How Children Understand War and Peace: A Call for International Peace Education

By Amiram Raviv; Louis Oppenheimer et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

ALL THREE OF US KNOW from personal experience what peace, conflict, and war are. We all are Israelis, though one of us is also Dutch, and we participated in some of the Israeli-Arab wars. We also followed, with hope and active support, the beginning of the peace process in the Middle East, heralded by the arrival of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem in November 1977, and years later we continue to support the Oslo accords, which attempted to resolve peacefully the protracted conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

We believe that violent conflicts and wars are hideous reflections of the darker aspects of human nature, and all efforts should be made to stop human beings from engaging in intergroup violence and warfare. The present book expresses our concerns and, we hope, constitutes a small contribution to the stated aspiration. This book is based on the assumption that people as group members engage in conflict and war on the basis of beliefs they hold. Individuals need justifications, rationales, and explanations as a basis for their violent actions. Their beliefs about peace, conflict, and war are part of this epistemic basis. Hypothetically, if human beings were to believe that wars should not take place under any circumstances, being evil and immoral, their occurrence would probably be reduced. In contrast, however, human beings have believed throughout centuries of civilization that various situations justify war and that there are goals which sanctify certain means. Therefore, it is important to learn how people view peace, conflict, and war, since this knowledge may determine to a great extent humanity's well-being. Knowledge about peace, conflict, and war is acquired during childhood and applied to the understanding of interpersonal and intergroup relations. This early learning is often the foundation upon which new beliefs and perceptions are formed. Thus, it is of great importance to study the kinds of beliefs children form about peace, conflict, and war; the changes which take place in the course of their development; and the factors influencing their acquisition and modification of this knowledge.

We recognize that society's active and intentional efforts may strengthen views which are instrumental in peacekeeping and peace building around

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