Armenians, the Soviet man-made famine in the Ukraine, the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge slaughter of the Cambodian people) in the last eighty-nine years as have been killed in all the wars fought in this century. When one realizes that over 35 million have been killed since 1900 in two world wars and in various civil wars and revolutions, the figures are particularly shocking.

On another note, Amnesty International, the widely respected international human rights organization, recently reported that the use of torture by governments against their people is at an epidemic level around the globe. Prisons are filled with political prisoners, and millions are starving to death despite the fact that there is ample food to feed them all.

Today, five nations—the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China—openly admit possession of nuclear arsenals. India has developed and tested an atomic bomb, but claims that it has not developed a nuclear arsenal. It is also widely suspected that both South Africa and Israel have developed and tested nuclear bombs and are possibly stockpiling such weapons, and there is now ample evidence that Iraq is on the verge of developing its own nuclear weapons. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has recently estimated that by the mid-1990s, nuclear reactors (all of which produce fissionable materials that can be reprocessed for use in the development of nuclear weapons) “will be present on all continents, and at least 50 countries will have the capability to develop nuclear weapons.“2

Violence and conflict, of course, are not only a plague on the houses of governments in distant lands. In the United States, many of our cities have erupted with racial violence, a startling number of schools have become battlegrounds in which pistols and knives are commonly used, many homes are places of horrible brutality in which spouses and children are battered and abused, and we have our hungry, our homeless, and our forgotten in the tens of thousands.

Humanity obviously does not know how to deal with conflict in a constructive fashion. Peace educators and researchers have long been vitally concerned about this situation, and the two books under review have been written in the spirit of adding to this important dialogue.

Betty Reardon’s Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility primarily emphasizes theories of peace education. Director of the Peace Education Program of Teachers College, Columbia University, and an internationally respected peace educator/researcher, Reardon has written a highly informative and thought-provoking book. Her primary goals are to appraise the current state of peace education and to present a detailed plan for a comprehensive peace education program. In her introduction Reardon cites the need for “the development of an authentic planetary consciousness that will enable us to function as global citizens and to transform the present human condition by changing the social structures and the patterns of thought that have created it. This transformational imperative must, in my view, be at the center of peace education” (p. x). This need for authentic transformation infuses every chapter:

The primary indicator of such development will be the withering of violence, as persons, nations, and the international system develop their peacemaking capacities. . . . The context for peace education should be one of a conscious struggle to bring forth a new mode of thinking that is life-affirming, oriented toward the fulfillment of the human potential, and directed to the achievement of maturation as the ultimate goal of organic or positive peace. (p. 53)

This is certainly a valuable and worthwhile goal, but it is also one that many readers may perceive as highly idealistic, if not unrealistic. Reardon readily acknowledges the enormity of this task and asserts that while education alone will not bring about this goal, “the challenge to education is to transform itself into an instrument that can synergize all of the elements of the positive [toward the true humanization of the human species] so as to transcend” the negative—trends such as ever-increasing violence in the world, “factionalism, alienation, and degradation of all life forms” (p. x).

For Reardon, a comprehensive peace education program means incorporating peace education into all areas of intentional learning vis-a-vis education—both formal and informal—and it should be lifelong in scope. As for formal education itself, this would involve peace education in every subject area at every level of schooling. This, of course, is easier said than done. After reading this book, many educators may find themselves asking when, even given the desire to do so, they could find the time to adequately inform themselves about these issues, much less develop effective ways to infuse them into an already jam-packed curriculum. Of particular help may be the outstanding annotated bibliography, “Significant Work in the Development of the Pedagogy of Peace.” It is also worth noting that Reardon has edited another book, Education for Global Responsibility, that offers “sample applications of the sound theoretical base” presented in the volume under review here. Despite these resources, many educators may still see the incorporation of peace education into the extant curriculum as a formidable task.

