Blessed Are the Peacemakers PART TWO (b): Transforming Our Minds for Peace

“The great secret of morals is Love” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Even though the word ‘love’ is so common on our lips hardly anyone knows what love is” – Emanuel Swedenborg

Reinventing Love (again and again)

Love should be central to the life of all aspiring Peacemakers. Thinking clearly about Love, then, is an important task and a worthy pursuit. So, what is Love? I must admit that having lived through the 90’s I’m incapable of asking the question without hearing a voice in my head sing “baby don’t hurt me”.

After a few minutes of watching old videos of the Butabi brothers on YouTube I’m able to regain my focus, yet the question still presents some difficulties.

Asking what something ‘is’ can be tricky, especially when that something is a rather abstract concept that has been defined variously. Perhaps we cannot properly say what Love is but rather what Love is to us. Some answers, of course, may be more thoughtful or more appropriate than others.   It would seem that the most prevalent understanding of Love in our time is that love is a kind of positive feeling, an emotion, or affection. For many who hold to this view of Love, the ‘problem of love’, as psychoanalyst Erich Fromm aptly pointed out over half a century ago, is thought to be twofold. We are primarily concerned with being loveable (becoming a desireable object of the affections of others) and finding the appropriate object of love (one who is worthy of our affections). It is only within this context that the notion of ‘falling in love’, whereby Love is reduced to a fortunate accident, makes sense. Similarly, an abused spouse or child can, with utmost sincerity, claim that he/she is genuinely loved by his/her abuser. In contrast to these views, the problem of Love as it concerns aspiring Peacemakers is the task of becoming loving people, becoming Lovers. It is an intentional project. It is, at least in part, a matter of the Will, and therefore may be reasonably considered a moral project.

Love and the Unity of the Virtues

Love is a virtue. Love is a verb. It is a quality of mind and a practice. Love is the lens through which the peacemaker sees the world, particularly that part of it constituted by persons. Love begins with the conviction that life is sacred and that, as such, each and every individual is to be treated with the utmost respect and care. To Love is to singly concerned with well-being and to act in ways conducive to the production of well-being, in ourselves and others. Love is a complex quality of mind that contains within it the array of virtues conducive to peace. It is the driving force by which we are compelled to seek out the virtues and it is the perfection of the virtues. True Love is made of understanding, empathy, humility, justice, courage, and impartiality. If Love is something we do then it must be guided by understanding. We cannot seek the well-being of others or ourselves is we do not understand. In this respect we must cultivate empathy and humility. A coward cannot truly love, since the coward is ruled by fear. The pursuit of Justice, which is in a sense the manifestation of Peace and Love in social relations, is the pursuit of a healthy society and requires impartiality.

The Practice of Lovers

In order to become Lovers we must actively seek out the virtues daily. Love must be a part of our daily practice or habit. There are many activities that we can engage in to develop our capacity to Love. We must practice listening and consider our words carefully so as to not harm others. As far as possible we must abstain from violence in all its forms. In these ways, and many more, we are continually engaged in important task of Peacemaking.

Love,

TD

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers: PART TWO (a), Transforming Our Minds For Peace

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” – from the UNESCO Constitution

Peacemaking is a holistic project. It is a way of life. To be a peacemaker one must, first of all, become immersed in an intentional and ongoing process of personal transformation. A peacemaker is one who is steadfastly committed to overcoming all forms on unpeace, injustice, and overt violence. The process of peacemaking begins by addressing the seeds of unpeace that live within us all. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, we must “be the change” that we wish to see in the world. We must become, in a sense, the very embodiment of Peace. To this end, we must also become Lovers.

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Part One, A Peace Worth Pursuing

That Peace is desirable is hardly controversial. We all long for Peace. However, things get complicated when it comes down to defining precisely what Peace is. After all, even the most violent and oppressive regimes have given lip service to the cause of Peace. And who could forget Orwell’s fictional Ministry of Peace, an organization committed to perpetual war. It is, therefore, an important feature of Peace Making to clarify what we mean, and don’t mean, when we talk about Peace.

