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Critical Peace Education

Page history last edited by Stephanie Knox 10 years ago

Critical Peace Education: Lesson Objectives

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

  • Define critical pedagogy and critical peace education
  • Describe the key principles of critical pedagogy and critical peace education
  • Understand different ways to apply critical pedagogy and critical peace education in classroom practice 

 

Guiding Questions

Before you read this section, consider the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between education and social action?
  • Can education ever be neutral?
  • As a teacher, what are some ways that you empower your students? 

 

 


 

Introduction

 Critical peace education is the result of applying critical pedagogy to the issues that concern the development or degradation of peace. These issues are often seen as the spheres of foreign and domestic policy, the decisions concerning societal institutions - any which have an impact on the society, most notably schools - and the power dynamics within the country and outside of it. The lofty goal for such pedagogy is to create a "a citizenry capable of genuine public thinking, political judgement, and social action", as American political theorist Benjamin Barber has stated (Barber, 1984). It aims to build a population that can independently analyze its own country, and prevent situations of physical or structural violence, while simultaneously promoting equality, respect, sustainability, and other elements of positive peace.

 

Ultimately, the goal of critical peace education is to create a student that is empowered with both the skills and desire to engage in his/her local society and transform it into a more peaceful one. To this end, as educators we must stress two relevant aspects of critical peace education: the methods in which societies can degrade into violence, and the creation of the critical consciousness, or the ability to independently analyze a situation and develop unique, local solutions. 

 

We, as educators, are trying to empower students with critical knowledge and the desire to act so that they might independently evaluate societal institutions and transform society through this process, which is why critical peace education is key. 

 

Theoretical Framework

Critical peace education and critical pedagogy are based upon a number of assumptions, such as:

  1. There is an inherent link between critical empowerment and social action. 
  2. Critical empowerment consists of two tenets: understanding the dialectic process and the courage to use that process on local issues. 
  3. Critical empowerment only assumes relevance when local issues are examined and studied. 
  4. Critical discussion of local and global issues are necessary for social progression. 

 

There are a few fundamental assumptions regarding critical peace education which define the field, separate from critical pedagogy. These are:

  1. To engage in social transformation, we must focus a critical lens upon societal institutions, domestic and foreign policy, and local and global power dynamics. 
  2. Educators must emphasize multiple perspectives, which the students may use to critically analyze their local situation. 
  3. As the citizenry must be capable of understanding and accepting the failings of their social institutions, critical peace education should involve a critique of present society in order to create positive change towards peace.

 

From this theoretical framework, we can understand that critical peace education is an application of critical pedagogy to the issues that concern the development or degradation of peace. The difference between critical peace education and critical pedagogy is one of concentration.

 

Critical Pedagogy 

Definition

Any discussion of critical peace education cannot be divorced from critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is the method in which educators prepare their students to assess, evaluate, and challenge conventional beliefs or norms through rational critique. The pedagogy contains two inherent methods: educators must develop the skills for the student to rationally assess any idea, and educators must also demonstrate to the student the relationship between empowerment and social transformation. Critical pedagogy has been broadly defined by critical pedagogue Ira Shor (1992) as:

 

"Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse." (p. 129)


Thus critical pedagogy involves more than just criticizing society. It is also understanding why things are the way they are, how they came to be, and what can be done to change them.

 

Relevance

Critical pedagogy is relevant because of the inherent link between the empowerment of the students and the task of social transformation. The impact of a critically empowered citizenry would be massive. Providing students with the skills to formulate critical and analytical thought as well as the values to engage and transform their local society has benefits anywhere. Social transformation can occur with any action - it may be the creation of a local gym for impoverished youth or action within a local government. However, critical pedagogy involves a process in which the actor finds cause or motivation through analytical thought, and then this thought informs their action. This relates to Freire's concept of praxis, through which learners constantly move between theory and practice by using analytical thought to guide their actions, then returning to analytical thought for reflection and to inform further action.

 

Application

The application of critical pedagogy should be informed by the local situation. Instead of creating global content, educational scholars emphasize that to create a critical consciousness in students, the student's local situation must be critically analyzed. Educators must extrapolate local beliefs, theories, stories, experiences and histories and allow the students the safety to assess beliefs that might be central to their culture (Giroux, 1988, 1989). There can be no untouchable subject in the development of critical consciousness - all topics must be up for debate.