In a succinct but effective fashion, Reardon introduces the three phases (or approaches) that peace education has gone through since the end of World War II, and the basic assumptions underlying each: the reform phase (whose primary goal is to prevent war), the reconstruction phase (which seeks to reconstruct international systems, to abolish war, and to achieve total disarmament), and the transformational phase (which rejects all violence and makes it unacceptable in interactions among individuals as well as in the planning and carrying out of foreign policy). As she points out, all three of these approaches still exist in some form today in peace education.

In Chapter One, “Personal Perspective and General Approaches,” Reardon discusses the four main influences that formed the “definitions and directions” of her framework: world order inquiry, transnational cooperation, national networking, and feminist studies. This is a fascinating chapter. On one level it provides a solid overview of the major developments that have taken place in the field of peace education over the past twenty years. On another level, it delineates Reardon’s personal journey along the road of peace education; most intriguing are Reardon’s comments about the influence of feminist studies: “Most of the elements of what I now define as transformational peace education came into focus for me when I brought a feminist perspective to them. . . . It is through feminism that I have gained my insights into wholeness and integrity. Feminism is, I ‘believe, the most fully human current perspective on peace and peace education” (p. 10). This chapter would have been even more interesting and valuable, though, if she had gone into more detail regarding how and why this is so.

Reardon goes on to present a cogent and detailed discussion of not only the basic differences between “negative peace” (reducing the likelihood of war) and “positive peace” (the promotion of full justice for all people in the world), but also an examination of their antecedents and the fine nuances in herent in each. While there are those who reject this distinction, Reardon notes that the two concepts are generally perceived as the major conceptual categories in the field. She personally sees them as “complementary and inseparable,” making a strong case for doing so. The ways in which peace educators make use of these concerns in their work are thoroughly analyzed as Reardon spells out the educational assumptions, approaches, and goals of each.

Despite Reardon’s strong arguments against the use of indoctrination, we were left with the uneasy feeling that due to the very fact that “nuclear education seeks to persuade that the danger is too great to be left at the present impasse,” and that “disarmament education seeks to persuade that fundamental policy changes could change the basic situation” (p. 21, emphasis added), such pedagogical endeavors may lead to unintentional indoctrination. This may, in fact, be a “Catch 22” dilemma inherent in instituting peace education; nevertheless, this is a significant issue that educators must take into account. The sticky issue of indoctrination, of course, is one that has been thoroughly discussed over the years by such notable figures as John Dewey, George S. Counts, Boyd Bode, John Childs, Gordon Hullfish, and Theodore Brameld; it continues to be a matter of intense concern to educators today, including Samuel S. Shermis, James L. Barth, and Jonathan Kozol.

Chapter Five, “The Fundamental Purposes of a Pedagogy of Peace,” is possibly the most powerful and valuable chapter in the book. It is here that Reardon discusses the centrality of wholeness and integrity to peacemaking capacities of which stewardship, citizenship, and humane relationships are core values; seven essential capacities for peace-making (reflection, responsibility, risk, reconciliation, recovery, reconstruction, and reverence), and the pedagogical concerns that need attending to if such capacities are going to truly be an integral part of peace education; and transformational approaches to learning. In doing so, she talks about the pioneering work of Hunt and Metcalf (p. 66) in the social studies, Freire in regard to “consciousness-raising for political empowerment and liberation,” (p. 67) and the notable work by Johnson and Johnson in the area of cooperative learning (p. 68).3 It is here that Reardon speaks most eloquently about the need for a transformational education program and attempts to delineate how this can be done in our nation’s schools.

Ian Harris has basically compiled a blueprint for action in Peace Education. He has summarized a sensitive and significant educational concern, couched the concepts in lay terminology, and given step-by-step lists for organizing classroom and community peace activities. The book is almost an index of problems and teaching strategies related to creating a developmental curriculum for peace. Prospective peace educators should find this introductory text useful in that it will assist them in grasping the scope of the subject.

Harris defines peace as “a concept which motivates the imagination, connotes more than the cessation of war. It implies human beings working together to resolve conflict, respect standards of justice, satisfy basic needs, and honor human rights” (p. 7). He discusses the long- and short-term goals of peace education, combining them into ten main goals: “(1) to appreciate the richness of the concept of peace; (2) to address fears; (3) to provide information about defense systems; (4) to understand war behavior; (5) to develop intercultural understanding; (6) to provide a future orientation; (7) to teach justice; (8) to promote a concept of peace accompanied by social justice; (9) to stimulate a respect for life; and (10) to end violence” (p. 17).

