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
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
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
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