This report is a summary of a Master’s thesis by Sonja Susut, University of Regina. The study was designed to explore how a grade four teacher might interpret and re-tell, pedagogically, the lessons told by veterans about war. The object of the study was to reach a better understanding of how a teacher could make the lives of veterans a meaningful part of the curriculum and use their stories as part of a peace education program for students. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten war veterans.
Examining the relationship of the ethic of care and peace education,
the journey through the youth, military service, and post-war years of
the veterans helped the researcher explore a significant source of knowledge
to be gained through the use of inter-generational communication.
In the process of seeing history through the eyes of others, the researcher
suggests that lessons of peace are seen as the basis for whole earth interdependence,
derived from learning to cooperate and cooperating to learn. The
stories of veterans have shown that teachers can use the words of those
who have been there, to supplement curricular development that emphasizes
social solidarity and shared responsibility in reaching group goals.
It is possible to care, it is possible to change, and it is possible to
(Note: The original thesis contains the text of the numerous exerpts from the interview process.)
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1. The Allure of the Story: Background
The whetting of my appetite for oral histories came, I think, after reading the 1689 will of one of my ancestral grandfathers:
Twenty years ago, during a visit to two wonderfully talkative aunts, one of them mentioned their regret at not listening to their mother who prattled on endlessly about her family and early life in Pennsylvania. The aunt remarked, “We heard the stories so many times we stopped listening. Now I wish we had. I can’t even remember the people she talked about. We must have been such a disappointment to her.” Those words have remained with me, niggling in my thoughts, adding to my mission as a parent to record the family history.
There have been many rewards in this “data gathering” of mine. Through trial and error I discovered the most profitable ways to establish rapport and the most unlikely sources that would yield the “gold mines” of information.
Perhaps my greatest inspiration was my grandfather, a wonderful, quiet, transplanted Newfoundlander who, through his stories, created in me a yearning to know more and more about the hardy souls who settled our land and stayed through thick and thin to raise their families and watch the country prosper. In his tiny house, Grandpa, at the age of 90, began to talk to me. Ten years later, my pen was still scratching. I would visit a few times a year, carrying along my notebooks, my typewriter, my two children, and my dog and we would drive out to the prairie fields where he once homesteaded. While the dog and the kids ran wildly, Grandpa would talk, mystifying my aunts. “He never talks much,” they’d say. “He’s always been a quiet loner of a man.” Perhaps it was my naivety. Perhaps it was the way I listened. Perhaps it was the dog. He would go for hours, nonstop. And, I would scribble.
There were other stories, from aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents. Validation and credibility occurred without my realizing what was taking place as someone would tell similar stories of the same event. Perhaps my fascination with the older generation has grown because these are the folks who have the time to talk. Their families are grown and gone. They have often lost a spouse. They are usually tucked neatly into seniors’ housing and are disgruntled at their lack of space. They are all overjoyed with company and undivided attention. They also like my dog. The collections of the experiences of these gentle souls have found their way into my teaching in the classroom. The students are always eager to hear the stories of those “olden days,” the days of their grandparents’ youth. They display a new sense of attentiveness and are unaware of the lessons and morals and deeper thought attached to the narratives.
Through my more recent studies of qualitative research, the methodologies have taken on new meaning for me. There is, indeed, an exciting world of people’s lives and experiences that awaits discovery. The most meaningful way of knowing is through example and by what other people have done and, it was not until my involvement with the study of interviews and narratives that I began to think about my years of delving into the family oral histories. Was this interviewing? Was this narrative? Were stories being told through conversation? What had I been trying to learn? Through my blundering, inexperienced way, a small piece of those lives will be forever preserved. That was my purpose. To understand what we have become today, how we live, and why we live as we do, we need only to imagine, through those stories, the laying of the foundation of our personalities, our integrity, and dreams and aspirations. Often lost in the mad whirl of the postmodern world is the passing of history from generation to generation and the “unfolding of our unique stories within the context of everyday events” (Paley, cited by Carter, 1993, p. 5).
And so, the time came to consider my major study. A note making a rather graphic impression is from Scheurich (1995, p. 241) who speaks of the “juice of lived experience.” I knew I wanted “juice.” The general question formed quickly: Remembrance Day. For the past twelve years it has been my responsibility to coordinate the annual Remembrance Day program and the visual displays in my school. Nine years ago, I began a small research project that involved tracing, documenting, and displaying history and photographs of veterans within the families of our student body. Our Wall has grown to over 240 photos and it creates much interest among the students. A beneficial addition, however, would the inclusion, in booklet form, of the stories of these veterans and their wives or husbands, to be derived through interviewing, to gain an insight and a sense of worth from the reflection of their experiences and behaviors. A chance remark made by a veteran two years ago, as he departed from our school program, hastened my resolve to “do something.” “Thanks for a real nice morning,” he said. “What is going on here is just great. I’ll keep coming til I’m dead in my tracks.” A few months later, Joe passed away. Because these men and women are becoming older, we lose one or two each year and it is becoming more and more important to retain their thoughts on this portion of their lives, to “rescue the events that would otherwise be lost” (Weiss, 1994, p. 2).
