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June 1995 - Issue No. #19 (p. 12 - 13)

Teaching about War and Peace

by Kip Cates

War and Peace

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, one of the worst wars in the history of humankind, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, a symbol of the world's desire for peace. This year is therefore a perfect time for language educators round the world to consider how we can teach about issues of war and peace in our classes and encourage our students to work for better international understanding and a more peaceful future.

One of the most critical problems facing the world is the issue of war and peace. Since WWII, there have been over 160 armed conflicts which have killed over 16 million people. Behind these statistics lie economic systems built on massive military spending, attitudes of aggressive competition for limited resources, oppressive and alienating societies which promote interracial strife and mindless violence, and a growing violence by man against the environment.

The challenge of language instructors to teach for a world of peace has been articulated both in UNESCO's constitution ("since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed") and in the words of educators such as Maria Montessori ("establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war").

Definition and Objectives

Japanese peace educator Toshifumi Murakami defines peace education as follows:

"Peace education attempts to sharpen awareness about the existence of conflict between people, and within and between nations. It investigates the causes of conflict and violence embedded in the perceptions, values and attitudes of individuals, as well as within the social, political and economic structures of society. It encourages the search for alternatives, including non-violent solutions, and the development of skills necessary for their implementation"

According to David Hicks (1988), peace education aims to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to (1) explore concepts of peace both as a state of being and as an active process; (2) inquire into the obstacles to peace and the causes of peacelessness in individuals, institutions and societies; (3) resolve conflicts in ways that will lead toward a less violent and more just world; (4) explore a range of alternative futures for building a more just world society.

Peace educators also stress the importance of teaching about, for and in peace. Teaching about peace involves giving students knowledge about war and peace issues. Teaching for peace means helping students develop skills of peace-making and creative conflict resolution. Teaching in peace means creating a peaceful cooperative classroom atmosphere free of violence.

Peace Education Activities

Peace education deals with a variety of learning activities - case studies of war, cooperative games, conflict resolution practice, creative problem solving, imagining scenarios for a peaceful future, model UN simulations and mock peace elections. Activities focussed on education for international understanding include videos about world cultures, readings on world religions, slide shows about children round the world, foreign guest speakers, overseas pen-pals, international school links and home stays with families in foreign countries.


For language teachers wishing to learn about peace, the "Peace Issues" list opposite is a good place to start. The Gaia Peace Atlas and New State of War and Peace Atlas are good introductions. Other good titles are Faces of the Enemy , Why Nations Go To War and How to Work for Peace.

Key books on the theory and practice of peace education include Education for Peace (Hicks) and the two books Comprehensive Peace Education and Educating for Global Responsibility by Betty Reardon. Good teaching resources with class activities include Creative Conflict Resolution and Elementary Perspectives I by William Kreidler as well as World in Conflict (Richardson), Creative Conflict Solving for Kids (Schmidt) and Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Drew).

A growing number of language textbooks on peace themes are published every year. The list at right is a small selection. Key articles and books on peace education and language teaching include those by Raasch, Wenden and Larson. More information on this exciting area can be obtained by writing to some of the language teachers involved with peace education whose addresses are listed here, with titles such as Peace Education - What and Why? (Wenden 1990), Peace Education in the English Language Classroom (Freudenstein 1993) and Peace and Language Learning (Gomes de Matos 1988).

The major international English teaching organizations have also consistently featured peace education sessions in their annual conferences. TESOL has held annual colloquia and workshops on peace education since 1989 and also organized an all-day pre-conference institute on conflict resolution for its 1993 conference in Atlanta. Sample presentations from the TESOL'95 conference are given on pg. 7. JALT held a 1992 conference symposium in Japan featuring peace education specialists from Russia, Germany and Australia.

Peace education deals with key issues concerning war and peace as well as with aspects of mutual understanding and cooperation between individuals and nations. Basic concepts in the field include contrasts such as negative peace (the absence of war) with positive peace (total peace and justice) and interpersonal violence (physical fighting) with structural violence (exploitation and oppression). Peace education also considers different levels of peace, from inner peace and interpersonal peace to national peace and international peace. The content dealt with by peace educators includes a variety of topics such as militarism, disarmament, the causes of war, pacifism, non-violence, TV violence, conflict resolution and international understanding.

Peace educators stress that good peace education aims at empowerment, not despair; that teachers must go beyond merely introducing students to the depressing facts of militarism, war and violence to show how we are part of a historical movement for peace; that teachers can inspire learners with internationally-acknowledged role models (Nobel Peace prize winners, individuals such as Gandhi, groups such as International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) and can show learners how to put into action their commitment to a world of peace.

Many school textbooks around the world also deal with issues of peace and international understanding as themes for language lessons. In Japan, a 1991 survey of Japanese high school English textbooks, for example, found that 54% of the 48 books surveyed contained at least some peace education theme - often related to World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima (Nakabachi 1992).

School English textbooks in countries such as Germany and Korea feature language lessons built around such topics as international understanding and World War II. One unique example is a 1988 high school English text written in Russia which devotes an entire unit to the theme of peace, including peace poetry, articles on Samantha Smith and international friendship, and suggestions for action such as taking part in peace marches (Khrustalyova 1988).


De Matos, Gomes. (1988). Peace and Language Learning. * city : publisher *.

Drew, Naomi. (1995). Learning the Skills of Peacemaking: A K-6 Activity Guide on Resolving Conflict, Communicating, Co-operating. Rolling Hills Estates, CA: Jalmar Press.

Freudenstein, Reinhold. (1993). Peace Education in the English Language Classroom. Global Issues in Language Education Newsletter. No. 11. July 1993. Tottori, Japan.

Hicks, David, (Ed.). (1988). Education for Peace. London: Routledge.

Kreidler, William. (*year*). Creative Conflict Resolution and Elementary Perspectives. Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman.

Khrustalyova * given name*. (1988) * book title *. * city : publisher *.

Nakabachi, Toshifumi. (1992). * book title *. * city : publisher *.

Montessori, Maria. [trans. by Barbara B. Carter]. (1983). Secret of Childhood. * city Stosius Inc/Advent Books Division

Reardon, Betty. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Reardon, Betty. (1995). Educating for Human Dignity: Learning About Rights and Responsibilities. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennylvania Press.

Richardson, R. (1977). World in Conflict. Surrey, UK: Nelson.

Schmidt, Robin. (1985). Creative Conflict Solving for Kids. Miami, Florida: Peace Education Foundation.


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650