Vimukt Shiksha (Liberating Education)

Exploring Conflict Transformation

Issue 4 - August 1999

Editor’s Note

Letters to the Editor

Rediscovering the Spirit

Methods of Resolution

Does Development Generate Conflict?

Militarizing Our Lives?

Ascent of Conflict

Schooling and Conflict

Conflict Starts in the Mind

Regenerating Our Emotional Intelligences

Transforming Trust

Active Listening

Crossing the Boundaries

Learning to Negotiate

Playing Games for Peace

Closer to Home... Pravah

Further Resources

   

Editor’s Note

"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence." - Rabindranath Tagore

What is conflict? How does conflict take root, grow and erupt? What does it mean to prevent, negotiate, resolve, and transform conflict? How has factory-schooling contributed to the spread of conflict? How must education systems be changed in order to bring us into harmony with all existence?

Why Do We Need to Learn to Transform Conflict?

We are living in a world marked by growing conflict, both in terms of its frequency and intensity. Filled with a constant overflowing tension within ourselves, our families, our communities, our workplaces, our roads, our countries, our world, we see that any interaction at any moment can erupt into shouting, domestic violence, maar peeth, rape, crime, riots, suicide, or nuclear war. We must ask ourselves what is at the roots of this tension — where are all of these feelings of frustration, insecurity, anger, hatred, fear, competition, and purposelessness coming from, and why are they continuously getting channeled into various forms of violence?

We can point to the massive breakdown of our ‘modern’ political, economic, socio-cultural systems, which have unnaturally been built on the dehumanizing paradigm of state industrialization/urbanization/militarization and are today being challenged by the totally destructive paradigm of globalization. These paradigms feed off of each other to generate ideologies that manipulate us, on one hand, to struggle against each other for ‘limited’ power and resources and, on the other hand, to rigidly stake in certain notions of ‘identity’. At the same time, our collective consciousness is bombarded with images, slogans, role models, ‘truths’ and products that glorify arms, domination and violence as the only way to settle conflict. These are portrayed as exciting, sexy, part of our heritage, and more recently, due to Kargil, nationally prestigious. And, they sell. War and death are like cricket matches to be cheered for while sipping a Pepsi. Finally, genuine opportunities, spaces, and time for people to think and breathe, to gain better understandings of themselves or to constructively channel their pent-up frustrations, are rapidly deteriorating with the onslaught of global media and factory-schooling.

The UNESCO International Commission on Education for the 21st Century (1996) has highlighted the notion of ‘learning to live together’ as one of the main goals for the new millenium. This must involve creating new spaces and processes to learn techniques to manage, negotiate, resolve, and prevent the different conflicts that emerge in our lives, such as: peer mediation, anger management, active listening, stress reduction, meditation, values clarification, self-esteem, and team building. But within the existing global-local systems of exploitation, such approaches alone are tantamount to dying a slow death. Somewhere along the way, the real crisis is that we are losing sight of who we really are, what connects us to each other, and what the deeper struggle of life is all about.

To face this, we must learn to see conflict from another angle -- as a positive opportunity for building greater harmony in our lives and creating new paths of development. Rather than hiding from conflict, we must embrace it by facing fear and uncertainty, and becoming more open to and appreciative of the diversity of life that exists across the globe In this sense, conflict transformation challenges us to move from an agenda of tolerance/homogenization to one of pluralism/complexity. It must include the following action-reflection agenda:

1) Engaging in various modes of introspection, and building more conscious frameworks of meaning, purpose and identity. This will involve rethinking our understanding of identities and relationships, value systems and knowledge systems, time and space, and most importantly, human dignity and the human spirit.

2) Challenging injustice and exploitation. This will call for both engaging in critical analyses of dominant narratives and institutions which support both direct and indirect oppression, injustice and destruction, and developing the courage to confront these in creative ways that seek to break the cycles of violence.

3) Rebuilding new senses of community. This will involve understanding individual and collective learning resources, developing a spirit of giving and interdependence, creating opportunities for people to connect and to find areas of common interest as well as engage in processes of reconciliation, and shaping public forums that encourage people of all ages to think deeply about the future and the complex issues that shape it.

Underlying these processes must be various modes of collaborative and reflective learning which support the rebuilding of trust, efficacy, and reciprocity between people. We must also seek to regenerate the many informal, traditional spaces and leaders who are skilled at handling conflict in addition to the more formal, educational and judicial spaces for peacefully dealing with conflict. Conflict transformation is not the exclusive domain of experts in peace studies, judges and lawyers, anti-war activists, and professional arbitrators. Individuals around the world are realizing that transforming conflict must be a central concern if we are to avert massive bloodshed and disaster and alter human destiny to create a better future for all. We invite you to join us this process.

 

Letters to the Editor

"Your issue on Global Media is very appropriate for our times. With Indians still ‘star-struck’ with the explosion of the electronic media, most viewers, especially younger ones, consider what they see and hear as gospel truth. There is an element of seductive super-reality to it all — a modern post-industrial mythology. I believe it is high time that our education systems begin introducing some kind of media studies into classrooms. We need to equip children to deal with media by breaking down this myth of super-reality. They need to look at media with more critical eyes. ‘Rahul, TV mat dekho, band karo’ will never work. The age-old maxim, ‘Know thy enemy’, makes sense when dealing with media."

