The Fundamental Purposes of a Pedagogy of Peace

With Prof. Ted Herman at COPRED meeting, mid 1980s. Source personal photo collection of the author

I also called a bit upon a wide variety of school curricula being independently developed by individual classroom teachers. In later years, I regretted not giving more attention to some of these curricula the product of an international survey sponsored by the Institute for World Order. Selections from the survey conducted with the assistance of team of TC students were published in a compendium of those most transferrable to other classrooms in Educating for Global Responsibility: Teacher Designed Curricula for Peace Education, K-12, a companion volume to Comprehensive Peace Education. While the collection demonstrated that peace education was being integrated into all grade levels and most curricular subjects, no common definitions, conceptual parameters or common educational purposes emerged from the survey, nor were there general frameworks that might form the basis of what I believed to be the requisite holism. Yet it was clear that most practices were productive and fell within the substance and purposes of what was traditionally considered to be civic or citizenship education; hence the subtitle of the book, Educating for Global Responsibility.

For my own professional purposes of developing a peace education degree concentration to be offered as one of the choices of focus in masters and doctoral programs in international education at Teachers College Columbia University, I embarked upon an effort to outline proposals for the fundamental substance, purposes and conceptual parameters of the field. Specifically stating, that these efforts were not to be the ‘definitive’ work in the emerging field, but rather an attempt to open discussions that might bring some of the conceptual clarity so essential to fulfilling any possibility of institutionalizing the field, I undertook in this essay—that began as a seminar lecture other versions of which were given at other universities—to suggest some guidelines for that purpose. Reprinted in several publications, it became widely known as “The 7 R’s.”

As I believe that establishing interrelationships in holistic perspectives is important to understanding problems and designing responses. It has proven useful in teaching to use devices such as putting forth a set of interrelated concepts staring with the same letter, not only to facilitate remembering the concepts, but for perceiving their interrelationships. It is a device I have used on various occasions in the evolution of my work in the field. Here it is found in what has come to be known as “The 7 R’s”. These R’s represent capacities that I would now certainly further refine, as I have in an unpublished 2013 piece.

Though the tone and form of “The 7 R’s” is distinctly different from that of The Knowledge Industry, that analysis was the basis from which I speculated on the forms of learning and the citizen capacities to be developed to address the problematic as defined in that earlier piece. As the conclusions of The Knowledge Industry attempted to propose ways in which the academy might be changed to restore the socially and humanly constructive educational purposes many educators believe should be fundamental to its mission, this essay was written as a reflection on the question of what education might do to prepare citizens to be actively and effectively committed to the public pursuit of peace within the structures and values of the society that infuse the institutions in which they are educated.

While Comprehensive Peace Education was not the definition and ‘cannon’ that some sought, it clearly resonated with many peace educators who were themselves seeking some potential framework for “putting it all together,” within which to establish interrelationships and commonalities among the various practices so that taken together they could become the basis for a substantively sound and responsibly purposeful field of citizen education. Indeed, some of us claimed—given the conditions of the world order and our respective national situations—peace education was the most relevant and potentially constructive of all possible approaches to that field. Although the established order did not agree, and the field, while continuing to mature and deepen, remained on the institutional margins—even in the universities in which it was being devised—the conceptual challenge had been launched. As the piece proved useful to others, it also was a significant landmark in my own peace learning, the way in which I engaged in continued teaching and on-going development of the field and, most important, my own understanding of what purposes it should serve and how to become more effective in achieving them.

Betty A. Reardon

March 29, 2014

8.1 Introduction

Peace education, like most educational fields, aspires to excellence.1 If excellence, as the Oxford English Dictionary indicates, is the “possession of… good qualities in an eminent or unusual degree,” the good qualities needed, l would argue, are those that would come closest to the current concept of “positive human potential.” Efforts to fulfill this human potential for authentic excellence would be a major animating force of the peace paradigm basic to the transformational approach. And although contemporary education seems very much preoccupied with excellence in the sense of preparation and capacity to compete, it seems to have little concern with qualities; it is so much obsessed (as is the competitive mode) with quantity and measurement that it is an impediment to transformation rather than a means to it.

Education should be devoted to the development of the ability to learn and should concern itself with deepening and extending the capacities that are comprehended by the notion of the positive human potential. Positive peace and positive human potential are inextricably linked—both are developmental and organic. Many peace educators and activists would define peacemaking as conceiving, gestating, and nurturing those conditions in which all can develop their good qualities, their capacity to be fully human. Education today is not really living up to its potential. My own experience and my own activities have been, it seems to me now, more often focused on instrumental than on fundamental purposes. Much of my work-indeed the dissertation on which this volume is based-emphasized conceptualizing and designing curricula for particular learning objectives derived from earlier work (Reardon 1981, 1982) that now appear to me to be quite limited.

Many of us continue to engage in an educative process that is much more a matter of the teacher’s transmitting information or interpretations to students than a process of mutual exchange. We set our tasks too much in terms of achieving ‘objectives’—not only the much-maligned “behavioral objectives,” but all the narrow learning goals from which we develop our curricula. When we measure our professional success, we assess our achievements by quantifying them. There is certainly a role for quantification, as there is a role for specific objectives, even behavioral objectives, in a comprehensive program for peace education. But we have placed so much emphasis on these aspects, that we have held back the possibility for developing a broader range of human capacities. For example, we put a great deal of emphasis on developing the skills of analysis, a very important set of skills. But when it becomes the dominant mode for our teaching and learning, analysis alone tends to reduce knowledge into small, isolated components. It fragments our learning and our thinking, and thereby our lives. Goals and objectives, without a larger value framework, do the same.