 

The ability to create such an environment in the classroom is dependent upon local issues; however, educators have developed a few methods in which critical thought is emphasized. A tool that must be focused upon in any classroom where critical consciousness is the goal is the dialectic process, in which thesis and antithesis come together to create a modified conclusion. In critical pedagogy, the process is defined by the standard compromising with the critique - which is formulated by the student - which creates a progressive conclusion. To apply a theoretical concept such as this in the classroom, educators must first provide the student with a belief or philosophy that is generally accepted by their local culture.

 

For example: 

Belief: Canada is a peaceful, tolerant, and multiracial state.

What must be done next must be done delicately - the teacher must contrast this viewpoint with another; however, evidence provided by the instructor cannot be in favour of one side or another. The instructor's bias must be removed from the classroom as much as possible. An example of such a critique may be:

 

Critique: Canada's land reserve system results in a life of poverty for the aboriginal population.

 

At this point, the instructor must remove him/herself from the situation and provide the student the opportunity to resolve their own opinion regarding these two contrasting propositions. The resultant conclusion will hopefully be achieved through rational and analytical logic and well as research. This serves to promote both an understanding of the critical process and, when local issues are examined, it allows the students to construct their own understanding of the relationship between critique and social transformation.

  

Critical Peace Education 

Critical peace education is the result of applying critical pedagogy to realms and issues that concern the development or degradation of peace. 

There have been a few notable scholars writing about the topic of critical peace education; however, the scholarly discourse in the field has not been widespread. The work of Paulo Freire, as discussed in an earlier section, was influential in the development of critical pedagogy for peace education. The theoretical framework has been discussed by only a few - notably Christoph Wulf in the early 70s and more recently Lourdes Diaz-Soto. The impact of this theoretical framework, however, has been demonstrated by the works of Carl Mirra and Ken Montgomery, both of whom take critical peace education perspectives in their work, turning the ideas proposed into specific critiques which may be used as examples for critical pedagogues everywhere.

 

Wulf

Christoph Wulf is a seminal figure in critical peace education. Wulf's theory revolves around tracing the roots of violence back to the original cause. At the time of Wulf's writing (1973), as well as today, more attention was regularly paid to the direct causes of violence, rather than an in-depth examination of societal institutions that can lead to structural violence. Wulf demonstrated the timeless principle of interdependence; that is to say, all things are with cause. The concepts central to Wulf's work were "structural violence", "organized peacelessnesss", and "participation" (Bajaj, 2008, p. 137-138).

 

There are a number of themes that emerge in Wulf's work that became central tenets of peace education - most notably that social and economic injustice are incompatible with comprehensive peace.  Dependent upon this principle is an emphasis on local power dynamics - excessive discrepancies in power tend to lead to negative peace or structural violence.

 

Wulf attempted to draw attention to the conditions in which peace deteriorates into violence. He has stated that "critical peace education stems from an explicit understanding of peace education as a criticism of society" (Bajaj, 2008, p. 138) Critical peace educators must foster in their students the ability to question and criticize their structural institutions and power dynamics. We must be able to look back and see with clarity what has created violence in other societies, and we must ask if these conditions exist in our own society.

 

Two critical components of this education are now apparent: student comprehension of how societal institutions and power imbalances can create structural violence and the creation of a critical consciousness in our students. The former is achieved through research, and the latter through critical pedagogy. This summation of these two becomes Critical Peace Education.

 

Diaz Soto

Lourdes Diaz Soto revived critical peace education in her 2005 work, Power & Voice In Research With Children (Rethinking Childhood, V. 33). It should be noted that while Diaz-Soto uses the same phrasing as Wulf, their ideas of what constitutes critical peace education vary. Diaz Soto defines her goal within the United States' domestic sphere, yet her principles of what should constitute critical peace education may be transferred globally. Diaz Soto (2005) defines that critical peace education should: 

  1. Ensure that issues of power are central to collaborative dialogues.  
  2. Recognize the need to pursue spiritual aspects of questions. 
  3. Allow Friere's transformative pedagogy to guide the need for consciousness raising. 
  4. Understand cultural and linguistic aspects of Anzaldua's "border crossing" mestiza consciousness. 
  5. Move beyond European colonizing lens while recognizing the need for Smith's decolonizing lens.  
  6. Realize the need for inclusivity, thereby driving us beyond identity politics. 
  7. Implement needed community actions projects with a Participatory Action Research/feminist lens. 
  8. Reach our Dreamspace for social justice with equitable economic distribution. 
  9. Rely on Love as an inclusive alternative paradigm in solidarity transcending existing conditions and reality (p.  96). 

