Developing a Culture of Peace in History Education

History education can be a powerful tool in promoting culture of peace (Boulding, 2000a, 2000b; Korostelina, 2013b). It can create a meaning of national identity that is tolerant and inclusive and can support the structure of power that is based on equality and justice, as will be elaborated in the following. Different functions of history education will be discussed in relation to how they can contribute to a culture of peace.

As history education fulfills the function of the establishment of the connotations of social identity, a culture of peace can be formed through the reflec?tive understanding and critical analysis of the values, foundations, and norms underlining national identity. It can also emphasize commonalities between all citizens of a nation, seek deeper understanding of the sources of national aspirations and the historic path of a nation, develop its connection with other nations and emphasize their mutual influences, thus overcome the biased presentations of history. At this level, the formation of the culture of peace is endorsed through the denial of the primacy of a state and by supporting human rights, democratic civic responsibility, and public agency.

Peaceful connotations of national identity can be developed in various ways. In particular, history education can form a reflected form of national identity, which is associated with critical presentation of the history of the ingroup and emphasis on its current status and position; acknowledgement of complexities of intergroup relations and critical understanding of the sources of national aspirations; and deep discussion of nation’s perspectives and future goals (Korostelina, 2007). A first approach advances the cultural form of national identity, as in the case of Taiwan, by increasing awareness of the history, roots, and sources of the ingroup; its relationship to outgroups; and the current status, position, and perspectives of the ingroup. A second approach transforms a mobilized form of identity, as occurred in Northern Ireland, through an emphasis on understanding common history and shared goals. A third approach creates the reflected form of identity as an initial identity, through the presentation of the roots and meanings of cultural traditions and beliefs that unify a nation and create the uniqueness of national culture and the sense of a common national identity. All these approaches facilitate overcoming the typical biased presentations of history and reducing negative attitudes toward other groups.

Another way to promote peaceful connotation of national identity is to develop depictive and historical modes of identity meaning (Korostelina, 2007). The depictive mode of identity meaning includes ingroup traditions and values, characteristics of ingroup members, and ingroup practices (one example of an identity group operating in this mode is the Amish). A historic mode represents the prevalence of the history of the ingroup and its interrelations with outgroups in the meaning of its social identity.

The historic mode of national identity does not employ a favorable comparison with outgroups and an emphasis on contradictions with an enemy supporting a different ideology. Instead, it develops positive national identity based on a more systemic, tolerant, and balanced presentation of history. It uses two types of mechanisms: reflective and empowering. The reflective type of mechanisms include: (1) a concentration on cultural history; (2) a comparative representation of the history of thoughts and ideas that reduce the perception of ideological controversies as a threat to intergroup relations; and (3) a promotion of tolerance toward diverse views and a readiness to accept ideological differences. The empowering type of mechanisms include: (1) the development of a meaning of national identity that diminishes the primacy of the state over its people and endorses the agency and civic responsibility of people; (2) the formation of patriotism not as blind subordination and loyalty to the national government but as accountability of people for their country and service to other people; and (3) the avoidance of concentration on victimization of the ingroup by ethnic, religious, or national outgroups. Rather, the emphasis is on the efforts for reconciliation, approaches to forgiveness and building of mutual understanding. Thus, the formation of a culture of peace is endorsed through the support of human rights, democratic civic responsibility, and public agency.

The meaning of national identity should also be built on the depictive modes (Korostelina, 2007). This can be done in two ways: first, by emphasizing the cultural and political achievements of a particular nation, including all people who reside on the territory of the current state; second, by focusing on achievements of the ingroup in industry, culture, humanities, sciences, and efforts to build peace and positive relations with neighboring countries. For example, a current tenth-grade history course in the province of Ontario, Canada, titled Canadian History in the Twentieth Century shows the development of Canada as a multicultural society through the presentation of people embodying a variety of cultural identities. One of the units examines Canadians of African heritage as a model of an integrated ethnic group. Students study the life and works of international jazz artists Oscar Peterson and Joe Sealy as examples of this group’s contributions. In the province of British Columbia, history textbooks likewise include stories of non-British immigrants who have contributed to the development of the region (Seixas, 2000). Students study the role of Chinese workers on the Canadian Pacific road, discrimination against Sikh immigrants, and the internment of Japanese people during World War II.

As history education fulfills the function of justification of intergroup relations and social hierarchies, a culture of peace can be promoted by reducing negative attitudes toward other groups and the acknowledgment of complexities of intergroup relations. These approaches challenge negative perceptions of outgroups as former/current enemies, aim to improve intergroup relations, and advance national and ethnic reconciliation, thereby developing a culture of peace among social and national groups. The emphasis on common factors and social processes that shaped histories of both the ingroup and outgroup can create the basis for shared interpretations of historic events and positive views on the future of intergroup relations. The understanding of differences within the ingroup and outgroup, a diversity of opinions and views on conflict and intergroup relations, and a variety of extreme positions and voices for tolerance reduce the homogeneous perception of both groups. This increases the prospects for dialogue among different groups within both societies. Collaboration and positive relations with the outgroup in new circumstances will be seen as more favorable, thus increasing the perspectives for a culture of peace.

