What Does it Mean to Teach Peace? | Ellen Birkett Lindeen

What Does it Mean to Teach Peace? | Ellen Birkett Lindeen

Depending on your age, people associate peace with protesting the Vietnam War, songs, movies and marches of the 1960s, the time before 9/11, quiet getaway retreats, or their yoga class.

So what does it mean to teach peace and how would one do it? I think the why is obvious.

I have been teaching all my life — first more than a decade at the high school level and after that, college students. Most of my courses were writing, composition, and literature, but at a certain point in my career I heard about the field of Peace Studies, and I wanted to learn more. I went back to school, completed the most meaningful coursework I have ever undertaken, and began teaching peace. People frequently ask me what it means to teach peace, or even what specifically I teach.

Here’s the short version. Conflict is not bad; conflict is necessary for all people to have a voice, but conflict is not the same as violence. Violent conflict is not inevitable. Just as people can be taught to kill in the armed services, they can be taught to use other methods of interaction. Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution includes concepts, history, and strategies so that people can learn to stop being violent. My goal is for people to stop killing each other.

Course readings reveal misleading anthropological research which is currently undergoing revision. Humans likely do not come from such violent beginnings. This is a well-entrenched myth, but one that is easy to maintain by those whose plan is to perpetuate armed conflict. The course includes the Harvard Negotiation Project concepts, which delineate roles for individuals and groups to use to prevent, resolve, and contain conflicts, large and small, in ways which bring about satisfaction for everyone. The curriculum includes readings by Thoreau, Gandhi, King, Gene Sharp, Roger Fisher, Bill Ury, the Dalai Lama, Jane Addams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Margaret Mead, and about the United Nations and Vision for Humanity. We read, discuss, listen, analyze, agree and disagree, reach conclusions, and discuss more.

A crucial goal within the course is to learn nonviolent ways to bring about needed change in people, societies, communities or countries.

Conflict is expected. Most political science courses focus on war, not peace, but courses in peace studies do not necessarily focus only on historical peacetimes. Peace does not mean the absence of war; that is called negative peace.

Positive peace is based on eight factors according to the Institute for Economics and Peace: acceptance of the rights of others, low levels of corruption, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, good relations with neighbors, sound business environment, well-functioning government, and equitable distribution of resources.

To work for a sustainable peace, people focus on factors to generate positive peace, rather than simply to avoid violence.

A more peaceful world, or at least a less violent one, seems like a dream worth envisioning to me, and my students agree. What if peace has not been achieved only because people thought it was unattainable? Why do I teach peace? Because I believe it is possible.

Ellen Birkett Lindeen, syndicated by PeaceVoice,is an Emeritus Professor of English at Waubonsee Community College where she taught Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution and Human Rights & Social Justice.

More in Opinion

.
How about celebrating history’s unsung mothers?

Since you asked, my niece Claire is expecting her first baby in… Continue reading

.
Sleaze ruling: No conflict of interest for Supreme Court

It’s hard these days to keep track of all the decrepitude in… Continue reading

.
Biden says he wants all of us working on Democracy

During his anything-but-typical address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden… Continue reading

King County needs to stop sewage spills

The Bainbridge Island North Kitsap Interfaith Council has learned from the Suquamish… Continue reading

.
Things we’ll miss by returning to normal

It’s normal these days to applaud the return to normality. But I’m… Continue reading

Salary Commission responds about raises

From the Salary Commission’s initial meeting until our final one, every effort… Continue reading

.
Protest or riot? It depends where you stand

When the Nazis wanted to march through Skokie, Ill., many of the… Continue reading

.
Don’t waste opportunity for police reform

With tthe conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, America once… Continue reading

.
Fake vaccine cards and American selfishness

Republican pollster Frank Luntz met last weekend with 17 vaccine-resisting Trump voters… Continue reading

Most Read