Teaching peace in higher education

David Smith addresses a students.
David J. Smith teaching peace to students.

David J. Smith may be the foremost proponent of peacebuilding education in community colleges. A longtime professor at Harford Community College in Maryland, he edited the first peace studies book intended specifically for junior college instructors: “Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource.”

How many Peacebuilding courses are taught in community colleges?

In 2005 there were only four or five community colleges that had peace studies or conflict resolution degree programs. Today there are between 20 and 30. So it’s a slow trend, but it’s growing.

Why is it important to teach peacebuilding?

Nearly 50 percent of all undergrads in the U.S. are in a community college. These institutions are some of the most diverse and most immigrant-friendly in the U.S. We need to take this opportunity to address global issues related to conflict and violence. Also, the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan have impacted community colleges more than any other sector of higher education. Veterans have experiences that we need to learn from, and they’re often seeking the means to better understand those experiences themselves.

But if these classes are offered at four-year schools, won’t students get this opportunity eventually?

About half of students at community colleges won’t transfer. They get two-year degrees and go right to work. That’s the core of American society: PTA leaders, cops, business leaders, nurses, accountants, et cetera.

Are these skills important for job preparation?

Many skills necessary for success in the workplace are conflict resolution based. There’s a growing body of research indicating that people often fail at work because they don’t know how to deal with conflict and they don’t have the skills to create a productive conversation with coworkers.

 


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