Written on: March 20, 2018
On March 24, 2018 students around the country will be marching in protest to gun violence in schools. I congratulate and thank them for their initiative in taking a stand and demonstrating to adults that in a democracy the voice of the people must be heard. Others are following their lead and organizing other actions in solidarity with them. Still others are calling on Congress to pass commonsense gun legislation.
Laws are not enough to get at the root
These are good and necessary actions; however, they are not enough. As a long time educator steeped in peace and active nonviolence education, I see the issue of gun violence as symptomatic of something much larger about which we need to have honest and substantial national dialogue. Laws are not enough to get at the root. As a nation we must ask and answer some very challenging questions.
Coleman McCarthy, Founder and Director of the Center for Teaching Peace, and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law wrote in Essays on Nonviolence,
“If peace is what every government says it seeks, and peace is the yearning of every heart, why aren’t we studying it and teaching it in schools?”
In his book, I’d Rather Teach Peace, he quotes from a paper of one of his students, which I pass on for its refreshing insight and wisdom:
“Question: Why are we not illiterate, but violent? Answer: Because we’ve been taught to read!”
I use those two McCarthy quotes to build my case that peace and active nonviolence must be integrated into the curriculum in every grade beginning in kindergarten and continuing through required courses in college. This is the prevention piece, far more effective than remediation.
I’m not advocating the use of a particular peace studies curriculum, or that the same one must be used by an entire school district. But I’m advocating that the one chosen be firmly based on respect and put into practice by the entire school family. Respect is caught as well as taught. That means providing training for administration, faculty, staff and students as well as parents is critical. This will create a culture of peace in the school. Respect is spiritual in nature, not denominational, which allows it to find a home in all venues and all circumstances. It means being taught to see differently, to see others as sisters and brothers, as potential friends having the same needs and desires, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows as I have. It requires the ability to listen to more than the spoken word. Seeing and listening this way is aided by the practice of mindfulness which in turn calls one to slow down and calm down! When this kind of respect becomes the atmosphere in which life is lived, the ground is ready for peace to grow.
Note: peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to handle it respectfully.
This article was published in the Baltimore Sun, March 17, 2018 as “Lessons in Peace.”
Sister Diane Bardol, GNSH oversees Social Justice Advocacy on behalf of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. An educator for many years, Sister Diane is Vice President of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.
Page photo above: Unsplash by AliceDonovan Rouse