Summary of "Peace Education in Societies Involved in Intractable Conflicts: Direct and Indirect Models"

Summary of

Peace Education in Societies Involved in Intractable Conflicts: Direct and Indirect Models

by Daniel Bar-Tal and Yigal Rosen

Summary was written by Rachael Rackley, School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), George Mason University, in October 2012.

Citation: "Peace Education in Societies Involved in Intractable Conflicts: Direct and Indirect Models." Review of Educational Research 79.2 (2009): 557-575.

This piece was prepared as part of the S-CAR / Beyond Intractability Collaborative. Borislava Manojlovic is Associate Editor of that project, and helped to edit this piece in that capacity.

Daniel Bar-Tal and Yigal Rosen discuss in their article "Peace Education in Societies Involved in Intractable Conflicts: Direct and Indirect Models" how peace education can be used to change intractable conflicts. The article examines what factors are necessary in the political, societal and educational fields for peace education training to succeed in creating viable changes in conflicts that are intractable. They pose the use of two models, a direct and an indirect model, for teaching peace education at the school and societal levels.

The authors begin by stating that one reason for intractability of certain conflicts is that conflicts are now dominated by collective memory and emotions. These collective memories become the narratives for groups in conflict and serve as a societal need, rather than giving the correct account of history. Younger generations are especially vulnerable to this collective memory and experience further conflict culture through the media, society and different modes of communication.  The form of socialization that youth experience in the education system is an especially important mode of shaping youth viewpoints on the conflict.

Bar-Tal and Rosen delve further into an analysis of intractable conflicts by examining the greatest challenge to developing peace — beginning the official process of reconciliation. "Reconciliation consists of mutual recognition and acceptance, investing in the development of peaceful relations, mutual trust, and positive attitudes, and fostering sensitivity and consideration of the other party's needs and interests". The article argues that the formation of a collective history in reconciliation is no longer enough for healing. Reconciliation should also include and move toward collective forgiveness. An effective method for the construction of reconciliation is through peace education. The authors state that the main objective of peace education is to advance reconciliation and peace making. Peace education hopes to change the constructed world view and beliefs of the society members as well as preparing them for living in a post-conflict peace environment. The process of reconciliation is therefore carried out through peace education with a goal of establishing a collective history of the conflict and developing a collective forgiveness.

The authors highlight two different approaches to peace education — a narrow approach where peace education is carried out in schools, and a broad approach where peace education is carried out in society, and the community is encouraged to work toward a peace process. Bar-Tal and Rosen state in the article that although the broader approach is necessary to discuss, the majority of their discussion in this article is based on school peace education training.

Peace education training within the school system is one of the biggest avenues to bringing about societal change because it requires the backing of elites and powerful societal leaders, influential community members, and society. Bar-Tal and Rosen highlight that even mass media can be used as a tool for peace education with the sharing of information to the masses about peaceful goals and the relations between the parties. The school system can be used as an agent of peace education assuming that this system has a great influence over the youth communities. The authors develop this assumption based on four factors. 1) Education can reach a greater portion of society because all children are required to attend schools in most societies. 2) School systems are a social institution that can carry out peace education because they have the resources, methods, legitimacy and authority. 3) School takes place during an important and formative period of children's lives. Therefore they are open to new information and ideas. Finally 4) Youth are required to learn the information taught in schools, and usually they believe the information they are given as truth.

Bar-Tal and Rosen argue that peace education training throughout the school system requires curricula, textbooks, development materials, teachers and educators, and a climate in the school that is conducive for peace and peace education. Additional conditions for successful peace education training are discussed both in the realms of political-societal conditions and in educational conditions. Four factors are extremely important in the political-social area of the conflict in order to have successful peace education. 1) Progress toward peace — there must be a palpable movement and desire for conflict resolution in the society. 2) Support for peace — there must be support for a peace process. 3) Ripeness for reconciliation — there must be a readiness for the messages of peace education and a ripeness for the change in collective memory. 4) Governmental and political support — there must be support for peace education by leaders and the administration to see conflict resolution and reconciliation as a national and desired goal.

Three educational conditions are also vital for the success of peace education in the school systems. 1) Ministerial support — there must be support for peace education from a high authority, such as the Minister of Education. This displays that the peace education training information is legitimate and therefore accurate and provides an incentive to teach and learn this information. 2) Well-defined peace education policy — there must be a well-developed policy on how to carry out peace education. There is need for both a short-term program in the case of emergencies and to satisfy immediate needs, as well as long-term program which will eventually construct a new culture of peace. Lastly, 3) Peace education authority — there must be authority for the peace education as well as the appropriate infrastructure, resources and the continual desire for learning.

The authors explain that if these conditions do not exist, the peace educators should not wait until these conditions have developed. Instead, there are two methods of peace education that they developed which can be used to fit the situation on the ground, in cases that do not fit the above criteria. These two models of peace education are indirect and direct. Indirect peace education does not address the conflict but instead works around general conflict resolution themes such as violence, empathy, conflict resolution, human rights and identity. Five themes are highlighted by the authors as potential training concepts for indirect peace education are: 1) Reflective thinking, 2) Tolerance, 3) Ethno-empathy, 4) Human rights, and 5) Conflict Resolution. The authors chose these five themes because they are have a potential contribution toward changing their understanding of the conflict in an indirect manner.

Direct peace education is administered when the societal and educational conditions are ready, as defined by the conditions listed above. An example of a direct peace education model is the Education for Peace project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Five themes for direct peace education are discussed in the article. They are as follows:

  1. Conflict and peace — the aim for this theme is to teach the essence of the conflict, the meanings of violence and wars, and the nature of the peace process.
  2. Peace process — this theme should focus on discussing the obstacles to peace, and understanding the process toward reconciliation.
  3. Presentation of the rival — this must come through a process of equalization of the parties, differentiation leading to heterogenization and new perceptions of the other. Additionally, personalization develops to allow one to understand the other group as ordinary humans.
  4. History of the conflict — this should be presented so that each group sees the facts, and that both parties begin to reconsider their own group's actions. Finally,
  5. New affect and emotions — two processes need to occur simultaneously. Collective hatred and fear of the other must be reduced, while at the same time hope, trust, and mutual acceptance must be developed.

The article concludes that the educational system provides youth with the opportunity to consider their ideology, values, beliefs, and myths. The authors also question the model's success in conflict situations where the rivals live in one political entity such as Nicaragua or separate entities such as Israeli-Palestine. The answer they establish is yes, that the proposed models they have discussed have the ability to be applied to any conflict or post-conflict situation. The main argument that Bar-Tal and Rosen attempt to get across throughout the article is that peace education can be used in an effective manner and flourish, in any conflict condition. This is due to the fact that the peace education themes support humanism and core values shared by all societies. Most people undergoing peace education would not object to the themes such as tolerance and human rights. Societies that engage in peace education can go much further toward creating a collective memory of conflict and overcoming struggles with reconciliation.