Rustam Vania <rustam@cseindia.org>

Coordinator, Environment Education Unit, Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi

"I often share Vimukt Shiksha with the other members of Young Experimenters Group. The bulletin has helped us in developing new perspectives and has motivated us to initiate some new activities. We have started a Center for Open Learning along with some other friends here. It is a facilitating space for those seeking a more meaningful form of education. We are also very eager to initiate a media project. One component of this would be a media watch group which will look at media critically and help make people more conscious about how the media shapes their perspectives, priorities and lives."

Vijay Bharatiya

A/12, Rangbindu Society, Bombay Garage Shahibaug, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380004

"Your bulletin has greatly enthused the AVEHI team’s resolve to work on the issue of media and values. In a world where competitive, aggressive and violent behaviour has become all too important for ‘success’, AVEHI feels the need to reassess and reaffirm concepts like self-dignity, sharing, trust, committment, equality, secularism, humanism, rational and harmonious living with each other and with the environment through Media Education. Thus, we are planning to organize short duration workshops with parents, teachers, and children to reflect on and discuss how the media spreads values which are quite contrary to what we wish to nurture and cherish in society."

Roopashri Sinha

AVEHI Audio-Visual Resource Center, Mumbai

 

 

 

Rediscovering the ‘Spirit’ in Conflict

M.S. Bhandari and Manish Jain

As the civilization of unbridled consumerism permeates our lifestyles, we find that more and more formidable and cruel conflicts are taking shape in every strata of society. A self-destructive combination of insecurity and fear psychosis prevails and rules the land.

Western scholars have proposed various methodologies and frameworks for managing these conflicts. Conflict resolution approaches have typically been conceived of as legalistic and transactional processes that require the participation of both sides. They are derived from a worldview in which each party is trying to ‘win’ or maximize his/her material gains and power. A worldview that privileges and legitimizes competition and ‘survival of the fittest’ at the expense of the weak. A worldview that unjustly compartmentalizes, stratifies and alienates the human spirit. These approaches to dealing with conflict, however, fail to get at the roots of the problem — which lies in the worldview itself and the need to transform theories, structures and processes that reinforce this worldview.

Humans are essentially spiritual beings. The failure of modern industrial society to understand this is the basic cause of all man-made conflicts and miseries. We make conflicts worse by trying to resolve these from outside, whereas the remedy lies within. Our traditional informal systems of learning realized this and sought to apply an integrated approach of synthesis of body, mind and soul. This understanding must be rekindled and reawakened.

In India, as in many other parts of the world, different communities have evolved with their own ways of seeing and understanding human nature, knowledge and relationships which are conscious of the inner spiritual self and the larger web of life. Many of these start with the view that the individual must take responsibility for his or her own actions and must be conscious of the effects of these actions on the self and on others. Some interconnected philosophical principles that might be worth further exploring as we think about generating new approaches to transforming conflicts at their roots include:

· Aparigraha - abstaining from greed for worldly possessions attachments. Injustice and exploitation are being nursed on the basis of ‘this is mine’ and ‘this is not mine’. Aparigraha calls for us to go beyond ME and MINE - to think that nothing is mine and everything is mine. It involves training the mind to control one’s desires and jealousies by consciously setting limits on one’s material wants. Its positive manifestation involves sharing with others without expecting anything in return. It indirectly aims at economic equity by peacefully preventing undue accumulation of capital in individual hands.

· Satya - avoiding falsehood and lying. Its active form involves searching for the truth, building and expanding trust, and striving for justice. It calls for understanding not only the physical world but also the self. It requires nurturing qualities of honesty and responsible critical inquiry.

· Anekantvad - avoiding seeing everything as black vs. white and understanding that every viewpoint has many-sides. Truth is not any one person’s or group’s monopoly. It recognizes the limitations of human knowledge and expression. It involves living and letting others live with dignity. Its active form takes the shape of embracing pluralism and fostering a diversity of ideas and opinions as well as learning to see the world in shades of gray.

· Ahimsa - avoiding injury or hurtfulness, whether physically or mentally, to other forms of life. No living creature should be seen as inferior or superior. It should be clarified that non-violence is not powerlessness or weakness. Its active form is achieved through promoting peace and love.

· Kshama - engaging in processes of forgiving and seeking forgiveness. To err is human but to forgive is divine. This should be taught as a virtue of a brave person. Many battles can be prevented and many vicious cycles of violence and hatred can be broken by invoking forgiveness. A willingness to admit one’s mistakes and a strong sense of fairness are key characteristics that must be nurtured.

These principles are derived from and contribute to a different way of living in the world - a different view of human existence, human progress, and the human struggle. At their core, they demand a pro-active commitment to transcending the ego and struggling for true individual and collective swaraj. Real power comes from within. Empowering oneself is also closely connected to empowering others. Schooling today neglects (and oftentimes undermines) these principles as it continues to be governed by the goal of developing our youth in relation to "British [and American] tastes, opinions, morals and intellect" (from Lord Macauley’s Minutes on Education).

The development of these principles must be seen in a larger superstructure of learning that involves continuous processes of questioning, feeling, reflecting, dialoging, meaning-making and acting. Such a superstructure extends far beyond the four walls of schooling. It must connect the self, the family, various other communities, various media, and the natural environment while seeking to break down barriers which promote exclusion and exploitation. It must move beyond bookish modes of teaching to involve music, literature, arts, games, dance, meditation and physical work (with others). Most importantly, it must not only preach these principles, but also seek to give them real application. Traditional societies had evolved such a superstructure. But over time, their institutions and mechanisms have either stagnated, ritualized themselves or been devalued by modern State institutions.

