Can Peace Be Taught and Learned?

Colman McCarthy, a journalist at Washington Post Office decided to visit a nearest public high school and volunteered his services as a teacher of peace because he wanted to research for himself to find a valid answer if peace could taught or learned. On that semester, he handled twenty-five juniors and seniors enrolled in his course.

Students were hungry to explore the unmapped landscape of nonviolence, pacifism, and peaceful conflict resolution. There are also students who opened their minds immediately. They already understood the teaching of Mohandas Gandhi who said that “Nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.” and also believed on what Martin Luther King Jr. said that “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” There are also students who are liked to call themselves as realists and what Colman asked them was to think about two risks: do you depend on violence or nonviolence to achieve peace? Colman also request his students that no one in his class is allowed to ask questions but instead they prompted to be braver and bolder by questioning the answer which is the answer is violence. In this course, the text they used was Solutions to Violence which is anthology of essays of different famous people that time like the writing of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Albert Einstein, Jane Adams, and a long list of others. As a classroom teacher, his experience based belief is that, unless we teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence. Peace education is in its infancy. It earns little notice beyond its campuses, and sometimes even less within those boundaries, although a growing number of schools at all levels are either beginning or expanding programs in peace studies. But the peace studies movement was energized in October 2004. Peace studies have been dismissed as intellectually soft, ideology driven, and a ruse for reliving the heady 1960s. Peace teachers are artful scroungers that there is a faculty lounge debate on whether peace should have its own department or be an interdisciplinary subject. As Hannah Arent wrote: “Violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world.” Skeptics, along with their first cousins, dyspeptics, regularly confront pacifist with the question: where has nonviolence ever worked? Had the questioners paid only slight attention these past years, the answer would be obvious in plenty of places like here in the Philippines a three-year nonviolent revolt brought Ferdinand Marcos down. Theodore Roszak explains: “The usual pattern seems to be that people give nonviolence two weeks to solve their problem and then decide it has ‘failed.’ Then they go on with violence for the next hundred years and it seems never to ‘fail’ or to be rejected.” The question is, why are we violent but not illiterate? Answer, because we are taught to read.

I learned that peace can be taught. As Colman said, he believed that peacemaking can be taught that the literature is large and growing that their schools should be offering academic courses on alternatives to violence. We just have to balance it with the stories of peacemakers. For me as early as when children entered school, we should already open their mind about peace. I think elementary, middle, and high school should be taught peace because as Gandhi taught, “If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall begin with the children.”. Instead of war we should teach peace and teach love rather than hate.  The students that come through peace studies are the greatest advocates for it, and they would definitely tell you that we need to teach children, everyone the peace and nonviolence. We should reflect that as peace education is gaining ground, despite the obstacles set up by various school boards. No matter. If the path to peace has no obstacles, it probably isn’t leading anywhere.


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