By Dr. Laura Finley
(Editor’s Note: This blog was written in September 2012 for the Humanity Project by Dr. Laura Finley, Vice President of the Humanity Project Board of Directors. Dr. Finley is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Barry University.)
Due to the tireless work of numerous activists, organizations, parents and politicians, Florida is now-considered to have a model anti-bullying law. Florida state law requires schools to integrate anti-bullying efforts into their policies, procedures and curricula. Many amazing organizations like the Humanity Project help to provide special programs that utilize the arts, music, role plays, dialogue and more to help young people see that bullying hurts everyone and that it takes everyone to stop it. Such programs are an important step in reducing school-based bullying. It is essential, however, that we move beyond an “anti” model. It can be tiring and depressing always working against something. Young people need to be presented with an alternate model, something to aspire to. As Mother Theresa once said, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
September 21 is the United Nations International Day of Peace. It is an ideal time to begin discussing what peace means, what it would look like, and how we all play a role in achieving it. Far more than just Kumbaya-singing hippies who protest wars, true peace activists are everyday people who recognize and value harmonious living and seek a world in which all people have their basic needs met and are able to live in dignity. This is known as positive peace, and it is the creation of a world based on social justice and human rights. We should begin talking to children about peace as soon as possible. Research has shown that kids think of war and violent conflict as exciting while they view peace as boring. Nothing could be further from the truth! Thankfully, there is no shortage of tools to help us teach young people that “peace through peaceful means,” as Johan Galtung stated, should be the goal. Great children’s books like Todd Parr’s The Peace Book demonstrate what positive peace means in visually attractive and age-appropriate ways. We can use video clips to teach young people about the history of the International Day of Peace, the brainchild of one activist, Jeremy Gilley, who would not stop until he was able to convince the United Nations to adopt the day. Much more information is available at www.peaceoneday.org. For older children, inspiring Ted talks, available at www.ted.com/talks, document the difficult yet inspiring work of peacemakers all over the world. Educators can find more information about teaching peace from Teachers Without Borders (www.teacherswithoutborders.org) and great lesson plans from Teaching Tolerance (www.tolerance.org), among other sources.