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Living, Learning, and Teaching Peace

23 September 2010 9 Comments

Stephanie Knox Cubbon

Stephanie Knox Cubbon
USA

“I hope that someday we won’t even need to say ‘peace education,’ that it will simply be education – that there will be education for all, and that all education will be education for peace.”

Imagine a world in which our children go to school and learn to communicate peacefully, to embrace diversity, to promote equality and human rights, to resolve conflict creatively, to live sustainably and with compassion. We can create that world – by introducing peace education into our schools and communities.

If “war begins in the minds of men,” as the UNESCO constitution proposes, then it is through our minds – through education – that war must be eradicated, and peace must be instilled. I see peace education as the tool for this, and I see it as something everyone can do. We all have the power to be leaders for peace and teachers of peace, in our homes, communities, and the wider world. We all have the choice to live our lives peacefully, and in turn to model peaceful behavior for others to follow. We all have the ability to share peaceful living practices with others, and to engage in dialogue in our community about issues relating to peace, justice, diversity, and equality. We all have the power to be teachers and leaders for peace – we simply need to answer the calling.

My own path to peace education seems logical in hindsight, though the various elements that led me there seemed like separate tangents in my life when they were happening. In college, I discovered the practice of yoga, which began my quest for cultivating personal peace. I also spent a semester in Panama, which transformed my worldview in many ways, as I experienced the kindness of strangers who had little but would give everything. Wanting to give back, I enrolled in the Peace Corps and was posted in Niger, where I worked extensively in educational projects, ranging from cross-cultural activities with local schools, to radio programming, to HIV/AIDS awareness.

Upon leaving Niger, I became less concerned about my career choices, and more concerned about simply living my life in a way that caused as little harm as possible, and my practices were primarily focused on inner peace. I became a certified yoga teacher so that I could share this practice with others. I then set out on a journey that would take me to Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, where, as an English teacher, I discovered my real passion for teaching. Through my travels, I was struck by the true similarities of the human experience –that whether we grow up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, a mud hut in Niger, or an apartment in Tokyo, we mostly want the same things: to spend time with our families and friends, to have good food, to love, to have peace in our lives.

A pivotal moment came while volunteering at a conference in Tokyo, the Article 9 Conference to Abolish War. As I stood in the giant arena, listening to the keynote speaker, Cora Weiss, the President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, I thought, “What could possibly be better than dedicating my life and career to peace?” Energized, I went home from that event determined to make peace a career path rather than just a personal practice.

Stephanie with classmate Teferi Assefa, both recent graduates of the MA in Peace Education program at the University for Peace in Costa Rica

When I discovered the Peace Education program at the University for Peace, it felt like every step I had taken up to this point was a logical step towards peace education. While studying at UPEACE, I found Teachers Without Borders (TWB), and through my work with TWB, I have been able to realize my dream to promote peace in the world, and to put my studies of peace education into action.

At Teachers Without Borders, we seek to create a peaceful world by bringing peace education training to a global audience through our Professional Development Program on Peace Education. As a Peace Education intern with TWB, I have been working to develop the program, along with a team of other interns and TWB staff members. The project aims to train teachers in peace education practices and principles so that they can bring peace education into their classrooms, schools, and communities. We provide extensive lesson plans and resources for teachers to immediately take action. We have integrated some of the best peace education resources available with the hopes of bringing them to a wider audience. The program will be available free online, and we will also be organizing in-person trainings around the world, starting with post-conflict areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. We believe that by investing in teachers, we invest in their communities. One teacher at a time, we hope to create a ripple effect, spreading a culture of peace through education throughout the world.

While everyone can be a teacher and leader for peace, school teachers – those whose professional vocation is education – have a particularly important role to play in building a culture of peace. Simply by choosing to serve, teachers have demonstrated their leadership and their desire to create change in their communities. By bringing peace education into their schools, they can effect peaceful change on a large scale. Teachers can be peace leaders by modeling peaceful behavior in their classrooms – such as through peaceful communication, celebrating diversity, promoting nonviolent conflict resolution and transformation. By bringing peace education into the curriculum, they empower learners to be agents of positive change.

