Peace education is undeniably an integral part of educating the young. In fact, many people around the world observe the International Day of Peace on September 21, a day dedicated to promoting the ideals of peace among all nations and peoples, regardless of one’s nationality, heritage or religion.
Unfortunately, conflict is nearly inevitable even in this day and age, with several countries experiencing war and conflict. It can be said that these conflicts pose the greatest obstacles to nation development around the world. With the rise of violent extremism and radicalization, people around the world are threatened each day especially when there is a lack of peace education. As such, most would agree that it is extremely important for the public to understand the concept of peace and harmony in a nation, where different peoples can learn to live together as one human race instead of being divided by their differences.
The United Nations has taken efforts to establish peace education, including the dedication of the International Day of Peace and financing efforts to incorporate peace education into people’s daily lives. Peace education also tends to go hand in hand with human rights education, and both have been emphasized by peace researchers such as Betty Reardon and Douglas Roche.
To some extent, one can say that our society is putting decent efforts into promoting peace education. Today, peace education comes in several forms. Firstly, conflict resolution training focuses on the social-behavioral symptoms of conflict. For instance, instead of getting angry over interpersonal disagreements and jumping to conclusions, individuals are taught to negotiate and find a peer to mediate instead. They are encouraged to work together to figure out a compromise and to take responsibility for their actions. The end goal of conflict resolution training is for individuals to accept that there is a conflict between peoples, and to dissolve it peacefully.
Democracy education centers on the political processes associated with conflict. It teaches individuals to become more involved in democracy, having every minority represented and finding democratic ways to solve conflict other than turning to war and violence. Democracy education treats conflict as an inevitable part of life, and instead of training students to bury their tensions, it promotes collaborative solving of differences and the viewing of conflict as a platform for creativity and growth. Students are encouraged to hone their critical thinking and debate skills while upholding freedom of speech, individuality, tolerance of diversity, compromise and conscientious objection. This school of thought is partly based on the belief that a democratic society reduces the chances of violence and war.
Justice education promotes the rule of law through various educational activities. It teaches the young about crime prevention and how certain problems can undermine the rule of law. In justice education, emphasis is placed on having a fair law and the importance of people upholding these rules. Values and behaviors are taught in the classroom and students are trained to internalize their own set of ethics, coming out as responsible and law-abiding citizens.
Human rights education is another type of peace education that focuses on raising awareness of human rights. It believes in fairness and equality for all members of the human race, allowing each person to have their own personal freedom and protection from violence, oppression and indignity. Students are taught about the policies of the United Nations and are able to spot violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, tolerance, solidarity, autonomy and self-affirmation are encouraged for both individuals and the society as a whole. However, human rights education sometimes faces challenges as to its validity, as some critics believe that enabling every individual to be aware of human rights can sometimes cause even more conflicts in an already fragile community. For example, individuals may realize that they are actually entitled to certain rights that they have not been getting, which may raise the potential for conflict and become counterproductive in promoting peace. To prevent this, many human rights education programs are conducted in conjunction with other types of peace education such as conflict resolution and democracy.
Worldview transformation works on psychological schools of thought, particularly the developmental nature of human psychosocial dispositions. Peace education is believed to focus on the healthy development and maturation of human consciousness as part of assisting people to examine and transform their worldviews. The rationale behind worldview transformation is that most people hold internal worldviews that are already conflict-based, effectively trapping them in suppression and giving rise to unrest. As such, worldview transformation teaches that humans should gain the capacity to mitigate conflict and create unity in the context of diversity, which can then aid in establishing sustainable cultures of peace in any area of life.
These are only some of the various approaches to teaching about peace in the classroom. While it is undeniable that there are plenty of existing methods that can be employed to promote peace education, there are opposing views on whether the society places enough importance on peace education. Of course, this likely varies according to country, and depending on historical events, some obscure their peace education more than others.
Some nations with a warring past may aim to cover up their deeds during past wars, especially if they are widely regarded as the party that jumped to extreme violence. They may be unwilling to admit the extent of their actions. For example, groups that are infamous for causing massacres include the Nazis, the Young Turks and the Japanese Occupation. Most of these countries do not discuss the events of the wars in their peace education in full, leaving out “shameful pasts” from their histories or phrasing it so that they appear to always have been in the right. Aside from these countries, almost every other nation vets their social education content to make sure it aligns with how they present themselves. While it is understandable that countries with these histories may not want to touch on the specific details of it, facing the facts can also be an important way to reconcile the young with the deeds of their forefathers. Through learning about the facts of history and what caused their countries to fall, students may have a better appreciation for maintaining the peace in today’s current world.
In our modern times, we are still prey to tension and conflict arising at any time. To uphold the peace and ease any arguments, it is imperative that our society recognizes the importance of preventing disagreements from erupting into violence. The different measures of peace education can each play a part in making our people slow to anger and willing to settle their disputes amicably.