Dialogue on Peace as the Presence of Justice: Ethical Reasoning as an Essential Learning Goal of Peace Education (Part 1 of 3)

An Invitation to Peace Educators from Dale Snauwaert and Betty Reardon

Editor’s Introduction

This is the first in a three-part series dialogue between Betty Reardon and Dale Snauwaert on “Dialogue on Peace as the Presence of Justice.”  This installment includes the introduction and first two exchanges between the authors.  The dialogue in its entirety is published via In Factis Pax, a peer-reviewed online journal of peace education and social justice.

The purpose of the dialogue, according to the authors:

“This dialogue on peace education is guided by two foundational assertions: peace as the presence of justice; and ethical reasoning as an essential learning goal of peace education. We invite peace educators everywhere to review and assess our dialogue and the challenges outlined, and to engage in similar dialogues and colloquies with colleagues who share the common goal of making education an effective instrument of peace. In this way we hope to inspire discourse on cultivating peace, human rights and the moral imperatives of justice; let us strive together to develop core learning pedagogies of ethical inquiry and moral reasoning as essentials of peace education.”

Read part 2 and part 3 in the series.

Citation: Reardon, B. & Snauwaert, D. (2022).  Dialogue on Peace as the Presence of Justice: Ethical Reasoning as an Essential Learning Goal of Peace Education. An Invitation to Peace Educators from Dale Snauwaert and Betty Reardon. In Factis Pax, 16 (2): 105-128.

Introduction

As we look to the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the germinative source of the range of human rights standards adopted over the second half of the 20th century by the community of nations, we are dismayed at the lack of regard that community seems to hold for these standards.  Intended as the guidelines for achieving essential conditions of a just and peaceful world society, they are hardly implemented and infrequently invoked.

The second decade of the 21st century witnesses “disregard and contempt for human rights” exceeding those that produced “the barbarous acts which…outraged the conscience of mankind…” This is a time when we have cause to question: Where now is such an active global conscience that gave rise to the response that produced the UDHR, adopted by acclamation of the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948? This apparent absence or obscuring of a sense of global ethics, poses ethical and pedagogical challenges to peace education that must be faced if the field is to be truly relevant to the present peace problematic that challenges the normative aspirations of peace education as never before.

While we are aware of the need for establishing new normative standards related to the new challenges, we also note that the norms established in the mid 20th century have an indispensable role in confronting the ethical issues arising in the current global order. We assert that the internationally agreed human rights standards provide a basic code of ethics of global citizenship, comprising essential substance for education, and for ethical reasoning and decision making; core skills to be developed by peace education. Furthermore, such learning should be intentionally embraced as a central purpose of peace education.

This dialogue on peace education is guided by two foundational assertions: peace as the presence of justice; and ethical reasoning as an essential learning goal of peace education. We invite peace educators everywhere to review and assess our dialogue and the challenges outlined, and to engage in similar dialogues and colloquies with colleagues who share the common goal of making education an effective instrument of peace. In this way we hope to inspire discourse on cultivating peace, human rights and the moral imperatives of justice; let us strive together to develop core learning pedagogies of ethical inquiry and moral reasoning as essentials of peace education.

A note on the meaning of the terms “ethical” and “moral” used in this dialogue.  The terms ethical and moral are often either used synonymously or they are defined in distinct ways.  In Reardon’s previous work she conceives “ethical” reasoning broadly to include value inquiry, the process of providing justificatory reasons for principles of rights/justice, and the process of applying values and principles to specific cases (Betty A. Reardon, 2010; Betty A.  Reardon & Snauwaert, 2011; Betty A. Reardon & Snauwaert, 2015).  In Snauwaert’s work he distinguishes these dimensions of normative reasoning as ethical value inquiry, moral reasoning, and moral judgment (Snauwaert, under review).  In our dialogue below we refer to all three of these dimensions either separately or under the umbrella term of ethical reasoning.

Exchange 1

Snauwaert: To begin our dialogue, we can reflect on the nature of peace. Peace has often been conceptualized as the absence of violence.  However, instead of defining peace in terms of an absence of violence, which makes violence the operative concept, peace can be conceptualized as the presence of justice. Even from within the narrow perspective of peace as the absence of aggressive warfare, peace is a matter of justice, for security of person is a vital interest; persons have a basic human right to security. In turn, there is a duty to organize society in a way that avoids depriving persons of their right to security, protects them from threats to their security, and aids victims of the violation of their human right to security.  The right to security of person imposes duties onto the basic institutional structures of society as a matter of justice.  When the existence of structural, systemic injustice is taken into consideration, the parameters of peace expand to include basic questions of social justice relating to a significant range of rights and duties. From this perspective, peace constitutes a social system of cooperation regulated by principles of justice and ethical values essential for the pursuit of a good life.  Establishing and sustaining peace within all levels of society, local, national, international, and global, is an urgent moral imperative of justice.  Peace as a matter of justice, consequently, calls for an educational approach that is designed to cultivate the capacities of moral reasoning, reflection, and sound judgment in present and future citizens.  Could you reflect on the pedagogical processes most suited to this aim?

Reardon:  My first and fundamental assertion about the relevant pedagogy is that the nature of the learning space or environment is a primary determinant of what will be learned. If the learning intention is the development of capacities for ethical reflection and decision making, then the environment itself must manifest a system of ethics. In the case of the arguments we make here, it must manifest respect for and enactment of human rights. The “what and how” of manifesting human rights in learning spaces will be addressed as we continue this dialogue.

