If we want to see a global culture of peace flowering, we need to start with the children. Everything starts with the children. They are the hope. They are the future. (Yes, do include your own inner child.)
In my work with WE MAKE PEACE dispersing Peace Education through producing learning resources, workshops and running international campaigns, I have experienced first hand the problems facing Peace Education. Try introducing an ethos of love, peace and harmony into a culture steeped in fear, violence and war; it's like using bad adhesive tape, it just doesn't work. It is very challenging for any teacher to teach the subject matter of peace within a rigid system built on fear, no matter how sincere and enthusiastic a teacher you are. Bullying, violence and disrupting incidents jeopardize the nature of peace education itself, which is essentially for a teacher to be what s/he teaches, in this case being a role model for peace.
Being an example is hard work. Let's face it; most of us who live in Western societies struggle to find a harmonious balance within the established system. Teaching children the way of peace and sustainability in a stressful school environment seems paradoxical to say the least, but is none-the-less essential and needed.
In order to teach children the way of peace, it seems the main challenge for peace educators is becoming genuine examples to the children, even in the axis of our taxing environments. When we have cultivated the art of being at peace, then we will be able to meet the children at eye-level, allowing them to draw on their own strengths and unbounded creativity without judgment, without fear. Only when we have faced our own darkness are we able to accept the darkness in others. It is therefore vital that we, as educators, can be that encouraging space for the children's darkness and provide them with a supportive place for their fears to come out and transform into a deeper understanding. It seems teaching thus becomes a spiritual issue, a process of alchemy.
Enlightenment: A prerequisite to teach?
Imagine the academic marketing headlines... Step into the shoes of the ultimate teachers: Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. But is it really too much to ask of budding teachers that they be true examples of what they teach? Well, only the best of the best should foster the intelligence of the future generations. It is unnatural to frantically cling onto egoic conditioning that causes us to act as immature control freaks, trying to stall the inevitable passing of time, the cycle of life and death, that demands us to surrender to the coming of new generations. It is in accordance with the law of nature that we handle our responsibility and present to the children their cultural and social inheritance through a healthy and encouraging learning process, so they in turn can rise to the challenge of carrying the responsibility themselves.
why do teachers get such a bad rep, when really they should be honored and
applauded for taking on the job of nurturing and igniting the creative
potential of the future generation? The responsibility is immense. And we don't
even know what the future holds. No one knows what the future holds in as
little as 10 years. So how are we to prepare our children for that?
Yes, learning to read, write and multiply is essential. But we must also look at general education in a holistic way, to see the human being as a whole organism, a physical, psychological and spiritual embodiment of consciousness with needs, wants and desires. These aspects are totally neglected in the current system (as in the Western social care, medical and pharmaceutical systems). In education, children are primarily taught to be good little workers to prepare them for a life-long career serving the state and the established system. But where does that lead us when the established system is defected, unequal and unsustainable at its roots?
We are heading down the wrong track if we continue in the old fashioned manner of focusing 90% on "head" business and downgrade the body, heart and soul, creativity and the arts to less important areas of learning. Talk about a disembodied education.
Enter the next problem facing Peace Education. And this is a much more complex issue: the established system. If we are to revolutionize the educational system, it will take more than implementing Peace Education as part of the curriculum, albeit a good starting point. We need a whole new way of viewing the purpose of education itself. It seems our culture has to change to fit with the evolution of consciousness.
"Only when people find peace within, will there be such a thing as peace in the world," says Prem Rawat, a world-celebrated, peace speaker. Seeing that our societies are reflected by the state of our consciousness as a species is essential. The world "out there" is a reflection of our inner level of consciousness. Only once the level of consciousness is globally elevated will we start seeing massive changes in our cultures, structural systems and societies.
The ball is thence thrown back into our own courtyard. Square one: it is our personal responsibility to raise our awareness. So, peace educators, unite and raise your frequency. It seems essential that you become finely tuned into the love channel.
It is simple, really. We become good at what we practice. Practice piano and you become good at it. Teach children how to practice peace, love and understanding. Teach them to write about peace and create art about peace at an early age and they'll become good at it. Only by practicing peace do we become good peacemakers.
For centuries we have been hitting our heads against the wall, repeating the cycle of fear and suffering. We know only too well that fear will only breed more fear. Violence will only breed more violence. But "If you can learn to stop the violence within you, you can stop it in your family, in society and in the world." This is what Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us.
Let's not undermine the role that education has in shaping a person. No matter who you ask, they can talk about how the years cooped up in the school system has either scarred them for life or turned all their dreams into dust. The main issue is that a system run on fear instills a culture of fear in our children. Rather than encouraging a culture of confidence, love, support and passion, we implant in them seeds to depression, mistrust and insecurity, no matter how high they score in the test results.