As part of our Remembrance Day program at the school, our veterans who live nearby are invited to participate in the ceremony. They are presented, with their grandchildren, to the assembled student body and guests. Although our emphasis, each November, is to express our gratitude to the veterans for the peace we enjoy in our country, there is something missing. I have sensed that the veterans are trying to convey a part of their past to their grandchildren as they exhibit a protective aura that surrounds the children. It is as if they see, in their youth, the reason for their journey into the nightmare of war.
As a teacher, I have found great satisfaction in the use of oral histories. Always well received by the students because the stories are “real,” there is also something intangible about the respect shown to grandparents. Due to the changing nature of the students in today’s classroom, any strategy that produces positive learning is one to be capitalized. If my students were more attentive, more introspective, and more willing to acknowledge the lessons and morals found in the narratives of their elders, I consider this to be an ace in the hand of a teacher who is constantly searching for new avenues of teaching strategies. There is a certain pride in “what my grandma did” or “what happened to grandpa.” Because it is often difficult for elementary children to comprehend “history,” those narratives of the experiences within their own families are a perfect example of meaningful history. When Carter (1993, p. 7) writes, “Story is the stuff of teaching,” I am convinced that we, as teachers, must tap into the vast reserves of untouched oral history before the chance is lost.
For educators within our province, we have been blessed with a curriculum that encourages resource-based learning; however, caught up in the technological environment of our culture, we often lose sight of the value of oral histories as resources. Essential to our teaching is the human element and the meaning we derive from our changing lives. For me, in my quest to examine the narratives of our veterans, a most important aspect of my research would be to undertand how I, or any teacher, interpret important cultural and historical stories to students and why it is an essential part of our curriculum. Because children often glorify war and conflict, I saw my role in this gathering of veterans’ stories as a link with my concerns in developing peace education to be used in conjunction with Remembrance Day and continued throughout the year. It is not the blood and gore that we should remember. If young children are to be exposed to these images, a teacher must be prepared to discuss the politics of wars, the patriotism of armies, the value of negotiation, peace activism, and the transference of these issues to everyday life
The magnitude of war is incomprehensible to students in this country. My goal was to impart an understanding of what peace really means and our responsibilities in maintaining that peace. For the veterans, thoughts may be very clear in this regard, for they have seen the brutality and the senselessness of devastation in conflict. I needed them to tell me how to portray this to children. Why should children be exposed to veterans’ stories? How would I translate these stories and ensure that the children see through the guns and tanks and explosions to the understanding of how to stop such carnage? What would the veterans see as valuable in making young people want to prevent wars? How could I make the lives of veterans a meaningful part of the curriculum and use their stories to develop a peace education program for my students that would deal not only with experiences on a battlefield of war but also on the battlefields of the peace-time homefront? What might the veterans see as important in their past choices and their experiences? How could I use their answers in helping children understand moral issues?
The veterans have locked away the memories of battle in the recesses of yesteryear. When we look beneath the surface of the pain of loss and disillusionment, there are stories for teachers to value and there is wisdom for teachers to gain. I wanted to hear, from the veterans, what is important for peace education, and I wanted to hear, from them, what I should do as a teacher to preserve what they have learned.
Because I have been involved for many years in the collection of stories from my own aging relatives, I have developed a certain fulfilment, as a parent, in what I will leave to my children. That personal commitment has now become professional. The hands-on studies of the community in which our students live offer the opportunity to gain an enriched knowledge of the children’s lives that can bring them closer to their heritage as they develop an appreciation for their families’ histories. Community interaction with the school strengthens the partnership between the two. Cooperation fosters a mutual respect among teachers, students, parents, grandparents, and the business community as a link is forged between formal and informal education. The continuity of building connections between the past, present, and future reinforces caring relationships that add support to our roles as educators (Godott, 1996; Morgan, 1991; Noddings, 1991; Tratchenberg, 1995).
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2. Boundaries: The Methodology
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Life History Approach
The union of formal history, which offers fact-based “what happened” interpretations, and oral history, which provides a sense of personalized “how I feel about it” participation, can supplement written records and complement documents as well as provide information that otherwise does not exist (Allen & Montell, 1981). Given today’s frantic lifestyles and runaway technological development, participants in such communication offer young people a view into a world that no longer exists. In addition, as Kazemak (1985) points out, narratives produce an appreciation and awareness of the “struggle and pain upon which our relatively affluent society is built” (p. 211) while often providing a therapeutic value for the story teller in that past experiences may surface “the resurgence of unresolved conflicts which can now be surveyed and reintegrated” (p. 211) within the family’s belief systems and heritage.
As long as forty years ago, Nevins deplored the technological advancements that usurped the time for written remembrances such as the diaries and journals and letters of yesteryear (Allan & Montell, 1981). Many past happenings are simply forgotten and will remain so unless the oral history movement continues to flourish.
