When Pope John XXIII wrote about the need for universal peace in
April of 1963, faculty at Manhattan College, a Catholic school in
the Bronx, started thinking about how to act on his words.
At the time, many people were pondering peace, with the growth of
the nuclear arms race and the escalating situation in Vietnam.
Manhattan College was among the schools that eventually contributed
to the discussion.
In 1966, it offered its first course on peace, and by 1971,
students could major in peace studies, making it the second-oldest
program in the United States. (The pioneer was Manchester College in
North Manchester, Ind., which began its program in 1948.) Today
dozens of schools have them.
At the helm of Manhattan's program is Margaret Groarke, a
political scientist and thoughtful purveyor of alternatives to
conflict. The director of the peace program since 1999, she
regularly teaches an introductory peace-studies course, and is also
a professor in the school's government department. She spoke with
the Monitor recently about the program and her teaching approach.
What does peace studies include?
We see it as an interdisciplinary program that allows students to
focus their study on the problems of creating peace and justice, and
there are five areas we see fitting under that: arms races and war;
economic, political, and social justice; conflict creation,
management, and resolution; nonviolent philosophies and strategies
of resistance; and world community and world government.
Based on that range of topics, how do you define peace?
I think, in common parlance, peace means the absence of war. And
the first thing that students learn in peace studies is that the
absence of war is a very insufficient definition of peace.
There's a notion in peace studies that there is such a thing as
"negative" peace, that we can have the absence of conflict - "I'm
not shooting at you right now, and therefore we are at peace" - but
the relations between us might not be just. Maybe you're oppressing
me, maybe we're barely stifling our desire to kill each other over
some territorial dispute.
That's not peace. It's not peace until we've worked out a just
solution to that problem, whatever it might be. And that's what we
think of as "positive" peace, and that includes what most people
would think of as justice.
Students sometimes say to me, "Why is it called peace studies?
Why isn't it called peace and justice studies?" And what people have
said here ... is that that's repetitive: Peace includes justice.
What approach do you take in your teaching?
In the introduction to peace studies, I try to expose students to
a number of different things, with the idea that they can pick some
other courses to follow those ideas through. I try to teach a bit of
the philosophy of peace, and some of those ideas about negative and
positive [peace]. …