Peace Studies Moves Along

A sociologist looks at the growing field of peace studies in Canadian institutions of higher education

By Matthew Speier

This time last year I was carrying cartons stuffed with over 5000 letters to the post office in Vancouver. As I dumped the bundles of envelopes into the mail box, I wondered whether the cost of the stamps would turn out to be a wise investment. Being a seasoned sociologist, I knew enough about survey return rates to expect only a small fraction of replies.

But I need not have worried: Our national survey of the Canadian Peace Studies Curriculum Project, initiated by Educators for Nuclear Disarmament at Capilano College in 1985-86, has received hundreds of replies to its call for peace studies syllabi.

What prompted me to carry out such an ambitious survey of peace-related courses at our colleges and universities? At a peace education workshop in 1984 an inspiring document given me by a fellow peaceworker: the fourth edition of the World Policy Institute's curriculum guide, Peace and World Order Studies. Its introduction reports an astonishing fact: The Institute sent out 10,000 letters and received 12,000 replies -- a return rate unheard of in survey research.

I had pored over the syllabi in the guide as if reading a travel guide to uncharted territories. Exciting new ground was being broken. Concern for world peace was transforming members of specialized disciplines into collaborators within a global framework of knowledge. Peace studies was "an idea whose time has come." In 1982 Time first reported on the sudden appearance of peace- and nuclear-war related courses at American colleges and universities. Four years later, over two hundred peace studies programs are functioning in the United States.

In April 1984 the CAUT Bulletin concluded that concern over the global arms race has spurred the introduction of peace studies courses in universities across Canada. The summer 1985 issue of the Association for Canadian Studies Bulletin devoted eight pages to "Peace Research and Studies in Canada." In the lead article, Ken Osborne of the University of Manitoba pointed out that academics were organizing groups concerned with nuclear issues.

This was quite a change. In a survey of peace studies in Canada from 1970 to 1980, P.J. Arnopoulos of Concordia University conducted surveys in both 1970 and 1980, mailing 360 letters to fifty institutions of higher learning. The response rates had been low (less than sixty in each of the two years) and he had concluded that "there is little systematic peace research and education in Canada."

The study of peace is often motivated by the promotionof peace. This vital connection between knowledge and action has revived a controversy among the community of scholars. The confrontation between fact and value, between descriptive and prescriptive knowledge in peace studies, has brought into question the use and abuse of knowledge. As Ken Osborne asked,

"..should universities and colleges maintain an impartial and critical stance even on the issue of peace, or should they take an openly committed position? To put it another way, should education be about peace and disarmament or for them? Is peace education designed primarily to convey information or is it also concerned with changing attitudes?"

Universities not only carry forth the established ideas and values of society; they also launch innovative challenges to those values. Militaristic values (which are called "realistic") are opposed by "idealists" who ignore harsh power politics for the purer vision of a nuclear-disarmed and war-free world. But how can the idealistic vision be translated into effective action? Fact and value will have to articulate precisely in this new peace education. Such a process has been accelerating since 1980. The Canadian Peace Studies Curriculum Project is compiling the course outlines into a guide for a wide audience in Canada, the United States, and other countries. The guide demonstrates the considerable amount of systematic peace education happening in Canada today. A review of courses will occupy the remainder of this article.

The Curriculum Guide

Our guide organizes the courses into fifteen categories, which form the sections of the book: (1) Militarism, the Arms Race, and Arms Control, (2) Peacemaking, Conflict Resolution, and Nonviolence, (3) World Political Economy and Economic Justice, (4) Society, Politics, and Violence, (5) Regional Studies, (6) Women and the World Order, (7) Human Rights and Social Justice, (8) Religious Perspectives on Peace and Justice, (9) The Theme of War and Peace in Literature and the Arts, (10) Technology, Science, and Society, (11) Ecological Balance, (12) World Order Education and Teacher Training, (13) Mass Communications, Society, and Peace, (14) International Law, International Relations, and International Organizations, and (15) Peace Programs and Institutes.