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In recent literature we read of van Manen’s (1990) views about the purposes of the interview. He describes the study of culture (ethnography), the study of individual’s perceptions of interactions in certain experiences (psychological perception), the study of people’s feelings about particular issues (social opinion), and the conversational interview (hermeneutic phenomenological accounts) that includes personal life histories. Because dialogue encourages a reflective attitude from the participant, there is a richer understanding of the lived experience. It is of utmost importance that interviews be conducted with great respect for human dignity and well within the comfort of the narrator (Ritcher, Shulman, Kirkendall, & Birdwhistell, 1991). Weber (1986) writes of the element of trust and hope between researcher and narrator, in hopes that the research will be of value and hope that the interviewer will not misinterpret the intentions of the story. “...in the very invitation there is a sense of trust and a confirmation of the participant as a human being of importance” (Weber, 1986, p. 67) but being interviewed is “like taking your clothes off in public” (p. 66).
Narrative is the primary way through which humans organize their experiences into temporarily meaningful episodes (Richardson, 1995). Narrative meaning is created by noting the connections between events and the causality of events. Connelly and Clandinin (1995) discuss three desires: the desire to tell stories, the desire for relationship, and the desire to reflect. The argument for the use of narrative is based on the premise that humans are storytelling creatures who lead storied lives and tell stories of those lives. We begin to know our owns stories better by hearing others’ stories in which we hear echoes or in which we see new shades of meaning, causing us to change practices or to value the knowing. There are multiple possible meanings to a narrative depending on the secular, personal, or institutional frame placed around the story. There are common marks such as the search for “voice” in the voice of the partiticpants, the voice of the place, the voice not heard by outer audiences, and the voice of theory (Brown & Gilligan, 1991; Seidman, 1971; Randall, 1985).
The narrative process pertaining to my study is oral history. Randall (1985) stresses that careful preparation is needed to obtain a quality product. Questions are formulated after the preparation is completed and should start simply, allowing the participant to “remember.” Better responses may be the result of a clear reason for gathering the information. Oral history has a flexible format so the interviewer has leeway in choosing technique. This interviewing allows us to hear about places and settings in which others have lived as well as their perceptions and interpretations of how events affected them personally. We are given a picture of what actually happened in past events or in areas closed to us (Weiss, 1994). The eventual written story helps to perpetuate cultural strength and understanding.
For the purpose of my research, the primary function was to focus on the veterans’ narratives as telling an important moral story. The glorification of war is long gone; two more generations have been produced since the end of the last world war. Retelling the stories fifty years later provides the historical context necessary to create meaning that links the lessons of yesterday with the practices of life today. As Seidman (1991) suggests, the goal of the process is to undertand how the participants create worthwhile meaning of their lives.
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3. Odyssey: The Ethic of Care
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The Changing World of Postmodernism
According to Lennart Vriens (1996), we are now faced with the loss of the real and natural world. In the battlefields of poverty and violence, gone is the perception of childhood as a magical time that children should be able to look back upon with great pleasure. The romantic love of one-mate-for-life and the maternal love of mom-stays-at-home while dad-goes-to-work provided the illusion of security and nurturing for the modern nuclear family. The value of togetherness of the family unit produced children who were seen an innocent and in need of parental guidance, limit-setting, and protection. The modern child viewed “family shows” on television and read comforting stories of animals and children. The sentiments, morals, and values of this modern family have given way to the reality of marital problems, promiscuity, absent parents, children who are viewed as mistakenly able to care for themselves, and adolescents who are mistakenly seen as sophisticated equals to parents in decision-making. The children of these permeable families watch murder and mayhem on television and, if they read at all, pursue blood and gore. The family of the 1990s is but a pit stop in the daily whirl of activities were egoism reigns supreme (Elkind, 1996).
Schools, performing the function of in loco parentis, often treat individuals out of context with their expanding environment. Are we, as educators and pseudo parents, creating a sense of displacement in young people? Does over-emphasis on “self” leave room for concern about our fellow people? Is equality and acceptance a myth? Are we able to embrace the notion of learning to care for others and accept their differences? We are faced with a contemporary crisis and a breakdown of community (Aronowitz & Girous, 1991; Elkind, 1996; Oyle, 1979; Trotzer, 1989). As teachers, we relate all too well to the words of Nel Noddings (1984, p. 46): “The strain on one who cares can be great.”
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The Need For Care
Everywhere we hear the complaint, “Nobody cares!” The image of a caring society includes families, communities, strangers, churches, schools, businesses, and public policies, but how does this caring happen? As human beings we want to care and to be cared for. Caring is important in itself. Paulo Freire (1970) devoted his life to the advancement of the fortunes of the impoverished people of Brazil, saying that every human being, no matter how “ignorant” or “silent,” is capable of looking critically at the world but that he may need to be shown the proper tools to perceive personal and social reality. Al Condeluci (1995) speaks of disempowered people--the vulnerable and the dependent who lack power due to poverty, inadequate skills, cultural differences, or physical differences. These people, he says, are devalued in such a way that the system sees very little worth in what they can contribute. One only cares for something or someone if one has a regard for or inclination toward that something or someone. To be touched, to have aroused in one something that will disturb the ethical reality, one must see the other’s reality as a possibility of one’s own. Without nurturing and caring, individual human beings cannot thrive, and violence leads to the breakdown of democracy (Lasley, 1994; Noddings, 1984; Postman, 1995; Schervish, Hodgkinsons, & Gates, 1995; Wade, 1996; Walz & Bleuer, 1992).
