The Contradiction that Faces Peace Education

By: Zainab AkMukhtar


   At many times, the word peace is misunderstood and wrongly interpreted. One view of  peace is  that it has two aspects (Positive Peace which defines a condition of good management, orderly resolution of a conflict, harmony associated with mature relationship, gentleness and love, and Negative Peace that reflects the absence of turmoil, tension, conflict and war) (Johan Galtung, 1964)

Boulding  on the other hand, refuses this distinction and  mainly assists in the reduction and elimination of national warfare, which he  named  “ table peace” instead of ”negative peace”  which priories  knowledge that will illuminate, enhance and extend what he names as “ larger order”.(K Boulding, 1978).

 As “Negative Peace“ is mainly defined as the absence of war reached by the prevention and gradually elimination of armed conflict, it mostly focuses  on the research and education about wars, arms race and non violent conflicts.(Reardon, 1988)

Galtung assisted on an the importance of looking at the roots of armed conflicts which could lie as “structural Violence” not necessarily as war. It is necessary to overcome forms of structural violence to build a condition of positive peace.(Galtung, 1969).

  In this sense Positive Peace looks at peace as a whole state that involves aspects like reduction of poverty, disease and illiteracy and others .

 Betty Reardon goes to the importance and strong connection between both kinds of peace, such that  “Negative Peace” sets the basic foundation  for the growing and establishing of “Positive Peace” in conditions such as justice and equality .(Reardon, 1988).

She also mentions that most of peace education efforts at that time are of negative peace education while some do reflect positive peace.

 Summarizing definitions negative peace means the total abolition of war as a human institution, while positive peace is considered as a social order in which the resort to armed conflict is no longer to be expected and certainly not accepted.(Reardon, 1988)


Seville’s Statement

One of the main obstacles that faced peace education in the “Theory of Violence” is a philosophical theory that says humans are violent in nature or organized human violence is biologically determined and thus justifies violence.

To defend against this theory, Dr David Adams, Dr Federico Mayor and Dr Zarangoza invited scientists of Biology, Psychology, History, Artopology, Neurology, Education and Economics.

The “Statement on Violence” was adopted by the   international meeting of scientist, convened by the Spanish National Commission for UNESCO, in Seville, Spain, on 16 May 1986.

It was subsequently adopted by UNESCO at the twenty-fifth session of the General Conference on 16 November 1989. The statement, then known as a “Statement on Violence” or “Seville’s Statement”, was designed to refute "the notion that organized human violence is biologically determined".

The statement contains five core ideas. These ideas are:

1.       "It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors."

2.       "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature."

3.       "It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior."

4.       "It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a 'violent brain'."

5.       "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation."

The statement concludes: "Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men', peace also begins in our minds”. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.( Wahlstrom, 2003)


Peace Education

While education for the purpose on negative peace is mainly focused on the causes of wars which falls into a lot of ambiguities due to different views which depend on who is looking at the issue and where. Another main concern is how to prevent the war or conflict. It has been noted that due to the growing complexity of the world there has been a rise in violence whether national, or in small extents such as school and playground violence which are greatly influenced by the general violent nature of wars (Reardon)

The general goal of peace education for negative peace could be stated as: To develop well-informed citizens to favor and more to take actions towards the achievement of peace and disarmament.

 Beer sees that weapons are the major cause of violence as he states” Every weapon ever invented, it appears, has ultimately been used”. And contrary to the theory of deterrence, the continued refinement and production of nuclear weapons is more likely to lead to war than to prevent it(Beer, 1983) in this scope armament prevention is a part of peace education for negative peace.

 While positive peace education interprets a holistic and comprehensive approach to peace and interests in roots that cause violence and how to reform the society towards no violence, it also involves areas like: Global Justice, education for international understanding and global education, environmental education, development education and human rights education. It struggles for peace in the spirit of Ghandi’s admonition “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way”

As Betty A. Reardon   mentions, Education for peace is primarily concerned with knowledge and skills related to the requirements and or obstacles to the achievement of peace. The general  aspects which peace education include are:

·               Human Rights Education

·               Development Education

·               Civil Education

·               Gender Education

·               Children Education(1989)

·               Environmental Education

·               Security Education

·               Human Security


 Noting that the actual content of peace education is related to the cultural and political situation where the education is to be held which is referred to as the contextual situation.

A Question

Fully Agreeing with Seville’s Statement, and assisting on the importance of peace education towards better lives for humans all over the world, a natural question puts itself forward and that is:

“ How can people be educated for peace when mostly violent happenings are triggered by holders of economical or political powers, and involve manipulators that benefit from violent situations plus simple people who are brain washed by some or other agendas to be implement and be killed during violence? What is the best way to explain such a contradiction?”