Students, parents, teachers, and community leaders in India all have a great role to play in the 21st century in building institutions of learning which give new shape to these ancient principles of wise living. Simply adding on an another course on top of the current model of schooling will not be sufficient. Rather, we must redesign the foundation of our education system - its values, pedagogies, assessment mechanisms, languages, and systems of knowledge - in relation to these principles.

We should accept this challenge, even against all odds.

Shri M. S. Bhandari is former Vice-Chancellor of Jain Viswa Bharati. He can be reached at: A-7 Shyam Nagar, Ajmer Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

 

Some Methods of Conflict Resolution

Since conflict resolution practitioners vary in their backgrounds and training, it is difficult to generalize about the practice of conflict resolution. James A. Schellenberg, in his book Conflict Resolution: Theory, Research, and Practice (Albany, NY: State University Press, 1996), attempts to identify a limited set of approaches. While these five methods may exist in informal interactions, they primarily represent more formalized methods of conflict resolution, used primarily in the settings of law, business, or labor negotiations. They also all require the participation of both parties (and sometimes third parties) in the resolution process. These conflict resolution methods include:

1. Negotiation and Bargaining: Involves the parties in a process of discussion which seeks to bring them into voluntary agreement. People negotiate amongst themselves every day, but more formal negotiations may require the use of specialists.

2. Coercion: Forces parties in conflict to agree to a particular conclusion. Physical force (or the threat of force) can sometimes solve a conflict, at least temporarily. The success of coercion depends on the authority and the legitimacy of the person/entity exerting force.

3. Mediation: Uses a third party to help the conflicting parties come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediation is assisted negotiation, voluntary on both sides, private and confidential. The disputants, not the mediator, take responsibility for the outcome.

 

4. Adjudication: Enlists the power of the state and its legal system to provide an authoritative conclusion. Typically an expensive and lengthy way to end a dispute, adjudication is often used with coercion and negotiation.

5. Arbitration: Asks an impartial third party to decide, through prior mutual consent, the issues in dispute. This party makes the authoritative final decision, to which disputants must adhere.

These five methods of conflict resolution provide a spectrum by which to analyze, assess, and approach several aspects of conflict. They differ in their level of formality or use of formal institutions; in their individual and social costs; in whether or not additional parties are included; in the binding force behind the resolution; and ultimately, in whether or not the resolution will be sustainable. Deciding which method to use depends on the nature of the conflict and disputants’ attitudes.

In your community, try to analyze what methods are used to practice conflict resolution:

Does Development Generate Conflict?

In her study of the people of Ladakh, Tibet, Helena Norberg-Hodge makes the case that increasing levels of violence between and within Ladakh’s Buddhist and Muslim communities can be attributed to "the intensely centralizing force of the present global development model."

The displacing of people from rural areas to urban centers, the growing levels of competition and inequities in those urban centers, and the struggle for formal political power, together contribute to an exaggeration and distortion of religious or ethnic differences. The following text from the article, "The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize," illustrates how the blame for increasing levels of violence and fundamentalism can be linked to modernity and global development:

"Most people believe that ethnic conflict is an inevitable consequence of differing cultural and religious traditions. In the South, there is an awareness that modernization is exacerbating tensions; but people generally conclude that this is a temporary phase on the road to "progress," a phase that will end once development has erased cultural differences and created a totally secular society. On the other hand, Westerners ... assume [that conflict] always smoldered beneath the surface, and only government repression kept it from bursting into flames.

It is easy to understand why people lay the blame at the feet of tradition rather than modernity. Certainly, ethnic friction is a phenomenon that predates colonialism, modernization, and globalization. But ... I am convinced that "development" not only exacerbates tensions but actually creates them... development causes artificial scarcity, which inevitably leads to greater competition. Just as importantly, it puts pressue on people to conform to a standard Western ideal - blond, blue-eyed, ‘beautiful’ and ‘rich’ - that is impossibility out of reach.

Striving for such an ideal means rejecting one’s own culture and roots - in effect, denying ones’ own identity. The inevitable result is alienation, resentment and anger. I am convinced that much of the violence and fundamentalism in the world today is a product of this process."

Helena Norberg-Hodge’s indictment against the international development industry provokes us to confront and discuss the following questions:

Militarizing Our Lives?

The growth of violent conflict in the last several decades can be attributed, in part, to increasing levels of "militarisation" in both developing and developed countries. In Towards a Liberating Peace (New Delhi: United Nations University, 1989), an international group of scholars studied the global crisis through four different dimensions — economic, ecological, socio-cultural, and military. They conclude that the militarisation of the 20th century, along with the growth of the global economy, have significantly decreased the possibility of peace attainment by increasing violence in both natural and human environments.

Militarisation, as an aspect of so-called modern development and national security, has called for the "extraction and use of natural resources at the cost of denying million of people all over the world ... a decent minimum livelihood [and] access to sufficient stocks of renewable resources - forests, water, herbs, indigenous fruits and vegetables." Raping the natural environment, and destroying indigenous cultures, languages and traditions, is seen as inevitable for obtaining the materials and power needed to build and support big, sophisticated militaries. As resources become scarcer, and sustainable economies are forced to give way to inefficient public sectors, social violence ensues. With this, the State can further justify its armies as necessary for "maintaining law and order," responding to dissent with armed repression.

