Teaching about Peacekeeping and Alternative Security Systems

Issues and Themes in 6 Decades of Peacelearning: Examples from the Work of Betty Reardon (Post #2)

“…to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”  –Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, 1945

Editor’s Introduction

This article by Betty Reardon is the second 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 explores Betty’s 6 decades of peacelearning through three cycles of 90-days; each cycle introducing a special focus of her work, highlighted by the sharing of selected resources from Betty’s archives. September – November 2018 launches cycle 1, featuring Betty’s efforts from the 1960s through the ‘70s focused on developing peace education for schools. This series is also a complement to the anthology Betty A. Reardon: A Pioneer in Education for Peace and Human Rights, volume 26 in SpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice (2015).  That anthology can be purchased here.

In this second post, Betty comments on Peacekeeping, a curricular unit in the secondary school series on Perspectives in World Order published by Random House in 1973.  Betty’s commentary here focuses on two excerpts examining approaches to peacekeeping and alternative security.  Betty has also formulated new queries for adaptation to current classrooms.

We post these comments and excerpts on the cusp of the 100th anniversary of “Armistice Day,” which marked the end of fighting in WWI (Nov. 11, 1918).  The “War to End all Wars” turned out to be a false promise as evidenced by the persistence of major wars throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.  We have much still to learn from this tragedy, and it is our hope that Betty’s inspiring and practical vision for Teaching about Peacekeeping and Alternative Security Systems might help us in that journey.

Be sure to read the first post in this series, “Let Us Examine Our Attitude toward Peace.”

[icon name=”download” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] [icon name=”file-pdf-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Download the excerpts from Peacekeeping here.



By Betty Reardon

We now live in a world in which war in multiple new forms is no longer so much a periodic “scourge,” as a chronic political reality, as inevitable as the common cold. The inevitability of war as a given of the human condition, a belief deeply imbedded through years of historical experience has been, perhaps the major barrier impeding those who strive to devise and institute some form of sustainable peace. It is an idee fixe in “the minds of men,” the main problematic that lead to the founding of UNESCO, dedicated to constructing “the foundations of peace” in the human mind through education. This same task was taken up by those who became the founders of the first phases of post World War II peace education.

The task has been made the more daunting by a second widely held conviction that war is a necessary and effective instrument for the protection and realization of national interests. This conviction is at the heart of political realism that dismisses alternative thinking that challenges its fundamental assumptions such as the inevitability and efficacy of war, insisting that alternatives are “utopian” and unattainable. (See the recent GCPE post citing political realism as the source of opposition to the 2017 nuclear ban treaty.)  Serious assessment of alternatives is further complicated by the volatility of the ever changing international circumstances in which peace advocates and educators confront war and the thinking that perpetuates it. In these particular times it seems they change with more complexity, greater rapidity and unpredictability than we have known before. However, we hold that there is, in fact, relevant learning to be gleaned from a past that seems immeasurably different from our own.

The excerpts we offer in this first November post selected from the curricula devised in the decades of the 60s and 70s were designed under the assumption of a changing world, but not at a rate of change such as we now experience. Yet the problematic they address remains essentially the same, if more complex, volatile and severe. We remain till this day confronted by ever more lethal and senseless political violence and armed conflict.

Betty Reardon with Professor Earl Johnson at the 1973 annual conference of the Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies.

World order studies were derived from an assumption that the core of the war problematic is the inadequacy of the violence prevention and conflict resolution institutions of the international system.  Its curricular perspective was futures as well as values oriented to stimulate thinking about possible and preferable alternative institutions, and the processes through which they might be conceptualized and designed. The intended learning was directed toward objectives designed to stimulate such thinking toward: honing skills of anticipation and the projection of “preferred futures,” multiple possible alternatives for the institutional transformation of the international system.

The projections were to be informed and assessed by the designated value of peace (later defined as “negative peace,” an end to armed conflict) so as to determine the potential efficacy and value consistency of the various alternatives as instruments to prevent war, reduce and prevent political violence. As the field developed, the central problematic was augmented by problems related to the frustration of other values introduced into world order studies by scholars from the global south. (These values formed the substance of what came to be understood as “positive peace,” assurance of social, political, economic and ecological justice.) The curricula also aimed for conceptual clarity in the processes of diagnosing the problems and projecting potential solutions in the design of alternative institutions, so the materials explicitly defined the foundational concepts and offer visual tools to illustrate institutional components of alternative systems. Case studies, both historical and hypothetical, were recounted as the crises against which the alternative models might be tested.

