School sign in Sarajevo

peace education
in the post cold war era

looking at

Which way to peace?
Nature of peace education
Peace education in the post cold war era
Alternative futures
Educating for a sustainable future
Towards a peace education curriculum.
Democratic education
Books, references and resources
on peace education
Understanding conflict


Q: How do you see the role of peace education in the light of changed superpower relationships?
A: It is true that there is a change in the relationship between the two cold war superpowers. Some of that is to the good. On the other hand, the status, in sociological terms, in the world system, of being superpowers has not disappeared. The US is aspiring to a super-superpower relationship relative to the rest of the world. At the same time, you have the European Union, Japan, Russia, China and India aspiring to be at least regional superpowers, which means that the problem is even more acute than before. There is also an Islamic superpower coming. Gorbachev was dreaming of a Common European Home, but he was the only one. The rest of the elites are dreaming about building the European Union in the West and then establishing client relations to it in the East. The steadily deteriorating North-South chasm is as much in need of peace education as ever before.

Q: In such an effort, thinking globally, should one act locally, or globally? Or do you see any middle way between the two?
A: One should do both. I don’t think there is a middle way. The slogan of thinking globally and acting locally is a rather stupid one. Of course, one should both think and act, globally, nationally and locally. This is possible today because the many non governmental organisations which one can join, have gained tremendously in self-confidence, and are now the major actors for peace, development and justice.

Q: Do you think that school kids, or society at large can be turned into global citizens?
A: I think so. But it can be done only if they get global tasks to do; not through teaching and preaching. One way of doing it, not necessarily the best, is through municipalities co-operating across the various types of divisions of the world and then having their schools cooperate. A sensible way would be teacher-exchanges, student-exchanges and so on. In other words, do it from the local to the local level, and try to by-pass the centres of the nation-states as much as possible. ‘Global’ is much more than ‘inter-state’.

Q: What would be its focus and concentration? What kind of activities may be undertaken?
A:I think peace education should focus on the conflicts in the world. Try to list them, to understand the conflict formations, and try to mobilise students in coming up with solutions. In other words, be realistic in terms of trying to understand what the conflicts are about. The cold war has disappeared but we have gotten something even worse instead, the so-called New World Order, the world organised in civilizational blocs. One should then mobilise people for solutions.

Q: What problems do you foresee in such an approach?
A: Well, the problem is, of course, lack of knowledge, very often, lack of imagination, and above all: lack of good answers to the question: What are you going to do about the conflicts? One has to start with the analysis of conflict and conflict resolution very early, in kindergarten for that matter. Take, for instance, classical problems like five kids having four oranges - that’s what I often start my conflict courses with. You will be amazed by how few ideas people have in that connection. Another problem is, of course, that many of these big problems look so insurmountable, like the cold war, for instance. People thought that these problems could only be solved by a President and a General Secretary. Not at all! It was people who solved the problems, the dissident movement, the peace movement and one elite person: Gorbachev. The very basic thing is to see to it that people feel that ‘I can do something about it’.

Q: Peace education is highly political. How would one be angry about things in the world, be on alert not to let those things happen again, and still be peace-minded without succumbing to anger or political indifference?
A: Peace education is highly political and the same applies to lack of peace education; it is also highly political. One doesn’t have to be angry; one should rather see it as a task like a physician. That’s why I often invoke the medical metaphor and the sickness metaphor. You are not angry at bacteria; you may be sad but you rather see it as a problem. Your patient may have done stupidities - the physician accepts him nonetheless, there is something very positive in that tradition.
People feel empowered the moment they feel that there are things that can be done. Then people and their organisations start exercising pressure on governments: why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that? And that seems to be the way things happen. That’s the way Europe 1989, the end of the cold war, happened. All the leaders of governments and the heads of states had nothing to say but that ‘nobody could have predicted it’. Whereas all the people, I may even say, all we people working down at the level of people to people knew that things will happen. We knew it was loosening up, and with nonviolence, with women more than men. Peace education, about disarmament, people’s diplomacy and nonviolence, played a great role. So for that reason, let us remain optimistic. Never give up!

Interview by S.P. Udayakumar from: peace, environment and education. (extract)

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