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Peace Education
 
By
Eric Brahm


July 2006
 

 

Overview

Peace education (also called co-existence education) involves the use of teaching tools designed to bring about a more peaceful society. Topics addressed may include philosophical and practical issues such as human rights, conflict management, international relations, development, and the environment. Peace education has also been used in order to facilitate gender equality. These programs focus on income, health, and power disparities between men and women as well as examining the traditions and structures that have led to the disadvantaged position of women. At its core, peace education emphasizes empowerment and nonviolence and involves building a democratic community, teaching cooperation, developing moral sensitivity, promoting self-esteem, and stimulating critical thinking.[1]

A number of key components of an effective peace education program have been identified. [2]

  • First, programs should be compulsory and integrated to facilitate interaction with those from other groups in order to build positive relationships. Examples from Northern Ireland suggest that intra-community interventions, or single identity work, are important precursors to initiating encounters between opposing communities. [3]
  • Second, there needs to be a recognition that opponents will come to the program with incompatible agendas and perceptions, but this may be turned into an opportunity. For example, coexistence education may have different meanings for each side because of the likely power disparity between them. [4] Whereas low-power groups often have greater awareness of high-power groups, [5] these programs can generate mutual awareness.
  • A third emphasis is on fostering civic values. It appears that generating scenarios in which different groups come into contact in a safe setting can be beneficial in developing more cooperative relations. Following Allport's contact hypothesis, [6] if conditions are optimal, namely working collaboratively to achieve common goals, intergroup contact may promote altered intergroup attitudes. Trust and cooperative relations may be built amongst opponents through such things a dialogue, sharing personal experiences, and collaborating on projects for mutual benefit. [7] Competitive situations should be avoided and interaction needs to go beyond superficial exchanges.
  • Fourth, a sense of shared goals and common fate needs to be established as well as an acceptance that the fruits will be justly distributed in order to ultimately build a common identity. Developing strong and empathic interpersonal relationships appears to be important in appreciating the viewpoint of the other.
  • Fifth, many advocate the constructive controversy procedure, which helps develop skills to make difficult decisions and to engage in political discourse. However, forcing program participants to adopt their opponent's viewpoint, particularly while the conflict is ongoing, will likely be viewed as threatening. Drawing lessons from other conflicts, however, appears to be more effective. [8]
  • A sixth key component is teaching integrative negotiation and peer mediation as a means of constructively resolving conflicts.
  • Seventh, peace education requires continued reinforcement to withstand the forces of division and time. This supports research that suggests while workshops are effective in changing hearts and minds, they typically provide meager support for changing behavior particularly once one is back in one's own group. [9] For example, it is unclear whether information about out-group participants will generate changed beliefs about the group in general. Furthermore, these new beliefs may not change attitudes. What is more, changed attitudes may not in fact change behavior due to other pressures. Peace education programs also need to be cognizant of local conflict conditions to make them relevant. [10]

Peace education is relevant for a range of conflict stages from latent hostility to the height of violent conflict to peacebuilding efforts. For those in danger of falling into conflict, dialogue may generate intergroup understanding in order to hinder conflict escalation. It may also help expose the use of education, particularly of history, in fomenting instability and distrust. For those in the midst of conflict, peace education may sow the seeds of understanding and provide nonviolent tools where violence is the accepted norm. For those who are emerging from conflict, peace education presents an opportunity to confront the historical myths that often contribute to conflict. Transitional periods often also present opportunities to reform education.

The international role in peace education is also expanding. There is a recognition that education has been used politically and, unless challenged, the persistence of divergent views of history can be a source of latent conflict. Aid agencies are interested in providing peace education to school-aged refugees who may be displaced by conflict or natural disaster which may itself sow the seeds of conflict. Much attention has also focused on civic education on the assumption that buying into democratic values will reduce destructive conflict.

Examples

A collaborative project involving the Teachers College of Columbia University, the United Nations Children's Fund, and the Afghanistan Ministry of Education will publish textbook in four local languages and introduce participatory, active, experiential to promote peace. [11]

In PRIME's Writing the Shared History project, Jewish and Palestinian teachers and historians collaboratively developed a text to transform the history education in the region.[12] In the book, one column describes the Palestinian perspective in Arabic; another column describes the Jewish perspective in Hebrew; the third is blank in order to encourage students to write about their personal experience. [13]

In Northern Ireland, the "Review of the School Community Relations Programme" [14] found that cross-community programs in Northern Ireland schools did not pay enough attention to the importance of the environment in which contact was initiated and teachers would sometimes shy away from controversial issues. [15] In addition, the report attests to the importance of support from administration and management [16] as well as adequate teacher training. [17]

National Board for Human Rights Education in Croatia introduced a peace education component in 1999 into curriculum from preschool through high school. [18]

Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva (JACP) uses instruction, education, research, and community involvement with diverse populations. [19]

One innovative program saw Israeli-Jewish high school students study the Northern Ireland conflict for a few weeks.[20] Although the instruction did not mention the Israeli--Palestinian conflict, after the Northern Ireland unit they were asked to write about the Israeli--Palestinian conflict from the Palestinian point of view. Most students participating in the program were able to write thoughtful, impartial essays while the vast majority of non-participants were unable to write anything. In short, program participants appeared able to walk in Palestinian shoes.

