Maria Hantzopoulos & Monisha Bajaj
Education for Peace and Human Rights
Today we explore the interconnections between the fields of peace education and human rights education. With me are Maria Hantzopoulos and Monisha Bajaj, authors of the new book Education for Peace and Human Rights: An Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2021).
Their book launches a new book series by Bloomsbury Academic on Peace and Human Rights Education, which brings together cutting-edge scholarship from scholars and practitioners in the field. It will provide a cross-section of scholarly research as well as conceptual perspectives on the challenges and possibilities of implementing both peace and human rights education in diverse global sites.
Maria Hantzopoulos is an Associate Professor of Education at Vassar College and Monisha Bajaj is Professor of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco.
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Citation: Hantzopoulos, Maria and Bajaj, Monisha, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 237, podcast audio, April 26, 2021. https://freshedpodcast.com/hantzopoulos-bajaj/
Will Brehm 0:18
Maria Hantzopoulos and Monisha Bajaj, welcome to FreshEd.
Monisha Bajaj 1:09
Thanks for having us Will.
Maria Hantzopoulos 1:10
Very happy to be here. Thank You.
Will Brehm 1:12
So, can you tell me -to start kind of a broad question- what is peace education?
Maria Hantzopoulos 1:17
Yes, peace education. That is a very broad question. But in general, it’s a wide ranging field of practice and scholarship that is viewed both as a vehicle to dismantle violence in its various forms. So, this includes direct violence, structural violence, cultural violence. But also, to build the conditions for a just and sustainable peace. It’s a means to teach about peace, and for peace. So, in that sense, peace education requires attention to transforming content, pedagogy, structures, educational practices, relationships between and among educators and learners, and also the systems by which we measure the outcomes of education as well. But considering its range, and its origins across the globe, peace education is also understandably rife with plural and multiple interpretations and enactments. But that’s kind of a general understanding of what peace education is.
Will Brehm 2:14
What is the history? When did it start?
Maria Hantzopoulos 2:16
Well, the history of peace education is long and varied. As a field, I would say, in the early 19th century, it really started to be legitimized. But it really gained popularity in the 20th century, particularly in relation to world wars and the Cold War. To be clear, though, peace education isn’t new. Nor is it Western. I think that’s something we get into in the book a little bit. Many non-Western and indigenous societies across the globe have been grounded in religious and spiritual teachings and traditions that have sought to educate and lead people to more peaceful and just worlds since the beginning of time.
We would say that the development of peace education in the 20th century is really when it has flourished. And though it takes multiple forms and trajectories, and that is contingent upon specific geographical and historical contexts, we discuss three main periods in the book that push the development of the field forward. And this is: 1) the interwar period between World War One and World War Two; 2) the decolonial movements emanating from the global South and among marginalized populations in the global North; and then, of course, 3) the Cold War after that. Those are sort of the three main chapters. In particular it was peace research that pushed the field forward. Particularly these notions of conceptualizing different types of peace. I mentioned different types of violence, but there are also different types of peace. So, initially, peace research focused on direct violence, which is both personal and direct. I don’t know how else to say it. But this defines peace as the absence of war and violence. And so, this type of peace that corresponds with that is negative peace. And that’s explicitly concerned with security, stopping violence from happening and just putting an end to it. Peace research, however, began to consider the root and structural causes of violence. And this led to more nuanced understandings of violence, beyond the obvious direct and physical, to really consider how a genuinely peaceful world might be realized. So, by centering these systemic and structural forms of violence, peace researchers introduced the concept of what’s known as “positive peace”. One that relies on not only the absence of direct violence, that is important, but also the pursuit of justice, human rights and societal well-being. That was really important in the development of the field.
And then finally, I would say in the 70s, and 80s, the feminist scholarship really contributed greatly to pushing the field further. In particular, scholars like Birgit Brock-Utne, Betty Reardon, argued that peace both positive and negative could only be attained by employing a gendered lens that aim to dismantle patriarchy. They felt this was really, really important in helping resocialize people away from militaristic ideals. Away from war, away from competition to build a more trusting, collaborative, peaceful and just future. At present, I would say peace, education is not limited to this analysis. These are all really important. But in recent years, there’s been a rise in critical approaches to peace education as well. This includes critical peace education. You might have heard that term. As well as decolonial approaches to peace education. Both of these kind of bring in theory from a variety of disciplinary frameworks, as well as highlight marginalized voices and histories to inform peace education theory and practice.
