Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Education for Peace"? or "Education IS Peace"?

Education is peace when we value methods, humanism, formal literacy, listening, experimentation, and meta-analysis.

The UN International Day for Peace 2016 has been tied to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Quality Education is goal #4.

People working for peace are intensely attuned to the way education impacts peace efforts -- and also war efforts.

Hence, a major section of A Global Security System: An Alternative to War is "Spreading and Funding Peace Education and Peace Research," and education about peace is viewed as central to "Creating a Culture of Peace."

A problem is that individuals, groups, and states recognize the power of education and often co-opt it, hoping to be able to treat humans as instruments of their power.  For instance, schools become pipelines for the military. In many locations, peace groups have begun to push back against the militarization of schools. (See, for instance, the Chicago Veterans for Peace "Education not Militarization" project.)

Denial of education is another (and, thankfully, vanishing) form of the co-opting education by individuals, groups, and states. Thinking about common factors in successful education for peace requires us to consider the ways in which (a) denial of education; (b) hindering of education; (c) slanting of education; and (d) wholesale co-opting of education are all part of the overall threat to peace.

Let's face up to the impossibility of peace without education -- in fact, to the virtual congruence of peace and education! -- and expand our commitment to making education the real thing.

Some food for thought:

(1) Methods that work - The US is experiencing a crisis in education; in my opinion, it's because we have made every teacher a free agent, responsible for rising or falling by their own test results. If we were as serious about our education as we are about our business and industry, we would recognize a responsibility to equip teachers with methods that are proven to work. Not just a list of what is to be taught, but the actual methods that have been proven (see (6) below) to be successful. (Yes, I recognize this represents a wholesale change in the way the job of teaching is currently structured in the US .... )  An important value in a quality education is equipping teachers with methods that work.

(2) People, not machines - That said, our analytic and mechanistic outlook can lead us to view people as little more than another set of tools ... instruments ... input-output boxes. This is especially true now that people everywhere are connected 24/7 to the Internet. Jaron Lanier has delved into this problem in You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. An important value in a quality education is recognizing the whole person.

(3) Literacy - Often what we think of when we think of "education" is literacy - being able to read, being able to write, being able to speak, and basic math skills. Unquestionably, an important value in a quality education is literacy -- literacy opens all doors. At the same time, it is essential to recognize that even the barest literacy is developed within a context, and that context can have just as much importance to the outcome as the formal literacy itself. Hence the succeeding points . . . .

(4) Listening - I spent 17 years in classrooms listening to teachers, but it has only been late in life that I have begun to listen to people -- particularly in that "people, not instruments" sense of point (2) above. Could there be any more important skill in learning to live in peace? How do we see this skill being taught in our schools? In addition to literacy, an equally important value in a quality education is developing the ability to listen to people.

(5) Experiments - The ultimate education is one which encourages people to be successful experimenters. As the world becomes more and more sophisticated, there is more and more temptation to believe that there is no real need to discover truth, that truth is just sitting around, ready to be consumed. In my opinion, the single greatest value in a quality education is that of conducting experiments in the hope of discovering truth.

(6) Meta - Now more than ever, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Yes, we need to be able to go to the source and discover our own truth . . . and, yes, we need to be able to scoop up the abundance of knowledge and experience that others have put at our disposal and make the most of it.(This is, itself, a sort of experiment. It requires choices about what learnings to look to, and how many are needed to find a common truth. This is quite a bit different than simply absorbing a pre-packaged tutelage that is shoveled at you.) An important value in a quality education is being able to learn from what others have learned.

(To be continued . . . . )

Related posts

It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

"You may not understand every word, you may feel uncomfortable, you may have to spend time later trying to figure it out or to humble yourself now and ask for help; you may have to work at it. But in the long run . . . a Spanish speaker is what you are . . . because that's the community you're a part of!"

(See Don't speak Spanish? "Sure you do . . . .")

I wonder if, years from now, we will be thinking back to today and feeling surprise at how little we thought about some of the developments in our world, and in our country, and how we talked about them even less. Someday will I have to explain to my kids, or to my kids' kids, why it was that "people just weren't talking about it" . . . ?

(See Why Weren't People Talking About It? )

"To see the atom bomb museum," I said. And again I wondered, what can a child in Nagasaki think when they see a person from the US who has come here to see the atom bomb museum?

(See Encounter in Nagasaki )

I don't think Alanna and I ever talked about what it must be like to be trying to escape a shower of sparks and hot ash. But she seemed to know that the sparks and hot ash are too important a part of the picture to be left out.

(See The Children Are Waiting )