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The Ethic of Care Defined
In 1962, Martin Heidegger described care as the “very being of human life” (cited by Noddings, 1992, p. 15). Milton Mayeroff (1971) described caring as helping another person grow and actualize himself. Ned Noddings (1992) stressed the inter-relationships between the “carer” and the “recipient of care.” This follows quite naturally the idea that basic human need is the desire to be cared for and to be seen as a worthwhile individual. Noddings sees ethics and moral education intertwined with the love and caring shown in the relationship of carer and care-giver (1992) and she suggests that caring is the “very bedrock of all successful education” (1992, p. 27) and that the “nurturance of the ethical ideal is primary” (1984, p. 6). Others have drawn the same conclusions to support the notion of maintaining and enhancing caring in education. Chaskin and Rauner (cited by Wade, 1996) contend that caring involves a mutual connection based on relationships and action. Years earlier, Carol Gilligan (1982) described the morality of caring as a network of relationships focused upon the recognition of needs, relation, and response in the construction of a sense of responsibility to one another. Finally, Marshall, Patterson, Rogers, and Steele (1996) define caring as a responsibility to others rather than a fidelity to rights or rules.
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The Feminine Perspective
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Caring in Schools
In a community structure that is split in two, wounds are being inflicted on those who care and those who do not. There is a search for the “straight path” of Richard Katz (1993), a path for all people, a common link among people. The necessity for sharing in the survival of the human community is increasingly evident. Katz and St. Denis (1986) believe “the teacher as healer” is a guide to make things whole, fostering connections and collaboration between the individual, the school, and the community. “Probably the most caring avenue for enhancing caring in children is through their relationships with others in the classroom and school” (Eisenberg, 1992, cited by Wade, 1996, p. 19).
We are now faced with asking ourselves what we really want for these children we are educating. Why must we be concerned with raising academic standards and dwelling on liberal arts when it is obvious society needs to focus on the care and competency of its children
This leads to the issue of the scope of the professional demands placed on teacher and the resulting impossibility for teachers to become true care-givers in the sense that every child will be treated as an individual. The carers become overwhelmed and overburdened by their responsibilities--to the point where they lose their emotional energy and require care themselves (Noddings, 1984). Unfortunately, there is rarely a school that envisions long-range goals for the cultivation of human caring and concern. If models of caring are to be instituted within our curricula, there must be opportunity for caring to occur--time for teachers to tend to the needs of children as well as their colleagues and time to recapture and develop the rituals, routines, and ceremonies we have lost over the years. Teachers who suffer “burnout,” the inability to summon emotion and energy needed to continue teaching, often blame themselves for their failures and doubt their abilities, commitment, and original love of the profession (Noddings & Shore, 1984). There is even less chance for care to exist in the classroom when the teacher is in need of a care-giver.
In addition to the difficulties in coping with behavior, and a diverse set of academic and physical problems of students, there is the challenge of relating to students with “attitudes” who have no intention of responding to caring efforts. Sympathy comes from Noddings (1992, p. 42) who states:
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The Caring Teacher
Through our caring and our expectations for children to develop morality, we educators must be ever congnizant of the fact that we are the role models who set the examples. Jacque Benninga (1991) refers to this as the most powerful step in nurturing character. In teaching children to be caring, teachers must live the ethic of caring. Teachers, being the “brokers of caring in schools” (Bosworth, 1995, p. 687) bridge the partners in education. The school, then, must provide the basis for the growth of relational virtues. Unfortunately, many of today’s students often lack the early beginnings of moral life usually found between parent and child. The first step for the school is to explore and promote the value of caring by searching for ways in which to provide it within the environment and activities of the students. The second step requires that working partnerships be established to recognize shared interests and responsibilities for children between school, home, and community. Last, heartfelt motivation, inspiration, leadership, and commitment must be summoned from the school (Chaskin & Rauner, 1995; Epstein, 1995; Schervish et al., 1995). Wuthnow likens learning to care with learning to walk; van manen (1986) encourages educators to retain a life commitment for hope. Noddings (1992) has the last word when she advises that we act as wise parents of our large family and ask what we envisin for each and for all of them.
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The Ethic of Care and Peace Education
From an early age, children become accustomed to violence without simultaneously learning the consequences. For young people, life is rampant with the idea that conflict and aggressiveness lead to adventure, achievement, and group solidarity. The global media bombardment depicting images of power and strength through stories, movies, television, videos, and toys gives youth the impression that success depends on winning. While our educational system includes sexist and militarist overtones found in the promotion of competition, authoritarianism, hierarchical policy making, gender inequity, ability tracking of students, law and order discipline techniques, and employment expectations, a culture of peace arises from the influence of women and their traditional roles and experiences. Birgit Brock-Utne (1989) suggests that women are more peace oriented than men, inclined to seek equal resources for all, to reduce military spending, and to promote nonviolence. She asks if peace education might have a different flavor if influenced by feminists. Her next argument is that, in addition to military aggression, peace education must address other feminist perspectives that include gender power distribution, liberalism’s unfair discrimination of women, socialism’s gender and class oppression, racism, and, also, the problems of radical feminism. In other words, education for peace is the value of sharing and cooperation rather than competition and domination. Simply because nations are not at war does not presuppose the conditions of love. As long as people fear the values that promote violence and oppression, there is no “peace,” and as long as these conditions exist, teaching the values of caring and sharing will not make much headway.
