Issue No.
93, January 2006 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Peace education
By Dina Lahlou

The difficult times we are currently experiencing are calling for a raise in awareness about the inadequacy of our educational system. There is an undeniable discrepancy between the objectives of what is learned at school, in terms of ethics and human values, and what the students come out with: inability to implement those values when challenged. What are realistically at play are experiences stemming out of negative actions, unhappiness, and judgmental attitudes directed to the self and to others. Looking towards external forces and opinions to develop self-esteem and confidence and being dependent on the good opinions of others lead to inner-power depletion. It is time to take responsibility for what is manifested in our lives as Arab youth. As some teenagers have said, adults, and more specifically baby boomers and their children, have lost all credibility in their ability to build a future of hope and peace. Indeed the heritage had been of one destroying the environment, depleting it of its natural resources, in addition to increasing conflicts, all in the name of the national interest, be it self-defence or progress and technology.


Today there is a global rise in consciousness that has led to asking the right questions and re-evaluating the results of modern education and the technology it integrated. There is an undeniable inconsistency between the values and ethics learned and their application in real life challenges. What lies behind this discrepancy that leads to our current life experience? Could it be the teaching methods applied? Or the somehow limited definitions given to our values and ethics? Could it be because it is addressed without encompassing the whole intelligence of our human potential? Or the limited time the curriculum allocates to the subject of values and ethics, in addition to all of the above? Indeed it is taken for granted that human values and ethics are being taught at home within the family cell and through religious teachings. However, due to the turmoil of today's world even the family cell is disrupted and unable to take on this task effectively. As Mother Teresa said: "The world today is upside down because there is so very little love in the home, and in family life. We have no time for each other. Everybody is in such a terrible rush, and so anxious…and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world."



The interesting part is that all religions without exception advocate the exact same human values based on knowledge, peace, love and respect for all the divine creations, from man to mother earth. So how come the progress and technology we are so proud of haven't led us to a better quality of life, living our full human potential in peace, cooperation, acceptance and respect? As M.R. Cohen wrote, "We cannot achieve self-respect if we are afraid of self-knowledge." And one can only give what he has: the ability to respect others starts by being self-respectful, just as the ability to fully comprehend the outer world must start with knowing and understanding how all parameters of the self function.



Current curricula focus on subject matters that require the most of our intellect, be they languages, mathematics or sciences. Critical thinking skills, values and ethics are not given priority, especially during teenage years. Emotional or spiritual intelligence is not even put to use. In addition, the concept of self-knowledge is not being taught. It is during teenage years that the mind finalizes the blue print process of transforming information into knowledge and integrating it as such. This is the time when understanding the self, its functions, and how emotions give rise to their repercussions in our daily behaviour is crucial in order to move forward in life. Without critical thinking skills that allow the mind to raise all sorts of questions and embark on the process of wonder, we would still be undermining our intelligent humanity. Fears, emotions, our ego and reactions interfere at all times with our logical and rational intellect. Excluding the study of the above from high school curricula will continue to widen the gap between what values and ethics advocate and what is really experienced. Skills such as self-responsibility and self-empowerment are not being tackled at all, yet they are what our communities need the most. Understanding the powers within, such as the power of non-violence as advocated by Mahatma Ghandi ("Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.") cannot be achieved through the intellect. It comes from an inner source of power that is only attainable when one transcends the limitations of the intellect.



Today, many international academic institutions are studying the concept of multiple intelligences, conducting pilot projects, tackling this new technology and sharing information on the international educational scene. It is primordial for us Arabs to join this international research endeavour and start conducting projects that would help us embed values and ethics into our consciousness. Spiritual knowledge, when tackled or understood through the intellect gives distorted interpretations, just like when one tries to apply "love theories" to a relationship. Science, religion and peace each require different intelligence to fully embed their meaning and start walking the talk. It is time for a shift and progress in the structure and fundamentals of modern education. As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility." The consciousness of blame and victimization is annihilated by a shift of attention towards self-responsibility and self-empowerment. If they are taught in schools, then hope and a brighter light will emerge from within and spill over outward. Helping to empower the youth from within is all we can give at this stage. Political peace will only be achieved through peace education.



Dina Lahlou is a Moroccan Jordanian teacher and consultant living in Amman.

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