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Alternative Narrative

A peaceful education to change society

A peaceful education to change society


The actual education system does not enable us to create a peaceful society, safe and shared knowledge. In most of the schools and education systems, children and youth used to be taught and not to learn by themselves, experiencing with their classmates. They often have to follow some severe rules, which actually do not prepare them properly for the future waiting for them. The schools prefer to teach children in order to become what the world needs from them to be, rather than to teach them to meet their own dreams and needs.

On a small scale, for a person, this creates frustration. On a larger scale, this can lead to competition, conflicts and even war. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) is an Italian doctor and pedagogue, who created a new way of teaching at school: «Peace education». For her and other thinkers like Gandhi, the schools are the first target for revolution because children are the future and it is easier to have an input of values in a young brain. They will help to reach peace.

«Avoiding war is the work of politics, establishing peace is the work of education».

How about trying to switch this system of formal learning into a culture of experience and non-formal learning? Could it help to change the whole society and generate a more respectful, compassionate and honest world? A first revolution which could be made inside of the classroom itself, would convert «enemies» to colleagues, or let us call them «learning-mate». What is a classroom for? Is it not to mutualize skills and knowledge? Prepare the youth sharing their experiences and skills are helping them in building a solidarity-based society. This is one of the problems to be solved in the actual system: instead of helping each other to construct their knowledge, children are taught the principles of competition. Rather than being willing to «win» and creating groups or categorizations between  «good», «acceptable» and «not good». Grades, punishments and reward systems, all of that might highly contribute to the principle of creating competition. Students are even not willing to get a 20/20 or an A but to get a better score than their classmates.

But are human beings really designed to make «war» this way? Are not we born with a heart, which naturally makes us love and helps our fellow man, without any feelings of domination or willing of recognition or reward? Sometimes, even the words we use in the school are not justified, but we do not notice the problem. For instance, the fact that we use the term «opposite gender», is questionable. This is not a gender study, but it is about finding answers for different elements appearing in the domain of education. Why would not we say the complementary gender? This is just an example showing small things can affect the relations of the students and categorizes, or even creates a classmate!

A second thing the system could work on and improve is to increase the amount of manual and creative activities at school. Our hands are a mesmerizing tool, why not use it? The intellectual should not surround the manual, in order to not overbook brains. I am sure, youth could learn a lot by practicing and experiencing themselves, being creative, doing «mistakes», erasing, doing it again. These creative activities could be based on music, sports, circus, DIY, drawing, painting, playing, cooking. The relationship with nature is also very important. Experiencing the power of nature may be incredible non-formal learning, which would also enable future grown-up to act for sustainable development, growing plants, fruits, and vegetables at home, and serve themselves. Nature maintains a balance between human beings, and we are naturally attracted to it. The diversity of activities it offers regarding the seasons and weather enables to discover and learn all throughout the year. 

Other interesting and relevant devices are games. Why? Because it enables us to focus our attention, so it is a suitable learning behavior. Because it is a natural behavior: when you let a kid alone, the first thing he does is playing, regardless of the environment, of the circumstances. Learning and playing are similar for children. These three changes focus more on the needs and the talents of the person. It could help someone find his or her way, or a talent or special skills, instead of requiring him or her to develop skills in accordance with what the world needs.

The third thing is to improve schools by trusting more children. Maria Montessori, as well as Gandhi, are sure that «the natural inclination of children is not toward disorder and violence but toward harmony and fulfillment of inherent potential». It would be good if the goal of the school would not be to teach the child, to «give» him or her knowledge, but to make him or her to develop their own skills and passion. The existing hierarchy, in which the grown-up person triumphs by dominating physically and mentally the youth, leads this youth to conform to ideas, activities, and thoughts, that he may not have naturally. Their wisdom and innocence drive them to more creativity and innovation. The necessity to let the students take the responsibility and ownership of their education, build a common trust with the students. Simply, the pedagogies should go along to pupils to help them know themselves better.

Idriss Abderkane, in his book «Libérez votre cerveau», defines the school as an «all you can eat» buffet; the buffet as the school and the food as all the knowledge we can get in there. The only difference is that in the school, pupils have to eat everything, every single thing, until the last plate, because someone instructed them so. If they do not manage to eat everything, they will be classed, humiliated, repeat a grade. We would rather rely on the child to choose what he or she is good for, than using «the traditional methods, teaching by rote (repetition and memory), restraining and silencing students, and relying on reward and punishment» which is detrimental to the child. Very briefly, a school focusing on peace, justice, social responsibility, community, critical thinking would counter the culture of war and violence. Change the education system, is taking the problem at his roots and will enable us to change step by step the whole society. 

Elise Giroud 

Bada'lya البدائلية