“Transformation is the continuous process by which human beings exercise choice, change reality and find meaning.” (Sexism and the War System, Teachers College Press, 1985, p. 97)

“The war system is the major obstacle to women’s equality, and war will not be overcome without the full and equal participation of women in the public order.” (Sexism and the War System, Syracuse University Press, 1996, “Epilogue,” p.98)

“Earth cannot be restored, nor human dignity and equality enjoyed so long as we live our lives and conduct our politics within the war system that infuses virtually all aspects of the human experience.” (“Learning to Disarm: Educating to Realize the IPB Action Agenda” in Disarmament, Peace and Development, Emerald Press, 2018, p.139)

-Betty Reardon

Editor’s note: This is the final post of this retrospective series, revisiting Betty Reardon’ six decades of publications.  “Learning to Disarm” (Disarmament, Peace and Development: Published online: 04 Dec. 2018, 135-148), one of her more recent essays, is both a summary of some of the constant core concepts and normative convictions that have infused her work for the last four of those decades, and a call to view peace education as an essential strategy for the implementation of the proposals and politics of peace such as those outlined in the IBP Action Agenda. She sees the process of working toward the realization of the agenda as an arena for political action as learning.  She notes how the core normative themes that have infused all her work have evolved into what she defines as the three interrelated meta-crises that she argues should be central learning imperatives of peace education as a strategy for the global transformation required to save our planet and to actualize our humanity. Betty recommends, as companion pieces to “Learning to Disarm,” peace educators also read a recent GCPE post of an article on nuclear weapons and patriarchy by Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will, and the chapter in Disarmament, Peace and Development by Madeleine Rees entitled “Game of Thrones, Patriarchy, Feminism, and Peacebuilding: How to Reconcile the Unreconcilable!”


Contemporary Commentary

By Betty Reardon

Recollection, gathering the shards of the conceptual vessels that contained past practices, examining the fragments in the light of the present has been the purpose of this series. The selections the series revisited, as noted in the initial GCPE post, were among publications not included in the 2015 anthologies, Betty Reardon, Pioneer in Peace and Human Rights Education and Betty Reardon, Key Texts in Gender and Peace. The pieces selected for this series seemed to me to have potential relevance to how the challenges and tasks of peace education in today’s socio-political culture, so politically different from that within which most of these selected publications originally appeared. The recollections provoked by the series have helped me to a deeper understanding of my own learning and how it has affected what I have put forth through the years for the consideration of students and colleagues, known and unknown, who have taken up the same challenges, grappled with the same issues, and attempted some of the same tasks.

I chose, for the last post in the series, to use this essay based on a plenary talk given at the International Peace Bureau biennial conference held in Berlin in October 2017, (Disarmament, Peace and Development, Emerald Press, 2018) because I find it to summarize, for purposes of understanding the current challenges to peace education, the most significant foundations of my present perspectives on the peace problematic.  The insights into the integral interrelationship between gender oppression and the institution of war, were first fully articulated in 1985 with the Teachers College Press publication of Sexism and the War System. Viewed now within the “Earth Imperative,” that monograph continues to frame my comprehensive perspective on the peace problematic. In the light of the resurgence of patriarchy that has been emboldened by rising authoritarianism, its enforcement mechanism, militarism, and its most destructive consequence, the Earth crisis, I consider that monograph to be my most significant publication. It presaged my present view of the conditions that pose the most severe threats to the survival of Earth and her civilizations as three interrelated “meta crises;” “forever wars,” human inequality, and ecological irresponsibility.

With authors, Ingeborg Breines, Norway, an organizer of the IPB Berlin Conference, and Asha Hans, India: three feminists for demilitarization, at the book launch on June 15, 2019.

