Can the power of education ‘give peace a chance’?
Of the many sayings coming down from Confucius, one which is certainly worthy of consideration goes along the lines of ‘Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.’ In what ways then can education promote self-assurance and trust and, in turn, contribute to peace and concord in society?
Young persons deserve opportunities to develop sympathetic impulses and mature, well-balanced outlooks. If they build and cultivate candid and honest ‘growth mindsets’, they can become more skilled at meeting challenges and postulating possible routes for settling disagreements. Educationalists have important roles to play in putting forward balanced and open frames of reference from which dialogue can begin to explore problematic situations in a detailed and objective fashion.
Peacefulness –benefits to be found at personal, social and national levels
Peace of mind. At a personal level, tutoring and support can act as a foil against threats to safety and welfare by drawing attention to unsafe risks in hectic, frenzied and over-productive lifestyles. Selected themes and topics for reflection often lessen unwanted internal pressures, enhance self-care and encourage relaxation strategies. Additionally, guidelines and content in this domain have a significant spin-off when they highlight and boost sought-after personality traits relating to self-knowledge, insight and goodwill.
Peace within families and communities. Building warmth and cohesiveness in and across groups demands attention from one and all. A holistic stance – encompassing the involvement of children and young people, families, schools, colleges, and their localities – is desirable. This perspective advocates that it is wrong not to care about a wide spectrum of household and regional issues which includes intercultural tensions, racial discrimination and unfair employment practices. Simply wanting to sit on the fence is not an option. Nor is peace without social justice.
Peace amongst nations. Conflicts and hostilities produce so much misery and destruction in their wake with the innocent and uninvolved, time and again, suffering most severely. In war, even those with supposed right on their side have been known to commit terrible atrocities. Education for peace makes it possible for all of us to comprehend more fully the drivers which bring about rifts between states – poverty and unfairness, corporate greed, climate change and so forth.
Education as a vehicle for creating and reinforcing respect and trust
At all phases, care needs to be taken to ensure that the values of harmony and camaraderie are presented in an age-appropriate manner. For nursery children, these could include story-telling, role play, establishing friendship bonds and triggering collaborative behaviours. As pupils move through the stages of primary education, suitable engagement in areas such as reading, art, drama and project work, comprising both bygone and prevailing events, will extend their knowledge and appreciation of choices for resolving needless turbulence in daily living. Similarly for adolescents, peace might be a topic in its own right in personal, social and health education (PSHE), wellbeing or psychology as well as incorporated into curricular areas. By its nature it might be organised – particularly in the early years of secondary education – as a cross-curricular theme embracing a range of subjects.
As youthful minds try to come to terms with societal divisions, they strive to obtain solutions to bothersome predicaments. Young people (indeed all of us!) need opportunities to confront falsehoods and inflammatory remarks, including those disseminated to support or incite animosity against beleaguered groups. At national and international levels, the manner in which politicians or military commanders make use of jargon, including stigmatisations and superficial slogans, about hostilities is worthy of analysis. Appositely chosen teaching blocks dealing with common issues to enrich collective welfare will connect with learners’ worries and concerns. Open-ended discussion is one worthwhile tactic for ascertaining the motives underlying dogmas and ideologies which sponsor or endorse quarrelsome behaviour, radicalisation and terrorism.
Hopeful steps forward to joy and goodwill
There are various helpful methods, at times overlapping, for prompting awareness and incentives towards a deeper perception of altruistic and philanthropic behaviours. Four of these are noted below. They are outlined in considerably more detail in the main article.
Problem-solving strategies. These call for students to: analyse opposing outlooks; research aspects of frailty and weakness in our global family; and suggest options which point to improvements. They also pose questions about moral issues concerning prejudice, poverty, malnutrition, torture and on customs which permit antagonism to thrive.
Teamwork. Assignments produced by partnerships examining the nature of peace, aggression and confrontations offer opportunities for youths to whet their investigative talents. There is a multitude of motivational themes and subjects for collaboration with effectual use made of statistical data, documentaries on contemporary interests and records kept in libraries.
‘Slow thinking’/ ‘Slow speech.’ These terms are sometimes used, not to highlight the speed with which reasoning takes place, but rather to stress the need for thoughtfulness and attention to detail, especially in taxing situations. Tranquillity and open-mindfulness allow areas of dispute to be reviewed from the perspectives of separate sides.
Conflict resolution. An added interesting approach has been the deployment of responsive systems which encourage negotiation and reconciliation. Ideally, these methods involve the enhancement of competences in listening, interpreting differences and seeking common ground in a flexible and even-handed manner.
In general, though they may not always articulate what is of importance to them, children and young people have shared interests in their futures and in how living circumstances can be improved. Through example and meaningful learning, they develop a deeper respect for values associated with kindness, tolerance and supportive interpersonal connections. The study of healing frayed relationships contributes to investigating and mapping out how everyone – through realistic, open and justifiable courses of action – can advance solicitous and compassionate practices.
Effective and worthwhile schoolwork concerning JUSTICE and PEACE can be summarised as consisting of: Promotion of positive values; Enthusiasm and drive for upgrading friendships and alliances at personal, communal and national levels; Acceptance of evidence-based research regarding what needs to be undertaken; Commitment to delving into how ground-breaking transformations can be accomplished; and Engagement in activities which further inclusiveness and harmony.
(Frank O’Hagan previously was the Adviser of Studies to Bachelor of Education students at the University of Strathclyde. Later, he was a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education.)
For the more detailed article on this topic, please use the following link: https://improvingcareand.education/2022/03/07/pathways-to-justice-and-peace/