Finally, militarisation has "spread war-psychosis among the people." They see conflict among countries as inevitable and therefore believe that militaries are the only mechanisms that can protect their nation. In fact, ‘national security’ systems inculcate a culture of violence, even in peacetime, by "diminishing the power of people to control their own governing process." Anyone who tries to question this is silenced with labels of anti-national or anti-development.

Schools do very little to challenge this culture of militarisation; rather, they oftentimes support it. From chanting patriotic war slogans, to celebrating Republic Days with parades of soldiers and tanks — children are taught to take deep pride in the national arsenal. Nor does the state-corporate media apply a critical eye to the use of armed force or increasing weaponization. Its coverage focuses on war heroes and military wins’ and ‘losses,’ rather than the human or social costs of warfare or the role the military plays in undermining real security and democracy.

 

Teachers, students, parents, and community members must take time to seriously think about the causes and outcomes of military conflicts and military presence, both in India and in other parts of the world. In whose interests are these conflicts being fought? Who (besides the soldiers) are affected by these conflicts and how are they affected? Do people’s attitudes towards war and the ‘enemy’ change in times of peace? Do we have opportunities and spaces to liberate ourselves from war-psychosis and deeply reflect on the military culture, the meaning of patriotism, and the nature of power?

 

 

Ascent of Conflict and the Death of Resolution

Wasif Rizvi

It seems ironically befitting to elaborate on the theme of "conflict resolution" in the closing months of the 20th century — which happens to be by far the most violent and the bloodiest in human history. More than 80 million people have been killed in direct warfare in this century, which roughly amounts to about 2200 violent deaths every single day for the last 100 years. More than 3/4 of these fatalities have directly involved Europeans/Americans. The great proponents of peace, conflict resolution, and human rights have conveniently ignored this glaring contradiction when carrying out their foreign/domestic policy agendas.

While brutal violence has grown as a regular instrument in promoting exploitative and racist agendas, the so-called ‘timid’ ideals of peaceful dialogue, respect, and magnanimity have been reduced to garnishing meaningless UN resolutions. In this article, I argue that the numerous conflicts that are emerging are a direct result of the existing Global World Order. Most of these conflicts around the world don’t just naturally happen, but rather are manufactured. I begin by analyzing the historical intellectual roots of this GWO. I then examine how this intense pathology continues to manifest itself in the contemporary world through institutions such as the United Nations and factory-schooling. Finally, I conclude with some ideas on how to initiate societal processes for empowering new capacities and spaces to transform conflicts.

Historically, many social, political and economic theories have glorified war and genocide on ‘scientific’, ‘pragmatic’, or even ‘natural’ grounds. According to the ‘Enlightenment’ scholars, moral principles of justice, dignity and solidarity were unknown to human civilizations until three centuries ago (which, of course, conveniently coincides with the ascendancy of Western powers as dominant global forces). In their expansionist quest to ‘civilize’ their little brown and black brothers, Europeans and North Americans proceeded to engage in the worst forms of deceit, fraud, brutality, theft, slave trade, and destruction of indigenous societal structures. The extermination of millions of Native Americans and Aborigines, the enslavement of many millions of Africans, and the colonization of Asians was further justified through Darwin’s doctrine of survival of the fittest. This theory of ‘natural order’ was bluntly applied to silence the murmurs of anyone who dared to question such barbaric actions on ethical grounds.

I should clarify that I do not claim the world was a peaceful Utopia before the European invasions, but everywhere the Portuguese, French, Spanish, English, and Dutch went, they raised the level of violence to an extraordinary degree. As a historian of the East India Company describes, "warfare in India was still a sport, in Europe it had become a science."

After exterminating millions of innocent people and hammering a large chunk of humanity into submission, the great ‘civilizers’ turned their attention towards building great bastions of fascism and repression in their own homelands. After two monstrous wars, in which millions of people were slaughtered, the civilizers decided to create an international body to resolve conflicts. Though overt European imperialism had collapsed, good old Darwinist principles had found a new home in the United Nations i.e., countries possessing more brute force than others would now be legally allowed through the international agencies and ‘independent’ nation state structures to continue their agendas of exploitation and extraction of resources from the powerless.

It is important to note that more than 80% of the world production and sales in arms (including weapons to those so-called ‘terrorists’) is carried out by the voting member countries of the UN Security Council. These sales still account for a significant portion of their economic stability and growth. It is also interesting to note that the U.S. is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council and General Assembly resolutions -- when these might challenge their own puppet dictators in different countries. Despite what we are made to think, the decisions taken by the UN are not in interests of justice or peace for humanity; but rather stem from the cold, calculating logic of geopolitical and economic interests.

The UN typically uses international aid/debt as its soft tool of coercion but when this doesn’t work, other approaches can be called upon to silence disobedience. The massacre of the Iraqi people by the United States, in order to ensure its supply of cheap oil reserves, represents one of the most abhorrent displays of the obsessive pursuit of mass destruction and total disregard for both human life and for possibilities of peaceful resolution of conflict. As observed by The Times of India, the Iraq saga reveals Western civilization’s "unrestricted appetite for dominance, its morbid fascination for hi-tech military might, its insensitivity to ‘alien’ cultures, and its appalling jingoism." Most recently, as the U.S. and Britain disregarded the UN process when bombing Iraq, CNN and the New York Times assured us that ‘the world’ was united against Iraq. Kofi Annan was reduced to a spectator in this most ghastly horror show.

