Peace, justice, and conflict resolution studies in Kentucky colleges are transforming the way students look atï¿½and live inï¿½the world
ï¿½I can easily say that Peace and Conflict Studies has been and forever will be my favorite class,ï¿½ says Kristy Karnes, a student at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington. ï¿½I feel like I have become an all-around better personï¿½I listen and grow.ï¿½
Claudia Gonzalez, another BCTC student from Lexington, believes that her peace studies class was a ï¿½true life lesson in war and peace around the world, a lesson which I will hold for the rest of my lifeï¿½The ethnocentric blindfold which had kept me from giving importance to issues other than those in my own back yard was lifted.ï¿½
What is peace education?
Peace education is a relatively new area of study, interdisciplinary in nature. A college focus area, certificate, or minor typically includes one to three required peace studies courses, along with a selection of two to five courses in social and economic justice, cultural studies, ecology, philosophy, womenï¿½s studies, theology, conflict resolutionï¿½and a service-learning component.
Examining models from the past, students determine what it would take to build a peaceful society, a world where conflicts are resolved actively, not passively, in nonviolent ways. Students also learn that peace and justice must go hand in hand.
After completing his peace course at BCTC, Ryan Smith of Nicholasville observes, ï¿½One thing that has become undeniably obvious during our recent conflicts is that war only digs the hole deeper. The new century will require a new approach to solving disputes.ï¿½
Meagan Brock, a student in the first peace class at BCTC in 2004, really gets it. She says, ï¿½I believe for peace to be widespread, it has to be personal.ï¿½
Dr. Russell Vandenbroucke, director of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Transformation at the University of Louisville, describes peace studies as ï¿½omnidisciplinary,ï¿½ a way of ï¿½looking outward upon the world and inward upon ourselves. Instead of simply ï¿½opposingï¿½ war, violence, and inequality, it positively pursues justice, harmony within a family and between nations, and inner peace for all men and women.ï¿½
Vandenbroucke believes our progress toward racial and gender equality and now our efforts to stop bullying demonstrate ï¿½how much we have already embraced some of the intrinsic goals of pursuing peace.ï¿½
BCTCï¿½s Academic Peace Program
Ten Bluegrass and Community and Technical College professors created a new course in 2003 called Introduction to Peace Studies. Since then, two more courses have been added, and now 12 professors from different disciplinesï¿½history, humanities, art, political science, philosophy, anthropology, communications, and geographyï¿½volunteer their time to teach segments such as Quakers and Shakers, the history of peace movements, the impact of war on the environment, women and peace, and conflict resolution.
In 2004, BCTC created a focus area in Peace & Justice Studies, a concentration of courses totaling 16 hours within the 60-hour associate in arts degree.
According to David Smith, senior manager for Educational Outreach at the U.S. Institute of Peace, there are approximately 27 peace and conflict studies initiatives and programs in community colleges around the nation, and another 10 under development. BCTCï¿½s program was one of the first.
Dr. Rebecca Glasscock, a geography professor, coordinates the peace studies program at BCTC. Her calendar illustrates the many aspects of the program. In the summer Glasscock serves as the volunteer garden manager, along with other community gardeners, for the Peace Meal Gardens, which was started three years ago to serve BCTC and the wider community. This year they planted an orchard and are building a greenhouse. In the fall and winter she teaches geography and peace classes, but she might also be organizing fund-raisers, planning a speaker series, or arranging a trip to D.C. for a peace rally.
She meets regularly with Students for Peace and Earth Justice, a group she formed eight years ago, and all through the winter and spring, they are busy planning the Annual Peace and Global Citizenship Fair, held in mid-May for the past six years. Glasscock works tirelessly and optimistically for peace every day of the year.
When Glasscock designed the first fair back in 2006, her intention was to ï¿½model a peaceful world.ï¿½ She believes that we must be citizens of Kentucky, knowing and valuing our home, and citizens of the world, respecting and understanding other cultures. Fairgoers can find out how to make their home more energy efficient, support local farm organizations, eat hamburgers from grass-fed Kentucky cows, and listen to a bluegrass band. Or, in the wider world, they can help children in Kenya and Ethiopia, sample fair trade coffee, watch a Chinese dancer, and sample plantains from Nicaragua. They can walk through a Kentucky Native American heritage museum or find out how to join the Peace Corps. (For more information about Glasscockï¿½s peace activities, go online to www.peace2day.org.)
ï¿½We hoped to raise awareness of the peaceful possibilities for a socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable future,ï¿½ says Glasscock. She wants people to become ï¿½thoughtful and light travelers on this beautiful planet Earth,ï¿½ and she herself provides a sparkling example.
Peace at Madisonville, Louisville, Berea
This fall, Madisonville Community College is offering the Introduction to Peace Studies course that originated at BCTC. A group of students approached Dr. Scott Vander Ploeg, chair of the Humanities Division, asking for the course. It soon filled to capacity. He hopes to correct the misconception that studying peace is a ï¿½left-wing retro peacenikï¿½ thing and instead show how peace courses deal with the ï¿½interconnectedness of our world.ï¿½
Vander Ploeg has another good reason to offer the class: ï¿½Our region (western Kentucky) suffers from a presumption of conflict, with Fort Knox to our east, Fort Campbell to our south, a gaseous diffusion nuclear production plant to our west, and across the land a pervasive struggle with the environment in coal and natural resource use; and so a study of peace issues would be a welcome alternative to the engines of war and destruction.ï¿½
Around the state, other peace programs are well-established. Since 2005, Bellarmine University in Louisville has offered a minor in Peace Studies, coordinated by Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty and Dr. J. Milburn Thompson. The peace minor continues the mission of Thomas Merton, Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani and internationally known pacifist, and reflects the social teachings of the modern Catholic Church.