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4. Salvation Through the Fathers: The Research
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The Research Topic
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Review of the Literature
And so I began to read, beginning with Nel Noddings, a guiding authority on the ethic of care. Her work led to a ballooning examination of work centered on the need for care, the very definition of care itself, the foundations necessary for care, and the feminine perspective of caring. The reading then shifted to care for students, care in the schools, and how to begin the building of such care. When switching gears to the theme of peace and peace education, it was satisfying to discover how closely related these ideas are to the ethic of care. The deeply personal peace activism of Birgit Brock-Utne opened the doors to a study of militarism and education for peace as well as education about peace.
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Research Technique Selection
Contact with the participants was made personally, beginning with a letter introducing the study (Appendix A) followed by a preliminary in-person chat or a phone call prior to the actual interviews. The initial discussion established a sense of worth in the participant, a chance for the mutual choice of site, an opportunity for the participant to consent to become part of the study, the discussion of informed consent, the assessment of whether or not the participant was appropriate for the study, the ease in which the meetings would be scheduled with the participant, and the best times, places, and dates for the interviews. Early in the organization of the interviews, an expected bonus came my way in that two additional veterans, related to one of my chosen participants, agreed to become part of the study. Adding to the rapport was the annual Remembrance Day inter-relationships with the veterans.
For the purpose of the study, the veterans (World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, Peacekeeping) were identified by initials. Their training had placed them as follows: mechanic, tank driver, telephone operator, airframe technician, salvage operations, tank gunner, radio operator, postal services, Medical Corps, Personnel and Records, and artillery. Ethnic backgrounds included English, Scottish, Ukrainian, French, and Aboriginal ancestry. Service ranged from two years to thirty years in the military. During all but four of the interviews, the wives of the veterans were present and part of the interview process. Two wives in particular made exceptional contributions with narratives of the “homefront.”
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It was my hope that my participants would feel a sense of self-reliance, a sense of lessening the pressure. Perhaps they would make sense of something, personally, by relating their experiences to me.
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Validity, Ethics, and Reliability
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We began each interview session with stories and remembrances of youthful days and I smiled at the antics of these folks. School, of course, was a favorite topic. Of interest for the children of the 1990s, the discipline demonstrated by teachers years ago seemed to produce a sense of respect from the children. The school was also held in high esteem by parents. Teachers were the ultimate authority and were questioned by no one. I wondered, as I listened, if the structure and systematic teaching of those days made it easier to recruit and train troops for war. I thought, also, of the work ethic instilled in these youngsters as they were given an education essential for life in their community. With specific stories to hear, what an opportunity for our students to make real-life comparisons between the two systems of education. In addition to the discipline at school, my participants talked of the rules at home, and the variation between the feminine and masculine influences. It made me think of the male image of the warrior code. Was it the feminine influence that ignited the caring in these young men? Given the present age of the participants, their childhood encompassed a time when everyone worked together to keep the family unit running smoothly. Families were large. Leisure time was not what it is today. I heard several stories of the long days of physical work, yet the structure of those days produced responsible community members.
As we progressed through the memories of life as a child, we broached the subject of war, the fascination it holds for young people, and the simple gullibility of youth. As I listened to the stories, I wondered what the parents of these teenagers had thought and I remembered an excerpt from Broadfoot (1975) where one of his narrators talks of waiting in line to get into a war so he could get himself killed. For some of my veterans, the words and advice of parents are still with them, 55 years later.
When the initial shock of Basic Training had worn off, the enlisted boys discovered a comradship and a strength as they grew in leadership skills and maturity. Men in war love the company of men, writes Griffin (1992), almost as if they share a secret. The sense of community established by the military accomplishes insurmountable tasks. Could we learn from this, in our schools? Have we lost our community? Do we, as teachers, take care of our own, as the soldiers did?
For the Vietnam veteran, the military family became caught in the middle of political wars, and disillusionment set in. For those in the Second World War, however, the mood was different. It was a world war and, in the minds of some historians, one of those “necessary wars.” This raises issues that even grade four children are able to question. What causes wars? Which wars are justified and which wars are not? Are any? Regardless of the reasons for war, the process itself robs society of its youth and it robs the youth of their innocence. And then, of course, there was the destruction, one of the major evils of war. There was an uneasiness among all the veterans as we spoke of the cruelty of the weapons and the refugees with nowhere to turn.
The most difficult subject for the veterans to discuss was that of the children in the war-torn countries. Children are the most innocent victims who are drawn into something over which they have no control. Because I have observed the love and care my grandparent veterans show toward their young grandchildren in our elementary school, it was understandable that this subject would produce considerable emotion. I sensed that, for the soldiers, fighting other soldiers was in the game. Harming the innocent was not in the plan when they joined up.
