Peace is a concept that denotes a state of calm or tranquility and the absence of disturbance, disorder, war, and conflict. It corresponds also to a social and political ideal. Peace is a key concept for the UNITED NATIONS, one of the main missions being the maintenance of international peace and security (1).
Analyzing the concept of peace can be done through a variety of lenses. We could look at it through the lens of History. We would learn that "of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history" (2). We can also look at this concept through the lens of Geography. Last year, only ten countries in the world were free from conflict (3).
Looking at a concept through the lens of etymology can be instructive:
peace (n.) mid-12c., "freedom from civil disorder," from Anglo-French pes, Old French pais "peace, reconciliation, silence, permission" (11c., Modern French paix), from Latin pacem (nominative pax) "compact, agreement, treaty of peace, tranquility, absence of war" (4)
Peace is therefore only referred to when there is an evidence of conflict: it is ironically defined by the existence of war. It is also often perceived as being related to the victory or the oppression of the parties involved. This is a misunderstanding as "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding" (5).
This necessity to understand in order to achieve Peace led UNIS, a long time ago, to develop the idea of the Peace Table. Through education and strategies that apply to real life events, we give our students the tools to understand the origin of a conflict in which they may be caught and empowering them to find their own resolution.
Ms. Junko Saito, JA teacher, shares with us below the origin of the Peace Table, a tradition that defines UNIS.
Pascal Vallet, Junior School Principal
(1) United Nations Peacekeeping portal
(2) What Every Person Should Know About War, New York Times, July 6, 2003
(3) Global Peace Index 2016, Independent, June 8, 2016 03
(4) Online Etymology Dictionary
(5) Albert Einstein, 1955
The idea of the peace table was brought to UNIS by Ms.Sheila Desmond. Ms. Desmond worked at the United Nations and when she joined UNIS in 1967 she adopted the principles of the Security Council for the Junior School. She employed the way that the Security Council works as a symbol to bring conflict resolution to the Junior School peace table. The peace table is a reminder for children to work out their problems by talking about them, sharing their feelings, and understanding one another more deeply. It helps students remember that physical force should not be used as a tool to solve an issue or problem.
There are Peace Tables throughout the JS. We have a Peace Bench on the playground and Peace Tables have a place in all homeroom and specialist classrooms.
As Sheila Desmond reminds us:
Every teacher thinks at some time or another, “I wish I had a peaceful atmosphere in my class, I wish I could help my children solve their own problems without complaining to the grownups, etc, etc,” In teaching children conflict resolution techniques you are giving them the tools of the future, helping them to help themselves.
The main thing is to tell people to think up their own ways of what works in practice to create a harmonious classroom environment which focuses on caring and sharing, on understanding that everything and everyone is connected and interdependent and that we have the one and only same home and environment which we share and are responsible for; also, solving problems peacefully is the only choice we can make; we are responsible for each other in every way, now and in the future :)
No teacher or parent must feel that this is the only way or that they have to follow steps one, two, three etc. The idea is, like in real life, there are ideas that last and last, and the way they are used evolve over time.
The children learn how to conduct a peace talk.
One person invites another to have a peace talk. The person who is invited to the peace table must go.
The person who initiated the talk begins to share his/her feeling(s) by using an “I” message.
- I didn’t like the way …
- I felt sad when …
- I was not happy when …
- The other person listens until he/she finishes and responds.
When the problem is not solved between them they may invite the third person (peacekeeper) to the peace table to help solve the problem. The peacekeeper must be chosen and agreed to by both parties to listen to both sides of the stories fairly. Then he/she suggests a way to solve the problem. If it is not still solved, they may invite a grown-up or even the whole class to help them solve it.
The children may have realized that there might be a problem that may not be solved completely or the solution may not make them feel better. When they leave the peace table what they need to take away it the most important part of this whole process, to UNDERSTAND each other better in the situation.
Junko Saito, JA Teacher