The U.S. Institute of Peace came out with a report in late 2011 on the state of the field in Peace Education. The report cited a lot of growth in this field, including the development of instructional content. But, it also suggested that many of the theories in the field were based on “underlying assumptions about social change processes” and that the approaches being used were often “untested and unproven.” There’s more work to do, in other words, to measure how educational programs are contributing to sustainable peace.
Student in Nicaragua. Photo by: Esteban Felix; Academy for Educational Development.
Despite the need for better evaluation, I believe it is urgent to support educational initiatives that can move society out of divisive paradigms. Framing discussions about national identities, for example, in the context of what it means to have a broader human identity and a sense of responsibility to those beyond one’s borders is an important place to start. In most social studies classes, teaching about conflict and the history of war also takes precedence over teaching about leadership for peace and/or the skills for peacebuilding. While understanding the history of conflict and the causes of conflict is a valuable exercise, little change for a better world seems possible if educators remain stuck in the conflict-focused frame that has defined teaching to date.