Stephanie with her English students in Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica

Our program is emerging, and we will launch it sometime in October. Meanwhile, we have started to put the word out – and I am utterly amazed by the response! Just a few days after our first blog posting, we have received dozens of emails from people in all corners of the world, people who want to take the program, to be involved, to participate, who are excited about peace education. It seems like people are hungry for peace education, that the world is ready for it. On one hand, this is indicative of the state of the world right now – that peace is not yet the norm, and there is much work to be done. However, the response indicates the growing momentum for promoting peace, and it is exciting that so many people are ready to make a change.

I hope that through the TWB Peace Education Program, we can bring peace education to the widest audience possible. Please help us by spreading the word, and stay tuned for the announcement in October about the official launch. I hope that someday we won’t even need to say “peace education,” that it will simply be education – that there will be education for all, and that all education will be education for peace.

For more information on the TWB Peace Education Program, visit: http://teacherswithoutborders.org/blog/new-program-peace-education

To contact Stephanie, please email: stephknox24@gmail.com or visit her blog at

http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profile/StephanieKnox

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9 Comments to “Living, Learning, and Teaching Peace”
  1. In 2003 I carried out a research project with women peacebuilding leaders in a region in Kenya that had suffered terrible ethnic clashes in the late 1990s and early 2000. I interviewed young and middle aged women who were leading peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in this region. My goal was to find out what women had done and were doing to restore communities whose social fabric was broken by ethnic clashes.

    Ethnic clashes were a tool to scare people from voting in certain parts of Kenya. They were politically instigated to keep power in the hands of a few men in the government of the then president of Kenya Daniel arap Moi. The history, [really our ‘ourstory’] of ethnic cleansing in Kenya is a long one – so I will skip that here, so that I can make this response short.

    The findings of my study were very stunning to me. What I discovered from the conversations that I held with the women was that those women who were leaders and doing the trainings were not at peace with anyone: in their homes, the neighbors and the community at large. They complained about everyone else and had a very negative attitude towards the people they felt were against them. They were not on talking terms with people they were in conflict with. Please note that not all women leaders were like this. Significant numbers where however in this category.

    On the other hand, the younger peace builders were more open and actually made the effort to meet with those they were in conflict with in order to talk and make peace. The younger women were more willing to initiate dialogue with the ‘other’ in order to reconcile. And they actually approached the people they were in conflict with. What one women told me when I asked how she did this was: “I focused on how her behavior or action made me feel. I did not blame, judge, accuse her. I just shared how I felt as a result of her actions towards me.” I asked this young woman what the results were for her and she said: “One of the things I learnt was in many cases, the other person had no idea how I was feeling. Her intention had been very different. Secondly, I learnt that speaking about what I felt and not accusing the other of what they had done to me opened the possibility of the other listening to me.” How empowering!! Right there, I learned something about nonviolent communication.

    The results of this research awakened me to the realization that unless each one of us so called peacebuilders has done their own peace work, we will not be good models for others. This started me on a path of self searching and asking: “what kind of peace maker do I want to be? I have continued to work on myself, to find peace within me, so that I may share it with others. Peace begins within each one of us. Unless we have peace with ourselves, we cannot train others on peaceful ways of being. I have chosen to be a peace proactivist – working to ensure the conflict is dealt with proactively, rather than reactively.

    This is why peace education is important in our schools. More critically, the teachers themselves must find peace within themselves so that they can be great role models for the kids they will be teaching peace.

    Your work is awesome. Keep up the candle of peace burning in the lives of the next generation of leaders and peacebuilders.

    Namaste!!

  2. Zakariyah Abdulazeez says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    Once again, this is encouraging, please keep doing the good work. We would look forward to updates in October.

