One Year On

What happened during the year in this regard is significant: the students came to understand that anyone can be a peace hero, even (and especially) those within their immediate sphere of influence. They learned about famous people “out there,” but in the process they grasped the most important message embedded in these people’s stories – that “peace begins with me”

When we started the pilot program a year ago, we asked some of the schools to perform pre- and post-assessments on students so we could document the way in which their perceptions about peace and peace heroes changed throughout the year. The questions we suggested were simple ones, like what is peace and how does the word peace make you feel; is peace weak or strong; who is a hero, and so forth. Once the pre-assessments were completed, I set them aside until the end of the school year, when we would have the opportunity to compare them to the post-assessments, which would consist of the exact same questions as those given at the beginning of the year.

Needless to say, I was curious to see what this exercise might reveal, but it wasn’t until the end of the school year that I finally had the opportunity to make the comparison.  Continue reading “One Year On”

Radical Welcome

Love – in its essence – is boundless. It has no borders; no stop signs; no inherent law that says “thus far and no further.” On the contrary: the nature of love is to grow, not diminish. Peace heroes are those who understand the worth and value of all life, and who are propelled to action by the desire to restore dignity to a broken world

In March 2016, Muslim extremists carried out a terrible attack in Brussels, Belgium, killing 32 innocent people and injuring more than 300. Two days later, on Holy Thursday, while Europe was still reeling from the bombing and anti-immigrant/Muslim sentiments were on the rise, Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve asylum seekers, including Muslims from Syria and Pakistan. “Today, at this time,” said the Pope, “let us all make a gesture of brotherhood, and let us all say: ‘We are different, we are different, we have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace.’” It was a powerful expression of what can only be described as radical welcome.

Continue reading “Radical Welcome”

Communities of Inclusivity

To be included –to belong–to be part of–to share life with– these are the experiences that will leave their indelible mark on the students. So it is no small thing to stop and ask ourselves: What kind of communities are we building in our schools?

The other day I tried to remember what I learned in 3rd grade, and I couldn’t think of a single thing. What I did remember, however, was how my friends and I formed a little “pack” (we called it) and did everything together – in school and out – so that I never felt friendless or alone; I remembered how my teacher would give each of us a big bear hug each morning, squeezing the living daylights out of us in an embrace we wouldn’t have exchanged for anything in the world; and I remembered how another teacher cried when the class was so out of control, we missed the siren that commemorated victims of the Holocaust (and how, for the first time, I felt the full impact of what it means to bear communal responsibility for less-than-ideal behavior). If I were to take time to think through 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, I suspect the pattern would be the same: I would remember random events involving friends, students, and teachers; I would remember that I generally enjoyed the whole experience; but I wouldn’t remember anything at all about what I learned in Math, Language Arts, or PE.

I think that, as kids, we are much more shaped by the social environment at our school than by any information we learn in class. Continue reading “Communities of Inclusivity”

Why This, Why Now?

How we define peace makes a difference in how we live our lives. And in the current state of global affairs, that’s not a point to be taken lightly

I’ve been asked: Why is the Peace Heroes Curriculum urgently needed right now, at this point in time? It’s a fair question. And here is my (shorthand) answer.

There is no denying that the contemporary political climate around the world is one of fear – a climate that lends itself to the many radical voices that are quickly becoming mainstream. This fear is manifested in a growing suspicion of anyone who does not belong to the factions we associate ourselves with, causing people to move more deeply into their own groups and alienating anyone who is different, or “other,” than them. In fact, the fear of the “other” is turning into something of a crisis on a global scale, Continue reading “Why This, Why Now?”