Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Education to Protect Humanity"

David Hamburg has an editorial in Science magazine which states:
After millennia of mass exterminations, genocides such as those in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur continue to plague the world. Given today's ready access to lethal weapons and technology-assisted incitements to hatred, the plague is poised to spread. How can we reverse this potential for malignant growth?......

The pillar of education is vital in this context. Educating societies about hatred and violence is an old story in human history. But there is a better way. For example, decades of research on intergroup contact show how age-appropriate education can help people to live together harmoniously, even across previously adversarial barriers. Such intergroup contact is most effective when imbedded in shared, mutually rewarding activities that are supported by relevant authorities with a mutual aid ethic and seen as a source of benefits for all--so-called superordinate goals. Such goals may enhance intergroup relations within a school or community but also help substantially in preventing mass violence. There is no more vivid example than the recognition by the United States and the Soviet Union that avoiding nuclear war was a superordinate goal that could only be achieved by cooperation. Could global problems of food, water, health, and climate be made superordinate goals for unfriendly groups or states to tackle cooperatively?

Just as lifelong learning in mathematics, science, and technology is essential for the success of a modern economy, so too the teaching of pro-social behavior across the life-span can help to prevent immense destruction. This involves explicit information and hands-on experience with conflict resolution, violence prevention, mutual accommodation between groups, and conditions conducive to peaceful living. Evaluations of programs that emphasize pro-social behavior have identified methods that effectively teach children in these areas. Both science education and peace education require periodic updating and reinforcement on a long-term basis, and curriculum reforms cannot afford to neglect the latter as a vital component of modern education.
Of course, UNESCO was created to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men, and has stressed education to protect humanity over all of its six decades of leadership in education, science, culture and communications.

1 comment:

John Daly said...

Emily Vargas-Baron comments:

"To be successful in achieving improved education to protect humanity, early childhood peace education will be essential, including parent education, child care and development, and preschool education."