There was, too, the long haul of battle when the innocent recruits became hardened young men forced to accept whatever lay in their paths. Their emotions were dulled; they became immune to death and destruction. Regardless of the desensitization and the on-going drudgery of the war, there were times when fear managed to rise to the surface. As we talked of these experiences, the veterans were often quiet and pensive, somewhat lost in a time when life may have ended in a heartbeat. In the midst of trying to keep themselves safe, there was always the added psychological warfare of the propaganda machine, made clearer to me when a veteran of the Italian campaign showed me one of the samples of German propaganda he had kept.
Although these grandfathers spoke of other armies and other countries, they still feel that the Canadian boys were the most respected. This pricked my mind and I searched for thoughts of how we might approach this in school, and how we might arrive at conclusions for the behaviors of armies. What wonderful history lessons this could involve. It appears, too, that wars are often won by the armies with the most effective effort at the appearance of power, so I listened to the king-of-the-hill stories of weaponry. The worst, of course, was yet to come in our interviews. I did not know if I wanted to hear about the liberation of the concentration camps. No one can ever forget the carnage inflicted upon humans by other humans. The liberation of an entire country was quite different, and the jubilation is one of the brightest memories of my storytellers.
Coming home was not always everything the young veterans imagined. There were changes. And, there were the nightmares and the memories. Thoughts of the damage inflicted overseas still plague war veterans half a century later. There were those who returned home knowing they would never again volunteer to go to war. And, there are those who have developed thoughts about the war-makers themselves.
While the words continued to flow, my mind grappled with the images created by these participants who reached into their past for me, a past of another world where boys had become men overnight. The soul-searching and personal growth they experienced produced new perspectives for the listener in me as I began to look for commonalities and themes in these personal histories. The next stop was to correlate those reflections in the search for the peace education values underlying the stories.
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5. Suffer the Little Children: Peace Education
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Peace Education Defined
As the politically influential mass organization of pacifism is losing ground, Vriens warns that, while people may assume the work is done, there is continuing concern to address the peace issues of our time. The 1990s have addressed the “hidden curriculum” or making society a safe place to exist, to battle the invisible enemies of poverty, family violence, unemployment, and racism. Content has become less important than who is educated, by whom, and for what reason, argue Burns and Aspeslagh (1996), a thought shared by Vriens (1996) who believes that peace education can contribute to creating a better world. He (1990) insists that we must truly understand the implications of moral peace education standing for a really humane life that respects the creative, cooperative, and spiritual life for every human being who will pass on those ideas to future generations.
To answer the mighty question of, “What is peace education?” there are a multitude of valuable alternatives offered by dedicated international peace researchers who have advised us to be aware of the task we face. Ake Bjerstedt (1990) has compiled an impressive summary which might be condensed to the following:
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Peace Education and Social Responsibility
How does all this apply to education? Noddings (1987) believes we need to include feminine interpretations of history in our curriculum. In addition, we lack attention to self-knowledge. We must include, through critical thinking programs, studies to understand the manipulation of people into doing evil to other people. Students need to critically examine the warrior model in order to use its merits to promote a less violent way of living with others.
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Peace Education and the Curriculum
Multicultural studies and experiences must be incorporated throughout the educational curriculum rather than marginalizing a study to produce pieces. We tend to freeze things in terms of other cultures and create a “thing” rather than trying to keep it alive. The accompanying danger is that we point to a certain group of people as victims. What is it that our children are really learning? What is it like to be a minority? What is it like to be privileged by the color and accident of your birth? Who are we in our own country? How we view power, responsibility, and esteem plays a big part in who we are. Recent developments in society point to increased levels of racism interwoven throughout the conflicts of our culture (Stomfay & Hinitz, 1996). The appreciation, respect, and tolerance for cultures may be an impossible dream in many schools where parental and community attitudes foster misconceptions and stereotyping. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “We have flown in the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth as brothers and sisters” (cited by Stomfay & Hinitz, 1996, p. 4).
The legacy of war and militarism has left us with the task of peace education, conflict resolution, and violence prevention in today’s culturally diverse schools and society. Working and living together in peace and mutual respect is the ultimate challenge for multicultural education. “When we were young, it was perhaps reasonable to limit education to the three Rs, but today all children need exposure to a fourth R: (social) Responsibility,” warn Hammond & Collins (1993, p. 11). The concern is voiced that children must learn the skills necessary to overcome the oppression that often appears to be a given norm within society. Nel Noddings (1992) talks of the issues that motivate children to do the things they must be able to do in order to live productive and acceptable lives. The scheme, she says, must draw attention to attitudes and concerns about care for self, others, and nonhuman life, as well as human-made objects and ideas. Noddings prefers shared living, development, and responsibility as we respect our children and the lives they will lead as adults. She believes students and teachers need each other to complete the circle of care. Suggestions for programs and teaching skills in peace education should include the following (Fletcher, 1986, p. 40):
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6. Peace is a Little Bit of Heaven: Reflection of a Listener
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No Choice But To Care
Moving from the early theoretical prescriptions of teaching methods toward the experiential, hands-on theory of today’s classroom has cemented an underlying core within me. Always, regardless of the changing external influences, I have believed my goal is to develop in every child a love of learning and a desire to give his or her best effort. There is no boundary of how good you can be. Taking risks brings the joy of doing what you think you cannot do.
