Peace Education

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College

People seem always to have studied war more than peace. Whether in school history classes or in the allocation of government research and university budgets, the energy devoted to peace studies is commonly so small as to be virtually invisible. Furthermore, an interest in peace-making is often taken as a sign of weakness. Hence peace education is unattractive to people with power. On the largest historical scale there is a strong correlation between the acquisition of the full rights of citizenship and warrior status. Furthermore, the right to command violence and wage war is a core prerogative of governments and political leaders. So peace education is easily defined as anti-government and in many places there is constant pressure to sustain the commitment to patriotic sentiment.


Young people are encountering peace education in a variety of modes: Volunteer lawyers in Washington and other states teach mediation in the public schools. Community groups working with teenagers in trouble teach “straight talk,” a system for engaging directly with potential critics. Families too, have a choice between authoritarian parental powers and developing their members' negotiation skills, although if children are to learn to negotiate, parents must really be willing to change in response to their child’s arguments.

Since peace and justice are intertwined, peace education requires also that the younger generations learn also about achieving justice. Addressing topics relating to economic, ethnic, class, religious and other injustices remains controversial in US public education, but many schools and colleges have begun to open discussion of these issues.

Japan makes a significant investment in peace education for the young, through a large network of museums and peace sites. Most school programs are focused in on peace as it relates to World War II and indeed some of the facilities Japan describes as peace museums, others might label war museums or memorials. Nonetheless, through the cities and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan has been a world leader in reminding people of the urgent perils of nuclear weaponry.

Peace education and peace research are linked and in 1981, under the leadership of Sen. Matsunaga of Hawaii, the US government set up an Institute of Peace. Since the ending of the Cold War, when it became legitimate once again think more about peace, US universities have founded significant programs, including undergraduate studies at Hampshire College, and graduate programs at George Mason University and Antioch. Europe, too, has seen considerable investment in university level education in peace studies and Europeans seem more willing than Americans to take an assertive stance in favor of peace. One outstanding program in Britain is at Bradford University, another at Lancaster. Among international institutions, Vienna is host to the UNESCO supported European University Center for Peace Studies and the United Nations Peace University is centered in Costa Rica with affiliated institutions in Geneva and Toronto among other places.

Large scale, institutionalized settings for peace education are complemented by dozens of of smaller venues in temples and shrines, churches and mosques, in peace camps for youngsters from war zones, in anger management courses and other therapist communities, in contemplative practices and even in martial arts training. The right environment for peace education can be found to match almost any age, mood, and orientation.

Still, the agressive, competitive and vengeful energies in most societies are given precedence over the peaceful in the media, in business and commerce, in sports, in law and even in education.

This pattern links to Teaching to Transgress, Education and Values, Citizenship School,


Parents on behalf of their children and adults on their own behalf will find they must make an explicit and continuous effort to get enough access to peace education and also to hold back the strong militaristic energies in most contemporary societies. Control gun play of course, but also teach peaceful negotiation and challenge the notion that the good citizen must be ready to go into combat.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The energy devoted to Peace Education, whether in history classes or through the allocation of government or university funds, is miniscule. Since peace and justice are intertwined, Peace Education requires that people also learn about achieving justice. Schools can teach negotiation skills and empathic respect for different perspectives, using in-class simulations, theater, and other action-learning methods.

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Information about introductory graphic: 
From Hiroshima to Peace, Seattle, August 6, 2012. Photograph by Douglas Schuler. CC BY-SA 3.0