Feb. 14-15: Online Days
Feb. 18-22: On-site Days in Washington DC

Peace Education for an Equitable World

Jae Park

The Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong


The theme “Improving Education for a More Equitable World” of the 2023 Annual CIES Conference cannot be more thought provoking and timely. The armed conflict in Europe and its ensuing crises of food security and energy have only exacerbated the socioeconomic and political instabilities of COVID-19 pandemic. The world we contemplate today appears to move in opposite direction of the global agenda-action for a more equitable and sustainable world. We might even be witnessing the end of a romanticized globalization and a beginning of a brave new global order of hard power alliances. In this context, peace and education for peace constitute an important, if not the most important thematic cluster of the 2023 Annual CIES Conference. The present paper offers a theoretical frame for a discussion on peace and education for peace among Conference participants in the field of comparative and international education.

Peace is not only the epicenter of the global geopolitics but it has also been one of the most consistent and cherished desires of mankind in every époque. Violence as a discursive method and a mouthpiece of antagonistic axiologies, from mass shootings to international warfare, set peace as an imperative task for today’s education. This short paper suggests a theoretical structure and tries to model an ecology of peace conceptualizations, that is, a hermeneutical instrument for a co-existing, inter-dependent, and complex system of peace concepts without attempting to identify the fittest or intellectually embracing any particular one. The reason for this work is that the aim, content, and scope of peace education greatly depend on a concept of peace in education stakeholders’ mind.

It would be inaccurate to say that the global aspiration for peace has been barren. Through political negotiations, public education, and formal schooling of diverse kinds, the international community has effectively developed pro-peace organizations (e.g., the League of Nations) and regional/local movements toward peace. Such actions are not new in history; they have semantically been recorded as ‘Pacifism’ (Eng) in the Latin heritage and ‘Irenismo’ (Spa, Ita) or irénisme (Fr) from its Greek root εἰρήνη (eiréne). These historical efforts seek a relational concord among parties with mutual recognition (Park, 2009), openness, and acceptance of others.

This paper is organized by naming and describing a concept of peace followed by an outline of the corresponding education for peace. There will be different concepts of peace and every concept is linked to a moral philosophy in its political and religious sense and, as such, it has an intrinsic dimension (e.g., how a person perceive a stranger) as well as an extrinsic dimension (e.g., acquaintance with a stranger). The four concepts are: Negative peace, positive peace, homeostatic peace, and futuristic peace.


Negative Peace

The first concept is the negative peace, and it is as simple as the absence or avoidance of war. It is an immediately apparent and simple concept, yet it has been the most common and widespread one in the context of international relations and geopolitics (Montoro, 1986). Its negative formulation makes it an inherently insufficient concept, for instance, an absence of war does not imply social justice and well-being in an Aristotelian sense. A peace education under this concept would be focusing on the prevention of violent struggle for power, resources, and ideologies (Katz, 1965). It is under a comparable definition of peace that Delors and others from UNESCO outlined their ‘Learning to Live Together’ (1996) as a pillar or fundamental principle for reshaping education and suggested a teaching non-violence to eliminate the possibility of self-destruction that mankind generated in the 20th century. This account of peace prescribes an education that aims at the coexistence of people easing out multilateral differences, disagreements, emotional/physical reactions, hard convictions on social/global hierarchical structure while discouraging what Tönnies called Kurwille, that is, ‘rational or arbitrary or calculating will’ (2001, p. 96). These are to be countered with rational accord instead of physical struggle. Under the negative peace concept, peace education intrinsically instills in learners an anti-war and nonviolence sentiments and attitudes. But these should be with balancing facts and memories, and “help students understand the love–hate relationship people maintain with war and the forces that manipulate their attitudes” (Noddings, 2012, p. 141). Extrinsically, the related peace education would aim at collective pacifism such as anti-war activism. The Delors’ Report suggested a double learning process: ‘gradual discovery of others’, i.e. a mutual recognition, and perhaps a more challenging ‘experience of shared purposes throughout life’ (1996, p. 92).


Positive Peace

A second concept of peace is the positive peace. A fourth century Neoplatonist in a hugely belligerent Mediterranean Africa who surely experienced in person the evil of social chaos cum violence, Augustine of Hippo (1958), defined peace as tranquility of order (Latin,  tranquillitas ordinis). According to Augustine, when everything and everyone is in the right place/time and performs what s/he is meant to do, then the resulting state of affairs is to be called peace. This positive concept might sound archaic to us at first sight, but it actually remains refreshingly current because its main tenet is relational and dialogical, and it includes not only a social and political well-being but also a state of healthy environment. A modern re-interpretation could be as follows: a situation of poverty or dilapidated state of material well-being of people almost always lead to conflicts among them, therefore, such situations should be alleviated or eradicated. Hence, achieving positive peace requires, among others, a general social progress through community development, an excellent system of justice, a fair governance, not always but usually with the rule of law, eunomy-security binary and a sustainable environment. Peace education under this definition would intrinsically foster autonomous and self-reliant developers of the social-whole with rationality, freedom, and capabilities (Sen, 2002; Sen & Universiteit van Amsterdam., 1985). Skill-oriented, particularly those soft skills that transform workplaces into a more flexible, less corrupt and amicable, hence, welcomed by a globalizing world. Extrinsically, a peace education under the archetype of positive peace should emphasize grooming citizens with functionalist assumptions on the society and individuals, construction of a public so as to make them to effectively and efficiently partake in social and political life (Dewey, 1927/1954; Dewey & Archambault, 1964).