The list shows that peace studies is global in perspective. There is the study of war weapons, military strategies, and arms control. On the other hand, there is the equally core subject matter of peacemaking, disarmament, and conflict resolution. Peace studies is concerned with international relations and crisis management, as well as the world political economy and the impact of technology and science on the environment.

Peace studies lends itself to interdisciplinary pro- grams, such as the one already established at the University of Waterloo, PACS, and the one scheduled to begin in 1987 at the University of Toronto. Both professors who have created these programs stress interdisciplinary aspects. At the University of Toronto, Anatol Rapoport, who fills the Chair of Peace Studies, has put it this way:

"The creation of a common language linking concepts rooted in different disciplines, especially those belonging to widely different methodological traditions, is a major challenge. Nevertheless, the obstacles, formidable as they may be, must be overcome if we place any hope on systematic analysis and rationally constructed strategies as the only promising ways of dealing with the problems, some of which are clearly perceived threats to civilization."

Just as Rapoport argues that such interdisciplinary efforts appear to be mandatory, so too does Conrad Brunk at Waterloo's Conrad Grebel College. He says:

Peace Studies is not viewed at Waterloo as a discipline in the usual sense of the word. It neither deals with a unique field of problems nor has it developed any distinctive methodologies. Rather it is a truly "inter-disciplinary" enterprise in that it is concerned with a problem area -- human conflict and its management -- that is studied by a variety of disciplines from a variety of viewpoints and with varying methodologies."

Brunk emphasizes, however, that interdisciplinary does not mean nondisciplinary, for the best interdisciplinary work is done by those "who have learned to employ the critical tools of one discipline in dealing with a problem." Two other programs are also in the planning stages, one at the University of Calgary, Faculty of General Studies, which begins in 1987, and the other at Athabasca University. All four of these are designed as degree-granting programs. At the University of Calgary, Dean R.G. Weyant says that one of the required courses will be entitled "The Pursuit of Peace." Students will be required to take, among other courses, two and one-half courses in non-Western regional areas of the world, eight courses including a "Seminar in Peace and War," two history courses on "War and Society" and three Political Science courses, one of which is "Disarmament and Arms Control." Students choose two and a half courses from no less than 34 courses in various disciplines. At Athabasca a committee has been struck to coordinate the program, with Brock Macdonald and Jan Van Stolk as key members.

Not All Grant Degrees

Some programs, such as the one at McMaster University, offer peace studies courses as an area of concentration without leading to a B.A. As such non-degree granting programs develop over time, they may presumably offer undergraduate degrees. At McMaster Paul Dekar's and Graeme MacQueen's Social Science course introduces the study of peace, focusing on Middle East conflict. Two Anthropology courses deal with aggression and competition, a Biology course with radiation, three History courses with war, and there are courses in Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Sociology.

There are programs offered through centres of Continuing Education, such as the Peace Studies Summer School at Carleton University where five half-credit courses are offered in such areas as literature, media studies, political studies, psychology, and women's studies. For example, the course titled "Media and Disarmament/Peace/Security" is offered by the Department of Mass Communication, while the English department offers "The Theme of Peace in Poetic Texts." An interdisciplinary Arts and Social Sciences course is also offered at Carleton in Women's Studies called "Women and Peace," a topic that was given momentum by the recent Canadian film, "Speaking Our Peace" by Bonnie Klein and Terri Nash. For example, Ruth Roach Pierson teaches a course at O.I.S.E. entitled "Women's Relation to Peace, War, Revolution, and Violence in Ideology and Experience."

The prolific Barbara Roberts at Dalhousie University promotes feminist peacework, lecturing, writing, consulting, media productions, and organizing women and peace sessions. At the Canadian Bureau for International Education in Ottawa Elizabeth Morey coordinates a program which brings women from around the world to participate in training seminars on conflict resolution and the politics of war and power.

In addition to programs, there are also conferences and lectures. For example, the International Institute for Peace Education, held at the University of Alberta, brought together about 100 educators in 1985 to treat the theme "Implementing Peace Education. " The co-chair was Terry Carson, who emphasizes the "set of tensions which an educator must struggle with" -- global and local, personal and social, and informational and dialogic. Positive peace is peace with justice in the global perspective, she says.

