Cover Image
close this bookThe Self and the Other: Sustainability and Self-Empowerment (WB, 1996, 76 p.)
close this folderDevelopment and the self
close this folderPanel discussion
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe self and the other: A developmental framework
View the documentParenting and child development
View the documentPeace education
View the documentSocial development perspectives
View the documentDiscussion

Peace education

Betty Reardon, Columbia University

On September 10,1813, during the Battle of Lake Erie, U.S. Naval Officer Oliver Hazard Perry reported, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." The adaptation of this quote by the cartoon character Pogo during the Vietnam War sums up the purpose and goals of peace education: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." The application of this interpretation of the quote to peace education is: "We have encountered the others, and we are they." In other words we seek to promote an understanding and appreciation of the universal elements of the human family.

Through peace education we are trying to demonstrate the positive, necessary relationship between the self- whether it refers to the individual, the ethnic group, or the nation-and the other. Peace education is an attempt to prepare people to function constructively in a rapidly changing, highly conflictual, inordinately violent world.

Peace is characterized by positive relations with others. In peace research we talk about negative peace and positive peace. Negative peace is essentially the overcoming of violence, and positive peace is the creation of mutually enhancing relationships with others. A central purpose of peace education is to enable people to imbue change with humane values, to conduct conflict con structively, and to devise alternatives to violence, thus renouncing it as a means of achieving personal and social goals.

As a peace educator I would argue that formal education needs to be drastically overhauled and that education for sustainable humane development is especially in need of such an overhaul. We must realize that the focus of education today is on the process of instructing, rather than on the process of learning. Instead of discovering a person's capacities and applying them to social purposes, we are still filling learners' minds with our own predetermined purposes, which in itself is a form of violence, as is the restrictive predetermination of gender roles.

Learning should be interactive. It is not a one-way process, just as development is not a one-way process. Learning is essentially a social process. It might be received, reflected, and experienced through the individual, but the individual learns only in association with others. The essence of learning is developing the capacities to interpret, relate to, and interact with all of our environments-the natural, social, and personal. It is paradigmatic of self-other processes. Learning is life-long and continuous and for this reason social processes, especially parenting or the provision of child care, have to be integrated to a greater extent into formal education. Formal education is increasingly having to provide the kind of care we expect from families.

The tragedy is that many children go without parenting, even though some are cared for. Thus their learning of ways to relate to others is limited. This factor has to be taken into consideration in incorporating the issues we are talking about today into our ideas about development and into education for develop meet. Failure to relate to the humanity of the other is one source of violence.

The core problem in peace education is confronting violence in various forms. To a large extent violence is an attempt to control, change, or do away with the other. If we cannot achieve this goal, we make the other resemble us. This is very much the way we educate our children. We make them resemble us rather than letting them become themselves. Our attempt to do this has resulted in a terrible distortion of the nature of conflict. Peace education is concerned not only with conflict resolution but also with managing the conflict process so that it can be a means to constructive change rather than a means to destruction. For my purposes as an educator I have found the conceptual apparatus concerning aggression put forward here today to be very useful.

In educating, we have to prepare people to deal with conflict and to be able to differ with the other without denying the value of the other. Violence has been possible because we have tended to separate and differentiate on the basis of different worth, starting with males being more valuable than females. This transposes to race and nation and other human identities.

How many of you remember the old days of the "backward" nations? In elementary school I was taught that there was an innate barrier to progress in certain countries. We have used this concept as an excuse to control the other because of our perception that the other has less worth. One goal of peace education is to help people understand that, although we are distinct and different, these differences can enrich us, and there is a common human value. Its purpose is to build mutually enhancing reciprocal relationships both on an intimate, personal level and on the level of the relationship between the human species and the environment.

The quality of parenting we receive is important because it is our introduction to learning about interdependence, relating to others in a constructive way, adjusting to schooling, and dealing with our associates in a social and political context. There are specific realms of learning that we need to focus on. One is what I would call perspective-sensitive communication, that is, being sensitive to the fact that such influences as our experience, gender, and religious backgrounds are going to give us certain perspectives and that there are many perspectives in any conversation or interaction. We have to integrate the capacity to discern and respect varying perspectives into formal education. It is a capacity that is essential for the development of positive relationships.

Our goal in education should be to promote the full development of the self to enhance the relationship between the self and the other. Thus we have to educate people to understand that appropriate limits should be applied to certain types of behavior. One way of accomplishing this is to incorporate the concept of human rights into peace education because establishing human rights involves setting certain limits on negative behavior of the state or other entities toward others.

Finally, we need to develop "ecological thinking" in learning objectives. In my first conversation with Afaf Mahfouz about this seminar we talked about the need for an integrative, holistic approach to the kinds of changes in thought that we must pursue. Developments in environmental education that have brought forth thinking about ecology and living systems are a very important part of peace education, and they have helped illuminate the nature of this approach. It is through this kind of thinking that we begin to understand the relationship between individuals and larger living systems, both natural and devised, and to realize that we are part of a whole, that "we" are "they."

To a large extent violence is an attempt to control, change, or do away with the other. If we cannot achieve this goal, we make the other resemble us. This is very much the way we educate our children - Betty Reardon

The quality of parenting we receive is our introduction to interdependence, relating to others, adjusting to schooling, and dealing with our associates in a social end political contex - Betty Reardon

The pursuit of this kind of learning cannot be confined to schools. Both schools and society at large must undertake it to prepare people at each stage of development to deal with the unprecedented and unanticipated problems that arise in our rapidly changing world.