Over the next few weeks, a new school year will be beginning across the country. With it will come the usual mix of emotions: from dread to eager excitement, resistance to anticipation, anxiety to a sense of adventure, disinterest to curiosity. There will likely be new clothes, new books, new relationships, and new experiences. Certainly there will be new knowledge to gain and new skills to acquire. And all this not just for students--but for parents and teachers, too!
As new as a new school year is, it's also somewhat predictable. For the most part, we know the subjects that will be studied, the homework to complete, the tests to take. We probably know the extra-curricular activities to be offered. We even, perhaps especially, know the holidays to look forward to.
But do we know if Peace Education is going to be part of the curriculum? Is this something we've planned for and eagerly anticipate? If so, congratulations! If not, why not? At the beginning of 2012, Pope Benedict XVI's World Day of Peace Message was entitled "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace." Pax Christi USA shared a proposal from Bob Cooke of PC Metro D.C.-Baltimore that this be a year of outreach to our students and young adults to help them proclaim the gospel of peace and work for justice in our world. No matter how well we've done in this regard since January, here's a new opportunity for us to revitalize our efforts.
In this PSA e-bulletin, you'll find PCUSA's Student's Prayer for Peace, which I think you'll find resonates with all of us as students of gospel nonviolence. You'll also learn more about Peace Education and receive several suggestions for ways to make it happen.
Happy New (School) Year,
Director, Pax Christi Metro New York
PRAY: Student's Prayer for Peace
Loving God, I need reminders of my inner worth,
reminders stronger than my doubts,
deeper than the compliments of friends,
more lasting than discouragement or fear.
Help me to learn your inner way of peace.
Show me the preciousness of every life:
the poor whose dignity is wrapped in rags,
the weak who carry toughness as a shield,
the frightened pretending they are brave.
Help me to learn your gentle way of peace.
Make me aware of other people's pain,
whether from sickness, guns or words.
Let me be touched by their afflicted lives
and make my life more generous and fair.
Help me to learn your healing way of peace.
Open my mind to see opposing truths;
teach me to listen to all who disagree,
honoring their values and their voice,
stretching my vision to include another view.
Help me to learn your loving way of peace.
Give me patience and the time to grow:
time to practice what I know you teach,
patience for the seeds of peace to sprout,
to blossom and bear fruit for all my life.
Help me to learn your patient way of peace. Amen.
This prayer is available as an attractive prayer card from PCUSA. Click here to see ordering information.
STUDY: World Day of Peace message and
the characteristics of peace education
|Peace Education--and its partners, Peace Studies, Conflict Resolution, Teaching for Tolerance, and the like--can actually be a hard sell in various educational institutions. Reasons vary from the practical to the ideological, so a good place to begin as Catholics is by reading or re-reading Pope Benedict's World Day of Peace Message, "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace". A strength of the message is its comprehensive understanding of peace and peacemaking and the scope of humanity to which it is addressed. Two particularly insightful excerpts state:
In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. (5)
All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of "educating young people in justice and peace". (6)
Numerous other excellent resources, both secular and faith-based, are available on-line and in print. I, myself, compiled the following characteristics of Peace Education from classics by such great peace educators as Ian M. Harris and Betty Reardon. Accordingly, Peace Education entails:
- understanding of the concepts of conflict and peace
- effective communication skills
- positive expression of feelings, including anger
- recognition of needs
- prejudice reduction
Peace education promotes self-esteem, instills values of mutual respect, develops problem-solving skills, teaches nonviolent response to conflict, addresses fears, teaches cooperation, develops intercultural understanding, and incorporates issues of social justice. And it develops the capacities for peacemaking that are:
- reflection - to think critically
- responsibility - to take action
- risk - to work for change
- reconciliation - to bridge differences
- recovery - to draw on the past to contribute to a better future
- reconstruction - to envision the future
- reverence - to respect all life
ACT: Advocate, cultivate and resource
1. Advocate for Peace Education in your schools from pre-K through university studies. Support the creation of a Department of Peace and Nonviolence in the U.S. Cabinet that would provide for a Peace Academy, an Assistant Secretary of Peace Education and Training, and Cultural Diplomacy Peace Grants to schools, among other institutions.
2. In early childhood, cultivate peace with toys and games that involve cooperation, creativity, and discovery. Avoid war toys and let toy manufacturers know of your objections. Visit Little Friends for Peace for additional ideas.
3. For older children, consider resources from Pax Christi Metro New York (PCMNY), the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ), and Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. PCMNY has developed two high school programs, From Conflict to Common Ground: A Christian Conflict Resolution Process for Catholic High Schools and Just War/Just Peace, which nurture critical thinking on topics like budget priorities for war and peace, patriotism and responsible citizenship in times of war and peace, and service for war, service for peace. PCMNY also has materials on "Teaching Peace with Dr. Seuss" for younger students and workshops on conflict resolution and forgiveness for adult learners. PCMNY also has brochures for both high school students and high school teachers on how to start a group. You can send an e-mail to email@example.com for a copy of either or both.
IPJ has extensive resources for parents, as well as teachers and students, seeking to live peacefully. At the IPJ website, you can find both Christian and secular options, depending on your needs.
Morningside Center, a secular organization, offers lesson plans for all grade levels on a plethora of contemporary issues at its Teachable Moment web link.
Let us not forget the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi: "If we are ever to have real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children." What better time to do so than now with the start of a new school year!