The foundation of my own love of learning is the never-to-be-forgotten teachers of my earlier school years who demonstrated their enjoyment of what they taught and, in doing so, lit the fire within me. Now it is my turn to pass the torch. I have learned to develop my own comfort perimeters and I have learned to appreciate a gentle, caring, and safe atmosphere. A sense of personal values has surfaced time after time as I have tried to share my thoughts about ethical thinking in order that the students might lead morally responsible lives together as a class. Knowing what ethics is all about develops concerns about right and wrong, what is good, and what kind of person is a good person. As society has changed and families no longer provide the stability of years ago, teachers now have a responsibility to become parents to their students--in loco parentis--and, in doing so, to offer the nurturing and guidance and love often missing at home, and to aid in the development of moral judgments that will tell them what to do and what not to do. These kids belong to someone. There is a mom or a dad who has placed trust in me to do the right thing for their child. Every child as an instrinsic worth and we have a duty to accord them the same kind of treatment we would expect someone to accord a child of ours. I want the children in my classroom to like themselves, to be self-confident, to have great hopes and to feel that nothing is impossible. Ruth Viguers expresses this most effectively when she says, “Children are not born knowing the many opportunities that are theirs for the taking. Someone who does know must tell them” (Miller, 1994, p. 306).
Unfortunately, much of what we see in schools today often makes it difficult to love those kids. The disrespect, the verbal language, the low self-esteem, the inappropriate behavior, the disinterest in school, the apathy of teachers and administrators, the helplessness and ineffectiveness of parents, the media bombardments...all contribute to extreme stress for me as well as my colleagues. We have become psychologists, social workers, counsellors, policemen, and, most of all, parents. As Beatrix Potter wrote, “I am worn to a raveling” (cited by Miller, 1994, p. 244).
Hearing a small exerpt from Socrates has made me realize that the challenge of teaching has always been “playing the cards we are dealt.” Socrates wrote, “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food and tyrannize their teachers” (Friesen, 1996). How refreshing to know they have not really changed. Like birds, we must puff up our feathers to exclude the cold and over-demands. I have learned that I cannot be an island unto myself. I have to be part of the continent, willing to ask for help and willing to learn to receive. Grumet (1988) warns, “None of us knows alone” (acknowledgments). She goes on to advise:
There comes a time when many teachers feel a need to examine their beliefs and theories and daily practices. When considering revision in classroom teaching, it is wise to remember that not only is a teacher part of a team but also that positive alternatives for one teacher may contribute toward the good of the entire school. The development of the discipline of group dynamics is the core of cooperative learning. It focuses on the forces operating in a group that affect the individual behavior of the group and how individual behavior affects the group. Changes must be accepted as reality. Teachers must learn to anticipate change, to manage it, and to adjust to its process. The ways in which this is resolved can be critical to the effectiveness of any attempt to solve problems. Unless an individual is motivated and ready to change, very little change will occur. Because the typical response to change is to resist the process, the status quo is usually defended and maintained. Protecting obsolete or nonfunctional social systems promotes additional conflict and tension that transfers to personal and social stability.
With these thoughts in mind, I set out to weave my way through the stories of the war veterans, the minefields of new ideas and ways for dealing with children. It seemed only natural to consider the resources in the community and who better than our elders to offer insight into the years or change. Knowing and understanding family narratives can help students understand the histories of their families as well as the complexity of every-changing communication patterns. In addition, there is the opportunity for children to learn to care. Because of my past interest in oral history, and my sense of obligation to preserve the wisdom of the grandparents who are presently a part of our school program, my aim was to discover what these men and women could contribute to the development of the ethic of care and, with that, what might be done to address the issue of peace. Focusing on peace education meant, initially, the prevention of war. It then blossomed into the study of how to use the knowledge of pacifism to affect changes at a more personal level within the environments of school, home, and community.
As a teacher, I cannot create caring human beings simply by telling them we will learn to care. Lessons and values from grandparents can become a very powerful means of enabling children to examine their own young lives, to promote ethical action and to foster caring attitudes. I wanted to hear, from “my veterans,” what was important for peace education and I wanted to hear, from them, what I should do as a teacher to preserve what they have learned. I wanted to hear, from them, if their stories offered a meaningful way to initiate a study of the ethic of care. I wanted to hear, from them, what they have learned about caring for themselves and each other. I wanted to hear, from them, their motivations, their reflections, their interpretations, and their feelings.
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A Clearer View of Yesterday
“There is a strong need to come to terms with our identity, our past, and our legacy so that our children might better understand their heritage,” writes Marmor (1995, p. 151). Grumet (1996) speaks of the loss of identity and of the “longing” or the sense that “something is missing” when she asks how we can bring back the sense of community and communion to our schools. The simple act of visiting and hearing the narratives of the aging war veterans reinforced my notions of reaching into the community to find the undiscovered part of ourselves. My research became a personal journey as I thought of coming to terms with my own feelings. Am I concerned with the ethic of care because of some new direction my life is taking? It it my age? Is the feminine part of me that seeks to nuture? Goodson & Walker (1991) discuss the “stations” of life or the stopping places in life which are “a point at which one stands to take a view” ( p. 45). That is where I am, I think. At a station. My research is a way of choosing how to direct my path beyond this stage but, I cannot care by habit. I must learn from others, as I have been doing from the veterans. They are the teachers; I am the pupil. As Mayeroff (1971) has written, “Caring becomes my way of thanking for what I have received. I thank all the more for my appropriate others and the conditions of their existence” (p. 62).