    Zakariyah

  3. gordon sieveke says:

    Wow stephanie I have noticed many responses to your program and I too am very excited for you us and the world in your endeavor. I teach compassionate communication in fort lauderdale at marriot hotel, and the local community. I am grateful for your work!!

    Do you use Non-violent communication in your protocol?

    Gordon

  4. Stephanie Knox Cubbon says:

    Hi Gordon,
    Thanks for your comment. We are also very excited about the response we have received about the program!
    We do include NVC in the program. While it is beyond the scope of the program to include an in-depth NVC training, we introduce the concept, along with other compassionate communication principles.
    If you have any suggestions for how we should address this in our program, I would be happy to hear from you!
    Kind regards,
    Stephanie

  5. Raj Kumar Dhungana says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    I am a peace learner. Since 2004, my job is to promote peace in Nepal through education. Till now, in my experience, peace begains from family in our society as we are living in joint family system as most of our major decisions are based on family consensus. I learned about personal peace from hindu and buddism. Gradually, my knowledge on peace is expanding and now a days, I am talking more about peace with nature.

    My greed for peace forced me to join Master’s Degree course on conflict, peace and development studies which, I recently completed in 2010. Briefly, I also got chance to work in Pakistan, Afghanistan for peace education and in December I am travelling to Sri Lanka to share and learn peace education.

    My employer-Save the Children-is helping me by providing a space for peace eduction and I am working to integrate peace, human rights and civic education in school curricula, child clubs and youth in Nepal.

    I believe in god but my faith is more for good teachers who are good student inside the classroom and good teacher outside classroom. When a teacher behave as per his teaching, and show intigrity in what he say and do, i really learn. Similarly, I love those teachers who follow rules and honest in their profession, but, how can i respect those teachers who teach violence, bad manner, aggression, share frustration and teach to live in double standard life?

    I gone through your blog and salute your knowledge. I am currently looking for advanced education on peace education. If you have any suggestion please let me know.

    You can reach me in rdhunghana@hotmail.com

    I am willing to be a part of your course as appropriate. I also discuss this issue with Nepal Government’s teacher development institution and Teacher’s Union once you launch the course.

    Raj Kumar Dhungana

  6. Mademoiselle Konig says:

    Stephanie – This is wonderful work that you are doing. May I tell you again how very proud I am of you and everything you have done, are doing, and will do in your life!!!! Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All. Jeannette

  7. connie emborong says:

    Hi, Stephanie. I am COnnie Emborong, a Peace Education Coordinator in the Department of Education-Division of Lanao del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines.

    I got interested in the TWB and in you. We have the same passion- to promote peace in every way we can. I have attended various of seminars and trainings such as the APCEIU Teachers’ Training in Korea sometime in 2008 and Non-Violent Communication Workshop in Germany last September to October this year.

    I used to conduct trainings also for all teachers and school administrators both secondary and elementary in our Division-teaching teachers how to create a Peace Classroom and how to integrate Peace in the teaching-learning process.

    I am interested to learn more and deepen my capacity as far as peace promotion is concern. So, can I stay in contact with you for us to exchange ideas and principles?..I would love it if you can help me access materials or courses on peace education. Thanks and God bless.

    connie

  8. Phoebe Johnston says:

    After reading your stories and others, I feel a strong desire to do whatever an ordinary citizen of the U.S. can do to promote peace in everyday life. I would like to present the peace message to women’s groups and other community organizations at the grass roots level. Is there an online organization that offers training and/or certification in the promotion of the peace process?

  9. Anna Obura says:

    Many congratulations to the authors of the forthcoming manual. I hope this fits with the ever-spreading INEE Peace Education Programme, that is, trains teachers to use the INEE PEP since it is so popular. I make a plea: please include in the teacher education package, training on group behaviour. It is not enough to change individuals. Once they get into a group and tune into their group identity things change. Difficult as this is, we need to address it in the children’s curriculum and therefore in the teacher education package, too.

    We wish you every success.

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