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Teaching History for Peace

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The overarching goal of education for peace is to raise awareness and take action to liberate our schools and consequent cultures from oppressive systems. In today’s socio-political environment, we need to prepare for peace as intentionally and systematically as we prepare for potential natural disasters. Incorporating peace education within our existing school structure has the potential of raising citizens who adopt working towards a peaceful sustainable society as a way of being, reflected in all their actions and the choices they make throughout their life.

In this context, we will be focussing on History education as a tool for Peace Education. When history is taught with a focus on fostering understanding, empathy, critical thinking, and a commitment to justice, it contributes significantly to the broader goals of peace education.

 

The three pillars for the foundation of teaching history for peace are:

 

  1. Historical Empathy

  2. Justice, Social Equity, and Equality

  3. Conflict Resolution-Challenges, realities, and possibilities

 

Historical Empathy

  • Historical empathy helps students appreciate the diverse perspectives of individuals and communities in different historical contexts.

  • Over centuries, how have we looked at the ‘self’; how have we perceived the ‘other’. What shapes our identity? How do we relate to other identities? Understanding concepts of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ fosters tolerance and respect and gives meaning to what it means to be ‘human’.

  • Historical empathy allows students to question stereotypes and biases. It encourages them to view historical events through the eyes of those who lived them.

  • Historical empathy humanizes historical figures, making them more relatable to students.

  • Empathy enables students to understand the underlying causes of conflicts, including the perspectives and motivations of different groups involved. 

  • Developing historical empathy encourages critical thinking skills. Students learn to analyze historical events from multiple viewpoints, consider the context in which decisions were made, and appreciate the complexity of historical situations.

  • Historical empathy helps students feel a connection to people in the past, fostering a sense of continuity and shared human experience.

  • Teaching history with an emphasis on empathy aligns with broader goals of promoting social justice.

  • Empathy is a key element of peace education. By helping students understand the consequences of historical events on different communities, educators can inspire a commitment to peacebuilding and conflict resolution.


Example:

TOPIC: Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement [Theme 11 Indian History]

AIM: Teaching History through multiple perspectives

 

While teaching Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement [Theme 11 Indian History] if we were to include voices of others who were part of the freedom struggle and the resulting impact on millions of people in the sub-continent from the ‘human dimension’—from the lens of every single region and community that was effected students would recognize that people during the time made choices based on their own circumstances and values, which may have been different from those of the present. This empathetic approach contributes to a more well-rounded and critical interpretation of historical events and figures. It makes room for the understanding and respecting of ‘difference’ and it enables students to truly value the independence that came at great costs.

 

For resources on teaching for historical empathy see Annexure A.

 

Justice, Social Equity and Equality

There is a complex and nuanced relationship between justice, social equity and peace, and historical contexts can provide insights into this connection. Addressing issues of inequality and injustice is often considered a vital step toward building more stable and harmonious societies.

 

Students do not internalize peace education with empty stomachs—Leah Wells, A Culture of Teaching Peace

 

Woodrow Wilson, the former USA president, expressed that ensuring peace is impossible in society that is unsatisfied with economic conditions and has a troubled atmosphere and or lack of justice [Woodrow Wilson, “Fourteen Points Speech”,

 

Historically, societies that have embraced principles of social equity, justice, and inclusivity have often experienced greater stability and peace. When people perceive that they are treated fairly and have equal opportunities, there is social cohesion that  reduces the likelihood of conflict.

Conversely, historical instances demonstrate that high levels of social inequality and injustice can lead to discontent and social unrest.

Acknowledging and addressing injustice is important for sustainable peace. Throughout history, movements for social justice and equity have often been intertwined with efforts to achieve and maintain peace. The civil rights movement, anti-apartheid struggles, and other social justice movements have sought not only equality but also the establishment of more peaceful and just societies.

 

For lesson ideas see Annexure B [Theme 8 Indian History]

 

Conflict Resolution-Challenges, realities and possibilities

History education has the potential to help students analyse the factors that contributed to tension and violence in the past, enabling students to identify patterns, recognize the consequences of conflict, and work toward preventing future conflicts.

Exploring how conflicts were resolved in the past, studying diplomatic efforts, peace treaties, and negotiations develops critical thinking skills and helps students understand the importance of dialogue, compromise, and peaceful resolution in addressing disputes.

History is rich with examples of nonviolent movements for social and political change. Teaching about figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and others who advocated for justice through nonviolent means inspires students to consider peaceful methods for addressing societal issues.

 

Example:

TOPIC: Gandhi and Non-Violence 

AIM: Teaching Historical accounts of conflict resolution through a study of sources

CONCEPT:

A generation of hagiographic biographies uncritically held up Gandhi as the ‘father of a nation’ – one of the most revered public figures of the 20th century. Some people think of him as a spiritual figure who led through moral persuasion alone. Others picture him as a political figure, one of the greatest leaders who defied the might of the British Empire in India.

Recent historians have sought to provide more nuanced accounts of Gandhi’s contribution to Indian independence. This lesson plan tries to analyze Gandhi’s unique weapon of ahimsa through a study of sources—both primary and secondary.

Click on link

OR

 

Understanding the human cost of war and armed conflict, both in terms of lives lost and the social and economic consequences for communities can motivate students to work toward preventing future wars.

The study of history often involves examining struggles for human rights and social justice. By learning about movements that sought to end discrimination and promote equality, students gain insights into the importance of upholding human rights as a foundation for peace.

 

To maximize the potential of history education as a tool for peace education, it is important to emphasize critical thinking, inclusivity, and a recognition of the interconnectedness of human experiences across time and cultures.

 

Our proposed framework focuses on teaching history through concepts and incorporates the above mentioned three pillars of peace education within the existing contents of the syllabus by:

 

  1. Setting the context prior to teaching each theme from the textbook with a set of relevant questions

  2. Providing resources that help in teaching the contents of the prescribed chapter by incorporating diverse perspectives, primary sources, personal narratives, and experiential learning activities.

  3. Suggesting questions that contextualise lesson learnt with respect to the present, and explore possible outcomes that develop peacebuilding skills

 

 

 

 

 

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