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Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:53

Background Paper: 2009 Peace Education Conference

Written by  Erin Hulme
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On behalf of the Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace (CCTP) and the McMaster Centre for Peace Studies, we are pleased to announce this year’s 8th Annual Peace Education Conference in Canada focusing on the important theme of “bringing greater peace to our schools”.  Within this context, we will also be exploring the role of “gender and sexuality” and “emotional, social and spiritual intelligence” in advancing our goals towards a universal culture of peace.  This year, the pre-conference which includes indigenous, LGBTQ and youth peace education conferences, in addition to smaller events engaging with the diverse aspects of peace work, will take place between Monday, November 9th and Thursday 12th in various venues around Hamilton.  The main conference, which will be hosted at McMaster University, will begin on Thursday evening and finish in the afternoon on Sunday, November the 15th.


Continuing our tradition from past years, this conference will be an opportunity for those passionate about educating for peace to converge, connect and reflect upon our ongoing commitments to peace and justice in this world.   We welcome a diversity of people and ideas, representing unique cultures, abilities, ages, classes, genders, sexualities, spiritualities, geographies, and philosophies, and most importantly, those who share a commitment to anti-oppression, dialogue and self awareness.  Join us as we celebrate each other and our common successes within the peace education movement, while devoting careful attention to outstanding possibilities for greater inclusivity, and deeper personal and social development.

Theoretically and practically, peace education is gaining powerful momentum all over the world.  More and more of us are awakening to our deep need for love, cooperation and meaningful connection.  We are recognizing that life is a sacred gift, and feel compelled to preserve and nurture it on this earth, within our children and even ourselves.  Still, there remain great challenges around and ahead.  While it is necessary that we acknowledge and appreciate our efforts thus far, it is also critical that we discuss how we can work to broaden and strengthen our community, as well as the scope of peace education in Canada. 

The main theme of the conference this year is, “Bringing Peace to Schools”.  Together, we will explore how we can infuse the mainstream school system with peace education and peaceful educators.  At the start of the conference, participants will have a chance to review and contribute to a comprehensive CCTP proposal for peace programming in schools.  In parallel with this day long session, we will be launching the “Healthy Teachers, Healthy Schools” campaign.  This inauguration will be in the form of intensive workshops, which will provide educators with some conceptual and practical tools that can be immediately applied to any learning environment – whether it is within one’s self, the family, the classroom or any other dynamic space.  The rest of the conference will offer participants an opportunity to experience what peace education feels like, and why it is necessary that this diverse curricula and approach be fully accessible to all children and communities across the country.  Through engaging workshops, presentations, artistic intermissions, plenaries, brainstorming sessions and appreciative inquiry circles, we will use our collective creative powers and insights to learn from each other, and generate specific, sustainable possibilities for systemic and comprehensive peace education within all aspects of society.

Amidst these creative efforts, we intend to explore the deep rooted underlying dynamics of school systems and other powerful institutions that may clash with a peace paradigm.  Many of us are noticing that our schools and other social systems are becoming increasingly more militarized; that is, they are organized in a way that prevents democratic participation, and often, through specific language and behaviours, perpetuate the values and attitudes that make war and violence on all levels inevitable, if not necessary.  Terms like “academic-military-industrial complex” have been coined to describe the complicated connections between certain powerful figures within academic institutions, corporations, governments and the military that interact in order to consolidate power and maintain exclusive interests.  Some of us may feel compelled to actively resist these constraints, while others would like to find ways to invite marginalized individuals into our discussions; either way, it is our responsibility to at least be aware of the very real challenges we face in doing the important work that we do.  By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can learn to build solidarity and better support one another.  Furthermore, this conscious raising process can help us understand the effects of non-cooperative political forces, and can thus inspire more effective action planning.

When we reflect upon social systems, we are drawing attention to the ways in which we relate to one another.   What do our interactions look like?  What motivates our behaviours?  The answers to these questions are highly determined by how we see ourselves and who we want to be; it’s a matter of identity.  In the dominant culture, there is often a highly gendered and sexualized lens which is used to define ourselves, and even our conflicts.  Heterosexuality is valued over all other sexual preferences, and both women and men are expected to fall into clearly defined roles.  Men are encouraged to take on macho and aggressive characteristics, while passive, polite women are most appreciated.  These dichotomies inevitably frame our understanding of conflict – from a schoolyard fight to a full on imperial war – and more importantly, they skew our imaginations around what we perceive as possible.  If we were to learn to appreciate all genders and sexual preferences as beautiful, would it be harder to devalue our enemies?  Can we imagine a learning environment where everyone is encouraged to freely recognize, appreciate and act upon their unique strengths, abilities and stories?  Furthermore, can we envision ourselves and our fellow learners as spiritualized beings, allowing for the opportunity to not only reconnect with the deep source of power within, but to also share a common transcendent identity that inspires love and cooperation?
By reflecting on these questions and our common experiences, in the form of personal frustrations, concerns, but also successes and transformations, we will be able to better understand and thus, better support each other.  With these foundations, we can model new ways of being, and together, we can create new systems that accommodate emerging generations in their quest for a peaceful future. 

I look forward to this incredible opportunity for us to reconnect, share and grow together, as we explore healthy, respectful ways of being and prepare for a culture of peace within our hearts, our schools and our greater communities.   


Last modified on Friday, 29 May 2009 12:17
Erin Hulme

Erin Hulme

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