In the early 1970s the Institute for World Order in collaboration with Random House published two sets of secondary school curriculum units, Perspectives in World Order for freshman and sophomores and Crises in World Order for juniors and seniors.  They were designed for use in social studies, citizenship education, and the newly emerging courses in global education. Secondary social education was coming in those years to incorporate substance selected from the scholarship of the social sciences, especially political science and international relations.  Both series sought to infuse world order studies into that substance.  They sought to do so by translating the concepts and methods of the field into terms that could be made accessible to 14 to 18-year-old students. The excerpts below are from a curriculum unit intended for 14 and 16-year-olds.  It opened with a “thriller” scenario about a nuclear threat intended to engage the interest and imaginations of the students. The entire unit is scheduled to be available through the GCPE. Here included, are the selected sample excerpts, commentary and additional inquiry based on the first unit in the Perspectives on World Order series:


Contemporary Commentary

This first unit in the Perspectives in World Order Series sought to introduce the world order pedagogy of assessing multiple alternative solutions to the problematic of war within a futures and values perspective. The fundamental inquiry and teaching procedures are outlined in the unit it self. The actual classroom process was devised through demonstration teachings, over a two-year period in a series of a teacher preparation workshops organized by IWO and at a number of state social studies conventions. Teacher involvement was essential to the process, as was theory adapted from social education and world order research. My co-editors were a professor of social education, Jack Fraenkel, series editor, and a junior high school teacher, Margaret Carter. (It was also directly young-teen tested in a critical reading by a then 14-year-old niece.)

Excerpts from this unit were selected for posting in this series to demonstrate attempts to translate peace theory and political reality into classroom curricula. We believed that even the most creative teachers, sometimes needed guidelines and procedures to facilitate their taking up new and distinct ideas and materials. But we also believed that teachers should not be given “formulaic” curriculum packages without providing their underlying theoretical basis and education rationale. We asserted that good curricula must be based on both, and that both should be the basis of teacher developed curricula, always the most relevant to their particular groups of students.

Clearly, the world order has changed drastically since 1972. So, too have our classrooms.  Curriculum and teaching were not yet “gender sensitive” nor very “ecologically aware” and only starting to become “student centered.” Students in the schools of many countries are infinitely more diverse than students of those years. Today’s secondary school students are far different socially and developmentally, being formed in large part by a world of screens, “social media” and random as well as systematic violence. Yet both the present world order and today’s young people remain in dire need of tools of interpretation, and of the capacity to interpret and analyze what must be confronted. Both members of world society in general and the young in particular need the fundamental learning required to prepare for effective engagement in the political and social processes which might bring about a preferred future. Toward that end, developing the capacity to discern and assess multiple alternatives, freeing young minds from the binary choices society and, too often, the curricula impose; and perfecting the skills of identifying and defining the fundamental values of a preferred future world society are still relevant, even essential education goals.

This unit may or may not be currently adaptable to those goals, but GCPE hopes that it might encourage classroom teachers and those who are preparing them to devise curricula that might achieve the goals within the realities of today’s world order that challenge today’s youth. With that possibility in mind, the following inquiry is posed for use by educators endeavoring to introduce study of alternative security systems into their teaching:

Note: There is a body of literature on peacekeeping and alternative security systems. From that body we suggest two recent publications for teachers seeking more substantive background to better facilitate student learning:

  1. A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (2018-19 Edition), published by World BEYOND War, and the complementary online learning platform Study War No More, designed by Tony Jenkins, GCPE Editor and Coordinator.
  2. United Nations Peace Operations in a Changing Global Order. Cedric de Coning and Mateja Peters, eds, Palgrave McMillan, 2018, ISBN 978-3-319-99105-4.

Excerpts from Peacekeeping

[icon name=”download” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] [icon name=”file-pdf-o” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Download the excerpts from Peacekeeping here.

New Inquiry

The following questions and queries are posed to suggest a general inquiry process. We expect that teachers will adapt and augment them as fits their respective teaching situations. Knowledge of current issues in war and violence is assumed. All the screens to which adolescents give so much of their attention can provide the basic information. Critically reflective review of all sources should be encouraged.

What new institutions and policies have emerged since the 1970’s that might contribute to a more peaceful and just global security system? (In discussion of this question, the International Criminal Court should be among the new developments considered) What functions do they perform that would so contribute? Are they effective in performing those functions? How might you change them or describe alternatives to them? Can you envision changes in the structures and functions of the present United Nations that in your view would make it more capable of “avoid[ing] the scourge of war?”

Were we to assess the relevance to our own times of the models described in Peacekeeping or any newly proposed models of alternative security systems (i.e, World BEYOND War proposals or models of student responses to the last query in the paragraph above,) what contemporary conflicts and/or problematic trends might we use as “test” cases?

Might we devise a hypothetical future case based on current trends that threaten to go unchecked? Could we use this scenario to test the future efficacy and desirability of the various models at hand (including those noted in the paragraph above)? How might you assess the capacity of each to prevent the negative consequences of any or all of the trends you have identified?

Could we design a simulation to act out the test, to get a feel for how people might actually behave in the face of the problem and how the model might be used?

End Note: If you try or adapt any of this material please let GCPE know how it goes. 

– Betty A. Reardon, November 2018

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