Updated Additional Resources


[1] Harris, Ian M. and Mary Lee Morrison Peace Education, 2nd ed. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003).

[2] See for example Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2000). Does intergroup contact reduce prejudice?: Recent meta-analytic findings. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing prejudice and discrimination. "The Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology" (pp. 93--114). Mahwah,NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.; UlrikeNiens and EdCairns. 2005. Conflict, Contact, and Education in Northern Ireland. Theory Into Practice, Vol. 44, No. 4: 341-2.; David W.Johnson and Roger T.Johnson. 2005. Essential Components of Peace Education. Theory Into Practice, Vol. 44, No. 4: pages 280-292.; HaggaiKupermintz and GavrielSalomon. 2005. Lessons to Be Learned From Research on Peace Education in the Context of Intractable Conflict. Theory Into Practice, Vol. 44, No. 4. 300.

[3] Joined in Equity, Diversity and Interdependence. (JEDI). (2002). Community relations and education for citizenship with the Northern Ireland youth service. Belfast, Northern Ireland: Author.; Kilpatrick, R., & Leitch, R. (2004). Teachers' and pupils' educational experiences and school-based responses to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Journal of Social Issues, 54, 563--586.

[4] Gerson, J., & Opotow, S. (2004). Deadly conflict and the challenge of coexistence. Book review of G. Salomon & B. Nevo (Eds.). (2002). Peace education: The concept, principles, and practices around the world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. In Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 4, 265--268.

[5] Kidder, L. H. (2000). Dependents in the master's house: When rock dulls scissors. In S. Dickey & K. M. Adams (Eds.), Home and hegemony: Domestic service and identity politics in South and Southeast Asia (pp. 207--220). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

[6] Allport, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

[7] Maoz, I. (2005). Evaluating the communication between groups in dispute: Equality in contact interventions between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Negotiation Journal, 21, 131--146.

[8] Lustig, I. (2002). The effects of studying distal conflicts on the perception of a proximal one. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Haifa (Hebrew).; HaggaiKupermintz and GavrielSalomon. 2005. Lessons to Be Learned From Research on Peace Education in the Context of Intractable Conflict. Theory Into Practice, Vol. 44, No. 4: 294.

[9] Clark McCauley "Head-first versus Feet-first in Peace Education" in Peace Education: The Concept, Principles, and Practices Around the world Gavriel Salomon and Baruch Nevo, eds. (Mahwah , NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002) 247-258.

[10] Alan Tidwell. 2004. Conflict, Peace, and Education: A Tangled Web. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 4, Summer. 463-470.

[11] Gall, C. (2004, December 27). Afghan students are back, but not the old textbooks. The New York Times, A11.

[12] http://vispo.com/PRIME/leohn.htm

[13] http://www.beyondintractability.org/audiodisplay/chaitin-j

[14] O'Connor, U., Hartop, B., & McCully, A. (2002). A review of the School Community Relations Programme 2002. Retrieved November 19, 2004, from http://www.deni.gov.uk/20review_of_schools_cr_prog.pdf

[15] Kilpatrick, R., & Leitch, R. (2004). Teachers' and pupils' educational experiences and school-based responses to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Journalof Social Issues, 54, 563--586.

[16] Osler, A., & Starkey, H. (1998). Children's rights and citizenship: Some implications for the management of schools. The International Journal of Children's Rights, 6, 313--333.

[17] Kilpatrick, R., & Leitch, R. (2004). Teachers' and pupils' educational experiences and school-based responses to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Journalof Social Issues, 54, 563--586.; Ross, A. (1999). Some reflections on citizenship in the national curriculum. Primary Teaching Studies, 11, 20--23.

[18] Dinka Corkalo "Croatia: For Peace Education in New Democracies" in Peace Education: The Concept, Principles, and Practices Around the world Gavriel Salomon and Baruch Nevo, eds. (Mahwah , NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002) 177-186.

[19] Sarah Ozacky-Lazar "Israel: An Integrative Peace Education in an NGO-The Case of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva in Peace Education, pp. 187-192.

[20] Lustig, I. (2002). The effects of studying distal conflicts on the perception of a proximal one. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Haifa (Hebrew).


Use the following to cite this article:
Brahm, Eric. "Peace Education." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2006 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/peace-education>.

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