“The classroom remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”
Today’s youth are coming of age in a world with violent conflicts of unmatched magnitude. The scope of these crises range from the intra-personal to the macro levels of racism, gender inequality, community violence, the huge and widening gap between the rich and the poor throughout the globalized economy, violations of human rights, and the degradation of the environment. No longer is anyone on the planet exempt from the consequences of these global problems. Proponents of Peace Education believe that the discipline encourages critical thinking for in-depth examinations of not only the problems facing individuals, communities, and the world today, but also the roots of these conflicts. Equally important is the balance of understanding the crises with discussing and acting upon viable solutions, including both activism and self-care.
Woolman’s English class, Peace Studies, is comprised of a rigorous, social justice-based language arts seminar and a documentary filmmaking workshop. In the seminar, we will read and analyze a wide range of texts, write confidently and competently across genres, and engage in critical and transformative dialogue with an emphasis on valuing diverse perspectives. Our course begins with creating community and a basic understanding of peace, violence, justice, and nonviolence. We then move into studying power, privilege, oppression, and how to be an ally. Next, we look at past and contemporary activists and social movements addressing injustice and analyze their range of strategies, including an investigation into if violence in response to injustice can be justified. Finally, we return to ourselves as we learn about and practice tools for cultivating and sustaining inner peace.
The ongoing semester project for Peace Studies is the Peace Documentary— a ten-minute film created, filmed, and produced by students who collaborate in small groups. In documentary class, students develop documentaries from the first stage of brainstorming ideas through presenting their final pieces to the public, while developing skills with interviewing, camera and audio work, and editing.
The ultimate intention of Peace Studies is to empower our youth to embody the wisdom and capacities for supporting a Culture of Peace. The Campaign Statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education states that:
A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional, sustained and systematic education for peace.
Course Objectives (drawn from Common Core ELA standards as well as course content):
Students will be able to…
· Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on topics including peace, conflict, justice, and violence, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and coherently
· Display critical thinking skills, including distinguishing between facts, opinions, and beliefs; recognizing bias and prejudice; and identify issues as well as assumptions in arguments
· Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what texts say explicitly as well as draw inferences, including determining where texts leaves matters uncertain
· Examine and present forms of power, privilege, and oppression
· Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text
· Understand the basics of allyship and practice being an ally in a real-life situation
· Write narratives using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
· Write persuasively to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
· Identify and practice tools for personal peace, including mindfulness meditation
· Increase their ability to think relationally, developing a more nuanced understanding of the way commonalities and differences work together
· Gain an expanded knowledge of what documentary is and the relationship it has with art and activism
· Produce and direct a ten-minute film that explores an issue impacting self, community, and/or society
Gang Injunctions in Oakland
Occupy: Perspectives of the 99%