- Batting for war
- A world becoming peaceful?
- Human rights, human nature
- Educating for peace
- Remembrance Day
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IN RECENT years much of the PPU’s work has been focused on education for peace. In this article I aim to outline why we concentrate on education and outline some of the resources we have to help challenge the culture of war.
We are still inspired by our pledge, which remains the basis of membership. It is as relevant today as ever:
'War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’
Many of us know war is a crime against humanity. However, many others still regard war as natural, inevitable and an acceptable tool for social change. By the time we are adults we have been exposed to years of messages, from a range of sources, telling us to accept war as part of the human experience. This belief is deeply ingrained in society so part of our work is to help young people challenge this acceptance and expose the injustice and abuse of war.
Young people need to understand the essence of war in order to challenge and renounce it. But they also need to understand the nature of peace and to hear alternative, positive, messages before their minds are closed to the idea of a brighter future. Peace is not simply the absence of war but a condition in which people are free from the fear of potential and actual violence - a condition where justice flourishes. The highly militarised space between wars cannot be called peace in any true sense of the word and there is rarely much justice associated with war.
In the UK we prepare for war for years in advance, train fit young people to kill on command and teach schoolchildren that mass organised violence is not only acceptable, but human nature. We are not at peace, even between wars. With this understanding young people will be better equipped to stand up to the culture of war in society and, we hope, be ‘determined not to support any kind of war’ and be encouraged ‘to work for the removal of all causes of war’.
Organised violence is like a disease - education for peace is the medicine.
By providing ideas, resources and support for those educating for peace the PPU is helping to tackle the disease of war and helping to fulfil the aims of the UN General Assembly to make this decade (2001-2010) an ‘international decade for a culture of peace and nonviolence for the children of the world’.
Probably our widest used resources are the PPU websites www.ppu.org.uk and www.learnpeace.org.uk The sites include a wide range of freely available issue-based material for teaching/learning, provide information on the theory and practice of education for peace, and give access to other resources which can be purchased from the PPU.
This year in particular, young people have heard much of the sad loss of millions of fallen soldiers who gave their lives in the World Wars to uphold freedom. They have heard little, however, of those forced (conscripted) to kill people in their own homes in the name of freedom; or of the thousands of conscientious objectors who stood up against militarism, who refused to kill other human beings and who were mistreated in British barracks, prisons and work camps for their nonviolent beliefs. We hope to go some way to correcting that imbalance. We believe it is important for young people to know stories of war resistance and to show that bravery, determination and heroism (as well as cogent arguments against war) can be found within those who work for peace.
‘Voices for Peace’ is an exciting new CD from the PPU which, amongst much else, explores some of the ways we remember war. Teaching materials, maps, statistics, and video interviews with conscientious objectors make it easy to develop lessons and activities for teachers. With sections on war memorials, disarmament, a 3000-year history of working for peace, a large collection of documents and an analysis of war/peace words and concepts it is as fascinating for the informed adult reader as it is for the young learner.
In addition to the Voices for Peace CD, which has a large section on conscientious objection, a new PPU resource will be available shortly, concerning the human rights of conscientious objectors in the First World War. We also have a pack called ‘Remembering War’, which examines the significance of Remembrance Day, war memorials and associated propaganda. A free worksheet about remembrance is also available for school assemblies.
Our education for peace work is not all about history though. Peace and war issues can and should be addressed across the curriculum, in geography, music, art, science, modern languages etc. Geography is an ideal subject in which to examine the causes and effects of war. Worksheets on ‘Environment & War’ and ‘War & Hunger’ are freely available to schools and provide a different route to addressing and challenging the injustice of war.
To work towards a better future young people, teachers and parents not only need knowledge and information about peace and war but also skills to work co-operatively with others and to deal with conflict in their own lives. PPU recently brought a team of children together from two local primary schools in Camden to work on an art project (see Peace Matters 48). They produced a peace mural exploring alternative peaceful uses for the armed forces and their weapons. The children learned essential skills for developing a culture of peace - skills of communication, shared decision-making, creative self-expression and working together.
‘Working Together’ is also the title of a PPU book: a handbook for co-operation, underpinned by the conviction that co-operative principles applied personally and locally can inform attitudes in wider environments, and thus work towards choosing a world free from war. The book includes games and activities for co-operation at home, in the primary school, during adolescent years and into the wider world. ‘Saying No To Violence’ follows on from Working Together and casts a critical look at the way we teach children to accept violence as natural and inevitable. It suggests alternative strategies for bringing up children not only to act non-violently but also to think non-violently.
Another PPU resource - a CD on Martin Luther King - aims to inspire people to deal with conflict creatively and nonviolently and to work towards a culture of peace. Using a standard CD player one can listen to King’s speeches. Used in a computer, however, the CD has much more, including 5 lessons suitable for older KS3 classes through to A level. The lessons use short video clips, discussion, letter writing, role-play, design and imagination to explore the various issues. Teachers' notes are included for each lesson with video transcripts and additional information and suggestions for further activities. For the study of human rights, prejudice, violence and nonviolence, and forms of peaceful protest this CD is ideal and is an essential during Black History Month this October.
We have a good selection of material to help people interested in education for peace but we are always trying to improve our resources and welcome contact from teachers and trainee-teachers with suggestions and/or offers of help to develop new materials. By working together we can help develop a culture of peace and nonviolence in schools and help create a world free from the scourge of war. Together, through education, we can inspire younger generations and work for the removal of all causes of future war.