Education – the Key to World Peace?
Their foundation seems to make a lot of sense. They say that education can unite nations and peoples. They say that every human should enjoy the fundamental human rights of social justice, democracy, literacy, respect, dignity, international solidarity, children rights, gender equality, cultural identity, cultural diversity, minority rights, and the preservation of the natural environment.
Education is a key tool in combating poverty, in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, democracy, cultural diversity and environmental awareness. Education for peace implies and active concept of peach through values, life skills, and knowledge in a spirit of equality, respect, empathy, understanding, and mutual appreciation among individuals, groups, and nations.
– Education International
I started exploring more on this subject to gain a better understanding. It appears that there is a large group of people that believe peacefulness can be taught to children, just like we currently teach environmentalism and citizenship. Peace education teaches children about tolerance and about how world peace can be achieved. There are some scholars in the US are very critical of peace education. They believe that believe the teaching of tolerance and world peace directly goes against the citizenship practices taught in the US, meaning that we teach children how to facilitate military enterprises. What are some examples that would indicate this belief? Pep rallies promote a competitive spirit that cultivates a sense of solidarity, but it symbolically promotes a warlike atmosphere with regards to the football games being played. This school pride equates to country pride, and there is an emotional passion for winning, whether the commitment is related to guns and bombs, or a football game. The idea is to promote the idea of “us against them”. These same scholars say there is a difference between schooling and education, and a difference between tolerance and peacemaking. They say that school can only facilitate one or the other – tolerance OR peacemaking. I am not sure I agree with this mindset.
On the other hand, we can look at our classic peacemakers here in the US. Martin Luther King, Jr., was highly intelligent. He skipped two grades in high school. He entered college at the age of 15. He attained two bachelor’s degrees and a PhD in his lifetime. He was open minded, original, and had excellent communication skills. When you look at the world’s peacemakers, there are several traits that can be true for all of them:
- All had extensive critical thinking skills
- All were original in their thoughts
- All were very highly educated, even if they were self-educated.
- All were open-minded
- All were spiritual people
Looking at this list, would it not follow that, in order to teach peacefulness, we would need to change our educational paradigm? To make this change, educators would need to embrace the following traits:
- High standards of literacy
- Open mindedness
- Critical thinking skills
- Encourage original thinking
- Embrace spirituality (whatever that might be – this is a hard one)
I am positive that higher level thinking skills will help society embrace peace and tolerance. Can this happen it today’s world with today’s educational environment? I think it could be worked into the system, as long as the educators embrace the skills themselves. They can teach by example. We can also teach by individualized learning and helping children to be dedicated to their own learning processes. Can it happen quickly? Of course not. It took years and years to teach children that the environment was important and they should respect it. It also takes years to teach citizenship. Yet, these two concepts are very important for advanced nations. This article is not meant to sway anyone one way or the other, but to just approach the topic for future discussion. I am going to close the article with an excerpt from a speech given at a graduation ceremony for Rhode Island’s Bryant Collect in August 1945. The speech was given by the then president of IBM, Thomas J. Watson.
The Charter for World Peace written in San Francisco can be regarded as a definite outline of a curriculum to be studied and worked on continuously. It warrants serious consideration and a plan for definite action by every Board of Education, every faculty in all schools, including military and naval, from the primary class through post-graduate university. The church, the family, the press, the radio, motion pictures, the labor and business organizations, the clubs, as well as every informal institution, can become study channels of international and interracial understanding.
Through this new organization we can keep every generation educated to the necessity of peace by teaching the advantages of peace as against the horrors of war with its toll of human lives and loos of material resources, and its devastating effect on the morale and morals of the people. This can be done only by continuous education, generation through generation. We must never relax our desire for peace nor feel that the San Francisco Charter will do everything for our protection in the future. It will be necessary to make amendments and changes in order to keep abreast of the times, as has been done in the case of the Constitution of the United States. As the world progresses in a material way, we must progress spiritually and intellectually.
There is no saturation point in education. Education is the basis of international understanding. It helps us to understand other people just as we hope they will learn to understand us. Through education we learn about their customs, achievements, aims, and ambitions.
– Thomas J. Watson
He has much more to say in his speech. For those of you that are interested, you can download the speech from http://digitalcommons.bryant.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1061&context=library_commencements.