For the Third World, the message of the new Global World Order has been simple: Don’t raise your heads, because "What we say, goes." Or otherwise loosely translated: ‘we are the masters, you shine our shoes, and don’t you ever forget it.’ Those who follow are rewarded; those who don’t are punished. Such examples serve to highlight America’s arrogant claim on being the judge, jury and executioner for the world and the limitations that sincere resolution efforts face in this global environment of unparalleled hostility and hypocrisy.

To pull us out of this morass, a serious strategy must include: 1) unmasking and seriously reflecting on so-called ‘historical truths’ with a view towards reconciliation and regeneration; and, 2) generating a new sense of social and intellectual consciousness and confidence amongst individuals and communities. Such a generative critique will also require us to closely examine how rld.

In these bleak times, educators face a monumental moral and intellectual challenge. They must ask themselves, "What kind of consciousness does schooling really create? Does it produce a conglomerate of self-indulgent, competitive consumers? Indifferent, soul-less, confused citizens? How must schooling be transformed to facilitate a public consciousness imbued with confidence, a desire for justice, a sense of deeper meaning, and respect for all life?" To answer these questions, we cannot look to testing, teacher training, textbooks, or to other mundane details of school management.

Instead, creating the answer will depend on rediscovering and reclaiming our faith in those elements which are integral to our humanity — our inherent capacities to trust, to love, to hope. It will also call on us to challenge the Global World Order (and its local counter-parts) by questioning and exposing the agendas behind such notions as ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘nationalism,’ ‘liberalization’, and ‘progress’. Lastly, it will require that we break away from the formal mechanisms of conflict resolution that are left over from our colonial masters and work to create new learning spaces, societal role models, and knowledge systems for engaging in more meaningful and just interactions.

"The issues of peace are inextricably related to the process of transformation: a stable and just peace is unattainable without realising a desirable transformation of the international political, military, economic and cultural order and similar transformations within States; on the other hand, the processes of transformation are difficult to pursue and remain unattainable in the absence of peace."

"Liberating Peace"

The United Nations University

Book Review: How Schools Generate Conflict

In his book Learning From Conflict (Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman Ltd.: 1996), Professor Krishna Kumar examines the way schooling in India distorts and/or avoids conflict. He argues that learners are not developing the skills necessary to deal with opposing viewpoints or to peacefully negotiate conflicts that arise in their everyday lives.

Children Want to Discuss Conflict but Schools Don’t

Kumar explains that "Children are deeply aware of social conflicts, and this awareness makes them anxious about the future, but they seldom find opportunities to express their anxiety." He argues that Indian schools do not make an effort to discuss dissonant or traumatic events with students, despite every child’s innate desire for uncertainty reduction and deeper understanding. Adults prefer to avoid discussing conflict with children. They often believe that children are innocent and should be protected from complexities of adult life. They fear that open discussion of various sides of conflicts will politicize education.

He cites an example of the Indian school system’s response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the ensuing riots. Teachers were instructed not to discuss the assassination, thinking that avoiding the topic would instill a sense of normalcy. Yet, as Kumar points out, "The tension and insecurity of the people were so obvious in every locality that it was hardly necessary for children to guess why political leaders were asking people over television to stay calm. . .[the children] wanted to know from their elders why such violence had suddenly erupted, why innocent people were being killed, why police were not stopping the killers, and so on." Such forms of silence not only prevent students from seriously thinking about conflict in a meaningful way but also potentially lead to a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding.

Kumar argues that the design of textbooks also prevents students from developing a deeper understanding of conflict. He gives the example of history books in which continuous, chronological information is densely packed into a limited space with no prioritization of content. As such, "the syllabus aims at exposure to basic information about a period as opposed to analysis of a few major events with the help of details. The result? Children do not have the opportunity to deeply explore issues of how conflicts begin, grow, and erupt, thereby lessening their grasp of a huge part of everyday life."

Kumar believes that the school curriculum is also a source of conflict in society today. For example, in science, there is a move towards environmental studies (EVS). However, this creates a strong tension between science, which is traditionally seen as a ‘conquest’ or ‘control’ over nature, vs. socio-environmental concerns of nurturing and protecting it. Kumar explains, "EVS materials attempt, mostly tacitly, to develop the idea of co-habitation or adjustment with nature; not just animals and plants, but even with physical objects, such as rivers, mountains, and the ocean. The value-premise underlying this idea is that all human acts need to be reviewed in terms of the impact they might have on living as well as non-living components of nature. This is incongruent with the personality of school science as it is presently constituted." Students and teachers have no space to make sense of and negotiate these two opposing value systems.

Kumar also faults language instruction with increasing the barrier between and among classes i.e., between those who learn English and those who do not. Kumar describes, "Competence in the use of English is the single most important marker of a young person’s eligibility for negotiating the opportunity structures that the modern economy has made available . . . Those who lack competence in English have remarkably limited scope for moving into higher income and higher status roles in society." The learning of English points to a long process of social stratification and dislocation. Those who do not learn English may suffer from various forms of marginalization. Those who learn English often develop confusion about their identities in terms of losing a part of their ‘Indian-ness.’ There are several consequences of such a division of people into two streams including "a deep imbalance and chronic conflict. It also implies a disbalancing force which, on one hand, serves to create a cultural climate suitable for neo-colonialism, and on the other, drains the society’s stamina for fighting neo-colonial control."

Some Suggestions for Transformation:

We must re-examine what we refuse to tell children and why. Kumar says there are unconscious modes of repression at work: "Conflicts get erased in the desire to discover harmony, tragic events are often forgotten in the search for heroic stories, histories of failures disappear in the grand narratives of success." Thus, adults should openly discuss conflicts with children and assist them in framing the complexities that surround conflict. At the same time, adults must also reflect on their own conceptions of conflict and their own negotiation skills.