Goals are desired states that we work to achieve. Objectives are intervening points along the way, partial achievements. Because neither goal nor objective is broad enough, and neither seems to encompass the aspects of process and complexity that are so important to the field, I use the term purpose to describe the intentional ends of peace education. Purpose seems to connote continued pursuit of a value or good. The concept of purpose provides the larger value framework and pushes us to less instrumental thinking.

Peace educators might well review the preamble to the charter of the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the foundations of peace must be constructed.” Putting aside a temptation to make a feminist comment on the wording, I must agree that wars begin in the minds of men-indeed, in all human minds-and that it is in all our minds that the foundations for peace must be constructed. If we are to be peacemakers, then we must learn to be peace thinkers. We must pursue that change in our thinking that Einstein exhorted us to seek, if we take seriously the need to change our way of thinking, then we have to look toward the reintroduction of qualities and capacities into the educational pursuit. As Douglas Sloan has suggested, in the introduction to the special issue of the Teachers College Record on peace education, “A change in our way of thinking would, if nothing else, recognize and re-orient itself, in method and substance, around the reality of qualities…. The qualitative enhancement of life and of culture would become more important than their quantitative manipulation and control.”2 He argues that pursuit of quality should be at the very center of education. I would add that developing our capacities for peacemaking should also be at the very center of education, for practical as well as moral reasons. Given the complexity and dynamism of only part of what is meant here by reflection. We need to encourage a type of reflectiveness that permits us to look beyond our ordinary understandings of reality, to move into something approaching a meditative or contemplative process through which we deepen our understanding of personal, social, and global realities. Such a process would enable us to see things more clearly at various levels, and teach us to value silence as the occasion or ‘space’ for reflection. It is in these reflective spaces of silence that we can most readily discover our connectedness to others and to the living Earth. Teachers will need to learn to tolerate silence in their classrooms. We will all need to learn to become more comfortable with periods of silence in our interactions as we work together in decision making and peacemaking processes.

We need, too, to develop a capacity for another form of silence, reflective listening. This is a capacity comprised of various skills like those of concentrated attention and interpretation, which is especially needed by the most articulate among us-statesmen, teachers, and students alike. The high rewards accorded skills of verbal expression often impede the development of listening skills. Lack of these skills is, I believe, a major obstacle in many of our efforts toward peace, especially in our negotiating processes. Many of the techniques developed for business negotiation and successful group dynamics are quite relevant to peace and disarmament negotiation. They need, however, to be transposed from the win-lose to the win-win context, and beyond that to the context of deeper understanding of and interconnectedness with others.

Reflective listening skills would assure far more effective communication and would certainly enhance learning. They include the forms of affirmative, nonjudgmental listening that accord equal respect to all parties to a communication or a learning experience. They also call for full engagement to ‘read’ all signals for the full meaning; to ‘interpret,’ or place the meaning in context; and to be critical, in the sense of looking for points of both agreement and disagreement, but to do so in a manner that maintains fundamental respect for the human dignity of all, no matter how deep the disagreements are. Peacemaking can be in many ways as conflictual as war making. The adversarial modes of discourse now used in academic discussions and political debates should be replaced with transformative ones. Paramount among these modes is respectful, reflective listening. Reflection is a requirement for responsible action, both individual and social.

Responsibility is the most essential active peacemaking capacity, one that requires as preparation rational, meditative, and interpretative reflection. Active responsibility is responsibility for and responsibility to. Responsibility for involves acknowledging and assuming the cost of our own complicity in the violence and injustice of the war system and the values that uphold it, acknowledging that we as individuals and as a society have accepted and gone along with the systems of violence and exploitation, exploitation by the northern industrial nations of the southern, the so-called underdeveloped, poorer nations, whose poverty in large part results from our having enjoyed their resources, having access to them at less than just prices as we purchase commodities in international trade.

Responsibility to is a responsibility to those with whom we are inextricably interconnected in the global web of life, a responsibility for acting to change these conditions. Responsibility to the others in this world system who have been deprived of a fair share of the world’s benefits calls us to critically evaluate that system and create alternatives to it. This responsibility to take action is one that involves risk.

So risk taking, too, is a peacemaking capacity. The capacity to take risks is the capacity. to face the consequences of change, the capacity to willingly involve oneself in the process of change, changing systems and structures, changing-our-own circumstances within systems, structures, and relationships, and ultimately even changing the ways in which we live our lives and the ways in which we relate to others. The capacity to risk how we live and indeed how we perceive ourselves, and, in some cases, our very identities, is one of the most essential challenges to peace education. Without the capacity to risk, will we have the courage to live in new public and private realities, or will we be able to involve ourselves in creating them? For we will need to confront and resolve the conflicts that these changing realities are bound to produce, as well as the conflicts that will continue to be produced by the inequities of the present system. We must be able to work through such conflicts and reconcile the conflicting parties, all of whom are members of the human family and part of the unity of the living Earth.

Reconciliation is

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