Explorations

Tufts Prepares for a Culture of Peace

In 1998, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates made an appeal to the United Nations (UN) to declare the years 2001–2010 the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.” In response, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing the Decade and calling on member states to “take the necessary steps to ensure that the practice of peace and nonviolence is taught at all levels in their respective societies, including in educational institutions.”

Several groups at Tufts have taken up the UN’s call to action. The Peace and Justice Studies Program (PJS), the Tufts University Center for Children (TUCC), the International Relations Department and the Fletcher School’s International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution club (INCR) are collaborating on co-curricular programming to educate Tufts students about cultures of peace and nonviolence.

A few events were held in the fall 2000 semester, but the majority of the programming is scheduled for this spring when the UN launches the International Decade. The planning for the spring is continually evolving as more campus groups join in the discussion. The Peace and Justice Studies Department held two events in their “Peace, Brunch, and Justice” discussion series pertaining to the Decade. The first was an introduction to the Decade featuring Professor of Sociology and PJS Director Paul Joseph; Chelsea Davenport, J02; Julia Goodman, J01; and Associate Director of the Tufts Center for Children Lois Wainstock. The second event was a discussion of the UN system and the possibilities for reform.

Joseph, Davenport and Goodman are also teaching freshman advising classes as part of Tufts participation in the Decade. Joseph is teaching a Windows on Research class called “Child Soldiers and Post-Cold War Armed Conflict.” The class will guide students in research projects on various topics related to the use of child soldiers and the effects it has on children and communities.

“My students were very surprised to learn that there are about 300,000 children under the age of 18 involved in armed conflict in about 35 countries,” said Joseph. “I was very pleased to see that they were interested in carrying this message to the rest of the community.”

The students are creating posters, flyers and petitions, and they are organizing a clothing drive to benefit former child soldiers. Davenport, Lauren Maggio, J01, and Associate Professor of Comparative Religion Joseph Walser are leading a freshman Explorations class on the subject of children’s literature. In “Cultivating Peace: Exploring International Children’s Literature,” students will read children’s storybooks about international conflicts to understand how children learn about war.

Additionally, students in the course will be authoring their own books to teach children about conflict and the cultivation of peace. Goodman and Alex Braden, A01, with the help of Associate Professor of Spanish Claudia Kaiser-Lenoir, are leading an Explorations class, “Street Art: By the People, for the People.” The class examines public murals as a means of social and political commentary. Goodman, a member of the PJS Executive Board, plans to initiate a mural project in collaboration with the Somerville Youth Program that will feature depictions of inspirational figures and quotations selected by the youths.

Goodman said that the painting of a mural can be a model for a just society. “Every child has an equal voice in the creation of a mural, which is something they don’t experience in other realms of their life,” said Goodman. “Regardless of the final product, the process of creating the mural is important because it can be empowering, especially for kids, who don’t always have their voices heard.”

For the spring, TUCC, PJS and Child Development Professor Calvin Gidney are planning a film series on the subject of violence and children. In addition, PJS and INCR are organizing a colloquium on strategic nonviolence and conflict resolution. First-year Fletcher students and leaders of the INCR Mayako Ushida and Maria Stephan are hopeful that the discussion will foster new interest in strategic nonviolence at the Fletcher School. “Fletcher is a preeminent international relations school dedicated to equipping its students with all those diplomatic ‘tools’ needed to promote peace in today’s increasingly complex world,” said Stephan. “The UN Decade of Peace could serve as a framework for cooperation between Fletcher and Tufts’ Peace and Justice Studies program, focusing on informal discussions, lectures and workshops on nonviolence as an effective alternative to the use of force for preventing violent conflict.”

The PJS department is also working with the Peace Studies Association, a national federation of peace studies programs, to hold a conference in the spring. The conference will bring together scholars and students from peace studies programs around the nation for discussions and networking. The conference will also honor renowned scholar and activist Elise Boulding, the author of Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History. The PJS department also plans to bring a high-ranking UN official to campus in the spring to officially inaugurate the International Decade at Tufts. — Ben Clouette, A02

 

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