Education for peace
The International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 is always recognized with significance at my international school, Dulwich College Seoul. This is in part due to our proximity to a border where a war is unresolved, but also because of our educators’ calling to a higher purpose.
The pursuit of peace and the nurturing of people willing and capable of delivering on that goal is a worthy ambition that motivates many in this profession. While we all know single days of symbolic action cannot alone solve major issues facing humanity, we embrace the International Day of Peace in the way it is promoted by the
United Nations, as a powerful opportunity for advocacy that helps sustain long-term values.
Accusations of naivety in the field of Education for Peace abound, and the challenges of integrating its purpose should not be underestimated.
This is not least because perpetrators of the very worst violence have often been very well educated, in the traditional sense of having graduated from high-status institutions.
It is also true that tolerance has wrongly been promoted with blind acceptance of cultural norms, without the application of universal values in line with the equality of the sexes and the rights of the child wherever they are born. When the purpose of national education systems is so often designed to promote national identity, national unity and national economic strength, we cannot be surprised by the lack of focus on fostering character traits such as respect and compassion for others of difference, and the forgiveness of egregious acts from the distant past.
There are, however, greater dangers than eye-catching international conflicts threatening our planet. Inter-cultural and intra-national violence driven by differences of political outlook alongside the injustice of ever-increasing economic inequality are more sinister and creeping threats. There is surely much that educators could and should be doing to shape individuals with the values, knowledge and skills to be able to mitigate these potentially catastrophic issues, whether they be from an external or internal source.
In schools, we know you cannot teach values explicitly. There is a saying of old, that values should be “caught not taught,” that is, “caught” in the culture of an institution. You cannot be told to love your neighbor, but you can learn to do so over time, and in the right place.
International schools can be (and in many cases are) the model for peaceful cohesion within a community of difference in outlook and belief.
Simply having contact with people of difference can lead to trust.
Where better than in international schools for this to be modelled, and then copied by those with an equal desire for a peaceful future world?