School sign in Sarajevo

which way to peace?
part 1

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


IN THE 1950s the field of peace research was emerging in the universities and, while this has had little direct impact on teachers, some of the key concerns identified are extremely relevant to work in schools. The initial emphasis in peace research was on direct (personal) violence, that is violence directed by one person on to another as in the case of assault, torture, terrorism, or war, looking more at conflict than at peace, with the result that peace was defined negatively as merely the absence of war (negative peace). By the late 1960s and early 1970s researchers' attention was shifting from direct to indirect (structural) violence, that is the ways in which people may also suffer as a result of social, political, and economic systems. Such structural violence may equally lead to death and disfigurement or a diminishing of human well-being and potential, as a result of racism and sexism, for example, hunger, denial of human rights, or gross military overspending. This broadening of concern amongst peace researchers to examine issues of freedom and justice also led to broader definitions of peace (see Figure 1). Instead of just being the absence of war, peace was now seen as involving co-operation and non-violent social change, aimed at creating more equitable and just structures in a society (positive peace).

Table 1 Studying peace

Problems of peace

Values underlying peace

Violence and war



Economic welfare


Social justice

Environmental damage

Ecological balance



Thus if we are interested in studying issues of peace and conflict, our interests will be broad. One leading peace researcher, Johan Galtung (1976), has suggested that the problems of peace are broadly fivefold, as shown in Table 1. Turned round these five problems give five values which must underpin any definition of peace.

In her comments on peace education Sharp (1984) points out that a variety of approaches exist, not all of which are mutually compatible or mutually exclusive. She thus identifies five broad approaches.

Peace education as peace through strength
This approach is supported by governments and armed forces who see the maintenance of peace being achieved by armed deterrence. The emphasis is on current and recent history and the need to maintain one's military superiority.
Peace education as conflict mediation and resolution
This approach focuses on the analysis of conflict, from the personal to the global, and on ways of resolving such conflicts non-violently. Much can be achieved with this approach, but one needs to recognise the danger of reproducing inequality where an unequal balance of power exists.

Peace education as personal peace
The approach here is primarily interpersonal stressing the need for empathy and co-operation with a focus on the process of education itself and a need to transform hierarchical structures at all levels of society.

Peace education as world order
This approach takes as its starting-point the need for a global perspective and the recognition of structural violence as a major obstacle to peace. This can be utopian unless there is a detailed analysis of the links between personal and global change.

Peace education as the abolition of power relationships
This approach sees people's values as themselves a product of certain structural variables, for example to do with economic, political, and cultural power. The emphasis is therefore on raising awareness of structural violence and identification with the struggles of all oppressed groups.

It will be clear from the above that education for peace may be based on a variety of assumptions - broadly they are as follows:
1 War and violent conflict are not conducive to human well-being.
2 Neither are they the result of inevitable aspects of human nature.
3 Peace, that is alternative ways of being, behaving, and organising, can be learned

The aims of education for peace are thus to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills which are needed in order
1 to explore concepts of peace both as a state of being and as an active process;
2 to enquire into the obstacles of peace and the causes of peacelessness, both in individuals, institutions, and societies;
3 to resolve conflicts in ways that will lead toward a less violent and a more just world;
4 to explore a range of different alternative futures, in particular ways of building a more just and sustainable world society.

The educational rationale and professional justification for studying peace and conflict has a fourfold basis, relating to first, the aims of education; second, the nature of childhood socialisation; third, the need for political education in a democratic society; and fourth, educational ideologies.

In The Curriculum from 5 to 16 (Department of Education and Science 1985) we are reminded of the broad aims of education, key areas of experience and essential issues which students should be introduced to. Amongst the aims referred to are:

1 to help pupils to develop lively, enquiring minds, the ability to question and argue rationally;
2 to instil respect for religious and moral values, and tolerance of other races, religions, and ways of life;
3 to help pupils to understand the world in which they live, and the interdependence of individuals, groups, and nations.
Amongst the areas of learning and experience to be explored are the human and social, the moral and the spiritual. And amongst the essential issues listed are environmental education, political education, and education in economic understanding. It is to aims and concerns such as these that education for peace is particularly addressed.

