Review of Peace Education, 3rd Edition

Book Review by Betty A. Reardon

peace_ed_3rdThis third edition of Ian Harris’ & Mary Lee Morrison’s Peace Education (McFarland, 2012) is an invaluable tool for peace education and a significant contribution to the field; extensively detailed with the substance and history of peace education, comprehensive in framework, complementing it’s core holism and firmly set on the normative foundations of peace education. It is an essential work for all courses in introduction to peace education, complementing and further enriching other foundational works in the field. All peace educators owe these wise and experienced authors a debt of thanks for this highly instructive practice of regular updating of this basic text.

The substance of the book, updated from the second edition that had been an update of the book, addresses the world issues which inform peace education within the context of how its curricula and methods approaching teaching and learning toward competency in acting to resolve them. The additions to the third edition proved prescient, reflecting the futurism of the authors, a significant perspective they cite as among a range of approaches to the field. Other significant perspectives central to the current politics of peace that have been introduced in this edition are gender, a topic that peace studies and peace education has embraced at the insistence of feminist scholars and those of the ever more threatening environmental crises. Both gender and environment are now recognized as essential substance and perspectives in the field, and provide useful bases for the holism that continues to gain currency among peace educators.

With these additions Peace Education, Third Edition becomes one of the most comprehensive treatments of what comprises most of the current content of peace education and identifying its main conceptual tools, outlining the whole terrain of the field. The authors also reinforce the importance of teaching methodology, focusing attention on the learning environment, and the particularities of the pedagogies that have come to characterize peace education as education for civic action and empowerment such as those that bring a critical perspective to the examination of social norms and military defense, opening consideration of human security and the citizen’s organizations that helped to advance the concept as an alternative to armed security.

In that regard it manifests the normative nature of the field, looking into the origins of some of the values that inform both its content and methods in religious traditions and in Western secular philosophy against a backdrop of the history of historical concepts of war. It helps educators to understand the psychological and social aspect of thinking about questions of war and development by including consideration of human development and the role of the family in socialization.

Perhaps most practical of all, Harris and Morrison, each with a full generation of professional experience in the field, offer suggestions as to how to get started in introducing peace education into classes, schools, university and nonformal settings. It does not shy away from the challenges, but set them forth with some possibilities for overcoming them. It also opens inquiry into the still underdeveloped area of the evaluation of peace education. And it concludes with motivating discussion of visions of peace that have inspired peace educators.

As it stands, this third edition of Peace Education can serve practicing and aspiring peace educators as both a handbook for those going it alone, and a basic text for those seeking academic preparation in the field. It is to be hoped that there will be a fourth edition that would continue the updating that has made all editions so useful to the field; one that might inquire more fully into the problematic of gender as it affects the conceptual and analytic challenges of educating for peace, gives deeper attention to proposals for human security and alternatives to militarism and weaponry and organically integrates more perspectives and practices from other world regions, striving for the globalism many believe to be essential to the field. They would by then have gained sufficient confidence among those prepared in several phases of peace education, to pose the unavoidable institutional and political challenges of education for the abolition of war for which we still seek remedies that will require the “unused potential in our brain.”