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Aug 2, 2013

Educators examine ways to teach history that mitigate conflict

OTISFIELD, MAINE | This summer, educators from around the world gathered in Maine to participate in Making History: Pluralism, Peace and the Past, Seeds of Peace’s third annual Educators Course.

The two-week session explored ways in which history contributes to conflict and the role history education can play in encouraging mutual respect, cross-cultural understanding, pluralism, and a more humane and peaceful future.

“The primary question we are concerned with is how educators can engage with the past in a way that encourages perspective-taking, humility, and openness,” said Daniel Moses, Director of Seeds of Peace Educator Programs.

The 30 participants from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Italy, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine, and the United States engaged with questions of collective narrative, examined ways in which history contributes to conflict, and developed the tools necessary to use history to encourage pluralism and cross-cultural understanding.

“Participants from across lines of conflict live together, sharing rooms, dining tables, and common spaces,” said Daniel. “They discuss issues of mutual concern, create lesson plans, share resources and work that they’ve done in the past. Together they make decisions that shape their evolving community; over the course of their time together, they co-create their experience.”

Workshops were led by faculty members from a range of fields, including Doc Miller from Facing History and Ourselves, Professor Anil Sethi of Azim Premji University in India, Meenakshi Chhabra of Lesley University, the Brooklyn-based poet Elana Bell, the visual artist Robert Shetterly, and the musicians, Brothers Yares.

Workshops focused on encouraging active listening, using visual arts and music to teach history, and the idea of education as a craft and the educator as practitioner of the craft.

Site visits around Maine allowed participants to hear contrasting narratives about the history of the state from the Governor of Maine to the Mayor of Portland, members of the Abyssinian Church, and the Native American Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Participants related issues they saw in Maine to their conflict at home all the time. They see and hear the same things, but interpret them in totally different ways due to where they come from,” said Daniel. “These are the differences and experiences we aim to unpack in our conversations.”

The course is based on an understanding that education depends not only on curricula, but also on how educators present information. It encouraged participants to bring all of their experiences to the group—as individual human beings, educators, and people from societies of conflict. In doing so, it created spaces for educator transformation, personal process, and connections to one another.

“It was part Camp, part conference,” said Daniel.

Seeds of Peace Educator Programs work alongside our youth programs and seek to inspire and equip educators in conflict regions with the relationships, understanding, and skills needed to transform schools and communities and contribute to a culture of peace.

Opportunities for continued involvement include gatherings and conversations in the educators’ home countries, and a follow-up workshop in Jordan is in the making.



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