We must create more local spaces for inquiry, open-ended discussions, and sharing of different perspectives on the same event and genuine learning of topics rather than memorizing facts. Kumar discusses that, "From a pedagogical point of view, no moment can be more suitable for studying conflict than the one immediately following the eruption of conflict, when pent-up feelings, anxieties, and questions are sharp, and when the child’s desire to encircle a traumatic experience by means of dialogue is strong." This implies the need for teachers to open up spaces for in-depth discussion and dialogue on both the existing curriculum and current events.

 

 

CONFLICT STARTS IN THE MIND

"Since wars begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."

- UNESCO Constitution

In his book The Growth of the Mind and the Endangered Origins of Intelligence (Reading, MA: Perseus Books, 1997), Stanley Greenspan discusses how ‘polarized thinking’ leads to conflict. Polarization is a mental framework in which everything is seen in black and white terms: you are right, your enemy is wrong, and there is no in between. Polarization leads people to distort their experiences and force their views on others through ‘unyielding demands, slogans, and rituals.’ Without room for discussion or flexibility, a rigid, self-righteous "us-versus-them" and a "winner-take-all" mentality prevails, and the possibility of shared negotiation disappears.

 

What can prevent polarization? Greenspan attributes polarized thinking to underdeveloped emotional skills. To counter polarization, we require interactions with people who can nurture and support us in framing our experiences and channeling our energies in constructive ways. We need spaces to talk through and make sense of the problems and contradictions we encounter on a daily basis. In addition, we must actively engage with diverse cultures, languages, ways of thinking/living, and contexts (not just through watching the Discovery Channel or reading a textbook). This can broaden our understanding of ourselves and others as well as expand and deepen relationships. Personal experiences are critical to blurring the line between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Also, working with others on common projects can help us to understand the value of collaboration over competition. Finally, we must recognize how outside agencies (media, governments, religious groups) reinforce/create polarization, and then counter their black-and-white claims with more accurate, creative shades of gray.

Regenerating our Emotional Intelligences

In a previous issue of Vimukt Shiksha, we mentioned Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. In his latest book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (NY: Bantam Books, 1998), Goleman describes emotional intelligence (EQ) as "the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships." EQ helps us to navigate through our personal and professional lives more successfully.

People around the world are talking about the importance of EQ. But the concept is not only for big corporations. Fostering emotional intelligence is critical to preventing, negotiating, and transforming conflict in our communities. Not only does EQ help us to acknowledge and face situations of conflict, it can also help to channel feelings so that they are not repressed or ignored. Goleman argues that people who are deficient in EQ are more lonely, depressed, angry, unruly, nervous, worry more, and show impuslive and agressive behavior. The good news is that, as with other intelligences, emotional intelligence is not biologically predetermined or fixed — we can all learn to improve our EQ throughout our lives with the right kinds of learning opportunities.

Unfortunately, factory-schooling in India today totally neglects the emotional development of the learner. The Government of India’s prescribed Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) curriculum focuses primarily on compartmentalized, quantitatively-measureable skills/facts. It creates an artifical wall between the ‘cognitive’ and the ‘non-cognitive’ domains, which, to the detriment of the learner, ignores the complex inter-relationships between thinking, feeling, understanding, creating, expressing, and doing. Teachers and parents are not able to understand, assess, and nurture each child’s individual EQ portfolio nor are children provided the space to increase their own EQ, either individually or in groups. The result is that schools in India are rapidly creating a class of emotionally dysfunctional, frustrated, and insensitive people, capable of erupting into violence at any time.

Below are Goleman’s descriptions of ‘Personal Competence’ and ‘Social Competence’ which together compose each person’s portfolio of EQ. Try using these categories and their criteria to discuss the following questions: How are you emotionally intelligent? What opportunities do you have for developing your EQ? How should EQ be understood in Indian contexts? How must we change factory-schools in India to develop more emotionally intelligent human beings?

PERSONAL COMPETENCE

Self-Awareness: Knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions

Self-Regulation: Managing one’s internal states, impulses, and resources

Motivation: Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals

SOCIAL COMPETENCE

Empathy: Awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns

Social Skills: Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others

Transforming Through Trust

In "Trust and Conflict Transformation" (Washington, DC: Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, 1995), J. Notter highlights how trust is crucial for de-escalating, preventing, and transforming conflicts.

Notter employs the following terms to define trust: risk, relationship, expectations, behavior, and interdependence. An individual exposes herself to risk in a relationship (by sharing a problem, telling a secret, etc.) and expects the other person to not take advantage of that risk. If the other person behaves as expected, then trust and interdependence are built. As Notter says, "Trust breeds trust." When we trust someone, and they fulfill that trust, then we trust them more.

If a person/group takes advantage of or betrays our trust, or if we never allow a trust relationship to develop, then inevitably conflict erupts. Therefore, a key to transforming conflict lies in our ability to trust and to be trusted by others. Often, conflict resolution approaches neglect this aspect and simply try to ‘solve the dispute’ without considering the status of the relationship between the parties in conflict. But if we want to do more than just resolve the problem — if we want to transform the nature of the relationship to generate healthy future interactions, then we must work to develop trust amongst the parties in conflict.

