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Peace education

Learning a proper disrespect for authority

Education for peace is being talked about in Scotland again. There has been a debate in the parliament on the topic and there is now a cross-party group on a Culture of Peace.

Shortly a study done by Arthur Romano of Bradford University will map what is being done around the country . In respect of mediation and conflict resolution there has been a lot of activity for some years now, both in schools and communities. Among many examples there is an established project in Inver-clyde schools in which senior pupils train their junior peers in conflict resolution, giving an experience which the pupils themselves say is life-changing.

Stampeding wildebeest?

All of this is fine but I do have a difficulty when it comes to recommending that education for peace is a formally recognised aim of mainstream educational provision.

Endorsement of education for peace by a state which indulges in illegal wars, possesses and actively deploys weapons of mass destruction, is a leading global arms dealer, appears willing to deport people to face torture in their homeland, and generally implies by its actions that conflict is best resolved by large scale murderous violence, is just a little problematic. As Berwick campaigner Joy Mitchell routinely says in her frequent court appearances for anti-Trident actions, our young people are doing a lot better than might be expected given the scary complacency with which the adult world promotes, tolerates and supports murder. This is not just your average elephant in the room, it's a bloody herd of stampeding wildebeest.   

And while those who are arguing for education for peace are clear that they are talking as much about adult education and informal education as about the school-based variety there is a suspicion that we are (again) hoping that we can heal our ills by dumping on the young. I believe we should only raise these issues with young people if we can do so honestly . Indeed if the spontaneous response of so many school pupils in the run up to the invasion of Iraq is any thing to go by it will be young people who will be raising it with us.[1]

Active citizenship

In my view the three foundations of education for peace are nurturing positive human values, learning a proper disrespect for authority and unlearning the ingrained tendency to wait for someone else to sort the problem. Actually, I prefer to call it active citizenship.

Whatever its title it is not going to be advanced by another dust-gathering circular but by real live models.

Note: [1] see for example Old Enough to Know Better a film of the Edinburgh school walk-out in March 2003. Can be bought (£6.50 inc p&p) from Pilton Video, 30 Ferry Road Avenue Edinburgh EH4 4BA (0131 343 1151; info@piltonvideo.org)

Topics: Education