Ann Marie Kelly of Louisville, a Bellarmine graduate with the Peace Studies minor, was profoundly influenced by Dr. Thompsonï¿½s Christian Peacemaking course. A course like this ï¿½makes you think more deeply about those around you and how your actions impact others, whether you realize it or not,ï¿½ says Kelly.
As a result of the peace minor, she applied for the Christian Appalachian Project as a full-time volunteer. She hopes to move to eastern Kentucky soon and work 40 hours a week in their housing program to improve the dwellings of those living in poverty in that region.
Also in 2005, Berea College introduced a Peace & Social Justice Program, currently directed by Dr. Michelle Tooley, an Eli Lilly professor of religion. Like Bellarmine, Berea offers an interdisciplinary minor in Peace and Social Justice, an outgrowth of Bereaï¿½s mission and history. Bereaï¿½s foundational documents affirm ï¿½the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice.ï¿½
Dr. Tooley teaches conflict transformation, a course in which students study and apply principles of peace building to deep-rooted conflicts of peace and justice. Students study a timely conflict such as mountaintop removal, use social science research methodology, find common ground, and then develop a possible solution.
Lolly Saleem of Berea earned a degree in Peace and Social Justice as an independent major at Berea. She feels that peace classes ï¿½help students think more about peaceful ways to resolve conflict from a small scale to a larger scale.ï¿½ Conflict resolution is always included in peace studies, and many professors begin with interpersonal conflicts because solving personal disputes requires many of the same skills as international diplomacy.
Ismaila Ceesay of Berea will receive the minor in Peace and Social Justice from Berea College, which he feels has given him a better understanding of social problems and how to address them, but the courses ï¿½have also been an invaluable guide to me and my wife on how to raise our children to be conscientious members of society.ï¿½
At Dr. Tooleyï¿½s urging, Ismaila applied for and was recently accepted into the Caux Scholars Program in Switzerland. Only 20 students are selected worldwide to participate in the monthlong course on methods of local and global conflict resolution, with the goal of preparing students for leadership roles within their communities.
At the University of Louisville, the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research and the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice work together and separately to promote understanding locally and globally. The Anne Braden Institute, directed by Dr. Cate Fosl, builds bridges between research and activism, whites and people of color, history and the unfinished business of civil rights. Many students at UofL are involved as assistants and there is a Community Advisory Council of activists, along with 26 faculty affiliates.
The Muhammad Ali Institute is a good example of both local and global action. According to Mikal Forbush, the program coordinator, the institute places special emphasis on urban youth and nonviolence in the inner city of Louisville, and also sponsors a two-year program that sends students overseas to learn how other countries deal with their problems and conflicts.
Kristy Karnesï¿½ words inspire hope: ï¿½Iï¿½ve learned that if you seek change in the world, you must first be the change that you wish to see, lead by example, and thatï¿½s exactly what I intend to do, peacefully.ï¿½
Who knows? Peaceful changes in the world just might begin in Kentucky.
PEACE IN THE WORKS
Certificate in Peace Studies at UofL
Dr. Russell Vandenbroucke is the director of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Transformation at the University of Louisville. He and others have proposed a certificate in peace studies, which can be in place by spring 2012. The certificate seems a natural culmination of other efforts at and around the university. UofL has offered a minor in Social Change since 2004 and a Liberal Studies degree since 2010 in which students can acquire a concentration in peace studies. A student subcommittee has recommended a certificate rather than a minor because they want it to be within reach for students in all fields.
Peace House at UK
The University of Kentucky will soon have a Peace House, a living-learning community for approximately 40 residential students who will take one peace studies course per semester for at least the first year. Richard Greissman, assistant provost for Program Support, hopes to have it in place by fall 2012. According to the mission statement, it will be a safe place for ï¿½passionate discourseï¿½ among UK students and the community, a place to build skills to resolve local and global conflicts. Residents will ï¿½strive to develop fair and equitable solutions to the worldï¿½s most difficult problems.ï¿½
Certificate in Peace Studies at UK
Dr. Clayton Thyne, assistant professor of political science, and Dr. T. Kerby Neill, author and clinical psychologist, are leading the effort to create a peace studies certificate at the University of Kentucky, which will include two new courses: a 200-level introduction to peace studies and a 400-level capstone course. With wide support and many professors eager to participate, Dr. Thyne expects to have it in place by fall 2012.
ï¿½I cannot recall how long Iï¿½ve known about and admired the peace studies programs at BCTC and Berea College. That similar programs are now starting up across Kentucky fills me with great hope. So much of our common cultureï¿½our stories, books, movies, and televisionï¿½works to build an almost subconscious presumption that violence is an effective, often the only serious, response to conflict. The nonviolence of Gandhi and King gives us an alternative set of tools. Peace studies programs are essential if our species is to learn how to share this planet.ï¿½
ï¿½Richard Mitchell, Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: FAMOUS PEACEMAKERS
To read about famous Kentuckians for peace and justiceï¿½John Fee, Anne Braden, Thomas Merton, and Muhammad Aliï¿½as well as find a list of books and Web sites by Kentuckians on peace, go to peace and justice.