Peace Education

How are Canadian Students Like East German Teachers?

PEACE RESEARCH can break down stereotypes on both sides of the East-West divide, as Alan Silverman and I found from comparing surveys administered in John Abbott College (JAC) in Québec and in East Germany. The same questionnaire, administered in the spring of 1987 to over 1000 Canadian students and to high school teachers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), showed a division of opinions.

When asked, "If the Soviet Union unilaterally eliminated one-half of its strategic nuclear weapons, what would happen?" of the GDR teachers, 42 percent said the reduction would be a step toward peace. Another 50 percent believed it would make the United States more aggressive, and the remainder regarded the action as an unimportant gesture.

A teacher said, "A major change in attitudes took place since Gorbachev. By these politics it is impossible [not to] come to an agreement. I don't feel endangered by the politics of Gorbachev."

The GDR teachers were asked their own opinions and also asked to predict Canadian student responses. Whereas GDR teachers believe themselves active in the peace movement, they believe the opposite of Canadians. The same was true of the JAC students. "I was surprised that they are anti-war," said one student, "I thought Germans were kind of for war."

HE MAJORITY OF GDR TEACHERS believe the arms industry creates fewer jobs than if the money were invested elsewhere, yet they predict that a majority of Canadian students believe the industry creates jobs. The survey showed that 36 percent of JAC students see military spending as bad for the economy. In an ensuing discussion of the students' results, the GDR teachers suggested that Canadians tend to be lumped in with Americans. One teacher added, "our image says that the average U.S. citizen favors military development."

Peace Programs

A Peace and Conflict Studies Committee at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax is working to establish a degree program in that field. Professor Jaromir Cekota reports that his university has joined the European Peace University Project in Burg Schlaining, Austria, which is offering graduate work in peace studies, open to students of both blocs.

New CIIPS Handbook a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

The Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security is looking for reaction to the draft edition of their Teacher's Handbook on Peace and Security. Its rationale is stated as: "to increase knowledge and understanding of the issues relating to international peace and security from a Canadian perspective." Thus, with our nationalistic blinkers in place, the reader is led through conservative explanations of foreign policy and security.

The section on foreign policy is typical. Various "instruments of foreign policy" are listed, including alliances, military pressure, and war! While war is described as "the most destructive foreign policy instrument available," and "usually declared only after some of the other foreign policy instruments have been tried," there is no place for the acceptance of military action in a book on peace education. The acceptance of war as a legitimate instrument of foreign policy must be stark, raving insanity.

However, some materials in the document could be useful in the hands of an innovative teacher. A list of addresses is provided for embassies and high commissions, crown corporations and government departments (including CIIPS), and non-governmental organizations. The suggested letter-writing activity could develop critical reading skills.

To the authors, the term "security" apparently doesn't mean freedom from danger and anxiety. Here, the concepts of military and nuclear deterrence are addressed with impartiality. How can a handbook on peace ignore the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Einstein, who said that peace cannot be kept by force, but rather achieved by communication and understanding?

Fred Williams is a reformed weapons analyst. Currently, he attends the Religious Society of Friends and belongs to the Peace Educators' Network (Quebec).

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989, page 6. Some rights reserved.

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