Reflections on the 4th Peace Pedagogy Summer School 2024

(Reposted from: Peace Education Hub. June 26, 2024)

The report on the 4th Peace Pedagogy Summer School was prepared by Cornell students Myka Melville and Fiona Neibart who are interns in Peace Education Hub during the summer of 2024.

The Peace Education Hub in collaboration with forumZFD in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Euroclio HIP BiH ran the fourth Summer School of Peace Pedagogy on June 21, 2024. The mission of the program is to address the use and methods of peace pedagogy and share teaching resources based on teaching universal values. Thus, we can empower teachers and professional collaborators in developing a culture of peace in their schools and classrooms, teaching about peace and for peace in their specific areas.

Dr. Laura Kromják’s lecture, “Intergenerational Trauma and Memories of War among Bosnian Americans,” examined the lasting impact of trauma across generations. Dr. Kromják draws on her fieldwork and research, including her book “Remembrance and Forgiveness: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Mass Violence.” Using Bosnian-Americans as a case study, particularly the large immigrant population in St. Louis, Dr. Kromják investigates how intergenerational trauma and memories of war extend the effects of trauma beyond individuals to entire families, often impacting following generations through grief, depression, and anxiety. Her research includes the St. Louis Bosnian Youth and Family Study, which examines the experiences and identities of second-generation Bosnian youth and their parents. Key themes include understanding PTSD as a cultural trope, the reasons for the silencing of traumatic memories, identity crisis stemming from intergenerational dissonance, and the integration of collective trauma. Dr. Kromják also discusses the importance of language and discourse in promoting peace, and the role of humor in facilitating the narrative of trauma.

The lecture aimed to foster open discussions, highlighting the critical role of teachers, textbooks, and educational policies in shaping narratives of trauma. Dr. Kromják emphasizes the importance of educators as facilitators of emotional healing. There is a need for a discourse promoting peace and reconciliation, especially with the literature gap on intergenerational trauma in refugee communities. Additionally, teachers must accurately choose textbooks to avoid biases that exacerbate trauma. Educational policies supporting trauma-informed practices can create inclusive environments that acknowledge students’ emotional needs while also promoting unbiased history. Dr. Kromják advocates for a reformed educational approach that constructively addresses trauma across generations.

Following Dr. Kromják’s lecture was a workshop titled “Calendar of “Our” Past” led by Ana Radakovic, MA (University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philosophy). Ms. Radakovic asked participants in small groups to rank a series of historical events that preceded, marked, or were consequences of the conflicts in the area of Yugoslavia during the 1990s in terms of importance, and then present their conclusions to the main group. The workshop encouraged participants to evaluate the importance of these events and to examine different perspectives for various social groups. The second workshop, “What do textbooks (not) tell us: Sensitive topics in Bosnian textbooks”, led by Melisa Foric Plasto, MA (University of Sarajevo – Faculty of Philosophy), encouraged participants to consider how textbooks construct history and the perspectives included and/or omitted. Small groups were given excerpts from different Bosnian textbooks and were asked to analyze the different perspectives, potential biases, and contrasting conclusions about events during the 1990s, and then returned to the main group discussion on the culture of memory.

The event concluded with the panel “Sensitive topics in the classroom”, moderated by Emina Dedic Bukvić (University of Sarajevo – Faculty of Philosophy), the discussion featured the previous lecturers as well as Prof. Dr. Nenad Veličković (University of Sarajevo – Faculty of Philosophy), and high school geography professor Vedran Zubić. The panel’s discussion centered on the examination of sensitive and controversial topics in teaching. Panelists highlighted the role of strong emotions in sensitive topics, emphasizing the need to articulate both facts and emotions inside the classroom and other (informal) environments. They also discussed that sensitive topics are the topics children have questions about, detailing that education is an interactive process, where teachers must consider who the students are and the extent they are interested in certain subjects, thus, requiring them to adapt strategies to students needs and societal contexts.

The panel then transitioned into a discussion of potential best practices and teaching strategies for encouraging critical thinking across educational levels. Panelists underscored that teachers should have the freedom to select the topics and literary works for the classroom because they know what is relevant and what will resonate with their students. They also discussed the methodological practice of students researching independently to promote active learning, highlighting that monitoring student interest is important for creating a classroom environment where both students and teachers enjoy learning. The strategies discussed aim to foster critical thinking skills, empower students with independent research skills, and create inclusive learning environments conducive to discussing complex topics effectively.

Together, the panelists engaged in a dynamic discussion exploring how educators can effectively navigate sensitive topics inside and outside of the classroom, promote critical thinking, and foster dialogue in diverse educational settings and contexts.

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