Children do not, of course, come to school unaware of the world in which they live. Schools merely intervene in an ongoing educational process, that of childhood socialisation, by which children learn the mores expected of their culture, class, and gender. Thus even as young as 5 children are beginning to acquire likes and dislikes about other groups of peoples, and about countries and cultures other than their own. By junior school quite strong prejudices may have been formed, often prior to any factual knowledge. We only need consider how some young children view the Russians, the Irish, or the Germans to exemplify this point.

Children also seem to have fairly well-defined ideas about war and peace by the age of 6 or 7. While they have quite clear images of war it appears that they often have very hazy ideas about the nature of peace. It is also pertinent to refer to the debate about human aggression, the latter popularly being seen as an innate characteristic of our species. There is much research, however, which indicates that violence and aggression may be culturally learned (Montague 1976) and, if this is indeed the case, there may be much more hope for the human condition. Political education is essential in any democratic society and recognised as such in The Curriculum from 5 to 16. It involves learning about political debates in society, the way in which decisions are made and conflicts of interest resolved. This applies, however, not only to matters of central and local government but also to the workplace, school, and family. Some of the key concepts to be explored include rights, justice, power, freedom, participation, and human welfare. Procedural values such as tolerance, fairness, and respect for reason and truth should be actively promoted (Crick and Porter 1978) and, as the Education Act, 1986, states, students need to be 'offered a balanced presentation of opposing views' when looking at any political issue. Teaching about controversial issues is an essential ingredient in any definition of 'good education' and indeed John Slater HMI (1986) has stated clearly that the question is not whether we teach about controversial issues, but how and when, that they are neither subject nor phase specific. There has thus also been a renewed interest over the last few years in strategies for teaching about controversial issues in the classroom. Stradling, Noctor, and Baines (1984) have suggested that these fall into three broad categories which they explore in some detail

First, there is that of giving a balanced picture by offering students a range of alternative viewpoints on any issue. Some questions here would be: Does each lesson have to be balanced or is it balance across the whole course that is required? Which is most important: balanced teaching (presuming that students know nothing about an issue) or balanced learning (which will take into account what they may already believe)? Should alternative viewpoints be limited to only broadly agreed ones, for example party political views on, say, defence and disarmament, or should they include the views of pressure groups such as CND and the Peace Pledge Union.

Second, there is the strategy of teacher neutrality, which aims to offset the apparent built-in authority of the teacher. Such procedural neutrality is used as a tool to protect divergent viewpoints; it helps avoid the possibility of the teacher using her or his position of authority in order to indoctrinate. The emphasis is on helping students to understand the implications of their own personal viewpoints.

Third, there is the strategy of taking a clearly committed stance as there are some issues over which there may be a degree of agreement, for example racial abuse or sexual harassment. Further, it can be argued, that it is important to challenge openly some of the negative values that underpin our society, such as the tacit acceptance of male violence, institutionalised racism, or the stress on ever-continuing consumerism. These strategies are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Different approaches are suited to different occasions and good examples of case studies are available (Wellington 1986). Education for peace is one field which is clearly attempting to grasp this nettle in a creative and imaginative way.

Finally, in clarifying the educational rationale for studying peace and conflict we must look at the role of educational ideologies. Walford (1981), in writing about geography, reminds us that all educational documents, from the school prospectus to the 'official' publication, embody particular assumptions about education and that, broadly, four broad traditions can be identified. In essence these are:

1 The liberal humanitarian tradition which is primarily concerned with passing on the basic cultural heritage from one generation to another.
2 The child-centred tradition which values self-development, self-reliance, and social harmony for the individual student.
3 The utilitarian tradition which sees the main job of education as equipping students to go well prepared into an already-defined situation.
4 The reconstructionist tradition which sees education as a potential instrument for changing society.

Education for peace, by definition, has to be child-centred (valuing the person) and reconstructionist (valuing positive peace), both of which seem particularly appropriate to the turmoil of the late twentieth century. Studying peace and conflict can therefore be justified by reference to the broad agreed aims of education, to work on childhood socialisation, to the need for effective political education in a democratic society and to recognised longstanding traditions in education. It offers both a radical critique of much current educational practice but also clear indicators of how to change that practice.
Continues: Nature of Peace Education

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