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Educating for Peace

17 Sep Posted by in Academics | 2 comments
Educating for Peace

In a couple of weeks I’m giving a talk on educating for global citizenship, at a Buddhist-linked institute devoted to promoting peace. The center urges that everyone take on a personal responsibility for world peace — that the goal can’t be left to policymakers alone, which seems obvious enough — and I’m looking forward to the occasion.

In one sense, I’m quite comfortable with the topic. I believe that education has a role in helping students assess developments like globalization or the rise of China in ways that might, at least, promote more peaceful understandings. The habits of mind I try to work on, for example in teaching about world history, including openness to diverse cultures and a better understanding of interactions between the local and the global, which again are compatible with greater attention to the goals of peace.

And it’s pretty obvious that it’s historically valid to point up the violence of the past century of the human experience, and even the increasing militarization of American society from World War II onward, as components in any discussion of global citizenship.

Where I get a bit nervous, however, is the point at which these topics begin to spill over into current political partisanship. I can’t say that I’m heroically successful at concealing political inclinations in my teaching, but I certainly try to promote an open atmosphere in which diverse views can be presented without anxiety, where no single set of ethics is given absolute pride of place. This may be particularly important for someone in my dual capacity as both a teacher and a university official. The problem with the peace topic, or subsets like American militarism, is that partisan wrangles are virtually inescapable. I certainly appreciate advocates who would argue that the transcendent importance of peace, and its obvious elusiveness, trump any need to be nonpartisan. I’m close to that view, but actively feel the tension with my eagerness to remain inclusive. I’ll obviously highlight the tension as part of my presentation, and look forward to some constructive response.