Thursday, February 21, 2013

Peace Education: Should It Be Mandatory in Schools?

Non-violent protesters face armed policemen
Non-violent protesters face policemen (Wikipedia)
by John S Primus

Peace education stands as one of the most undervalued and underfunded points of our world-wide educational system.

If we look at the typical education curriculum at a high school, or elementary school, which is where youth are most impressionable, any site of mandatory non-violent education is almost completely non-existent.

Regardless, we often see mandatory history classes, which explain each and every war in detail, including its generals, its death toll and all the other players involved.

Yet given this lopsided educational predicament, once in a while an eager humanitarian comes forth to champion a new form of education about peace, rather than violence.

The award winning film "The Power of the Powerless", which was an essay Vaclav Havel had written about the peaceful change of power in Eastern Europe, captures the very essence of this timeless lesson called the Velvet Revolution. The Revolution was named "Velvet" due to its soft and non-violent approach to peace.

Recently, with the death of Vaclav Havel, the former Czech leader and dissident, we saw a resurgence of interest in the Velvet Revolution and with it, its timeless lesson of peace education through films like The Power of the Powerless.

This film's power lies in its ability to capture the essence of the Velvet Revolution and how power shifts when people, most notably the youth, stand up against repression and protest in a non-violent way.

The solidarity of the Czech people was so overwhelming that it basically crippled the government and forced them to bring in new leadership, namely Vaclav Havel, the leader of the revolution.

Broken educational systems could no doubt use this film as a model to teach students at all levels of education about non-violence and its tremendous impact on world history.

Rather than focusing on war and violence, when an educational system focuses on peace and how peace comes about they are offering a solution that "causes" peace to occur rather than just recounting violent historical episodes.

Once peace and non-violence become "required" curriculum in schools, especially for teens, we will begin to see a shift in our belief system regarding what solutions are available to our problems.

If a child has only seen violence, at home, in the media and in history books, then that child will act accordingly. Contrarily, if a kid sees and is taught peaceful methods to solve problems and disputes then they will naturally choose this path for resolution.

John Primus is a human rights activist from Southern California who advocates Watching The Power of The Powerless a video from the non-profit film company Agora Productions about Peace Education for more insight into the Velvet Revolution.

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