The system is a reflection of our state of consciousness. As the new consciousness rises we will
naturally develop new systems. It is a matter of shining a bright light down
the old corridors to connect a new spirit of love and holistic awareness that
sees children and their intelligence as a resource of endless potential to our
societies. Because kids are amazing. When I run workshops teaching peace, the
students come up with the wildest answers to where you can find peace. They say
things like: Peace is watching football,
because everybody is happy and singing together. Or that peace is looking after a pet lizard. A
different picture than just seeing peace as the flipside to war.
If we are serious about living in peaceful societies Peace Education has to be prioritized and invested in right from the top level. We have departments of defense, justice, foreign affairs and security, but not a department for peace? Let's break the system of fear and create systems that support and teach children from a place of love the skills of peace-making that their forefathers didn't have, perhaps even their parents don't have.
Teaching children not to be afraid of conflict, but instead embracing conflict as an opportunity to learn something new about themselves and each other will create new, exciting possibilities. Giving students valuable life skills such as positive conflict resolution, empathy, tolerance, democracy, human rights and equality will inspire and empower them to overcome adversity and strengthen their personal growth as individuals, as well as their belief in the community they belong to.
I pray that in the future teachers will be regarded as peace fighters acting to preserve the noble dream and movement of peace. By beginning with ourselves, and taking the responsibility to truly look within to make the world a better place, we take part in the evolution of consciousness. We embark on a supreme journey, where we become peace-pioneers in the realm of the "within." And as we plunge deep within the Buddha belly to cultivate peace on the inside in order to manifest peace on the outside, we will hopefully unite in making the shift to living from the heart and join a growing culture of love. Once such a monumental spiritual journey has begun on a major scale teaching Peace Education becomes a more easily integrated objective.
Notes on Teaching the Subject of Peace
Peace as a school subject needs a total
re-invention. We need a new definition of peace that represent more than the
bold opposite to war. This always makes students yawn or stare out of the
window. It is really depressing. Is that the best we can do, teaching the most
fundamental human need? At best the peace movements have been a side-remark in
the history curriculum studying thousands of years of war and conflict, or
merely a tame chapter on the flower-power-hippie-movement. That needs to
change. We need to restore the young generation's faith in peace.
is a vast sea to be discovered. Educators should ask their students to put on
their peace caps and take a cruise down a wide-spanning subject covering personal,
social, cultural, environmental and political aspects of peace-making. Invite
your class to find solutions to the global issues threatening the peace and
sustainability of the planet. Make the children come up with answers to how we
find peace within, how we make peace with each other, in the classroom, at the
school, at home, in society, in a country, on the planet. The emphasis is that
peace is an active, always-developing process. Thus the subject of peace
becomes duly connected to sustainability. In fact to champion peace, one has to
all the money, technology and brain-power we have in the world, if we really
wanted to, we could solve any problem. But peace and sustainability has never been
top priority. Man, do we have a long way to go. It belongs to another article
to map out all the major critical global challenges we face. Excuse me for
stating the obvious. Sometimes it just needs to be said in plain English. That we appreciate our beautiful Mother Earth is
long overdue. Our planet provides us
with the most splendid, abundant home right here. So instead of dumping toxic
waste on her, we must begin living in her image of love and sustainability,
remembering we are a part of nature, merely playing a small part in the big unfolding
of nature's evolution.
While we wait for the work "within" to flourish (i.e. the flowering of consciousness) we could work on building structures of peace. Peace education should be placed on every school curriculum, just as every member country of the UN should have a peace department, a minister for peace and several honors and centers for peace development and research. I believe we are witnessing signs of such infrastructures of peace increasing right now with countless peace alliances, initiatives and institutions shooting up internationally. Just the fact that I am invited to write an essay on Peace Education suggests a shift in peace awareness is taking place.
The nature of Peace Education is one of empowerment and change. Give children the tools and personal skills to grow up and live in harmony with themselves and their surroundings and it will create endless waves of possibility and transformation for the rest of us. I am excited to be able to play a part in the creation of a culture of peace. I believe we can all make a difference simply by working on being a peaceful human being. This has a powerful impact on our environment. If we all participate, by cultivating peace within, we will soon see a whole culture of peace rising up.
Image by justinwdavis, courtesy of Creative Commons license.
By Marie Mamonia, Danish writer, peace activist and founder of WE MAKE PEACE
Prem Rawat, Maharaji http://www.wopg.org
Thich Nhat Hanh http://www.plumvillage.org