He asserts that “traditional education glorifies war and does not teach pupils alternatives to war and violence” (p. 27). The traditional classroom teaches a child to take orders and compete in learning situations where most children will become losers. Empowerment education, on the other hand, espoused in a variety of forms by John Dewey, Jurgen Habermas, Paulo Freire, Danilo Dolci, and Harris himself, teaches students to work together on an equal footing with the teacher to discover their own needs and find ways to “build educational programs that will address those needs” (p. 26).

This book provides an entertaining overview of the history of peace education, highlighting the development of research. The section “Comparative Peace Education” discusses the practice of peace education as conducted in various parts of the world. Depending on the problems of each nation, emphasis may range from disarmament to “nuclear age education”; to the problems of underdevelopment, starvation, poverty, illiteracy, the lack of human rights; to fostering freedom from social restraints.

Chapter Five, entitled “Getting Started,” offers suggestions for initiating peace education in a variety of community, religious, and formal school settings. Harris summarizes plans that have proven to be effective, contrasting those with plans that did not prove workable. “Getting Started” means just that. While the chapter is not a syllabus, beginners will appreciate Harris’s suggestions.

Harris comments on the common barriers to implementation of peace education curricula (e.g., cultural barriers, political barriers, use of language) and offers suggestions for overcoming them. Educators are encouraged to set up learning situations that offer students the freedom to consider all sides of an issue and draw their own conclusions. It seems to be his contention that if students are encouraged to rationally evaluate the values of different societies and methods of conflict resolution, they will naturally favor peaceful instead of warlike solutions.

Harris succinctly discusses educational environmental theories that are conducive to peace education, and is particularly enthusiastic about the cooperative learning strategies developed by David and Roger Johnson at the University of Minnesota. Competitive and individualistic learning strategies of most classrooms may engender combative attitudes in students, while the socialization process inherent in cooperative learning teaches students how to get along peacefully with each other and to work toward helping each member of the class meet his or her personal needs for acceptance and success. Peace curriculum or no peace curriculum, this strategy naturally lends itself to peace education objectives.

Drawing on the theories of Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, and Jean Piaget, Harris develops his position that peace education can be taught appropriately at every level of human development. Many of these suggestions, however, are laid out in a perfunctory manner and need to be developed with greater care and in more detail if they are going to be useful to and/or used by educators.

Ian Harris provides a fairly solid overview of a complex subject, which should be enlightening to the uninitiated. Those well versed in the issues of peace, however, will find Reardon’s work more suitable. Harris was obviously influenced by Reardon, sharing many theories of peace education with her. Like Reardon, Harris speaks about the power to engender a “transformational vision” in which, through peace education, the world will slowly transform violence into peace.

There are, however, a few problems worth mentioning. Some of Harris’s material is dated and, in at least one place, inaccurate. The lengthy introductory quotation to Chapter 4 on page 57 was taken from the introduction to the article “Nuclear Weapons: Concepts, Issues, and Controversies” written by Betty Reardon, John Anthony Scott, and Samuel Totten, but Harris attributes the work to three other authors. The use of unsubstantiated statistics dropped parenthetically at the end of paragraphs to illustrate a point is disconcerting. For example, at one point he says, “In the 3000 years of recorded history there have been only 250 years wherein war or armed conflict did not occur” (p. 18), and at another “One hundred and twenty ‘small’ wars between 1945 and 1976 have accounted for 25 million deaths—more than twice the death rate during the First World War” (p. 181). We find it especially difficult to believe that a researcher could find a total of 250 years, even pieced out a year here and six months there, when humankind was not engaged in warfare.

When all is said and done, Reardon and Harris have provided educators with numerous pedagogical concepts and concerns worthy of serious contemplation. Both books would be useful additions to any educator’s library.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 91 Number 2, 1989, p. 257-262
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 444, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 12:25:04 PM

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