Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2009 Issue »

    Symposium: Education and Violent Political Conflict

    Introduction

    We write this introduction against the backdrop of a deeply troubled world. Ugandan children continue to be abducted as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army. Teachers in Gaza mourn schools flattened to rubble in the most recent surge of conflict with Israel. Displaced by violence and destruction in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, and the Sudan, countless families gather their few remaining belongings and seek refuge. Rebels in Sri Lanka, pirates in Somalia, and drug traffickers in Mexico threaten the safety of the innocent. The citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan struggle daily to repair what has been broken by war waged by the United States, while negotiating the invitation of a new U.S. administration to unclench fists and extend hands. This historic moment of political transition presents an opportunity and an imperative for the global community to reimagine world affairs, including the complicated political conflicts that destroy the lives of so many adults and steal the promising futures of so many children. In this spirit, the editors of the Harvard Educational Review call on our readers to reflect critically on the role education plays in violent political conflict.

    We have chosen to explore the relationship between education and conflict through two projects. The first, the Harvard Educational Review reprint volume Education and War (2009), looks to the past to understand why and how communities and political groups have historically sought to form and reform educational programs in response to war and its aftermath. In the second, this issue’s symposium on Education and Violent Political Conflict, eight authors consider the relationship between conflict and education by examining how schooling is used both to interrupt and to perpetuate violence. Together, these projects seek to promote dialogue about the many ways in which nations and communities engage education—through curriculum, access, school structures, and extracurricular programs—to further both their violent ambitions and peacetime aspirations.

    In this collection of essays, practitioners and scholars offer their perspectives on educational projects in select regions of the world currently embroiled in conflict. Their contributions invite us to consider both the potential and the limitations of education to shape identities and perspectives; to redefine political, social, and intellectual belonging and exclusion; and to produce or support social and political change.

    We begin with three essays about programs intended to promote understanding and nonviolence among peoples engaged and implicated, both directly and indirectly, in conflict. Through his research in an integrated, bilingual Arabic-Hebrew school in Israel, Zvi Bekerman considers the challenges educators face in furthering peace and reconciliation when their identities have been shaped by a divided society. He calls on educators to teach children to become artists of design who imagine new and peaceful social structures. Enrique Chaux describes a targeted educational initiative in Colombia that addresses the negative consequences of sustained violent conflict on youth by fostering citizenship competencies and promoting peaceful relationships. Emily Hager documents the efforts of a student-run news radio program in which U.S. college students investigate and broadcast the often painful personal stories of the individuals and families living and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Two essays then explore how academic curricula can be used to help dismantle or sustain conflicts. By documenting the experiences of a collaborative effort between Israeli and Palestinian teachers, Shoshana Steinberg and Dan Bar-On illustrate the power of alternative historical interpretations to question and shape national and communal identities and promote peace. Adele Jones draws attention to the ideological underpinning of debates over curricula, examining the influences on and limitations of Afghanistan’s social studies curriculum and revealing schools as a central site of ideological disagreement.

    The final three essays consider the complicated terrain of postconflict education. Noah Sobe examines U.S. efforts to extend the nation’s political and cultural ideals through postconflict educational initiatives abroad and cautions against initiatives that fail to honor both local and shared values. Mitra Shavarini documents women’s continued struggle for equal educational access in postrevolutionary Iran and the potentially dire consequences of asserting these rights. And finally, in an interview with editors, Jacques Bwira reflects on the successes and challenges of directing a primary school serving war refugees and nationals in Uganda.

    These essays simultaneously remind us of the power of education to cultivate peaceful responses to entrenched social and political differences, and the limitations of education as a tool for social and political change. Importantly, they present an admittedly incomplete view of the challenges and promises of education in contexts of political conflict; indeed, in seeking contributions, we struggled with the reality that those people in areas most devastated by war often have the most limited access to channels for sharing their stories. Nonetheless, we hope that this collection ignites consequential and ongoing dialogue on these matters among educators. We aim to inspire our readers to take a new look at the role of schooling in the context of violent political conflict—to raise new questions, formulate new responses, and listen to new voices—and to consider how all acts of educational research, policy, and practice may contribute both to waging conflict and to pursuing peace.

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    Spring 2009 Issue

    Abstracts

    Indigenous Knowledges and the Story of the Bean
    Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy and Emma Maughan
    Latino Students’ Transitions to College
    A Social and Intercultural Capital Perspective
    Anne-Marie Nuñez
    Identity Development and Mentoring in Doctoral Education
    Leigh A. Hall and Leslie D. Burns
    Symposium: Education and Violent Political Conflict
    Introduction
    Symposium: Identity versus Peace
    Identity Wins
    Zvi Bekerman
    Symposium: Citizenship Competencies in the Midst of a Violent Political Conflict
    The Colombian Educational Response
    Enrique Chaux
    Symposium: War News Radio
    Conflict Education through Student Journalism
    Emily Hager
    Symposium: The Other Side of the Story
    Israeli and Palestinian Teachers Write a History Textbook Together
    Shoshana Steinberg and Dan Bar-On
    Symposium: Curriculum and Civil Society in Afghanistan
    Adele Jones
    Symposium: Educational Reconstruction “By the Dawn’s Early Light”
    Violent Political Conflict and American Overseas Education Reform
    Noah W. Sobe
    Symposium: The Social (and Economic) Implications of Being an Educated Woman in Iran
    Mitra Shavarini
    Symposium: Interview with Jacques Bwira Hope Primary School Kampala, Uganda
    The Editors

    Book Notes

    So Much Reform, So Little Change
    by Charles M. Payne

    Corridor Cultures
    by Maryann Dickar

    In a Reading State of Mind
    by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp