RESOURCE: New book on peace education for hearts and minds by PCUSA Teachers of Peace

by Mary Liepold

[NOTE: This is the editor’s note from the new book, Live Peace, Teach Peace:Best Practices and a Toolbox, by Pax Christi USA Teachers of Peace M.J. and Jerry Park.]

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”* – Alec Bourne

livepeaceteachpeaceIf you are reading this book, chances are you’re already aware that the education most of our children receive in school is missing something essential. Though individual families and other groups may resolve conflicts skillfully and model understanding, inclusion, and care for self, others, and the earth, these values lack social widespread support. They may even seem to lack practical application.

The school shootings that have become so frequent as to barely stir outrage are only one symptom of a culture awash with individual and systemic violence. Gun control and better access to effective mental health services will prevent some incidents, and we support those efforts. We are convinced, however, that the only direct, comprehensive antidote is culture change: building a culture of peace through multi-faceted peace education for children and the adults who shape their environments.

Peace needs all the friends it can get, and M.J. and Jerry Park have been making friends for peace since they co-founded Little Friends for Peace (LFFP) in 1981. The goal of every LFFP activity is to build Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Beloved Community.” Progressive educators call this work Social and Emotional Learning. M.J. and Jerry Park call it educating hearts and minds. This book brings together the materials and strategies they’ve developed, tested, and refined for that purpose over 35 years of dedicated practice.

Assisted by a growing corps of trained volunteers, the Parks provide day camps, in-school and after-school groups and classes, workshops, playshops, retreats, service opportunities, and ongoing training, mentoring, and staff development in diverse settings around the U.S. and beyond. They build lifelong assets for a culture of peace through activities that are varied, active, and fun, so kids and adults keep learning and keep coming back.

The topics you can use this toolbox to teach include those listed below. You’ll think of many others, though. As West Point graduate and peacebuilder Paul Chappell likes to say, peace education is education for life.

·         Conflict Resolution ·         Character Education
·         Parenting for Peace ·         Peace in Everyday Life
·         Healthy Decision-Making ·         Clear Communication
·         Leadership Development ·         Environmental Stewardship
·         Leading with Diversity ·         Winning with Cooperation
·         Positive Discipline ·         Peace Hero Dramatizations
·         Art for Peace ·         Cooperative Games & Sports

Expect more than your teaching, parenting, or work relationships to be changed by this book. Expect your life to change. As the title suggests, we have to live peace before we can teach it. So let’s start with ourselves, take care of ourselves and each other, share what we learn, and watch the world change with is. In its simplest form, the LFFP theory of change looks something like this:

  • People who want peace learn new ways of relating to themselves and each other.
  • Young people experience environments rich in affirmation, cooperation, nonviolent communication, and peaceful, practical conflict resolution.
  • They learn and practice these skills and make them their own.
  • They develop these skills further in leadership roles with peers and younger children.
  • Through formal and informal learning opportunities, from the LFFP Peace Academy to community celebrations, teachers, parents, coaches, university and community volunteers, and other influential adults learn and adopt the same habits and skills.
  • Community institutions and organizations support the new Culture of Peace.
  • Individuals and institutions experience greater safety and quality of life.
  • Through personal contact, social media, and conventional media, the ways of peace reach throughout the community and beyond. That’s culture change.

Welcome, Peace Practitioner! We wish you joy, challenge, and wonderful companions as you use these lessons and make them your own. M.J. and Jerry would love to hear about your experiences, as well as your suggestions for improvements.

Click here to see more about the book as well as ordering information.

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