 

These principles are a number of considerations for critical peace educators, which they may demonstrate to their students so that the students might understand possible lenses of critique. Through this critique, questions arise, and answers are explored. Students and educators then have a framework of concepts that allow for in-depth analysis of complex topics - perhaps the most significant aspect of critical peace education.

 

Mirra

Carl Mirra, an American peace educator, has provided an unique example of a critical peace education perspective by focusing his critical lens on foreign policy. In his book US Foreign Policy and the Prospects for Peace Education (2008), Mirra contrasts the foreign policy actions of the United States' government with their public philosophy. Specifically, Mirra contrasts the prevailing grand narrative that the United States spreads liberty throughout the world, upholds human rights, and, as a belief most prominent during the Cold War, that the United States is the best hope for the world (Mirra, 2008, p. 32-33).

 

Mirra continues with a number of examples to reinforce his point, but the application of critical peace education is clear. The fundamental belief that Mirra challenges is that the US upholds human rights and spreads liberty throughout the world. He contrasts this belief with several specific arguments and studies, such as:

  • The US's support of Syngman Rhee is not consistent with such a belief.
  •  The CIA's actions in Iran are not consistent with such a belief.

 

From these criticisms, we must draw a new conclusion. Mirra eventually concludes with the belief that "US foreign policy often protects economic interests over human interests” and prescribes a foreign policy where “[The US] that sees itself as part of the global community rather than above it” (Mirra, 2008, 156).

 

 Best Practices

This critical perspective is what educators must focus on in critical peace education. The belief challenged in the previous case study is an issue suited to education within the US since, and as mentioned before, emphasis must be placed on local issues and beliefs. Specific cases must be tailored for whatever situation an educator finds themselves in; in the case of history, it must be the local narratives that are challenged so the criticisms assume a relevance to the students. (Giroux, 1989, p. 146-150)The dialectic process should be demonstrated to the students as simply as done above.

 

It may also empower students when a local widespread belief is challenged and critically analyzed. This can be done through a direct in-class examination of such a belief - the instructor presents the belief and has the students work through specific case studies in groups. The instructor will ask the students to distill a narrative of whether or not the actions in the material provided support the belief. The critical process is then realized in the student.

 

However, such a process should not be used when attempting to create a critical peace consciousness - the nature of the directed readings will necessarily lead towards the inclusion of the instructor's bias (Giroux, 1989, 138). The creation of a critical consciousness focused around peace demands that educators strike a balance between providing students with independence and focuses on issues that are key to peace. This is most effectively done by the introduction of a topic and all relevant resources, and then asking the student to research and determine for themselves on which side of the topic they fall. The instructor should only be indirectly involved in the second stage, by directing the student towards resources concerning specific issues when questioned.  It is absolutely essential that teachers do not provide a personal inclination towards one side or the other. The classroom must be a safe environment in which the student is allowed to come to any conclusion - even one the instructor disagrees with.

 

 As instructors, we must be conscious of the political nature of critically addressing social issues. Though critical pedagogy does not necessitate difference from the status quo, often it materializes as such. However, Henry Giroux has noted that schools never exist as apolitical institutions; instead, through a series of funding, grants, teachings, and supported curriculum, often schools represent truth as the narrative of the dominant class. Instead of attempting an impossible apolitical perspective, critical educators attempt to demonstrate the inherent multi-sided nature of all situations, narratives, explanations, and truths. If students realise critical consciousness, then both sides should be examined (Giroux, 1989, p. 138-141).

