This month’s issue of the Global Campaign for Peace Education features an article I wrote, The 7 Blossoms of Peace Education. Thanks to Tony Jenkins for providing me with this opportunity. It is an honor to have the chance to share this framework with other peace educators around the world. Continue reading to see the full text of the article and take a look at how I approach and understand my work as a peace educator.
The 7 Blossoms of Peace Education
I proudly identify myself as a peace educator, a member of the larger peace and social justice community, and consider much of what I do professionally to be peace education. I do not, however, spend much time asking or trying to answer the question, “what is peace education?”
First, I believe all education should be “peace education,” so I hesitate to make a distinction between the two by asking the question and implying that they can’t be one and the same. Second, I believe that peace educators can teach any subject and work with any group in any context. Peace educators can be teachers who not only focus on subjects like peace studies, conflict resolution, or nonviolence but also other areas like math, science, languages, and the arts. If all education can ideally be peace education, then all educators can be peace educators and all learners can be peace learners.
Given that, the more valuable questions to explore are “why does a peace educator teach and how are they teaching?” and “why does a peace learner learn and how are they learning?” These questions lay the groundwork for my peace education work and have inspired me to cultivate the seven blossoms of peace education – a framework I use to bring values and intentionality into how I create peaceable learning environments and apply to any learning community or subject matter.
The blossoms are based on theories, practices, and ideas from a variety of sources, educators, and experiences, weaved together to provide a foundation out of which peaceable communities and nonviolence can grow. I hope you find these principles and values to be a useful way to inform and guide your development and practice as a peace educator. In fact, one way to read and think about these blossoms in your own educational contexts is to turn each explanation into a question by inserting, “Am I as an educator…” at the beginning of each sentence.
(1) Community Building – Finding things that unite and bind us together as a group, while at the same time respecting and celebrating our differences. Embracing the interests, experiences, and goals of the community to shape the learning environment and gain ownership of the learning experience.
This principle encourages me to incorporate icebreakers and teambuilding exercises into my teaching so shared experiences rooted in laughter, play, and collaborative problem solving can emerge. It encourages me to integrate large and small group activities and conversations where students can co-create meaning and learn from and about one another. It encourages me to work with learners to establish community agreements that outline what we need from each other as a group in order to accomplish learning goals that we adopt and create together.
(2) Enabling Multiple Intelligences – Balancing the learning experience by engaging students in ways that play to their strengths while also challenging them to develop and value other intelligences.
This principle is based primarily in Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences in which he identified eight different kinds of intelligences that aid the process of learning – visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, kinesthetic, verbal/linguistic, musical, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. This principle encourages me to be aware of the various ways in which students can learn and explore ideas. It encourages me to be creative and diverse in how I design my lesson plans and workshops so that the learning environment welcomes all learning styles and intelligences. It builds a safe environment where no one learning style is seen as superior or more important than another.
(3) Nurturing Emotional Intelligence – Acknowledging the emotions, feelings, and experiences that each learner brings to the learning environment and helping them find ways to cope with those emotions. Nurturing compassion and empathy among students in ways that allow them to be sensitive and aware of each other’s emotions.
This principle is based primarily on the work of psychologists Daniel Goleman and Martin Seligman. This principle encourages me to establish processes where the group can check-in with one another on their feelings and recognize that a learning space does not exist in a vacuum; learners bring emotions into the learning space with them that, when not addressed in a healthy way, can be highly disruptive to the learning process. It encourages me to establish a culture of positive thinking, self-care, and community wellness by incorporating intentional active and reflective listening exercises, yoga and mindfulness practices, and circle processes.
(4) Exploring Approaches to Peace – Breaking the ideal, overarching concept of peace into manageable bites and methods of actualization.
This principle is a constant reminder that “peace” – what it looks like as an end goal and the means through which we pursue that goal – are quite diverse and varied. It encourages me to expose learners to the myriad ways individuals, groups, and countries strategize and have worked for peace. It borrows from concepts and frameworks like Ian Harris’s 7 strategies for peace, the six principles of Kingian nonviolence, The National Peace Academy’s five spheres of peace, social action research, and an appreciation for the various foci peace education programs have had throughout history.
(5) Reframing History – Challenging the dominance of violence and war in the narratives of cultures, countries, and peoples. Changing the lens through which we look at major historical shifts, construct heroes, and develop cultural norms.
This principle borrows much from the work of educators like Elise Boulding, Colman McCarthy, James Loewen, Howard Zinn, and Mary King. It helps me be both a critical and hopeful student and teacher of history. It is a recognition that when we bookmark the histories of people, countries, and nations with violent conflict, war, and death, we shape the way we look at how to solve and address conflicts in the future. This principle encourages me to rely on the rich, diverse, and deep histories of nonviolence, reconciliation, and community uplift that are found in all cultures.
(6) Transforming Conflict Nonviolently – Embracing the inevitability of conflict by practicing nonviolent ways to wage it, manage it, and resolve it.
This principle is rooted in the fact that conflict is an inevitable part of life and something that is required for change to occur. It is not the avoidance of conflict that we seek as peace educators, but an understanding of its presence and importance in everyday life and the development of skills to make conflict a constructive force as opposes to a destructive one. It encourages me and learners to be aware of various styles and levels of conflict and to integrate, where appropriate, conflict resolution techniques, restorative justice practices, and other methods like theater of the oppressed to role-play conflicts and experiment with different ways to approach them.
(7) Skill Building – All of these pillars are held together and buttressed by the all encompassing goal of building, practicing, and adopting life skills that empower individuals to bring about peace in the world around them – interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, analytical skills, conflict resolution skills, organizing skills, and learning skills.
When we teach, educate, and facilitate with intentionality towards peace and nonviolence we are ever conscious and mindful about how we teach and why we teach. This determines what is cultivated in our learning environments and influences what blossoms in our classrooms, our communities and the world.