“Let Us Examine Our Attitude toward Peace”

Issues and Themes in 6 Decades of Peacelearning: Examples from the Work of Betty Reardon (Post #1)

Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop or to reduce armaments, or –  and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely.  – Pope John XIII, April, 1963

…our primary long range interest… is general and complete disarmament designed to take place in stages permitting parallel political developments to build new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.  – Pres. John F. Kennedy, June 1963

Editor’s Introduction

This article by Betty Reardon is one in a series of posts supporting our “$90k for 90” campaign that honors Betty Reardon’s 90th year of life and seeks to create a sustainable future for the Global Campaign for Peace Education and International Institute on Peace Education.  Please read about the campaign here.  This series of articles will explore Betty’s 6 decades of peacelearning through three cycles of 90-days; each cycle introducing a special focus of her work. During these cycles we will highlight and share selected resources from Betty’s archives, housed at The University of Toledo. September – November 2018 launches cycle 1, featuring Betty’s efforts from the 1960s through the ‘70s focused on developing peace education for schools.  In this first post, Betty comments on Let Us Examine Our Attitude Toward Peace: An Inquiry into Some of the Political and Psychological Barriers to World Peace, a volume in world order Betty co-edited with Priscilla Griffith, published by the World Law Fund in 1968.  Betty’s commentary here focuses on two excerpts from this booklet: the encyclical of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, and President John F. Kennedy’s “American University Speech,” Toward a Strategy of Peace.  We’ve scanned these excerpts to be available to our readers.

[icon name=”download” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] [icon name=”file-pdf-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] You can download the excerpts from “Let Us Examine Our Attitude Toward Peace…”  here.

Contemporary Commentary

By Betty Reardon

The 1960s have been recorded as a turbulent divisive decade as will the one we live through now. Two of those years had particular relevance to the theme of this series, 1963 and 1968. 1963 was the year of the promulgation of the Papal Encyclical Pacem in Terris, the delivery of the “American University Speech,” Toward a Strategy of Peace, and the deaths of their authors Pope John XXIII and US President John F. Kennedy, losses that dimmed the hopes for peace kindled by the common message both had put forth to the world. Yet, it was also the year of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that emerged from the movement that in 2017 brought the UN to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, in these events are the roots of the current global politics we seek to illuminate in our practice of peace education, and inspiration for the renewal of action on disarmament.

For me 1963 was an especially significant year in my own peace learning that began as a classroom teacher in the previous decade.  I moved that year from that secondary school classroom to a world order research institute to develop its schools program. The encyclical and the speech were included in the first curriculum resource published in 1968 by the Schools Program of the World Law Fund, a collection of pieces reflecting the peace problematic from the perspective of the Cold War, selected from among materials used in a course in current issues taught by Priscilla Griffith at Melbourne High School in Florida. Priscilla was one of the many talented and committed classroom teachers I enlisted to work with me on the development of the program. The edited collection she and I put together for use by other teachers was titled Let Us Examine Our Attitude Toward Peace: An Inquiry into Some of the Political and Psychological Barriers to World Peace, echoing a phrase from the Kennedy address.

At Stanstead 3 in 1973 with Saul Mendlovitz (left), World Orders Model Project; Duncan Graham, co-organizer to the summer program for teachers; and Franklin Wallin, then President of the Institute for World Order. (Photo: Betty Reardon’s personal collection)

In 2018, I find that all the selections that became part of the “cannon” of 1960-70’s peace studies still hold some relevance to current peace issues.  I see them as useful curricula for upper secondary and undergraduate peace education and peace studies in this time of tensions so reminiscent of the Cold War years. Should the collection be adapted today, as it might to study of the mid twentieth century Cold War or the evolution of peace theory, The Global Campaign would like to share your experiences with our readers. Let us know how you revised, changed or augmented the questions that form the original inquiry. Do you find any of the 1968 questions still relevant to the pedagogy of peace education as it is now practiced?

