Chapter 23 » 23.85

The individual and the community


I feel peace education is about teaching children to discover that they have the power to change things they see are wrong and developing the imagination to find alternative responses to conflict. This is not an objective for a course called ‘Peace’ on the timetable. It must permeate all our teaching. For we cannot teach one thing and act another. If we teach children to feel their own power we must be ready for them to criticise the school itself. In order to survive we must begin to teach them to challenge authority, our own included.

This means that there are likely to be conflicts. And conflicts are to be welcomed as opportunities for growth. Too often conflict leads to violence and aggression because we are trapped in a mentality which expects every conflict to be resolved by a victory for one party. But victory for one implies of necessity defeat for the other and therein lies the seed of further conflict.

Teachers are optimists. We would not be teachers if we did not have confidence in the future and in humankind. We trust that given the right opportunities children will grow up into responsible adults capable of making good choices and of saving the world from disaster. Perhaps the most important thing we can do today is to transmit to our pupils that sense of hope. The prevailing mood is one of pessimism and despair. ‘Why should I work hard when I won’t be able to get a job anyway?’ ‘Why should I plan for a future which may never happen?’ ‘What difference can I make to decisions of governments?’

The two qualities which are most important to children of today are hope and imagination. Hope to believe they can change the world they live in and imagination to find ways to do so.

Janet Gilbraith, 1986

See also 24.54

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