Other proposals are in the works to establish a major in peace studies at Canadian universities, such as one submitted by Michael Wallace, a Political Scientist at the University of British Columbia. In May 1986, Wallace organized a conference of international experts at UBC on "The Risk of Accidental Nuclear War."

Inserting Peace Into Existing Courses

Though programs and institutes for peace studies represent the leading edge, they cover only a small portion of the total offerings across the country. Individual instructors are independently developing the peace studies curriculum, either as lone voices or with others in a team. The distinction should be made between those who launch whole courses and those who insert topics into existing courses. Our project was most interested in the former but the appearance of peace studies topics within an existing course may be more practical for some disciplines.

For example, in natural science curricula there is little room for social/political issues., but in the area of Technology, Science, and Society an entire course can be carved out to make such connections. Thus the University of Toronto's Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering offers "History of Technology and Engineering Since the Industrial Revolution" taught by Bert Hall. The course is designed with the "conviction that awareness of the role of technology and engineering in the world at large must be part of the background of those whose decisions will affect the future." It includes lectures on warfare, strategic bombing, nuclear weaponry, and strategic policy since the '50s.

Similarly, "Physics and Society," taught at the University of Lethbridge by S. Kounosu, includes units on the Nobel Prize and Wars, the Paradox of Intelligence and Violence, The History of Nuclear Weapons, The Oppenheimer Case, and Star Wars and Morality of Scientists.

A course at Trent University, team taught by seven instructors, T. H. Whillans coordinating, is titled "Environmental and Resource Science." It covers units on nuclear threats, nuclear winter, and nuclear reactors.

By far the largest number of course outlines fall under the heading of Militarism, the Arms Race, and Arms Control. Peter Letkemann teaches a Sociology course called "The Social Consequences of Militarism" at the University of Lethbridge; Clarence Redekop of the Political Science Department at York University teaches "War and Peace in the Nuclear Age"; Jordan Bishop teaching within Humanities and History at University College in Cape Breton offers a course in Humanities called "War and Peace in Theory and Practice"; at Queens University a team of six instructors, coordinated by S. M. Davis, teaches a Politics course entitled "Nuclear Age: An Unfinished History"; Gunnar Boehnert and Henry Wiseman jointly teach from the History and Political Studies Departments a course entitled "The Arms Race and Arms Control in the nuclear Age;" Metta Spencer teaches a Sociology course at the University of Toronto's Erindale College on "War and Peace"; and at Carleton University in the Psychology Department Frances Cherry offers "Social Problems: Psychology and the Study of Peace."

Finally, peacemaking and conflict resolution fit into the sections in the guide labelled "International Law, Relations, and Organizations" and "Society, Politics, and Violence." There are courses such as Michael Brecher's "International Crises" in the Political Science Department at McGill; David Dewitt's "Contemporary Strategic Studies: Regional Conflict and Conflict management" in Political Science at McLaughlin College at York University; Shreesh Juyal's "Peace and Conflict Resolution" course in Political Science at the University of Regina; and Henry Wiseman's course on "International Diplomacy and Crisis Management" in Political Studies at Guelph University.

Violence and Terrorism

The other side of peacemaking is violence and here there is room for psychological studies of aggression, anthropological treatments of comparative cultural aggression, and sociological analyses of the politics of violence. A seminar on the latter is given by David Schweitzer at the University of British Columbia entitled "Political Sociology." It studies "some of the causes, functions, and consequences of political violence and terrorism."

The curriculum guide will provide bibliographies derived from course outlines, adding to the substantial work that has been done, such as the as yet unpublished 1984 bibliography carried out by Valerie Alia and Gernot Kohler, which for some unknown reason has been held up by the Department of External Affairs, Arms Control and Disarmament Division, who commissioned the work.

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1987

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1987, page 34. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Matthew Speier here

Peace Magazine homepage