Will Brehm 5:44
That’s an excellent overview. I mean, it’s such a rich field and obviously has a long history. And what’s interesting in your book is that you pair this sort of discussion of peace education with human rights education. So, Monisha, what is human rights education? I know you’ve been on the show before and we’ve talked a lot about human rights education. But you know, what’s a brief overview of that field?
Monisha Bajaj 6:12
Sure. Well, I think it parallels peace education’s rise in some ways, but then it also has its distinct features. So, similar to what Maria mentioned, is that you have these antecedents in earlier times where people have sought to expand the rights of some to become the rights of more, the rights of many. Visions for the rights of all. In the 1700s, you have the French Revolution, you have the Haitian Revolution, you have the abolitionist movement. The first mention, I think we can find in the US of a substantive sort of framing of human rights was Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist and later diplomat, escaped slave who talked about human rights in terms of the abolitionist movement and expanding rights beyond the limited narrow conception of rights of white propertied men, to include more people. So, you have antecedents, but the modern human rights education movement really comes out of the two world wars in the 1900s. And the move towards a desire for a more sort of global community and global set of moral imaginaries that framed the development of the United Nations. And at that time, the former president of Panama came to the 1945 signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco with a draft Declaration of Human Rights. The UN at that time, the countries that belonged to it, which was a limited scope, given the presence of colonialism throughout a lot of the world. They weren’t ready to sign on to that just yet, they formed a Human Rights Council to start thinking about developing it. And then in 1948, you have the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And in the debates and discussions over every word, every comma, every concept that went into that historic document, you have questions about the right to education which came into article 26, being required and mandatory for all, a right for all. But you also have questions about what that education should look like. So, this particularly was a debate among folks coming out of World War Two, the Holocaust, fascism in Europe, who were saying, you know, we have an educated populace, but it didn’t stop the horrors of World War Two, because what was happening in schools was feeding indoctrination and sort of the reproduction of fascist ideologies at that time.
So, part two of Article 26, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important anchor for the field of human rights education, where it says that it’s not just a right to education, it’s a right to education, that leads to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. And that’s where the field really anchors itself in the modern moment. But, you know, I think, as Maria mentioned, in terms of decolonization of a lot of the global South that ensued afterwards, getting access to education really took precedence. And it was really not until sort of the 1980s, the end of the Cold War, the Vienna Conference on human rights that happened in 1993, that human rights education really started gaining momentum as a priority for, it’s not just the legal forms of rights that that matter, people need to know about their rights in order to be able to claim them and demand them. And so, the modern fields, kind of that’s a little bit of a trajectory of that. But at a basic definition, human rights education is teaching about rights, but also for the expansion of rights and the expansion of respect for those rights among different populations so that there is this generalized human rights literacy among populations along with basic numeracy and literacy in education. And I think what’s unique in our book that we talk about is that we don’t just focus on classrooms. A lot of human rights education has talked about K-12, higher ed, community-based human rights education is some of the most vibrant human rights education that exists as part of nongovernmental organizations, social movements, communities that really seek to take these principles into practice, even when they may be excluded outside of formal education. And there’s both implicit and explicit human rights education. So, explicit human rights education would be a human rights class or a human rights textbook or human rights subject. And implicit is where the concepts and principles and values and attitudes of human rights are infused into other programs that may not use the nomenclature of human rights, per se.
Maria Hantzopoulos 10:33
Yeah. Just to add a little bit, not specifically about human rights ed, but I think Monisha pointing out sort of the historical trajectory of human rights ed, you can see that it kind of overlaps with peace education in terms of its development. Obviously, there are clear distinctions, and we map those out. But there’s something about that overlap in terms of why these fields sort of gained prominence sort of bind the fields in some way. And similarly, I should add, the implicit and explicit nature is a really interesting phenomenon because I think often, what gets highlighted both in human rights ed and in peace ed are the more explicit approaches but there’s so much implicit peace education and human rights education happening everywhere at all times. And our book really tries with some of the examples, we do both. We document sort of the explicit and the implicit approaches in the book with the examples that we use.
