Richard Louv wrote this is a great article in Psychology Today about why nature is such an important part of building a more peaceable society; nature is important for our children and their social and emotional health and well-being.

Hunter, J. (2013). World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements, author John Hunter writes about his experience in teaching students - fourth grade through high school - using “The World Peace Game” for the past thirty years. Hunter (2013) introduces his students to the “World Peace Game,” displayed on a 4ft by 4ft by 4ft plexiglass structure, where they encounter over 50 different world crisis situations, from climate change to conflict which they must attempt to resolve in order to win world peace. Students take on the role of world leaders - including prime ministers, cabinet members, United Nations representatives, tribal leaders, and arms dealers - and over the typical course of seven to eight weeks, they must find a way to work together and solve this imaginary world’s problems.

Hunter (2013) claims that this approach encourages students to engages in all three components of education: knowledge, creativity, and wisdom (p. 3 - 4). Unlike the more common banking model which focus on the “realm of precise answers and correct solutions” (p. 3), the World Peace Game also pushes students towards creativity and finally wisdom. Creativity goes beyond rote learning skills and engages learners with the information; they are no longer only the passive recipients of knowledge. Hunter states that, “we can’t just teach our children what we already know; we must also train them how to discover what is not yet known” (p. 4). This skill is vital in our education system because we need graduates who are prepared to tackle the responsibilities and challenges of the world. Knowledge is a foundation and creativity is a means of contextualizing that knowledge. Beyond this wisdom, which can be understood as the application of knowledge and creativity. Hunter speaks to the need to go beyond solely knowledge-based education in the appendix entitled The World Peace Game and “Teaching to the Test.” It is here that Hunter discusses the current emphasis in education on standardized testing. While acknowledging the importance of assessment, Hunter suggests other more inclusive and holistic means and discusses an example of the assessment style used for evaluation in the World Peace Game.

Readers might wonder if and how fourth grader students can really solve fifty world crisis and obtain world peace. The World Peace Game ask its young participants to take on issues that adults struggle with daily. By presenting these challenges to students, are we asking too much and overwhelming them with developmentally inappropriate obstacles. But if we protect our children from the realities of the world and delaying their experience until a later age, are we doing them a disservice and underestimating their abilities. Perhaps it is better to prepare our children as young as possible for the challenges their generation will be faced with addressing. Hunter (2013) suggests that it is important for students learn of war because it is the reality of our world. We can’t save our children from the experience of war by acting like it doesn’t exist. In order to obtain peace, we must know how to deal with war. Students should emerge with an education that prepares them for the reality of their world and with the skills they need be in that world; war is a part of that. We can look the solutions students discover - such as donating their collective surplus to a poor country to raise their assets and thus win the game - as simplistic and unrealistic or we can see the creativity and resourcefulness that is required of fourth graders to solve this complex problem. Although winning world peace in theory during a game is different than in real life, the purpose isn’t necessarily so that students learn how to bring about World Peace. We must also recognize the numerous other benefits to students who play.

Hunter (2013) appears to have been heavily influenced by his travel experiences as a young adult in India, China, and Japan and his parents - his mother, a teacher as well, and father while growing up under segregation. Hunter references these experiences heavily throughout the book. By taking a more passive role and giving students as much independence as possible to struggle, fail, and succeed, Hunter tried to limit the influence of his personal bias on the learning of his students. Hunter recounted an incident where an observe argued:

You should not be teaching them to use war or even letting them use war - don’t even go there in the first place! Peace is the right way for the world, and you should be teaching your students that and that alone (p. 127).