As my narrators and I talked together, we found a new respect and security for our own worth. They trusted me with a part of their life, knowing I would use it in my plans for human harmony in the classroom. It is a legacy of leadership to which we, as teachers, are committed. Griffin (1992) mentions “a beauty that tears one open” (p. 318). That is what many of the stories have done. It was often long after an interview had ended before I heard the “voice” and I found myself seeing history from a human position as I heard the anger, the anguish, and the excitement.
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We cannot allow threats to children’s inner peace that promote fear and failure in our schools. While I may be a researcher, I am also an educator, and my work must reflect a desire to fight the wars against poverty and racism and chauvinism and disease. I want my students to know, as John Dewey suggested in 1902, how to learn through doing and how to solve problems rationally and peacefully.
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Assault of the Community
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From Whence Cometh Racism
In a collection of work gathered about the Holocaust, racism at its extreme, it is written that “education with ethics can become an instrument of power” (Bialystok, 1995, p. 137). If the goal of hatred is to portray a group as inferior, even the most educated society can self-destruct (Mock, 1995) as we saw in Nazi Germany. Children have to learn to become more sensitive to stereotyping, to prevent the simmering of racism.
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Whole Earth Independence
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Where to From Here?
My journey with the veterans took me on a search for something that may have started when I was young and listening to my father’s stories. Perhaps I have now developed an inner peace or a sense of knowing where I am going from here. The ideas that have grown out of my research have answered many questions about the ethic of care and the development of values. Years ago, values were taken for granted and supported by the home. Today, we must actively think about what we are doing.
It was with great reluctance that I had to end the research, for it gave me a great feeling of loss. Because I felt that my adventure had just begun, I found myself planning how to use additional stories in building lessons that enable us to see the value in oral histories. Without a doubt, I have a new sense of appreciation for learning to cooperate and cooperating to learn. In developing good pedagogy, Max van Manen (1991, p. 8) says teachers “need to know how to hand over this world to the child so that he or she can make it his or her world.” Later, he adds, “We cannot be pedagogically responsible to children if we refuse to acknowledge that we are co-responsible for the world in which we live.” Co-responsible is the answer. The humanistic elements of education found in good pedagogy are essential in this ever-changing world we live in where students will need to learn to think and to solve problems.
Teachers hold the power to provide a nourishing school and classroom environment that provides positive interaction between the myriad of students from various cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds who must work together to overcome their differences through the link of self-discipline, critical thinking, and academic skills. Educational priorities are changing to meet the needs of this generation in the workforce where essential skills will involve cooperation, peer support, and problem solving. We can develop these through interdependence of cooperative learning which emphasizes social solidarity and shared responsibility in reaching group goals. The world is changing and we have the power to help our students prepare to meet their furture. We can use the words of those who have been there. With their stories, I want my students to know that it is possible to care. I want them to know it is possible to change. And, I want them to know it is possible to enjoy peace.
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As my thesis research ended, there came the new task of developing the program of studies I intended to include in my general classroom curricula. Oddly enough, the ideas correlated readily as the suggestions of the veterans led to a clearer view of what I hoped to achieve. Reviewing literature and research from others concerned with similar goals, I focused on a year long program of 180 lessons that would include all the “matters of the heart” that had sent me off on the original search.
When hearing the words of a wonderful little veteran who, when asked
what peace really is, said to me, “Peace is a little bit of heaven, don’t
you think?” I knew exactly what to title my new project. Included
in the daily lessons are quotes, poems, cartoons, messages, music, affirmations,
vocabulary, and activities based on peace. Photos,
veteran narratives, the study of world peacebuilders, cooperative games,
and relaxation exercises (caring for self) are also on the agenda.
The program, piloted in my classroom last year and, presently being introduced
throughout the entire school, is organized as such:
Unit 1: SELF (September)
My personal opinion is that we can teach children about peace but it must begin in kindergarten and grade one. However, I also feel that individual teachers must take the initiative to choose a program that best suits their teaching style but a program they will use on a daily basis. In addition, there must be a genuine passion for the idea. Merely dumping another curriculum on a teacher is not going to produce quality or results. The initiating factor is the administration and their commitment to a better school climate and support for teachers who wish to risk new ideas. I was fortunate in that my administrator encouraged me to include my program in my regular time table and expressed continued interest in my progress.
There is a need to behave more responsibly. There is a need to feel good about ourselves. There is a reason to learn of peacebuilding processes and where hatred can lead us. There are systematic ways of thinking about conflict and strategies of response. There is value in sharing and cooperating. There is a way to review and celebrate our friendships and good feelings.
At the end of each day, I want my students to know one thing: violence is an unacceptable way to solve problems. And, if there is a pleasant thought for each of us to take home, let it be these words: Peace is a little bit of heaven.
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(The full bibliography used in the research study is found in the thesis.)
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