Will Brehm 11:31
And before we get into some of those implicit and explicit examples, I’m actually quite interested in what you think are some of the distinctive features of the field. Because listening to these quick overviews of each, you do clearly hear the interconnections right, the historical connections between peace education and human rights education, and perhaps in the sort of more modern conception, how they work through and are supported by institutions of the United Nations. But how are they distinctive in your view?
Maria Hantzopoulos 12:08
I mean, I would say -and Monisha, you can jump in- in the most critical and transformative forms, the distinctions are actually quite blurred, which I think is a good thing. And I think this is where we were trying to sort of connect in the book. But I will say, in general peace education is really, there is somewhat of a normative perception of what peace is. I guess this is similar in both fields because rights could be that way too. We sort of push back on that a little bit as well. But because peace education is concerned with explicitly these notions of peace and violence, I think that distinguishes it from human rights. Doesn’t mean human rights education doesn’t take those up. And it also doesn’t mean that peace education doesn’t take up human rights. Most often they do. But I would say that’s probably the main distinction. Just these notions of peace and violence. I don’t know for peace education. Monisha, do have anything to add?
Monisha Bajaj 13:06
Yeah, I’ll just add one thing to what you said is that I think, you know, Maria, and I edited a volume a few years ago Peace Education: International Perspectives, where we brought together different authors from around the globe talking about localized conceptions of peace and peace education. And what’s so apparent when you look at kind of these local meanings and localizations of peace education, it’s really different, right. You have different levels, you have people kind of focusing on inner peace in a more kind of spiritualized element, you have interpersonal peace, you have collective peace really focused on looking at the historicity of violence and tensions and peace, knowledges and those kinds of things. So, I think peace has a lot of different interpretations globally, and human rights do as well. But I think with human rights, you have a more articulated kind of body of international law, on human rights, that allows for an anchoring in a much sort of vaster framework that legal scholars have been talking about for decades now, and have been developing ideas of. And we still, like Maria had mentioned, when you look at the sort of critical decolonial and transformative forms of both of these fields, peace education and human rights education, you have a blurring because there is a kind of similar focus on what we talk about in the book of building solidarity, of recognizing the inherent dignity of learners, of fostering transformative agency. But I think with human rights education, because of the sort of expansion and articulation of a body of rights and what those mean, the way that that gets localized has a bit more anchor in some of the work of the UN. Peace education has been taken up by the UN but I think what you find is when you look at different programs, there’s a lot more sort of variation on the ground of how people interpret that.
Will Brehm 14:43
It’s really quite interesting, because they’re so deeply interconnected. It’s quite hard to actually unravel how they’re distinct in a way. But I think you did a really nice job of pointing to some areas. So, let’s go into how they are really truly interconnected and particularly in some of the concepts and ideas -and Monisha, you were already raising some like solidarity- but how do you see these two fields as being interconnected?
Monisha Bajaj 15:08
Sure. So, we see several intersections between the fields. And really, we feel like the main intervention that this book is trying to make is positing what the fertile terrain is at the intersection of these two fields, and how we might think of them as one sort of shared field and we use a heuristic, in the book, of a tree with intertwined roots. And so, we see the joint field of peace and human rights education as a tree with intertwined roots that are nourished by concepts such as dignity, transformative agency, justice, solidarity, empathy, equity, anti-racist work, decolonial work, and we definitely are situating the decolonial transformative strands of these two fields as really joint and sharing a focus on contextually relevant curriculum pedagogy, recognition of learners’ inherent dignity. And this is really important when we talk about in the book too, how so many marginalized communities have been made to feel less than human. And internalized a lot of those beliefs. I see that a lot in my long term work in India. I looked at Dalit and Adivasi communities. Dalit being formally called untouchable, quote, unquote, Adivasi indigenous communities who often feel like they’re not even worthy of rights because of histories of domination and extreme forms of brutality that have made people feel less than human so that when treatment that is less than human comes at their way, it’s hard to interrupt those forums. And some of the localized forms are really radical human rights education that have happened have had to engage in this way of really thinking about dignity, for marginalized communities in ways that can even get you to the point where you want to demand your rights because of these processes of dispossession and marginalization that have been so terrible. We see sort of both the critical and decolonial forms of both human rights education and peace education in this kind of joint way that we’re conceptualizing them having deep analyses of social inequalities, a joint focus on fostering a critical consciousness, as Paolo Freire has talked about, a cultivation of transformative agency that we develop in chapter five of the book. Kind of a notion of how transformative agency that comes out of educational scholarship can really have different components that make it sustainable and coalitional, relational, really building on the ways that agency can be consistent over time.