For instance, Peace is not the absence of conflict. Averse though we may be to tension in our personal lives, conflict itself is neutral. “Conflict” is “what results from the existence, real or imagined, of incompatible interests, goals, beliefs, or activities” (Conrad G Brunk). In this sense, conflict is inevitable. Whether a given conflict is destructive or constructive is largely determined by how we choose to respond to it. Peace activist and Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King Jr., writing while imprisoned in Birmingham Alabama, observed that, “there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth”. For King, it is this constructive approach to conflict that can “help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood”. Far from avoiding conflict at all costs, aspiring makers of peace often embrace conflict as a potentially positive force in the lives of individuals, communities and nations. In many cases, Peace Makers may, in fact, work to intensify conflict. This was certainly true in the case of the Greensboro Four, who used sit-ins to protest against racial segregation at a North Carolina department store. So successful was their campaign that the original Woolworth department store, where the first protests took place, has now been converted into the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. By the same token, avoiding conflict may serve only to perpetuate, if not exacerbate, injustice.

Similarly, Peace is not a mere lack of overt violence. This is often referred to as ‘negative peace’.   Peace treaties and ceasefires, desirable though they may be in the short-term, cannot be ends in themselves. Such methods can ultimately function as preservers of an unjust status quo. German philosopher Immanuel Kant has referred to these measures as “mere truce, a…suspension of hostilities, not peace”.

Positive peace, the peace toward which every Peace Maker must aspire as a goal and embody as a practice, is neither the absence of conflict nor the mere lack of overt violence, but, rather, the presence of justice and love. Makers of Peace are committed to the creation, restoration, and maintenance of conditions, internal and external, under which all human beings are able to freely pursue, with equal opportunity, the realization of their highest potentials. As a personal practice, Peace involves the cultivation of a particular type of disposition, which I believe can be expressed by the word Love. As a social goal toward which we aspire, Peace means the presence in society of the Just and the Good.

With this understanding of Peace in mind, I’ll leave the reader with some inspiring words from Professor Monika Hellwig: “This is a time of opportunity for peace in a larger and more thorough sense than ever before, but it is an opportunity that must be seized by the truly human activity of critical reflection”

Peace be Upon You,

TD

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The Disinformation Epidemic: Pamela Geller, JewsNews, and Media Literacy

Social media has undoubtedly changed the way young people become informed about world issues. For the past month Twitter and FaceBook news feeds have been buzzing with posts about the Israel-Palestine conflict, claiming to ‘simplify’ the issue or provide valuable insights into the current violence in the Middle East. Unfortunately, while there have been some thoughtful analyses of the conflict these have become the proverbial needles in a haystack of disinformation. Rather than simply emphasizing the importance of media literacy I thought I would take the opportunity to demonstrate it by detailing my own journey to uncover the reality behind a recent video posted on JewsNews, a Pro-Israel blog.

 Case Study

The video was posted to JewsNews on August 18th 2014 by Eliyokim Cohen and featured a number of men covered in cloth, as though they were dead.   For English speaking viewers the matter was complicated by the fact that the language being spoken by the men and the script in the video is in Arabic. The men are seen peaking their heads out from beneath the cloth and laughing along with the camera man. JewsNews provided the context for viewers in the title of the post: GAZA ‘CORPSES’ CAUGHT MOVING WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW THE CAMERAS ARE ON THEM. (http://www.jewsnews.co.il/2014/08/18/gaza-corpses-caught-moving-when-they-dont-know-the-cameras-are-on-them/).

At first, I wondered what had motivated a Pro-Israel website to upload the video. Were they suggesting to viewers that Gazans weren’t actually dying as the result of Israeli airstrikes, a claim that even the most adamant supporters of Israel have never made? The video had been linked from a YouTube video so I clicked to check out the source. The first thing that struck me was that the title of the YouTube video was different from the title it had been given by Cohen: Islamic Funeral: I see Dead People….Move. The video had been posted by a self-proclaimed author and political commentator named Pamela Geller on August 13th 2014 and contained a note written by Geller in the ‘about’ section. Geller also provided viewers with some context – “Lights, camera, action for the gullible Western media” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdYa-lnSgaE). Geller obviously didn’t record the video herself since there is writing on the screen and a logo of some sort in the top right hand corner. What could be deduced from this? Well, by the time the footage reached JewsNews it had be reframed at least once (from Geller to JewsNews).

