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Key Peace Education Thinkers

Page history last edited by Stephanie Knox 13 years, 3 months ago

Key Peace Education Thinkers: Learning Objectives

After this section, participants should be able to meet the following objectives: 

  • Understand the contributions of John Dewey, Maria Montesorri, and Paulo Freire to the field of peace education
  • Describe the key pedagogical principles that each thinker offers to the field


Guiding Questions

While reading this section, consider the following questions: 

  • These educators did not necessarily call themselves "peace educators." What qualities make a peace educator? What are the guiding principles for a peace educator?
  • How can the theories developed by these thinkers be applied in practice?




Philosophies of peace education began as early as the world’s major religions. Spiritual visionaries such as Buddha, Jesus, Baha’u’llah, Muhammad, and Lao Tse were also pioneers of peace education through the teaching of their doctrines of love and compassion. Throughout the ages, important thinkers such as Immanuel Kant continued to develop a wider and deeper field of treatises on peace, but peace education as a specific discipline did not again gain momentum until the 20th century (Harris, 2002). Peace education in its modern form is a relatively new field which continues to grow and expand to this day, thanks to the contributions of a number of key thinkers.


John DeweyMaria Montessori, and Paulo Freire are considered to be three major thinkers in the field of peace education. Though each a great intellectual in their own right, their work has in common a number of important ideas that have shaped the development of peace education. These points include the concept of teachers as learners in a two-way partnership with their students, and an emphasis on the faculties of creativity, imagination, and critical thinking so that students can apply skills learned in the classroom to solve real life problems. Dewey, Montessori, and Freire, all of whom will be discussed in more detail below, believed that in this way education would fulfill its potential to empower students to create peace.


In addition to these three major thinkers, there are many more scholars who have contributed significantly to the development of peace education. Johan Galtung is a Norwegian academic known for his contributions to peace education research and his framework of negative and positive peace, and overall contributions to the peace studies and peace research fields (Galtung, 1983). Elise Boulding was an influential thinker with her emphasis on peace education as a combination of thinking globally and acting locally (Morrison, 2008). Birgit Brock-Utne has also greatly impacted peace education by bringing a feminist perspective to the field. The above individuals are merely a few of a long list of thinkers whose work has contributed to peace education. Others include Ian Harris, Herbert Read, Betty Reardon and Jane Addams. A number of these thinkers inform the individual sections of this course, but for the purpose of our general curriculum we will focus on the main three thinkers below. The reason for the emphasis on these three is that their work, more than that of any other thinker, is the most relevant to classroom practice and therefore the most useful to teachers. 



Galtung, J. (1983). Peace Education: Learning to Hate War, Love Peace, and to Do Something About It. International Review of Education, 29(3). Retrieved

     from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3444003


Harris, I.M. (April 2002). Peace Education Theory. Retrieved

     from http://www.eric.ed.gov:80/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1b/3d/0b.pdf


Morrison, M.L. (22 February 2008). Elise Boulding and Peace Education. Retrieved

     from http://www.tc.edu/centers/epe/htm%20articles/MorrisonElise%20Boulding_22feb08.doc



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