Everyone should study peace.
Now, this isn’t some sissy, hippie plea for world peace. It’s a call for American students to develop a better understanding of how peace can improve the world.
And if GW is the nation’s most politically active campus, then it’s time for this next generation of American leaders to carry the world toward a more peaceful future.
The University can start this process by requiring students to take a course in peace studies.
I became interested in peace and nonviolence studies during high school when I attended a summer camp in Maine called Seeds of Peace. This was not an ordinary camp experience, though, as between swimming and soccer, campers broke into small groups for 90-minute conflict resolution sessions.
Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Pakistanis, Indians, Afghanis – plus a handful of American teenagers like me – discussed how to improve our world through peace, not violence.
Most of the campers had never interacted with peers from the other side of their conflict. Palestinians knew Israelis only as soldiers at border crossings, but at Seeds of Peace, they had come willingly to meet their enemies.
These types of discussions allow students to alter the way they think about foreign relations. Courses in peace studies help students do this by introducing them to alternatives to violence and preparing them to foster such a culture in their communities after graduation.
I grew up in Baltimore when it was one of the most dangerous cities in America. “Bodymore, Murdaland” – the city’s nickname – is a gruesome homage to the city’s annual homicide rate of 300. Rather than allowing the streets of Baltimore to teach the next generation, perhaps, trite as it might sound, lessons from Gandhi could help change the city for the better.
Perhaps Colman McCarthy, an advocate for teaching peace studies in high schools, said it best: “If we don’t teach them peace, someone else is going to teach them violence.”
But that is not going to happen until there is a cultural change in the nation’s capital. And that change begins with students demanding more. As scholars in the nation’s capital, the onus is on us to choose to become students of peace.
A peace policy, some say, lets the terrorists “win.” And, further, by teaching children the value of peace, we will contribute to the “wussification” of the American youth.
But don’t Americans want to live in a society known for safety and calm rather than one filled with danger and terror? If we want to live in peace, then why not teach peace?
The University should require peace studies as it does for courses in science, math and humanities.
But while we wait for that University mandate, register for a course in peace studies – you’ve still got time to sign up.
Benjamin Krimmel, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.