The first thing I wanted to understand was why JewsNews had re-contextualized the video to make specific mention of Gaza. I wanted to know if there was any internal evidence contained in the video that would’ve lead to this conclusion so I passed the link on to a good friend who, having grown up in the Middle East, speaks fluent Arabic. The response I received was extremely telling.

There is, in fact, no specific mention of Gaza in the video. While the men are speaking Arabic their accents are Egyptian rather than Palestinian, a distinction anyone who has grown up in the region can make fairly easily. The Egyptian origin of the video is validated by the fact that it was initially run on an Egyptian news outlet, as evidenced by the logo in the top corner (elbadil.com). In short, JewsNews completely misrepresented what was being shown in the video, relying on laziness, confirmation bias, and a language barrier in order to push their own political/ideological agenda.

Still, maybe there was some truth in Pamela Geller’s portrayal of the video. However, the men in the video are joking around and clearly do not appear to be trying to hide the fact that they aren’t real corpses. I wondered if it might be possible to find the original video on the Elbadil website but once again found myself constrained by the language barrier. The entire site was in Arabic. Luckily, I wasn’t alone and my friend offered to help. Within a matter of hours we were able to find it.  The original footage was posted on the Egyptian news outlets website, dated October 28th 2013 – 9 months before the most recent escalation in violence in Israel and Gaza.  The translation of the Arabic title of the video into English is “Dead Bodies Demonstration at Al Azhar University” (http://elbadil.com/2013/10/28/بالفيديوعرض-تمثيلي-بالجثامين-داخل-جا/).  The students were not posing for the Western media.  The mock-funeral was part of a larger demonstration at the University which had nothing to do with Israel.  The students were not intending on fooling anyone.

Conclusion

So let’s re-cap briefly: Jewnews posted a link to a video from YouTube and renamed it to make it appear as though Gazans were pretending to be dead in order to ‘dupe’ the Western media. This re-contextualization was wrong in every single aspect.  Since they assume that the majority of Westerners don’t speak Arabic and are unable to tell the difference between an Egyptian accent and a Palestinian accent or understand what is being said in the video, many would pass the video on and simply accept that it’s true. I ask  – who is trying to dupe the Western public? Sadly, the video was shared 48,000 times on FaceBook, 55 times on Google +, and 285 times on Twitter!

Pamella Geller, in my opinion, is even worse off. Her video has recieved over 857,080 views in a single week. Ms. Geller regards herself as a Human Rights Activist. She is an author and publisher, a columnist and has appeared on mainstream media outlets in the United States. Geller’s framing of the demonstration at Al-Azhar has been regurgitated by several media outlets.

I have to be honest – I’ve seen more thorough research conducted by sixth graders and yet she is repeatedly given a platform to weigh in on important world issues? At best, this is the product of gross negligence, which betrays a lack of intellectual rigor that is absolutely unacceptable given the severity of the issue she is attempting to address. At worst, this was the product of an intentional effort to influence public opinion in the West by inexcusably dishonest means. I certainly hope the latter is not true, though it almost certainly is for JewsNews (they changed the name of the video for no apparent reason). Whether you consider yourselves Pro-Israel or not I hope you find this kind of propaganda offensive and unacceptable.

Take-Home?

Is there anything I would hope young readers would take away from this case study? Be as critical of ‘news’ stories that serve to confirm your prejudices as you are of those that challenge them. Seek out multiple sources of information and analyze them. In this case, I was fortunate enough to have tremendous help and I would encourage you to do so as well. Seek assistance from well-informed peers or undertake a research project in pairs or groups. Interesting and insightful conversations are bound to arise. Becoming increasingly proficient in coding and decoding information about complex world issues should always involve dialogue. In that way we cease to be passive recipients of information and we become active participants in the development of an informed opinion of our own.

Yours for the Cause

of Peace and Brotherhood,

TD

**UPDATE** The video which had been posted by Geller has been removed from YouTube!

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A Brief History of the Israel-Palestine Conflict from Zionism to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

“Any attempt to solve a conflict has to touch upon its very core; the core, more often than not, lies in its history. A distorted or manipulated history can explain quite well a failure to end a conflict, whereas a truth and comprehensive look at the past can facilitate a lasting peace and solution” – Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian

Over the course of the past month nearly 2000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed as the result of Israeli attacks on Gaza. Additionally, 64 Israeli military personnel and 3 Israeli civilians have died. The increase in coverage by Western media outlets has sparked the interest of a new generation in North America, who have been, until now, largely unfamiliar with the historical roots of the conflict.

