What and How Do We Teach About Peace? An Open Letter to Secondary Social Studies Teachers
(Summer 2012 - Volume 25, Number 2) By Angene Wilson
During this summer break while we are reading some good books, perhaps about other parts of the world, or perhaps even traveling in other parts of the world, I would like to challenge us to consider what and how we will teach about peace in the 2012-13 school year.
I remember asking my teacher education students once to make a list of wars of the twentieth century and then to make a list of peace events of the twentieth century. They found it easy to name the wars, but difficult to identify peace — perhaps a treaty or two, perhaps the founding of the United Nations.
As we teach high school students today who have grown up during long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how often and how do we teach about peace? As Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association points out in the Summer 2012 issue of WorldView, our country has never really put resources into waging peace. “In fact, the Peace Corps entire budget in its first 50 years – roughly $8.7 billion – was spent by the Department of Defense budget in just five days this year alone.”
The theme for the Summer 2012 WorldView is peacebuilding. You will find it interesting to read the article about the the role of education in peace building. Alison Milofsky, Senior Program Officer at the United States Institute of Peace, funded by the federal government, suggests the following guidelines for teaching about peacebuilding: emphasize multiple perspectives, teach dialogue skills, engage students in interactive lessons using creativity, share real stories, and leave students feeling empowered.
Checking into the USIP’s peacebuilding curriculum at www.buildingpeace.org is worthwhile since the lessons fulfill the guidelines above. The high school downloadable lesson plans, all geared to social studies standards, begin where the students are. For instance, there is an early lesson about how to build trust in connection with their self-identified conflicts. I especially liked making peacebuilder posters after identifying and researching peacebuilders (American, outside the U.S., female, Nobel Prize winners); creating a nightly news story after researching a peacebuilding organization such as the International Red Cross; and preparing a peacebuilding speech to the United Nations as a person who has been involved in an international conflict, such as a child in a refugee camp in Darfur. The future of the giraffes mediation role play also looked engaging.
Now the challenge: What will you do in the next school year? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish ideas and resources in the next newsletter.