International Centre of Nonviolence

Nonviolence Month 2015 – Practicing Nonviolence in Education

Practicing Nonviolence in Education


–Magnus Haavelsrud

Professor Magnus Haavelsrud Photo

The transformative power of nonviolence has been evidenced in so many contexts and by so many – most notably in the work by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In this lecture I shall focus on the question of what is the pedagogic foundation for acquiring a nonviolent identity – searching for answers as to how nonviolence can be learned and practiced in education. The child acquires behavior, knowledge and attitudes in tune with the home and peers in the community (informal education). Mass media and other sources of non-formal learning such as religion and organized activities (e.g. sports, music and scouting etc.) also influence the child even before entering formal education. Part of what is learned relates to conflict behavior including the question of violent and nonviolent ways and means in conflict transformations. Violent behavior dominates in some sources of learning whereas the message and practice of nonviolence may be more prevalent in others – it may seem as though some sources specialize in violence and others in nonviolence. This means that the human being has to relate to discrepant messages about ways and means of transforming conflicts. Digesting and processing such discrepancies both theoretically and practically is therefore a challenge. It is argued that all sources of information – informal, non-formal and formal – are important venues for learning to take a stand based on conviction rather than persuasion. To facilitate this pedagogy of conviction some guiding principles will be discussed focusing on how micro conflicts relate to macro conditions and how past, present and future perspectives need to be included in order to grasp the historical roots of conflicts as they impact the present. Most importantly, however, is to offer an educational safe space in the “here and now” for nurturing visions of nonviolent ways and means towards conflict transformation.


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