The historical ‘core’ of the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to the majority of scholars, begins with the birth of an Idea – Zionism. The Zionist movement developed in mid-nineteenth century Europe, incorporating modern nationalist ideology and aspects of the ancient religious traditions of the Jewish people. The ultimate objective of Zionism was to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine – a place where the Jewish people could live in peace, free from persecution. Former US Ambassador to Israel, and prominent supporter of Israel, Michael Oren concludes that “ (t)he introduction of Zionism into the maelstrom of Middle east politics galvanized what was already a highly unstable environment into the framework of a regional war…without Zionism there would have been no state of Israel and, without Israel, no context for comprehensive conflict”.

During the latter half of the 19th century European Jews began immigrating to Palestine in larger numbers and by the 20th century thousands of individuals claiming Jewish ancestry had settled in the region with the intention of establishing a Jewish state.   Tensions began to arise between the Jewish settlers and the Arab population, who still constituted a considerable majority at the time. The outbreak of the First World War brought about a series of circumstances that would eventually plunge the region into a cycle of violence that has yet to be resolved.

In November 1914, only months after the war had been declared the Ottoman Empire joined the side of the Central Powers. Shortly thereafter a series of letters were exchanged between the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Henry McMahon, and the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali. These letters came to be known as the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. The negotiations revolved around the prospect of Arab independence, the right to self-determination. In exchange Sharif Hussein was to provoke the Arabs to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. While there is some dispute concerning the proposed boundaries discussed, the Arabs believed that in return for their service in undermining the Ottoman’s they would be granted self-determination. (http://www.cjpmo.org/DisplayDocument.aspx?DocumentID=2030.)

At around the same time the British and the French entered into negotiations, which resulted in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, or the Asia Minor Agreement, determining French and British spheres of influence in the event of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. When information regarding this secret agreement later surfaced many of the Arabs who had revolted in hopes of attaining sovereignty felt that they had been misled. The dispute, which persists even today, is summed up by British/Canadian journalist Paul William Roberts:

“The Arabs claim that the letters between McMahon and Sharif Hussein promised Palestine among the areas in which Britain pledged to uphold Arab independence. The Zionists deny this is true, a position also assumed officially by Britain and endorsed in 1937 by the Palestine Royal Commissions report. However, a report by the British Arab Bureau, which has never been rescinded or corrected, places Palestine firmly in the area that the Arabs were promised”.

Meanwhile Jewish immigration to Palestine continued and was given formal support by the British government in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Addressed to ‘Lord Rothschild’, a prominent banker and leader of the Jewish community in Britain, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote:

“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of the object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious’ rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation”

Needless to say, the Balfour Declaration “gave a special acuteness to the Arabs struggle against the British mandate and the Jewish presence” (Bernard Lewis, Middle East historian). Following the First World War the Ottoman Empire was indeed divided up between Britain and France as per the terms of Sykes-Picot. However, the British and the French were not the only world leaders who had taken an interest in the regions formerly under Ottoman rule. During the summer of 1919 the King-Crane Commission, under the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, endeavored to gather information pertaining to public-opinion in the areas formerly under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

The commission concluded its report in the latter part of 1919, though it was not published until 3 years later, around the same time the League of Nations granted the British mandatory power over Palestine. The reports findings on public perception regarding the Zionist enterprise and British and French rule in the region were unsurprising. While there were a range of proposals pertaining to the future governance of the region, the non-Jewish inhabitants, constituting approximately nine-tenths of the total population and predominantly Muslim and Christian, were “practically unanimous against Zionism, usually expressing themselves with great emphasis”. There was no single issue on which they agreed so strongly. Additionally, during the course of their survey the commission received 1,350 petitions, of which 72% explicitly denounced the Zionist program. One such petition came from members of the General Syrian Congress which opposed Zionism but emphasized that their “Jewish compatriots shall enjoy our common rights and assume the common responsibilities.” While the authors of the report admit to having been “predisposed” to being in favor of Zionism, their findings had given them serious reservations. Cautiously, they write: “It can hardly be doubted that the extreme Zionist Program must be greatly modified…a “national home for the Jewish people” is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conference with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase…it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine…are emphatically against the entire Zionist program…To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land… would be a gross violation of the people’s rights.”

Conflict persisted between Palestinian Arabs, Jewish settlers, and the British presence in Palestine. Palestinian resistance took various forms and particularly in the 1930’s, contrary to popular stereotypes of Palestinians as violent ‘terrorists’, largely took the form of nonviolent action. These campaigns included boycotts against Israel and a six-month strike in 1936. Faced with immense persecution at home European Jews continued to settle in Palestine during World War II. Ultimately, the warnings of the King-Crane Commission and the Palestinian resistance were overshadowed as information began to surface regarding the full extent of the Holocaust and in a matter of 3 years after the war was over a Jewish state (Israel) was recognized by the United Nations via UN resolution 181.

The British Mandate came to an end in 1947 in the face of growing opposition from both Arab and Jewish communities.  On November 29th 1947 Resolution 181, the partition plan, was passed by the UN General Assembly.

In a matter of weeks the Arab League announced its opposition to the proposed partition, which effectively gave Jewish settlers just over half the territory of historical Palestine to one-third of the population. By February of 1948 the Zionists, in preparation for the official founding of the state, began displacing Palestinian Arabs living in the areas that were to become Israel. Violence escalated and by May 15th 1948 neighbouring Arab countries began sending troops to assist the Palestinians in their armed struggle against the newly founded Israel. In September 1948 a UN peace mediatory, County Bernadotte, was assassinated by a militant Zionist group Lehi. In January-April 1949 armstice agreements between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states were negotiated and signed on the island of Rhodes. By that time more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs had been driven or fled from their homes, becoming refugees. They have never been repatriated and, in fact, the ‘right to return’ has remained an extremely divisive issue in peace negotiations since it has remained an issue on which Israel refuses to negotiate.

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On Scientism

eye_of_god

“Intellectual humility requires that we resist the temptation to assume that tools of the kind we now have are in principle sufficient to understand the universe as a whole” – Thomas Nagel

In every age since the dawn of recorded history human beings have inquired of the universe and of themselves. Each age has attempted to provide answers by making use of whatever tools they had at their disposal and often on the basis of certain underlying beliefs, a worldview, by which they impose limitations on the potential form such answers could reasonably take (consciously or unconsciously). Scientifically minded individuals are apt to recall that there was a time long ago when these answers were strongly influenced by primitive superstitions; when rain or thunder were explained by reference to deities and demons. In our age, with the phenomenal rise of science over the past few centuries we are in danger of making a similar mistake.

Scientific inquiry has been remarkable among truth-seeking activities for both the rigor of its methods and the accuracy of its predictions. As such it is right for those of us who are interested in gaining a more accurate understanding of the nature of things to take seriously insights provided by the physical sciences. We must, however, maintain an important distinction between science and scientism.

Science, on one hand, may be understood loosely as an activity/methodology, or the body of knowledge acquired by means of those methods, ultimately concerned with the properties of and relations between the physical constituents of reality. Through the employment of the scientific method, according to scientific realism, we are able to discover underlying regularities in nature upon which broader theories are constructed and tested empirically.

Scientism, on the other hand, is “the mistaken belief that the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology and their derivatives) can or will give a complete description and even explanation of everything, including human life.” (Raymond Tallis). What should strike the reader as curious about scientism, so expressed, is that it appears to contain a glaring contradiction. The claim that science is the only legitimate source of knowledge is not a strictly scientific statement – it is a philosophical, more specifically epistemological, assertion. The weakness of the position may seem too apparent to comment on but when a brilliant physicist like Stephen Hawking can make statements such as “philosophy is dead”, a statement that succumbs to the same self-contraction, then it is perhaps worth addressing explicitly. Furthermore, nothing in science gives us any reason to believe that it is the only avenue available in the pursuit of truth.

