Peace Education: A Priority for our Youth and Society

My latest article published by Executive Women

December 9, 2019 

Peace Education
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh-Director of SPNC Learning & Communication Expertise, University Professor, & Visual Artist

Much has been said about social responsibility in the last two to three decades, and many non-governmental organizations have created programs and organized youth camps in the Arab world to encourage individuals and groups to act for the benefit of society at large. However, ongoing political disorder, wars, and economic crises in several countries have contributed to the implementation of national security-based strategies, whereas any society’s survival depends on a social responsibility strategy, and this strategy should include peace education. 

Peace education encompasses a variety of pedagogical approaches within formal curricula in schools and universities, and non-formal popular education projects. It aims to cultivate the knowledge and practices of a culture of peace, and plays an important role in individual and collective mindset changes.

Unfortunately, most academic curricula in the Arab world do not offer peace education courses, and little attention has been paid so far to the inclusion of peace programs in universities — they are considered to be low priorities.

In addition, many avoid giving too much attention and too many resources to Peace Studies programs out of fear that they may become politicized. The emphasis is usually placed on subjects considered to be tangible and have practical value for competition in the local, regional, and global marketplaces.

Peace education’s advantages are numerous:

  • It develops cultural awareness and effective communication strategies in intercultural/interreligious settings,
  • It leads to increased and differentiated understandings of cultures and a desire to expand one’s own knowledge of cultural customs, concepts, and values,
  • It helps deconstruct stereotypes and fight against xenophobia, discrimination, and ethnocentrism,
  • It helps the youth to reflect on the subjectivity of their own thoughts and language as they learn to step outside boundaries and develop more critical thinking,
  • It helps students to understand and experience unity in human diversity.

I have developed my own peace education approach and applied it in universities in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates with thousands of students from 2007 to 2018. The results of my research were published in several books and academic journals, proving the positive impact of peace education.

The basis of this educational approach is dialogue, which is not used as a mere technique to achieve some cognitive results, but to transform social relations. Through interactive practices and an emphasis on cooperation, students are provided with space in which they can undergo constructive analysis, build bridges, and develop a sense of national inclusive belonging. 

Nonetheless, peace education faces many challenges and obstacles in our region, starting with the context itself that makes it hard to disseminate — such as the context of continuous physical and psychological wars in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq,… 

Furthermore, it still is a socially isolated affair. For peace education to have a large-scale impact, there are many conditions that need to be fulfilled, such as support from private institutions and public authorities, sustained interaction between students and their professors, interdependence in completing common tasks, etc. 

In the context of both formal and non-formal education, funding for projects and their sustainability are two major challenges. Only elite schools and universities can offer sufficiently long training and the much needed follow-up support as inequalities and discrimination are a major challenge. In fact, they do not disappear when the classroom doors close or when they open again; students may continue pursuing opposing agendas, especially when they have unsupportive home environments.

Even when they are equipped with a new way of perceiving themselves and the “others”, the students enter into a collision course with their social surroundings and their “unquestionable truths” through their homes, neighborhoods, sectarian communities, political parties, and the media. In my opinion, peace education should be considered a public good and, as such, should be offered as a free service to all. 

Youth represent the largest group in the region, and they are exposed to an increasing number of vulnerabilities, threats, and challenges. The lack of economic, educational, and leadership opportunities limits the youth’s full potential for contribution to their families and communities, and for sustainable development and peace.

Facing these challenges requires investment in youth education, active participation, visibility and empowerment. Such investment must target youth from all cultural and religious backgrounds, including young people from disparate communities, as well as young people with disabilities and vulnerable or marginalized youth.

Clearly, this investment will not be a waste, for a culture of peace is needed to build prosperous countries and inclusive societies, and this culture is not an unattainable ideal. It is a culture we can make, embody, and share.

By, Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Director of SPNC Learning & Communication Expertise, University Professor, & Visual Artist.

https://executive-women.me/2019/12/09/peace-education-a-priority-for-our-youth-and-society/

Artist Pamela Chrabieh’s “Peace Collection” in Indelible Dubai

I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. My experience as a war survivor has marked my writing and art, as has fueld my quest for peace.

As I see it, peace is not only about ceasefires, the end of bloodshed, the absence of hostilities, and a state of mutual concord between governments, as war is both “physical” and “psychological”.

Peace is about accountability for violence, openness, generosity, clemency, and catharsis.

Peace is and should be a transformation process within mindsets, a celebration of interconnected life and unity in the diversity of complex identities.

As long as the legacy of violence is not addressed within ourselves and our societies, we will remain lost, cut off from connection, living in a never-ending apocalypse of carnages and tortured souls and bodies.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. 
http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co

Source: Indelible

Can we still build Inclusive Societies in the Middle East without Deep Learning? No…

I am sharing here the conclusion of my paper on deep learning in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates:

”One of the challenges that higher education will be facing is the spread of more surface learning versus deep learning, as deep learning can particularly take place in Humanities courses when appropriate education approaches are thought and practiced. I believe that the decision to reduce education (and learning) to a corporate consumer-driven model – providing services to the student-client -, transforms universities into factories or collegelands.

The ability to think critically and independently, to tolerate ambiguity, to see multiple sides of an issue, to deconstruct stereotypes, to appreciate diversity, to look beneath the surface, to dialogue with others on sensitive issues, and therefore the ability that equips us to live in and sustain democracies, to develop peaceful societies united in their diversity, will eventually disappear.

As I am completing the fall semester at the Lebanese American University as a part-time professor of Cultural Studies, I am being told that these courses and other Humanities’ courses will no longer be offered, due to budget cuts. Although my students have stated in their end-of-semester course evaluations their need for such courses and for a pedagogical approach that nurtures deep learning and in particular peacebuilding teaching/learning methods and activities in a country and a region on the verge of further explosion, their voices have not been heard.

I honestly fear that despite the efforts of few professors and educators, and of some youth and local NGOs initiatives, the future that awaits us is either further polarized or monochrome. Alternative narratives, perceptions, and practices that can challenge the ‘norm’ will cease to exist, and students will no longer be engaged to go beyond their disciplines and explore new avenues and skills. Furthermore, the automation of higher education will be contributing to the exacerbation of this reality. I am still struggling from my end and with other activists and pedagogues to build more just and inclusive societies in Southwestern Asia, but I honestly believe that this struggle has already become more arduous”.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, ‘Deep Learning in the University Context: Case Studies in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates’, International Journal of Arts and Sciences Refereed Conference Proceedings, 11 (03), 2018, p. 39-48.
www.universitypublications.net/proceedings

Learning through Food – Deep Learning in the University Context in the Middle East

For those interested in food and education: this article introduces its readers to an interdisciplinary approach in teaching and learning about cultures of Southwestern Asia and North Africa at the American University in Dubai. Selected as one of the United Arab Emirates Innovation Week’s officially registered activities in 2015, this activity combines anthropology of food, sciences of religions, and irenology and is a major application of the peace education pedagogy I have been developing since 2004. The article also presents the preliminary results of qualitative research on the local food cultures’ experiences of more than 500 students from different backgrounds who are enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern studies courses. In my classrooms, students were exposed to—and they told—stories of families, migrations, assimilation, resistance, hybridity, war, and peace and dealt with issues ranging from cultural appropriation to food security and food as an identity marker and the religious significance and representation of food. Class activities such as live food production (e.g., “Hummus Laboratory”), food storytelling sessions, and food diplomacy activities contributed to their learning of local cultures and building peace. Students reported having acquired visceral experiences of foreignness and familiarization, global identity formation, and intercultural dialogue.

https://cgscholar.com/…/learning-through-food-at-the-americ…