This means that all members of a learning community should engage in: (1) examining what level of trust currently exists amongst themselves (across caste, class, gender, etc. groupings); (2) analyzing how and when trust relationships are destroyed (for example, through different kinds of competition), and (3) dialoguing about what mechanisms exist or can be created for repairing/building trust.

 

 

Towards Active Listening

"Have you ever wondered why you have one mouth but two ears? Because it is much easier to talk than to listen."

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Being clearly understood by family and friends is important to our overall well-being. Many basic frustrations and conflicts arise when we are misunderstood. Clear communication is not only the responsibility of the speaker but also that of the listener.

Active listening increases our understanding of each other’s feeling and perspectives. Despite what many people may think, listening is not a passive activity. Nor, is it an easy one. Active listening is a complex process of decoding a coded message. We can consciously learn to become more active listeners by:

1) Listening patiently to the content of what is being said and what is not being said (i.e., the hidden messages); and,

2) Acknowledging the feelings behind what is being said in a language/tone that is in tune with the other’s feelings.

 

 

CROSSING THE BOUNDARIES OF CONFLICT

Governments negotiate treaties. People make peace. Seeds of Peace is doing what no government can. It is sowing the seeds of peace among children who have grown up with the horrors of war. By teaching teenagers to develop trust and empathy for one another, Seeds of Peace is changing the landscape of conflict. A non-profit, non-political organization, Seeds of Peace was created to help future generations from conflict regions develop listening, negotiating and other skills required to end the cycles of violence that have plagued their regions. The program works to secure peace in the Middle East by bringing together Arab and Israeli teenagers. Set in a neutral, supportive environment in Maine, USA, Seeds of Peace International Camp creates a community in which these youngsters share every aspect of life - from their meals to sleeping cabins to late-night, heart-to-heart conversations. Each day the teenagers participate in traditional and unique camp activities, such as:

- Intercamp Games - where Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Moroccans, Tunisians and Qataris play proudly together on one team in the same uniform and compete against other local camps in soccer, basketball and volleyball.

- Coexistence Program - Every day, under the supervision of professional Israeli, Arab and American facilitators, the youths meet daily for two-hour coexistence sessions that lay bare their innermost feelings and fears. It is during these sessions that the most important work of Seeds of Peace takes place, using different exercises to unburden the young people of the hatreds and stereotypes that have been inculcated in them by parents and grandparents, teachers and school curricula, and by the media.

- Religious Services - Every Friday afternoon the soccer field is transformed into a place of prayer as Muslim prayer services are held. Everyone at camp is invited to attend and observe the service in order to learn about the religious customs of their new friends. Later that same day, Friday night Shabbat services for Jewish campers is held. Muslim and Christian Arabs wish their Israeli friends "Shabbat Shalom." On Sundays, all campers are invited to observe the Christian service.

- The Path of Peace Mural - Before creating this artistic work together, a group of 40 Israeli and Arab campers spent hours discussing the nature and metaphor of bridge-building both as a structure and as a personal journey. Deciding that words such as trust, love, risk, cooperation, focus and adventure characterized their journeys to peace, they painted these words in Arabic, Hebrew and English alongside vivid images of their nations’ rich traditional, historical and cultural heritages.

When Seeds of Peace International Camp alumni return home to the Middle East, determined to make their visions of peace a reality, they are supported by a Regional Program. It keeps hundreds of the Israeli and Arab graduates in daily contact with each other and working together to make a difference in their communities. By leading school workshops, publishing The Olive Branch (a bi-monthly newspaper distributed in schools throughout the Middle East), maintaining an online peace network, and participating in retreats, homestays and joint activities, Seeds of Peace alumni give the region a living example of the possibility of cooperation and coexistence. To date, more than 1000 Arab and Israeli teenagers have graduated from Seeds of Peace. For more information: Seeds of Peace <www.seedsofpeace.org>

"Anyay (injustice) begins where samvaad (dialogue) ends. As long as there is a dialogue between parties involved in a transaction/ conflict, possibilities of nyay (justice) exist." - Arun Kumar

Learning to Negotiate

The goal of the Program for Young Negotiators (PYN) is to create a culture in which students themselves use negotiation skills to deal with daily life conflicts they encounter with teachers, students, family, and other people. In their nine-week curriculum facilitated by program volunteers, PYN encourages students to connect their real-life experiences with hands-on negotiation techniques (consensus-building, communication skills using specific negotiation-style language, diffusing anger, active listening, peer mediation). PYN focuses on teaching youth to think about the perspective of others with whom one is in conflict, using the following questions:

Try using these questions to begin analyzing and reflecting on the conflicts you experience in each of your learning environments (home, school, office, association, etc.).

For more information: The Program for Young Negotiators

432 Columbia Street, Cambridge, MA 02141 USA

Tel: 01-617-225-7877; Fax: 01-617-225-0027

<http://www.pyn.org/pyn>

 

 

Playing games for peace

Working in elementary and middle schools in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Peace Games seeks to:

• Build conflict resolution skills.

• Develop a collective language for discussing conflict and feelings.

• Acquire knowledge about the causes and effects of violence.

• Build supportive and meaningful relationships.

• Create service projects to positively affect safety in schools.

Operating under the philosophy that violence is a learned behavior and is therefore preventable, Peace Games strikes to model a new ethos of peacemaking. Their strategy revolves around building partnerships with whole-school community, and starts with viewing young people as problem-solvers and not problems.