Part of the success of science has been due to its methodological limitations. I get as excited as the next person when I read of a new discovery or theory in cosmology or neuroscience and so I understand very well the narrow optimism that results in scientism. At that moment I have to be reminded of the limits of science. Simply because something cannot be explained or understood completely through employing scientific methods does not, in itself, render it nonexistent or unreal. It is as important that we take into consideration the outcomes of scientific research into the nature of physical reality as it is for us to employ all our rational faculties when developing and reflecting upon our beliefs and convictions in the quest for truth.

Keeping an open mind,

TD

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Bullying: School Climate, Community-Creating, Moral-Cognitive Education, and Prevention

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”

Aristotle (4th century B.C.E.)

In recent years ‘bullying’ has become a bit of a ‘buzz word’ in the media. In many cases the emphasis is on the lack of response by educators and parents until it was too late. Subsequently, a great deal of effort goes into developing and reforming practices and protocols for reporting and addressing bullying behavior in schools.   But what about prevention? Perhaps the most effective approach to bullying is to stop it before it happens by creating a healthy school climate through moral-cognitive education, community creating initiatives, and allowing students the opportunity to provide feedback through School Climate Survey’s. Thankfully, school boards are now working on implementing such preventative measures

School Climate Surveys

Boards are required under the Education to Act to conduct School Climate Surveys at least once every two years. These surveys provide educators and administrators with feedback from parents, guardians and students. Do students feel safe coming to school? Do students feel able to speak to teachers and staff about safety issues or concerns related to bullying?

In addition, students may be given the opportunity to develop their own survey in order to gauge how other students perceive the school climate in terms of safety and inclusivity. Students have a unique vantage when it comes to the experience of their peers and as such survey’s developed by students may provide insights that are overlooked by board or teacher developed surveys. Information gathered via school climate surveys is essential to creating effective proactive policies that address the concerns of parents and students

Community-Creating

Promoting a Positive School Climate is one of the most effective ways to prevent bullying before it begins. Reward systems that recognize not only academic excellence but moral excellence provide positive reinforcement and encourage students to be cognizant of how they relate to one another. Initiatives that aim at promoting a positive school climate should be designed on the basis of student needs, as expressed in feedback gathered through School Climate Surveys and parent-teacher relationships with students.

Educators and administrators must take the necessary steps in Supporting Student Initiatives that focus on equity and inclusiveness. Naturally, students tend to develop these initiatives (Gay-Straight Alliance). It is the role of the school to promote and support such initiatives. Teachers may become involved by volunteering their time and the resources available to them in order to help student initiatives be successful.

Studies have shown that dilapidated schools are also more prone to bullying behavior. The Physical Environment should reflect the principles of inclusivity and community-building. Displaying students’ work that promotes positive behavior is one way to aid in community-creating within the school. Students should have the opportunity to feel proud to belong to their school community – to create a positive narrative for themselves as well as their school community.  

Moral-Cognitive Education

Moral-Cognitive Education is an educational theory that emphasizes moral and social learning. Educational theorists like Candace Jesse Stout argue that traditional approaches to education have tended to focus solely on academic excellence. The role of educators in developing units that incorporate issues of social justice and equity plays an important role in promoting positive behavior and understanding in the classroom. Particularly, teachers can encourage students to cultivate their capacity for empathy by engaging the imagination. The arts, with their inherent ties to imagination, provide students with the opportunity to ‘connect self to other’. Empathy is essentially a form of imagination. This type of imagining whereby the student must put themselves in the shoes of another is an essential part of moral-cognitive education. Works of art and reading materials that represent a wide range of perspectives can be very useful in allowing students the opportunity to identify with different cultures and worldviews.

It Takes a Village

If we are truly committed to preventing bullying in our schools and protecting our children, we, as a society of individuals, are also in need of transformation. Bullying does not manifest in our schools out of nowhere, like some virtual particle in a quantum vacuum. A society that revels in celebrity gossip and calls tearing people down by exposing embarrassing aspects of their personal lives ‘entertainment’ will inevitably produce children who partake in similar behaviours. Schools do not create bullies. Societies do. It is hypocritical, not to mention futile, for us to demand that our schools be free of bullying while we remain unwilling to address our own complicity and contribution to the problem. Creating a healthy school environment that is conducive to the growth and development of our children begins with us all working together to create a healthier society by recognizing how every aspect of our lives communicates to our children a system of values.

 

Understand, Peace and Love,

 

TD

 

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