Will Brehm 17:31
Maria, did you want to add anything?
Maria Hantzopoulos 17:33
I think Monisha summed it up really well. But as we talked about in the book, we take dignity and agency as sort of the two anchors, but also how Freire does unite these anchors in some way. So, I think that’s really, really important. And she started to speak to that. So, I think for us just to sort of jump in, there’s no doubt that the work and pedagogy of Paolo Freire -which is rooted in critical consciousness, dialogical relationships and practice, transformative agency, problem posing- that this is often a vehicle for the enactment of both peace education and human rights education. A vehicle meaning, it’s a type of pedagogy, right? But this type of critical pedagogy is also grounded in a vision, a vision for a more socially just future. And in many ways it serves, or should serve, as the basis for both fields, particularly in their critical forms. So, Freire, for us is central.
Will Brehm 18:32
I found that very interesting that both fields placed Paulo Freire as being one of the central sort of historical figures and thinkers. So, how did Paulo Freire and how does peace education and human rights education combine those ideas of dignity and agency in a little bit more detail?
Maria Hantzopoulos 18:52
Well, I’ll start a little bit and Monisha can maybe pick it up. But I’ll start a little bit first, just with Freire just unpacking a little bit more the tenants of Freirean pedagogy. You know, the first of which -and I think this is really important to articulate here- is that Freire believed that hierarchal student-teacher relationships mirrored the relationships with the oppressed and the oppressor. So, really central to his pedagogy was equalizing both parties’ role in the co-construction of knowledge. And he also pushed the idea that knowledge is never neutral, right? And so, Freire not only believe that students and teachers could work towards each other’s liberation by acknowledging these things but also move towards a more just and equitable society grounded in collective freedom. And central to this was problem posing, in which the learner critically reflects on the world and the world around them and then takes critical action to transform it. Freire’s explicit commitment to dismantling structural violence really dovetails with the same goals of peace and human rights education. And moreover, Freirean critical pedagogy really hones in and Monisha spoke to this a little bit on the context specific structural inequities to illuminate how localized experiences shape perceptions of peace and human rights. So, by magnifying this role, you both center dignity and transformative agency. So, I’ll speak a little bit about dignity, right? Human dignity, in many ways, is the underlying and generative principle that defines the enactment and purposes of peace and human rights education. I think Monisha spoke to that with some real concrete examples earlier. And more specifically, the critical and transformative approaches to peace and human rights education privilege agency, experiences, struggles and the beliefs of the learners as I spoke to before. This equalizing process that everyone co-constructs knowledge, everyone brings knowledge. That is used to not just transform one’s -well, first to transform one’s own world but also kind of contribute to a more just, sustainable, and equitable world beyond that as well. But I think what’s important and how this connects to dignity is that these approaches valorize learners as agents. It’s really hard to separate the two things -dignity and agency really,
Will Brehm 21:12
Maria Hantzopoulos 21:12
And so, placing primacy on learners’ perceptions or learners’ agency, you are also placing primacy on human dignity. So, while these approaches are generally found in grassroots and collective social movements, we also believe that they can actually happen in schooling contexts as well. I mean, there are some limitations. But that’s particularly if there’s a more radicalized re-conception about the purposes of schooling. So, dignity is inherently linked to agency just because agency acknowledges the humanity basically of the for lack of a better word learner, participant, actor however you want to call the person or the group of people that are involved.