My comments here speak to the two 1963 selections, the end pieces of the collection, that have particular relevance to the present discourse on disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons, topics we will address again later this month during “Disarmament Week.” We invite the peace educators who receive this post to read and consider assigning the full text of the President’s speech that appears in excerpts available in the editor’s link and all the portions of the encyclical that deal with world order and international institutions (click here for the complete encyclical). Note that though they share no common references, both have core political goals informed by congruent peace values, notably the focus on strengthening the UN so that it might be a key instrument in the achievement of the common goal of general and complete disarmament (GCD). Both see GCD as the sine qua non of what we now refer to as “sustainable peace,” and both understand the need for what we referred to in those years “as significant change in the international system,” an assumption that lead us to develop a “systems” approach to the pedagogy of “world order studies,” a values based inquiry into the structures and functions and an assessment of the peacemaking and peace-building capacities of the international system, complemented and extended by a consideration of various alternatives to that system and the potential world order each embodied. The Pope’s assertion of the need to “reach men’s very souls” (and those in need thereof may well be mainly men), while posed in theological terms, presages what was to become the secular notion of transformation at personal through global levels, now widely considered an essential “system change” requisite to a culture of peace.

For world order studies practitioners, the two “manifestos” reinforced and complemented each other; the Pope calling upon the realization of the fundamental value of the human person as the ultimate purpose of peace and its foundation as asserted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the President challenging the realist thinking that rejected the possibility of peace as beyond the realm of political practicality. Indeed, the President’s address is a call to the academy to push forward on developing the knowledge upon which to build the peace, he defined in active rather than idealistic terms, as “a process, a way of solving problems.” These very problems, the emerging field of peace studies was putting to the test of nonviolence as an alternative to the dominant international problem solving mode, armed violence, a problem which becomes ever more severe, ever more in need of the practical visions of these two world leaders, who set standards we might teach our students and ourselves to demand of our present leaders. And those visions were practical, emphasizing the institutional, equally with the attitudinal. The institutional challenge looms large on the civic horizon of this day and this generation of peace learners. How will we address it?

Others are now reasserting that challenge. Jeffrey Sachs, in his 2013 book To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace, brought renewed attention to the Kennedy speech, so it is likely that some in our community may already be currently bringing it into their classes. But let us also consider that Pacem in Terris is not only one of the most comprehensive statements of what constitutes peace, it was precursor to more recent efforts among Catholics to assert the principles of nonviolence and the renunciation of nuclear weapons. Its sentiments were also echoed in the multiple statements from religious institutions issued some 20 years later to call believers to their civic obligations to actively pursue peace and nuclear abolition.

Issues of historical and cultural context are likely to arise in discussing the pre-ecological (though the introduction to the collection refers to “environmental pollution” as a global problem), pre-gender awareness context of these two pieces. The Catholic Church and the American presidency are both, at present, caught in problems of legitimacy and betrayal of their constituencies. While elements of both situations may have existed in 1963, it would be decades before they were part of the common public discourse.  These messages should be read in the context of their time as well as their relevance to the present. Many readers, and most secondary and undergraduate students, are likely to find the patriarchal language undermining of the Pope’s and the President’s intentions. This issue will be addressed in a subsequent post on the “90K for 90 Years Campaign.” We who read them at the time of delivery, with few exceptions, took little note. But all who welcomed these messages for their stated purposes found them inspiring of hope and action, such as that of the foundation of the Pacem in Terris program at Manhattan College, the second of the now hundreds of peace studies programs in American colleges and universities.

Those of us who see gender as essential and fundamental to peace would note, as well, that Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique that helped to mobilize the US “women’s liberation” movement of the 60’s was published in 1963. Even with its limited white middle class perspective, it caused many to begin to become critically aware of the dominant gender order. It was, most certainly a pivotal year for core and continuing peace education issues that will be reviewed in this series on the last 6 decades of peacelearning.

Students and teachers of nonviolence might also take note that 1963 was the year of the March on Washington and the “I have a Dream” speech delivered there by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It, too, might be considered in light of the Pope’s assertions about human rights, and the same links between universal human dignity and a just peace in his “sermon” on the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in 1968 only months before his assassination.

1968 was the year in which Pres. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, renounced a run for re-election, responding to the loss of public confidence over the Vietnam War.  Similar loss of confidence in the sitting president in 2018 is not likely to see even a comparable presidential response. While, obscure at the time and still little known, “Let Us Examine Our Attitude Toward Peace” was published in that year. What curricula will be published in this and the next few years, calling us to consider the peace possibilities in these times?  What might be included in such a collection of statements on the peace problematic published in this decade?

Finally, with regard to these first particular excerpts, both John F. Kennedy and Pope John XIII are examples of the kind of thinkers we intend to continue to bring to the attention of GCPE posts readers, thinkers whose vision, purpose and clarity in the articulation of ideas and actions that hold significant possibilities for learning and acting toward peace we hope our students will seek to emulate.  In such vision is cause for hope in turbulent times and inspiration toward practical action to fulfill the hope.

-Betty Reardon, October, 2018


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