However, Hunter (2013) attempts to let students come to their own conclusions without imposing his own bias. This is one of the cornerstones of experiential education: allowing students to pursue their learning according to their interests and letting them learn from both their success and failure. Through the World Peace Game Hunter was able to produce a meaningful experience for his students while introducing them to important academic subjects and helping them develop meaningful life skills. From the World Peace Game students learn to work together and communicate and at the same time students must take on various leadership roles. Research and critical thinking are required for students to make informed decision about what actions they will take to win the game. Hunter’s writing asks us - as educators - to reevaluate what we believe to be our role as teachers and how we define our success in a classroom. Hunter wrote:

If I defined “success” as the imposition of my will on people and events, then obviously I had failed. But if I defined “success” as offering my student an opportunity to learn that he could use in his own time, then maybe I had not failed… Failure forces us to move away from results as our primary measure of “success” and toward evaluating ourselves based on process (p. 101).
"Unless we teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence.” -Colman McCarthy

Peace Education as Worldview Transformation

Our worldview - the way we see the world and human nature - is a key aspect of peace education. H.B. Danesh wrote that “truly effective peace education can only take place in the context of a unity-based worldview” (Danesh 18). This is because if we believe that the world is a place of scarcity and competition and if we believe that human beings are prone to violence and conflict, then we carry those belief in our relationship with the world. In this framework, there can never be enduring peace. However, if we see the world as cooperative and collaborative, then we can recognize that peaceful relationships are the most natural existence for society. We need an education system that fosters a non-violence based worldview. We should want our children to see the world as a safe and abundant place of opportunity. Education is the primary vehicle through which we can foster a peaceable worldview.

Our current education system treats violence as the default mode of humanity. We accept violence and injustice in our classrooms in the form of bullying and one sided teacher-student power dynamics. History class focuses on how wars and conflicts have shaped the world; three of the only non-war-based periods taught are the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. The conflict-driven bias is so ingrained in our worldview that even science preaches the philosophy of survival of the fittest. The collaborative nature of the world is barely acknowledged despite the fact that all organisms function on the collaboration of cells and organs. Many species hunt and live in packs and ecoSYSTEMS include many diverse species that work together for mutual benefit. Peace Education isn’t only a subject to be taught in a separate class - like history, math or science - its a perspective and an entire worldview within which we need to teach these subjects. It’s also a way of teaching.

Experiencing Peace in Education

Effective education should involve students as participants and engage them in the materials they are learning rather than as passive sponges that are simply taking in knowledge with no prior context and no unique output. For what do we teach students if not to apply the information they receive. Experiential education enriches the learning process by adding meaning and relevance to the individual student. Play-based, project-based, and service-based learning require active participation on the part of the student. When subjects are taught through experiential methods, the student then makes a connection from the information to something in their own lives and communities. Education based on meaningful experiences also means that this education begins much earlier and is much more integrated in the students life - not just six hours a day in the formal classroom setting.

From the youngest age, we can foster experiences of peace and justice, long before we begin to teach peace in a formal setting. Parents and other adults (and other children) in an infants life are the first relationships they form. These relationships have the power to make a lasting impression on the individual child about the nature of the world. If those relationship are nonviolent and based on love instead of power, a child begins life knowing that the world is a place of peace, safety, and acceptance. As Lourdes Quisumbing expressed during her speech at the Second World Forum on Early Care and Education:

“…early childhood education for peace is first of all, good education. It consists primarily in providing high quality experiences and activities that ensure wholesome growth and development… Children learn the foundation blocks of peace: basic trust, a positive self-image, self-esteem and confidence, initiative and creativity. They develop the ability to relate with others, to express themselves, to communicate, to listen, to settle conflicts and quarrels amicably. They begin to value peace and harmony, empathy and compassion, friendship and forgiveness” (Quisumbing 4).

This continues during a child’s first experiences in formal education. The classroom should be a safe space for the child to learn and grow. Relationships with teachers and fellow students should not be violent or struggles for power and control. If the classroom - where many students spend mosr of their day - is a place of harmony, justice, and peace then this is the foundation of their first experiences with the greater world.

Work Cited

Danesh, H.B., Clarke-Habibi, S. (Eds.). (2011). Education for Peace Reader: Integrative Curriculum Series Volume 4. Vancouver, Canada: International Education for Peace Institute.

Quisumbing, L.R. (2000). Education Young Children for a Peaceful World. Child Care Information Exchange. (134), 6-11.