Will Brehm 21:58
So, is this connected to democracy?
Maria Hantzopoulos 22:00
In the sense that democracy is ever evolving and changing and is always striving for a more inclusive collective just world -yes. I think it depends on how you define democracy. Is it connected to representative democracy or parliamentary democracy, maybe in some ways, and maybe not? But I think in a real sort of kind of radical sense of democracy as a verb, as always striving and moving towards something more just -yes, there is a connection perhaps.
Will Brehm 22:35
hmm. It’s sort of that idea of the democracy where people are sort of in constant conversation trying to reach consensus, have the agency to share their ideas and their opinions and their beliefs and working together on having that agency to do something in the world. Whatever that is. And it’s through that collective response. So, it’s much less about voting and much more about, as you said, the verb the participation.
Maria Hantzopoulos 23:06
Yeah. I think participation connects to this idea of transformative agency. And transformation is important too. It’s also connected to being coalitional, relational. So, this is where the intersections are. But in the book, we don’t really connect it in that explicit way to democracy. We don’t take that up. I mean, I think it’s kind of implicit and implied, but it also -democracy is just a really fraught word. I think all of these concepts are fraught on some level, right?
Monisha Bajaj 23:39
Well, I think that’s where the book comes in a bit, right? Because we do try to give some precision to how we view these concepts coming into these fields to kind of animate the more critical and decolonial directions that these fields have been headed in for some years now. And that we sort of lay a research agenda for them to continue to head in. So, in some of the chapters, we do talk about Dewey and his early conceptions of democracy and education, build on those with theorists like Paulo Freire and more recent theorists as well who are moving us towards the role that education, in and outside classrooms, can play in fostering this sort of transformative agency that can be individual, that can be collective, but that can lead to social change.
Maria Hantzopoulos 24:21
But we also really want to acknowledge localized context, right? And so that’s why I say democracy is a fraught word sometimes. Because we’re attentive to localized contexts and how agency and dignity frame them. I guess that’s probably the best way to say it.
Monisha Bajaj 24:38
Will Brehm 24:38
Yeah. I mean. I think I understand. It’s trying to move away from any universalized notion. But I want to pick on this idea of the decolonial approaches and the decolonial sort of directions that you see these fields, potentially moving in and in the direction that you’d sort of like to see them moving in? Can you unpack, what are these directions? How do you see decolonialization interconnected with peace education and human rights education?
Monisha Bajaj 25:10
Well, something that we’re trying to do in this book and the book series that it launches is really think about human rights education and peace education without universalizing and sort of drawing on these, like normative conceptions that have been really overtime in the fields developed in Western contexts, and have been sort of exported, or translated and sent around the world to be sort of -because of the diffusion that happens in Western privileged contexts where somebody writes something and it can reach all over.
So, what we try to focus on in this book, and really are charting the way ahead for thinking about transformative, critical and decolonial directions for the field is really getting away from the universalization and these normative conceptions and really privileging the localization and the local context. So, the questions we’re asking are not, what are the universal principles that should be applied everywhere? That’s not a question that we are interested in taking up. Instead, we’re deliberately focusing, in this book, on how individuals, organizations and movements make meaning of peace education and human rights education to bridge the gap between rights and realities for marginalized groups. And much of the scholarship that exists that does focus on universal and normative dimensions. It has limited information about what is locally meaningful, what does human rights mean, in a local context? What does peace mean in a local context? And what is the agency of local actors in using these global concepts for their own strategies for struggles for justice and gaining attention or gaining legitimacy? Why does a local NGO in a rural community in Bangladesh use human rights as a framing for their work with women who have not had access to schooling or may not have access to property rights, etc.? Why is human rights considered a framework that is utilized? And what does it do for that organization in terms of linking to a global conversation that can gain it legitimacy, can gain it funding, can gain it recognition and plugging into a larger framework globally. So, those are the kinds of conversations that we’re trying to have in the book and encourage others to have is to really look at the local and from there, look at how it sort of creates a prism for the ideas of peace and human rights education to be refracted in multiple ways, rather than looking from the top down, saying, here’s how it’s been defined by a scholar in the West. And let’s see if we can apply it everywhere. Those aren’t questions that we want to take up, and that we think have not done much to advance the field in the years since some of those approaches that have existed earlier have not been that useful to the advancement of understanding how local actors really-you know examining local agency and taking up these ideas and refining them, and recirculating them from sort of a more bottom-up approach too if we think about those hierarchies globally.