 

Example: Mathematics

The final subject to be addressed will be the universality to which critical consciousness applies - it does not apply only to studies such as history or language; developing a critical consciousness can be done with any content. Mathematics may be seen as the field to which this is the most difficult to apply. The following example demonstrates applying critical consciousness to the simple task of memorizing the multiplication tables. This example is one of critical pedagogy, rather than specifically critical peace education. However, there is a very large demonstrable overlap between the two fields, and empowerment and critical thought, though not focussed on peace, still have echoes in social transformation.

 

x

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

1

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

2

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

20

3

3

6

9

12

15

18

21

24

27

30

4

4

8

12

16

20

24

28

32

36

40

5

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

6

6

12

18

24

30

36

42

48

54

60

7

7

14

21

28

35

42

49

56

63

70

8

8

16

24

32

40

48

56

64

72

80

9

9

18

27

36

45

54

63

72

81

90

10

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

 

As can be seen, the multiplication table has 100 squares to memorize. To memorize 100 products of all permutations between 10 different numbers is a momentous task, and not a good use of the student's time. To emphasize critical consciousness, we must ask the student which products they do not need to memorize. The student may critically analyze the situation and come to the following conclusions:

 

C1: 6x7 = 42 and 7x6 = 42; half of this table repeats itself, with the exception of squares, and therefore does not need to be memorized. 55 products remain to be memorized.

C2: There are a number of multiplication products that follow a pattern, and we only need to memorize the pattern. Examples of this are the x1 , x2, x5, x9 and x10 tables. There are 21 products that remain to be memorized.

C3: Depending on the level of the student, they may believe x3 and x4 tables are simple, and may be calculated on-the-spot. If this conclusion is made, then only 10 products remain to be memorized. (Buxton, 2-5)

 

x

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

1

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

2

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

20

3

3

6

9

12

15

18

21

24

27

30

4

4

8

12

16

20

24

28

32

36

40

5

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

6

6

12

18

24

30

36

42

48

54

60

7

7

14

21

28

35

42

49

56

63

70

8

8

16

24

32

40

48

56

64

72

80

9

9

18

27

36

45

54

63

72

81

90

10

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

 

 

 

{6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 7x7, 7x8, 7x9, 8x8, 8x9, 9x9}

 

 

 

 

Allowing the student to come to these conclusions by providing the time for critically evaluating the material that is brought to them has value that far exceeds the value gained from strong numeracy skills. It also demonstrates that any material can be critically evaluated.

 

Conclusion

From critical peace education, we must understand a few principles, rather than a few practices. Educators must come to realise that problems must be defined on a local basis; they must emphasize research and reason as the methods in which students formulate their own solutions; finally, they must allow the student to create this understanding on their own. There are innumerable ways to create a critical consciousness in a student, as long as it proceeds with relevance to the student. As Henry Giroux has said, we must do one thing – educators must argue and insist that schools function as a social form that expands human capability - on all fronts (Giroux, 1988, p. 237).

 

Questions for Comprehension and Reflection

  • What are the key principles of critical pedagogy? of critical peace education?
  • Why is critical pedagogy important for peace education? 
  • What are some ways that you can integrate critical peace education into your classroom practice? 

 

References 

Bajaj, M. (2008). Critical Peace Education. In M. Bajaj, (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Peace Education. New York: Colombia Teacher's College.

 

Barber, B. (1984). Strong Democracy: Participating Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

 

Buxton, L. (1985). Mathematics for Everyone. New York: Schocken Books. 

 

Diaz-Soto, L. 2005. How can we teach peace when we are so outraged? A call for critical peace education. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education. Fall-

     Winter, p. 91-96.

 

Giroux, H. (1988). Schooling and the struggle for public life: Critical pedagogy in the modern age. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

Giroux, H. (1989). Schooling as a Form of Cultural Politics: Toward a Pedagogy of and for Difference. In H. Giroux and P. McLaren, (Eds.), Critical Pedagogy, the

     State, and Cultural Struggle. Albany: State University of New York Press.

 

Livingstone, David. (1987). Critical Pedagogy and Cultural Power. Massachusetts: Bergin and Garvey Publishers.

 

Mirra, C. (2008). U.S. foreign policy and the prospects for peace education. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.  

 

Shor, I. (1992). Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

Wulf, C. (1973). Kristiche Friedenzerhung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

 

Wulf, C. (1974). Handbook of peace education. Frankfurt, Germany: International Peace Research Association.        

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