I have been unable to locate the text, but an observation made, I believe in in Sexism and the War System, about the patriarchal impetus toward the abuse of our Earth, came to mind as I began this comment. I referred to the degradation of the natural environment as rape, noting the possibility of the death of Earth, murdered as have been so many other rape victims. It was clear to me that patriarchy objectified and exploited Earth as it did women. I find it relevant to the formation of present perspectives on the peace problematic that during the 80’s, with the early development of the women and peace field, women were also raising the alarm about assaults on the biosphere. To name but two, the Chipko tree-huggers in India putting their lives on the line to hold back deforestation; Women Strike for Peace, a movement inspired by the poisonous “fallout” of nuclear tests began a campaign in the US that within a decade produced the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (a forerunner of women’s role in the adoption in 2017 of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty). This campaign helped to illuminate the destructive environmental effects of military activities of all kinds.  Just as Vandana Shiva (Staying Alive) alerted us to the gender and environmental consequences of industrial growth-oriented development policies, feminists observed that both weapons-based security policy and growth-based development policy were mired in patriarchal thinking. Consequently, women’s peace movements strove to increase women’s participation in all public policymaking, leading to the civil society initiative that in 2000 produced Security Council Resolution 1325, calling for equal participation of women in all matters of peace and security.

In these times, political inclusion movements should focus on global youth. As the exclusion of women from high-level policymaking condemned us to “forever wars” and mal-development, the absence of the voices of the young in the halls of power may well be a death sentence for this planet.  It is the very young in the streets of Europe and America that cry out the “Earth Imperative,” demanding that governments, “act now that we may have a future.” I hope this post and “Learning to Disarm” will be read as a voice of the old echoing this cry that the young may live that both the planet and, however little, whatever we have done to move the world toward a culture of peace may be carried forward. As we have worked in the past for intercultural and transnational cooperation, for North-South equity and South-South solidarity, now we must reach out across the generational divides, understanding that these divides have been imposed by patriarchy. Gender, a construct that assigns social roles by sex, according higher value to the roles assigned to men, is a device through which patriarchy enacted the original sexual division of human qualities. Dividing the human family serves to sustain the patriarchal order, an elaborate power hierarchy of divisions, including virtually all forms of human identity, as well as race, class, access to resources and technology, and geopolitical status. Dismantling that hierarchy, primarily by disarming it, is essential to the preservation of the planet that calls for full and equal intergenerational cooperation.

As a peace educator, I see that undertaking this and other such collaborative tasks is a learning process, hence the title of the essay that puts forth the assertion that we need to move our politics from winning mode to learning mode.  Elaborating that transition process is one of the current duties of peace education. We are responsible to guide and participate in this learning, as we engage in a politics of change in which we learn to overcome obstacles to peace rather than overpowering those who present them. We need to discern how we are integrally related to those with whom we must contend and to understand that common survival must be the goal or there will be no survival. We must form the habit of always seeking to perceive and understand interrelationships within and among all problems and all peoples, so that we may act politically within a holistic understanding of the three imperatives put forth in the essay.  Reflecting on the opening quote of this post, I assert that such are the components of transformational learning that peace educators strive to cultivate in all the learners and all the political interlocutors within their human networks.

Betty Reardon
July 14, 2019

Read the series: “Issues and Themes in 6 Decades of Peacelearning: Examples from the Work of Betty Reardon”

“Issues and Themes in 6 Decades of Peacelearning” is a series of posts by Betty Reardon supporting our “$90k for 90” campaign honoring Betty’s 90th year of life and seeking to create a sustainable future for the Global Campaign for Peace Education and International Institute on Peace Education (see this special message from Betty).

This series explores Betty’s lifetime of work in peace education through three cycles; each cycle introducing a special focus of her work. These posts, including comments from Betty, highlight and share selected resources from her archives, housed at The University of Toledo.

Cycle 1 features Betty’s efforts from the 1960s through the ‘70s focused on developing peace education for schools.

Cycle 2 features Betty’s efforts from the ’80s and ‘90s, a period highlighted by the internationalization of the peace education movement, the formation of the academic field, the articulation of Comprehensive Peace Education and the emergence of gender as an essential element in peace education.

Cycle 3 celebrates Betty’s most recent efforts, including her influential work on gender, peace and ecology.


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