Over the course of the school year, college volunteers teach a curriculum related to conflict prevention and peace creation that strives to be both culturally and developmentally appropriate. For grades 1-2, the volunteers focus on feelings and emotions; for grades 3-4, they focus on the difference between cooperation and competition; for grades 5-6, they focus on conflict resolution skills; and for grades 7-8, on identity and how differences in and among identities can lead to conflict. Volunteers use games, role-playing exercises, and community service projects to develop skills, knowledge, and meaningful relationships between students, teachers, parents, and community members.

Peace Games believes that transformative education can be a tool for social change, but only when it allows people to actively create and share their own knowledge through exploration, play, and dialogue. For more information:

Peace Games <www.peacegames.org>

 

 

And Closer to Home…

Among the South Asian organizations consciously and creatively trying to transform conflict in different learning contexts is:

PRAVAH

Founded in 1993, in the wake of Babri-Masjid conflict, Pravah felt that the urban education system did little to develop the positive spirit of young people or, to equip them with skills and information, sensitivity and confidence to transform conflict. The founders had observed that, when faced with conflict, metro youth were either baffled and paralyzed, or actively adding to the problems of violence, hatred, poverty, and displacement. Furthermore, despite the efforts of NGOs after social conflicts, little ‘preventive’ work was being done to facilitate ownership of problems and develop leadership for change among young people.

With these larger goals in mind, Pravah works with over 800 adolescents in schools and nearly 1000 college students every year through different workshops, camps, internships, and Big Shout Festivals. They have developed the following life skills curriculum which is based on the principles that learning must be fun, and must involve observation, reflection, and application:

1. Self Awareness: Without an assertive sense of self, an appreciation of diversity, and the ability to negotiate conflicts of identities, roles and environments, young people will find it difficult to intervene in larger social conflicts. Three exercises pave the way for this self awareness: My Identity, where students reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, goals and role models to establish that each individual is unique and simultaneously part of a larger human collective; Values Clarification, where students critically think about, develop arguments, and debate on a contentious issue; and Diversity Appreciation, where students use role playing to examine their own stereotypes and myths about different communities and to understand the impacts of discrimination.

2. Skills Development: With this insight on identity and self issues, youth then develop the skills needed to influence their context:

· Communication - In short sessions and exclusive workshops, individual students improve their interpersonal and conflict resolution skills by developing active listening skills and sensitivity and understanding transactions.

· Problem Solving - Using problems they face in their personal lives, such as eve teasing, parental abuse, discrimination, and the generation gap, students work through the whole process of problem solving — from problem identification and brainstorming potential solutions to evaluating ideas to arriving at agreeable solutions.

· Leadership - Students participate in a simulation exercise that illustrates three types of leadership styles, Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez Faire. After experiencing the effects of each style, students discuss what style is appropriate for what contexts or issues and explore and analyze their own leadership style.

· Team Building - The non-negotiable key to conflict resolution is to understand that we do not live in an isolated society. Through simulation games and theater exercises, young people combat the rise in individualism by learning about group dynamics and improving their team skills.

· Win - Win - Students participate in a simulation exercise called, "paradox of survival," in which they experience dynamics of extreme competition and collaboration. Invariably, in many group situations, young people accept a competitive (win-lose) or a compromised (lose-lose) solution. With proper facilitation, they are encouraged to work towards win-win options and then apply this learning to real life.

3. Social Action: In this last and most important aspect of the curriculum, students are actually thrown into conflict situations. For a period of 3-6 weeks, they visit rural NGOs throughout India and work on understanding existing social conflicts in the areas of education, health, communalism, marginalized communities (rural women, tribals, dalits and the economically deprived), environmental deprivation, cultural isolation, and integrated rural development. After understanding the background issues of the conflict through intensive discussion, debate, and research, students are encouraged to intervene in the conflict by taking on various roles. For example, a student may choose to be an activist (participating in nationwide demonstrations and lobbying against Big Dams), advocate (writing about peace initiatives in the national daily, or performing street plays against discrimination between communities), mediator (bringing people of diverse backgrounds together on common platforms to increase tolerance), counselor (volunteering with a helpline for underprivileged children), or observer (researching the effects of pollution on health in the city). Pravah believes that all of these roles are very important for building a meaningful societal famework for conflict resolution.

Contact Information: Ms. Asraf Patel, Pravah <pravah@ndf.vsnl.net.in>

68-A Gautam Nagar, New Delhi 110049. Tel: 91-11-652-6568

 

 

Further reading and resources —

Websites

UNESCO Culture of Peace: <www.unesco.org/cpp>

Conflict Reseach Consortium: <www.colorado.edu/conflict>

Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution: <www.trinstitute.org/ojpcr>

Kids Helping Kids Teach Peace (UNICEF): <www.unicefusa.org/issues96/sep96/guide>

European Centre for Conflict Prevention: <www.euconflict.org>

Conflictnet: <www.igc.org/igc/conflictnet>

Articles and Books

Please stop by 21 Fatehpura at your convenience to check out the books, articles, newsletters, and unpublished original research in our Resource Center.

Edelman J. and M.B Crain. 1993. The Tao of Negotiation. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Fisher, R. and W. Ury. 1981. Getting to Yes. New York: Penguin Books.

Kohn, A. 1987. No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Krishnamurti, J. 1953. Education & the Significance of Life. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

 

Miedzian, M. 1991. Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link between Masculinity and Violence. Doubleday.

Strickland, S. 1998. Inventory of Conflict Resolution Programs. Washington: National Peace Foundation.

Toffler, A. & H. Toffler. 1993. War and Anti-War. Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century. Boston: Little Brown and Company.