Interview with Anne Kruck: peace educator from Germany

Peace Education – “It’s about empowering people to get involved in peace and non-violent coexistence”

(Reposted from:  January 15, 2023.  See original German posting.)

By Carla Hornig

Dealing with conflicts non-violently, but also aligning schools, families, companies and politics in such a way that people can deal with each other non-violently and give peace a place – all this is part of peace education. Anne Kruck reports on her work and explains how education can contribute to peace.

Anne Kruck works on international projects and is actively committed to non-violent education. To this end, she leads training courses worldwide and creates learning materials. She also has a teaching position for peace education at the University of Tübingen and is currently working for the “Service Center for Peace Education” and for the “StArt Peace Education” project. 

Ms. Kruck, how can you imagine the work in peace education? 

Anne Kruck: Basically, it’s about conveying the individual skills to deal peacefully with one another. It is also about the question of what the individual institutions look like. So we impart knowledge from peace and conflict research, for example about peace processes or non-violent peace movements, in order to strengthen the abilities to enter into dialogue with one another, to communicate non-violently, to sometimes change perspectives or to empathize with the other.

So, so to speak, strengthen people’s capacity for peace? 

Anne Kruck: Yes, exactly. It’s about encouraging and empowering people to get involved in peace and non-violent coexistence. Knowing, acting and feeling – peace education tries to achieve this triad and the question of how this can work is always an issue. There is always an interface between science and practice.

With the word pedagogy, the first association often refers to dealing with children and young people. But shouldn’t the work for peace run through all age groups? 

Anne Kruck: Exactly. It is very important not to think that peace education is something that only deals with children. I personally work a lot with adults. Especially for people who work with children and young people, it is important what attitude they have in their everyday pedagogical work with children and young people. But it is also about politicians who shape laws and rules for human coexistence. Peace education has a very broad spectrum.

Where do peace education and politics overlap in your work? 

Anne Kruck: Guidelines are needed that give peace education a place. That’s where politics comes into play. It needs a place where people like me, for example, can work continuously on this topic and the schools can provide materials and training. This means that peace education must have an impact on politics so that it can gain space.

You yourself studied political science and then specialized in peace and conflict research. What excites you about working in peace education? 

Anne Kruck: I worked a lot in political education during my studies. I have given seminars for student councils and for people who are interested in political issues. I really enjoyed this combination of peace and conflict research and the question of how this can be linked to educational work. The trigger for peace education was the exhibition “Peace Counts – Make Peace” about people who create peace worldwide. I found the exhibition so impressive that I also offered workshops as part of the exhibition and then stayed with it. It fascinates me again and again.

The exhibition introduces peacemakers from all over the world. To what extent does your work also include international peace education?

Anne Kruck: I followed that very closely at the beginning of my professional career. I did advanced training with people from other countries, mostly from conflict regions such as Colombia, later India, Jordan or Iran. 

What was this training about? 

Anne Kruck: It was always about the question: How can you inspire people to work for peace? To motivate them to work for peace in their environment. For example, I did projects with people in the education sector, with social workers, or with university professors. It was about non-violent upbringing, how violence in the education system can be reduced and how conflicts can be dealt with non-violently.

Their second mainstay is now in Germany, where they mainly work as part of the peace education service for schools. How exactly does your work look like? 

Anne Kruck: We make offers for schools. This ranges from workshops and training courses for school classes and teachers to the development of learning media or exhibitions that can be used to work on the issues and peace.

How can schools or teachers integrate peace education into everyday school life? 

Anne Kruck: We have been supporting individual schools in the peace education service for two years now in becoming a model school for peace education and have developed a modular model that the schools can implement within two years. It is also about how peace education can be integrated into the classroom in various subjects. For example, learn about peace movements in history or ask ethical questions about nuclear weapons in physics. If a school wants to embark on such a path, it is important that it is not just implemented by individual subject teachers, but that there is an overall concept and that the guiding value of peace is anchored in a school mission statement.

So the students themselves are also actively involved in this overall concept?

Anne Kruck: Yes, there are programs such as “Die Streitschlichter:innen” with which children and young people learn to deal with conflicts and gain the ability to resolve them among themselves. There are also exchange programs with other countries that contribute to international understanding among the students.

In February 2022, the war against Ukraine began. Is peace education particularly important in such times? 

Anne Kruck: Especially in view of the war in Ukraine, we realized again that there is an incredible need for peace education offers. We have never had so many requests for workshops and lectures in schools, and the number of questions was enormous because the children and young people naturally wondered what was happening. There was a great need for expertise and information, but also for security due to the fears that were emerging. 

What were the questions that the children asked themselves? 

Anne Kruck: There were questions like, for example, whether the Third World War is threatening or whether Putin could also attack Germany. After that there was always the question: “And what can we do now? 

So the children and young people felt the need to actively do something for peace. How does peace education start there? 

Anne Kruck: Doing something against helplessness. Peace education can and must make many offers in order to take these needs into account. It can show information or an exchange and options for action. Many educators reported that doing something about this feeling of powerlessness – even if it’s just making waffles for donations – has helped children tremendously to make them feel empowered.

What opportunities do you see in peace education in the future? 

Anne Kruck: If there are such model projects, there are always people who take part in such projects and who are inspired by them. I can also see that, despite tight budgets, there is a great deal of openness to promoting and strengthening peace education. In these times, many people find this very important. The danger is always that there is a lack of resources to implement this. But if you can show that it helps students and teachers and makes work easier, then I think peace education has great opportunities. There are also more and more international examples of success. In many countries, peace education is also a topic in schools and that gives me great hope.

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