Maria Hantzopoulos 28:00
But also, just to add to that point that Monisha just brought up about different collectives, and groups maybe trying to legitimize their causes by attaching themselves to these larger projects, even though they’ve been doing the work implicitly. There’s the flip side of that, too, right? I’ll take peace education as an example, right? There are lots of communities working towards building more just and peaceful, sustainable futures but really shy away from the word peace because in their particular context, it could actually undermine the work that they’re doing. So, all of these are kind of important ideas to sort of take up in the work. And we think the direction of critical peace ed and decolonial trajectories of peace in human rights education, sort of take this up in a way. Kind of looking at those nuances.
Monisha Bajaj 28:49
I’ll add on to what you just said. I think human rights is similar. In some contexts, using the term human rights can result in tremendous government repression by state forces. And that’s where the implicit and sort of subversive forms of human rights education needs to be looked at too. There’s some scholars who don’t want to pay any attention to anybody who doesn’t call what they do peace education, or human rights education, because they don’t feel like it’s an explicit form. But sometimes the implicit forms are the most radical where people are operating in spaces where they can’t use these names because of the repression or backlash or undermining that might happen. There’s so many reasons why someone wouldn’t employ these terms but it can be a really important examination to see what people are doing that are in the spirit of these fields, but cannot use those names per se.
Maria Hantzopoulos 29:35
This points to some of the limitations in thinking about peace and human rights education sort of have been. In general, the reliance on normative and totalizing frameworks that Monisha talked about earlier, creates blind spots. And both peace and human rights, it kind of undermines the projects in some ways when there’s a sole reliance on Western-centric, normative notions of peace and human rights. When there’s a failure to acknowledge the really specific, sui generis contexts including the ways in which race and coloniality inform local practices that’s often missing from some of the peace education and human rights education literature. Not always. And I think in our book, we highlight some and there is growing research with these decolonial trends. There are many scholars taking this up now. But I think it’s important to look at these contexts to understand how violence occurs in those contexts as well. And of course, the dismissal of marginalized voices. And also, the need for teleological outcome sometimes that doesn’t really attend to or benefit, the people that are supposed to be on the quote, unquote, receiving end of peace and human rights education. So, we just think that, in both peace and human rights education, this attachment to specific outcomes can sometimes undermine the really amazing work. And so that reflection is also key. So, our book in a way is just sort of pushing through some of these limitations. But it doesn’t mean it’s a panacea or solves it or anything too, because that continual reflexivity is so crucial. We need to continue movement. Movement is really important. We continue to move forward, reflect think, reevaluate, assess, and both us as scholars, but also that this is what we sort of see needs to happen among practitioners, and agents as well.
Monisha Bajaj 31:29
One of the unique contributions, I think, of our book is also that for the book series that this book launches, the kind of first ever book series on peace and human rights education with Bloomsbury Press, is that we have an advisory board of thought leaders and scholars from around the world who’ve been working in peace and human rights education. And in the last chapter of the book, we interviewed advisory board, editorial board members, to ask them their perspectives on advice for scholars, directions that the field should go in, transformative, critical, decolonial sort of perspectives on the field. And so that’s a part of the book that I think is unique is really this intergenerational dialogue that places these thoughts and ideas and perspectives in conversation for readers and you know whether those are students, or scholars in the field, or practitioners to engage with and we really hope that it can be a start of a conversation and maybe a place where people can put their ideas and their research plans in conversation with folks in ways that are meaningful. So, I think that that’s a unique contribution of the book as well.
Will Brehm 32:36
Well, Maria Hantzopoulos and Monisha Bajaj, thank you so much for joining FreshEd.
Monisha Bajaj 32:40
Thank you so much, Will.
Maria Hantzopoulos 32:41
Thank you for having us.
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