Book Review: “Education in developments: Vol 3” by Magnus Haavelsrud

Magnus Haavelsrud, “Education in developments: Volume 3”
Oslo: Arena, 2020

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Introduction / Overview of the Book

In this peace education book – “developments” in the plural form – is inspired by the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal when he – in criticizing dominant thought in economics in the 60ies – described development as an upward movement of qualities of value in a society and in the world. This book considers peace as a value. According to Johan Galtung`s recent theory, peace is built through upward movements of equity and empathy as well as processes of healing of past and present traumas combined with nonviolent conflict transformation. These peace qualities can be investigated in all places and times ranging from everyday life to the global level. It is argued that educational energy from below and political energy from above tend to seek harmony – even in contexts of strong antagonism between cultures and structures. This dynamism can be reflected in criticism of and struggles against problematic contextual conditions as well as in constructive ideas and plans for how those conditions can be changed. The cultural voice of education is therefore of political relevance pointing towards the need for transformation of problematic – sometimes violent – contextual conditions. In case such circumstances prevail, pedagogic activity may respond by adapting to the status quo – or resist. If such resistance is not possible within formal education, it is always possible (to varying degrees of difficulty and danger) in informal and/or non-formal education.

In Part 1 it is argued that education in developments towards more peace is a topic of transdisciplinary magnitude. It comprises contents ranging from dyadic relations (and even inner peace) to the overwhelming structures on the global level. Micro cultural qualities meet qualities in global structures and their relations are decisive in the creation of more peace developments – involving actors from individuals to nation states and global corporations as well as organizations at any level/time. Chapters 1 through 3 introduce theoretical perspectives on education in developments towards peace in which the complexities of its substance not only pose the question of what is to be regarded as valid content, but also how contents relate to varying communication forms and differing contextual conditions. Dialectical relations among contents, forms and contextual conditions are central in transdisciplinary methodologies – embryonic roots of which are found in peace education initiatives as exemplified in the struggle against South African apartheid, Borrelli´s social work among street children in Naples and Nomura´s lifelong integrated education originating in Japan (chapter 4).

In Part 2 it is argued that the understanding of relations between micro and macro requires respect for multiple epistemologies rooted in peoples´ life worlds when seeking their participation in developments towards more peace. Life worlds portrayed in novels written by young South African authors serve as examples of how people relate to each other in the transformation from apartheid to democracy (chapters 5 and 6). Chapter 7 highlights the roots of present constitutive rules inherited from past empires and chapter 8 discusses how social science is still characterized by multi-paradigmatic tensions in its understanding of power and knowledge.

Part 3 deals with educational policy and methodologies. Chapter 9 presents an educational policy-making framework for participation, democracy and nonviolent civic resistance in Latin American circumstances. Chapter 10 discusses issues of transnational and neoliberalist policymaking in education furthered by OECD and the last chapter revisits peace learning methodology in light of Johan Galtung`s theory of peace.

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Book Review

by Howard Richards

Professor Magnus Haavelsrud, a sociologist of education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has compiled another indispensable volume of his essays on education for peace. They are eleven. Chapter 1, Rethinking Peace Education; Chapter 2, Learning Human Rights Practice; Chapter 3, Analyzing Peace Pedagogies; Chapter 4, Three Roots of Transdisciplinary Analysis in Peace Education; Chapter 5, The Academy, Development and Modernity´s “Other”; Chapter 6, Contextual Specificity in Peace Education; Chapter 7, Learning About Contextual Conditions from Narratives; Chapter 8, Power and Knowledge in Multi-Paradigmatic Science; Chapter 9, A Comprehensive Program for Developing Policies on Education for Participation, Democracy and Civic Resistance from a Nonviolent Perspective: The Latin American Case; Chapter 10, Peace Education Confronting Reality; Chapter 11, Revisiting Peace Learning Methodology.

Alicia Cabezudo of the National University of Rosario in Argentina is co-author of Chapters 1 and 9. Oddbjørn Stenberg of the University of Tromsø is co-author of Chapter 3.

The chapters of the book, and indeed the whole life of its author, are remarkably persistent in doggedly pursuing what is in essence a single question: What can we do as human beings and as educators with rational grounds for believing that our actions will have the results we intend? The results we intend are named Peace. Peace is initially defined, following Johan Galtung, as increasing empathy, equity, transformation of conflicts, and healing of traumas. But this is only initial. Filling in the meaning of these four pillars of peace, and complementing them with other perspectives, is ongoing.

The question to answer is how education can support, and perhaps initiate, upward movements toward more peace. A key theoretical premise comes from Pierre Bourdieu: The objective social world over time tends to seek harmony with the subjective dispositions of the people (habitus). Following this line of thought, a premise announced in the first chapter as applicable to all chapters is that educational energy from below and political energy from above over time tend to seek harmony with each other. Education can be a force for change.

Otherwise stated, the conflict between culture and structure will continue as long as what the first prescribes is not what a description of the second describes. Again following Galtung, peace education can be seen as trilateral. First it is about understanding the world as it is. Second it is about the future as it will be. Third, it is about changing the future to make it conform more closely to what should be.

In their methodologies for understanding, or “reading” the world, Haavelsrud and his co-authors learn a great deal from Paulo Freire´s method of codification and de-codification. Echoing Habermas and Freire himself, they find the subjective life-worlds of the learners to be crucial for moral learning, or, in more Freirean terminology, conscientization. Haavelsrud is especially interested in “reading” the life-worlds of people who live in violent contexts, under brutal dictatorships, and where authoritarian regimes make it impossible to do peace education in schools and limit it to non-formal learning sites. However, Chapter 9 on educational policies co-authored with Alicia Cabezudo, for example, is generally applicable to democratic governments who realize that the survival and flourishing of democracy depends on educational outcomes where students come, in Haavelsrud´s words “ human rights protectors.” Peace education blends with human rights education and education for democracy and the rule of law.

An important practical lesson is that learning to participate in discussions and to reason together is more important than the conclusions that may and may not be reached. For example, if I were a secondary school teacher in a rural district in a red state in the USA, it would be more important for my students to learn to participate in reasonable discussions, and to respect one another´s contributions to them, than to acknowledge the fact that Biden got more votes than Trump.

Anticipating the future requires life-long engagement of peace educators, and the university programs that prepare them, with the many issues endlessly debated in the social and natural sciences and the philosophy and methodology of science. It requires welcoming voices that colonialism silenced. But, even though peace education in principle includes diverse paradigms and diverse perspectives, it is not as though nothing is predictable. It is predictable that if the currently dominant macro structures do not change, humans will make their habitat uninhabitable. Although this particular issue is not discussed in this book, it appears to be assumed that the same absence of peace education that excludes the discussion of other major issues facing humanity from the classroom excludes the critique of the social forces producing ecological disaster. Similarly, the same participatory democracy that peace education practices at the micro level will tend over time to produce more egalitarian, more free and more fraternal macro structures conducive to facing, freely discussing and rationally reversing humanity´s march to eco-suicide. (for example, p. 155)

Its commitment to striving to change the future to make what will be more like what should be makes peace education a normative field. Peace is an ideal. Teaching peace is teaching ideals.

In the words of Haavelsrud, who in turn quotes Betty Reardon, “Peace education is, therefore, not only an experiment with ideas but includes the goal of acting for transformation of both self and world. This implies “… to promote the development of an authentic planetary consciousness that will enable us to function as global citizens and to transform the present human condition by changing the social structures and the patterns of thought that have created it.” (p. 185, quoting Betty Reardon, Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility. New York: Teachers College Press, 1988. p. x)

Limache, Chile February 1st, 2021
Howard Richards

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