In particular, history education can create a culture of peace by redefining social boundaries. Social identities ‘center on boundaries separating us from them’ (Tilly, 2005: 7); they form along this boundary and are therefore defined by the relationship between ‘them’ and ‘us’ (Barth, 1981). Several approaches can be employed to make boundaries more permeable, shared, and based on positive experiences. The first approach shifts perspectives from ingroup histories to a common approach to history, suppresses specific ingroup perspectives, and emphasizes common tendencies and transversal processes. The second approach creates an opportunity for ingroup members to understand the views of the outgroup on the world, region, and the ingroup. The third approach depicts major concepts around society, politics, and international relations from both ingroup and ougroup perspectives, as well as through the lenses of both national histories. The fourth approach promotes a history of positive interrelations, common experiences, and collaborations. The fifth approach stresses the controversial and disputed aspects of history, and provides opportunities to understand the roots of conflicts, misunderstandings, and historical divides. The sixth approach provides a balanced assessment of historical events based on a multiplicity of perspectives, comparison, and critical thinking.

As history education fulfills the function of legitimization of power structures and mobilization of collective actions, the culture of peace can be promoted by supporting specific policies of equality and justice for all social groups. History education could depict society as comprised of different ethnic groups with diverse cultures and histories that contribute to national development, promote tolerance and equal rights for all ethnic groups, and encourage empathy and appreciation of different cultures (e.g. history education in Canada). Such approaches can enable strong civic accountability and motivation to contribute to the development of the nation. In addition, history education can describe society as represented by multiple ethnic groups or equal citizens independent of their ethnicity and religion, thereby creating the foundation for equality and mutual acceptance and emphasizing the norms of tolerance, coexistence, and cooperation. These approaches envision a future society where inequality and injustice are unacceptable norms of the democratic peaceful development of a whole nation.

The central issue for the national identity concept is the position of ethnic minorities within the nation: whether minorities are oppressed by the majority, or instead have opportunities for maintaining their ethnic culture. Depending on how they respond to this issue, people can hold three different concepts or meanings of national identity: ethnic, multicultural, and civic (Korostelina, 2006). These concepts of national identity influence attitudes and behaviors toward different ethnic groups within one’s own nation, as well as approaches to other nations, in distinct ways. The ethnic concept, for instance, often leads to discrimination against and increasing resistance toward ethnic minorities, as well as a predisposition for intergroup conflict, thus decreasing the prospects for the development of a peace culture. The multicultural concept, on the other hand, usually decreases the potential of conflict between majority and minorities but, interestingly, can lead to conflicts between majority and minorities. The civic concept, finally, typically decreases tensions and the prospect of violence among different identity groups in general. Thus, both multicultural and civic concepts contribute to the development of peace culture through the emphasis on different cultural perspectives and reducing the importance of social categories in interaction between people (Korostelina, 2013b).

Therefore, through the formation of the concepts of national identity, history education can contribute to or impede the development of the culture of peace. The approaches used to develop the ethnic concept of national identity promote dominance of one ethnic group and favorably compare its culture with cultures of other ethnic groups within a nation and of other national groups. In this process, other ethnic groups become marginalized, their existence completely denied, or they are presented as undeserving of equal rights with the major ethnic group. Such approaches hinder the development of a peace culture in the society because they support dominance of one group over others and promote discrimination and inequality.

The approaches used to develop the multicultural and civic concepts of national identity contribute to the formation of peace culture in two ways. First, they describe society as represented by multiple ethnic groups or equal citizens independent of their ethnicity and religion, thereby creating the foundation for equality and mutual acceptance. Second, they emphasize the norms of tolerance, coexistence, and cooperation.

In poly-ethnic societies, the multicultural concept of national identity is formed based on two types of approaches: descriptive and normative. Descriptive approaches have three potential forms. The first descriptive approach presents the nation as a poly-cultural society, depicting the history and cultures of all groups. The second descriptive approach stresses the multicultural origin of the role models and key figures in the national history. The third descriptive approach emphasizes unique contributions of different ethnic groups. Normative approaches also have three forms. The first normative approach declares equal rights for all citizens, independent of their ethnic origin. The second normative approach promotes appreciation of different ethnic and cultural groups. Finally, the third normative approach develops tolerance and a disposition toward cooperation among all ethnic groups.

The formation of a civic concept of national identity through history education is also based on descriptive and normative approaches. The descriptive approach describes the civic nature of the society (its institutions and law) and the role of an individual in society. In creating a culture of peace, history education employs three normative approaches: the first posits the idea of citizenship as central for the society; the second promotes respect for human rights, freedom, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence between all citizens; and the third warns against use of history for reshaping prejudices and justifying discrimination and violence.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >