School sign in Sarajevo

educationg for a sustainable future

looking at

Which way to peace?
Nature of peace education
Peace education in the post cold war era
Alternative futures
Educating for a sustainable future
Towards a peace education curriculum.
Democratic education
Books, references and resources
on peace education
Understanding conflict

we tend to view peace as the poor orphaned child of war, a state of being without substance or reality in its own right

For futures teaching, very much related to questions of the rights of our children and our responsibilities towards future generations are crucial matters of peace and security. In the selective traditions of the dominant cultural paradigm, the keywords peace and security are narrowly conceptualised. The former tends to be defined negatively as the gap between wars or acts of physical violence, whilst the latter takes as axiomatic the fundamental importance of military institutions in ensuring survival (see Table). In this paradigm, there is a little theorising about the conditions of peacefulness, as distinct from system maintenance through the threat of war or physical violence.

Even with the end of the Cold War, this traditional occidental, guiding image of peace remains very powerful. There remains the strong legacy of the Western cosmological assumptions attached to ‘pax’. The mode of thinking about peace with these selective traditions is still largely in terms of ‘preparing for peace by preparing for war’. The consequences of this worldview, with its linear-mode thinking about the way to deal with conflict, has been to largely marginalise alternative knowledge traditions on the causes of peacelessness and the conditions of peacefulness, including the correlations between sexism and militarism.

Much of the challenge for cross-disciplinary research and innovative movements in education in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century lies not only in demystifying or deconstructing social ‘invariances’ such as the institution of war, but in generating creative imagination about social alternatives, in pooling insights on peacemaking from a range of cultural traditions, and in developing practical skills in conflict resolution and peacebullding. In other words, it is not enough to simply criticise empirical trends relating to areas such as violence in the home and the school playground, mass media portrayal of violence and gender inequity, or war toys and gender-selective socialisation in handling conflict.

Images of security

Dominant worldview Axioms

Alternative worldviews Hypotheses

Security is primarily a military matter

Military matters are the cause of many insecurities rather than the answer

Peace through preparing for war

‘Peace through preparing for peace’

Security or safety needs are best met by deterrence or physical force

The needs of present and future generations require a reconceptualisation of ‘security’ (e.g. securities relating to social justice, respect for human rights and environmental protection)

Nation-state-centric ways of thinking about security; secrecy; worst-case scenarios; garrison states; arms races ‘to stay ahead’ of potential aggressors

Personal-planetary ways of thinking about security interconnections, openness, dialogue, peacemaking and peacebuilding initiatives, preventative diplomacy and confidence-building measures

Also, it is not enough to merely condemn the trends in the destruction of rainforests and other forms of ecological violence. Similarly, it is not sufficient to deplore the diversion of scarce resources in many low income countries to armaments and luxury items to wealthy elites, or the structural violence entailed in the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich through heavy debt burdens and grossly unequal terms of trade. Issues such as these relating to the reconceptualisation of peace and the negotiation of social and planetary futures are crucial ones:

the development of the capacity for reflective, imaginative conversation is central to paradigm change. We urgently need new metaphors if we are to transcend the war system through which society enacts the values and images of the present paradigm.... We need to build anew and to build a new reality, to bring together the positive elements that we can uncover, create and imagine in a new paradigm of integrity and wholeness ...[and so] put into action constructive uses of imagination that we have long neglected in our education. (Reardon)

Undeniably, there are major constraints on what individual teachers and individual schools may do in a practical sense at the local level in infusing a global futures perspective in the curriculum. Not the least of these constraints are self-fulfilling prophecies and the tendency to paralysis of hope from heightened scepticism. As commented by Somner:

This skepticism communicates itself in a great many ways – in an over-developed capacity for critical analysis and an under-developed capacity for generating alternatives, in an over-used intellect and an under-used imagination, in a reactive rather than an initiatory politics. We tend to view peace as the poor orphaned child of war, a state of being without substance or reality in its own right, a merely hypothetical possibility. We are so certain of failure that we hobble our imagination at the very moment when we most need to unfetter it.

Something more than linear and logical thinking may be in order, something more [like] what Edward de Bono calls ‘lateral thinking’.

Yet, such paralysis is far from inevitable. Creative futures work implies envisioning and critique, empathetic listening to young people, actionplanning, gender-equity programmes and active forms of co-operative power in which circles of solidarity are developed among teachers, schools, teachers’ unions, parent groups and within progressive sections of educational bureaucracies. There is, also, recognition of the important interrelationships with futures movements, such as peace, feminist or environmental social formations .

All such work is necessarily incomplete and provisional whether in individual classrooms, individual schools or in educational systems. The cultural politics are often intense and the negotiations difficult and protracted. There may be two steps forward and one step back. In this connection, an educational episode from the 1980s may be cited.

The Australian Educating for Peace Project, which involved both government and Catholic systemic schools, offers a useful case study of both the challenges and opportunities for negotiating futures in education. It raises significant lessons as to why such a national project got as far as it did, in spite of powerful constraints. Whilst it was an eventual casualty of the Cold War, crucial to its partial success was the support of non-violent citizens’ groups, networks and organisations working to transcend cultures of war.

from: Educating beyond violent futures.Francis P. Hutchinson. Routledge. £15.99

  P E A C E  P L E D G E  U N I O N  1 Peace Passage London N7 0BT, Britain.
  phone  +44 (0)20 7424 9444  fax: +44 (0)20 7482 6390     CONTACT US