The learning intention of developing ethical capacities infuses the way I see this first point of your argument that peace is the presence of justice, a public goal to be reached through citizens exercising their ethical capacities, which I posit as learning objectives. Such is essential to building the requisite “duties into social structures.” Social structures, as we teach in peace education, reflect the values of the societies that construct them. They may appear abstract, but they only manifest in concrete human actions. What we aim for are operative social values derived from deep and robust ethical reflection, a goal that, in turn requires a pedagogy of ethical inquiry. For the educator, the task is devising and posing queries most likely to produce relevant reflection.  Indeed, I would argue that in our present circumstances all citizens should be grappling with the formation of such questions to be raised in all public spaces.

The inquiry could begin with queries to elicit an assessment of the ethics of the learning environment. I would begin by examining your first point about expanding the definition of peace as an absence of violence, to a more positive definition of peace as the presence of justice. I would like to question the indicators of each definition, and how they might be affecting the relationships that comprise the learning environment; whether and how they might be changed to facilitate all learners achieving their respective learning objectives.

There are other pedagogical treasures suggested by your first point that I hope will appear again in our exchanges. Perhaps your second point regarding cultivating peace as an urgent moral imperative of justice will surface some of them as it poses other pedagogical possibilities. Among them, inquiring into a conceptual definition of justice would be a fruitful starting point.

Exchange 2

Snauwaert: Yes, that inquiry is essential; if we conceive peace as a moral imperative of justice and understand the basic aim of peace education in terms of the pursuit of justice, then we need to explain further the nature of justice. Justice refers to what each person is due or justified in demanding, as well as what we owe to each other; our duties to each other.  The fulfillment of what we are due and thus what we owe each other is a matter of how society is organized in terms of its basic institutional structure.   Justice does not refer to the whole of morality, including our conception of the good life and what morality demands of us in our personal relationships with others, among many other considerations. It pertains to the organization and functioning of social institutions (political, legal, economic, educational, etc.), specifically the integrated system of social institutions that comprise the basic structure of society.  One general approach to normative political philosophy suggests that a just society is built on and through the vast array of ethical and moral relationships and interactions between individuals.  A just society is contingent upon the moral soundness of such relationships (May, 2015).  However, it can be argued that the normative quality of relationships between individuals is contingent upon the basic institutional structure of society, and if that structure is unjust, then it is difficult at best for individuals to engage in ethical relationships.  As the philosopher John Rawls noted:

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.  A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust (Rawls, 1971, p. 1).

The basic structure of society is, so to speak, the water in which we swim; if the water is polluted, that pollution conditions the quality of our swimming together.  An important way to conceive the subject of justice is to conceive it as the terms or principles that regulate the basic institutional structure of society.

If justice pertains to what each person is due and what we owe to each other in light of what we are due, then the principles of justice would necessarily express what each person is justified in demanding as a “moral claim on the organization of society” (Pogge, 2001, p. 200) and what the society is obligated to provide each person as a matter of justice.   Given this conception of the subject of justice, what follows pedagogically?

Reardon:  Following on my focus in our first exchange on the learning environment as a laboratory for testing civic values and competencies, I will focus in this second exchange on your assertion that “A just society is contingent on and through an array of ethical and moral relationships and interactions between individuals.” And your statement that “…justice would express what each person is justified in demanding of society.” As a teacher, I see these assertions as essential to cultivating learning relationships and interactions in the learning environment that would constitute a human web of mutual fulfillment of the claims each learner has a right to make upon their learning community. Justification of those claims would offer learners opportunities to engage in the very form of ethical reflection integral to responsible civic action toward the realization of human rights. It is citizen education in a form so necessary at this time.

The fulfillment of claims of individual learners is the responsibility of all other learners in the web of interactions that comprise the learning process, as the fulfillment of claims to rights is the responsibility of the society and the institutions established to carry out the responsibility. In the case of education, schools and universities are the institutions established to fulfill claims to learning. In each class or learning community the learning of each derives in significant part from the learning of all, as the learning of all in the community is in general the aggregation of the learning of each individual, mirroring the relationship of the fulfillment of the human rights of one citizen redounding to greater assurance of the rights of all.

Individual learnings, while varied are part of the total learnings of the community. The sum learning is the product of the relationships and interactions that comprise a learning community, a community being persons joined together in pursuit of their common welfare and shared social purposes. A learning community is brought into being by an intention to pursue learning that all agree serves their welfare, an intention they hold is best pursued in community – rather than individually or in non-communal groups – that will contribute to the achievement of commonly held social purposes.

The ethicality and efficacy of learning communities are determined by the degree and quality of justice that they manifest. Successful learning communities are those in which individual claims are assessed in terms of their potential effects on the common interest, and in which all learning benefits of the community are fully and equally shared. Effective learning communities interpret harms to an individual’s learning as justice deficits to all.  The concept of individual human rights deemed by the UDHR to be the foundation of “justice and peace in the world,” is commonly interpreted as meaning that the violation of the rights of one constitutes a deficit of justice and peace for all (i.e., “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”) So, fulfilling claims of individual learners serves to assure that justice and peace are experienced – and learned from – by all in a learning community.

What I write here in terms of abstract principles can and should be translated into actual teaching-learning behaviors. As we look to educating toward the principles set forth in this your second point, I would assert that peace educators have a duty and a responsibility to devise and practice methods consistent with a just learning environment. The duty is imposed by the assumed, if not stipulated, moral codes of the teaching profession. The responsibility derives from the personal and individual professional commitments and capacities peace educators have developed through practice, and recognition of the social significance of their teaching stance and methodology. The learners we guide have a human right to claim nothing less than the fulfillment of these duties and responsibilities; failing to do so will serve as a major obstacle to educating for the ethical decision making upon which a just civic order depends.

Read part 2 and part 3 in the series.

 

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