Homeostatic Peace

The third concept is the homeostatic peace. Under this concept, peace is a state of equilibria among powers. Peace is a state in which the pull and push over power keeps a balance—homeostasis—among parties. Under this account, peace is not achieved by a ‘common effort towards’ but, rather, it reaches an equilibrium when they are vis-à-vis. Peace is, thus, a system with entropies but not entirely impossible to sustain. Nationalism and militarism are not incompatible with homeostatic peace. The kind of peace among international superpowers with nuclear arsenals, for example, is reached in this manner. The small number of ‘G-club’ states do not usually welcome a new superpower because they see it as a risk to the incumbent power balance. Among participating parties, there is an unsettling mixture of sense of supremacy as well as fear, that of exiting the circle by their own abuse of power or weakening. The most common currency of the homeostatic peace is compromise and its main method, negotiation. Peace education with this notion would intrinsically foster self-assertiveness and nationalistic citizenship with utilitarian and pragmatic values. Extrinsically, such a peace education would be aligned with maintenance/growth of the power establishment. The logics of homeostasis often applied to the nature itself with a belief that the nature will recover by itself and the nature is at the service of national interests.


Futuristic Peace

A fourth and the last concept to be considered in this paper is the futuristic peace. This concept is eminently intrinsic, and with eschatological and religious connotations. This construct has a sine qua non condition of an inner and personalized attitude and disposition toward peace. Hence, it could also be called dispositional peace. In this view, peace, any peace, starts from within with an immanent motion with diverse inner state of affairs such as ‘peace of conscience’, ‘inner peace’, and ‘peace with one-self’. Furthermore, under the paradigm of the futuristic peace, we people are considered as wayfarers in the world where we will perhaps never see a day of total peace. As the narrative continues, it becomes increasingly demanding—only the inner concord and good will of all people could bring an authentic peace. As the term indicates, the futuristic peace can only be materialized in the future whereas the future is essentially undetermined or, according to protestant ethics, totally predestined. The futuristic peace can only be constructed first in conscience within oneself and only then to project outwardly and upwardly in important others: Family circles then toward the larger community and all the way to the global community. Peace education under this paradigm would intrinsically emphasize character formation; fostering excellence in character (αρετή) and stressing specific values (i.e., axiology), for example, struggle against one’s own lowliness. The futuristic peace is, thus, about a state of the beyond, hence, it is also an eschatological concept. Extrinsically, the futuristic peace calls for a peace education curriculum and pedagogy that would articulate and implement learning and practicing virtues of justice, temperance, and fortitude moderated by the golden virtue or practical wisdom or phronesis. Medieval theology categorized them together as the Cardinal Virtues. A peaceful community life can only be built upon efforts and continual practice of virtuous acts such as mutual care, solidarity, compassion, forgiveness, and the very basic openness to dialog that makes us more human, whose identity is considered to be construed via dialog and shared narratives.



The suggested four concepts of peace are not mutually exclusive. None of them is nearly perfect and all-encompassing. Nor do they constitute the only conceivable notions of peace—consider, for instance, ‘social peace’, ‘interior peace’, and ‘profound/superficial peace’.  Instead, the foregoing four concepts together constitute an ecology of peace conceptualizations.

Except for the futuristic peace, all other concepts of peace suggested are eminently extrinsic. Negative, positive, and homeostatic peace concepts call for dauntingly urgent tasks: Reduction of weapons in the world, achieving a greener planet Earth without the fantasy that the Earth will recover by itself from the Anthropocene (Savelyeva, 2017); elimination of poverty and even an active degrowth, a “planned down scaling of energy and resource use to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a safe, just and equitable way” (Hickel, 2020, p. 31).

Peace education is, thus, as multifaceted and heterogeneous as concepts of peace it holds. A peace education follows its respective concept of peace. An example is the relationship between peace education and Jihad. The latter is an inner condition for peace in the Islam world and comparable prescriptions are also present in the Christianity and Buddhism (De A. Wijesekera, 1960). For these major religions, the struggle against one’s own follies and worldly attachments (what else could these be but over power, ideologies, and resources?) is a pre-condition to be true to oneself and to achieve peace. For peace education in these religious traditions, the homeostatic peace and futuristic peace concepts might be perfectly compatible if not complementary. Peace education in major religious traditions also rely on negative peace or positive peace concepts. We should consider, for example, the foundation of hospitals as well as monk-soldiers during the Crusades—great religions have occasionally been both the cause and alleviation of armed conflicts.

The League of Nations, later on the United Nations (UN), was founded to prevent world wars, that is, under the discourse of negative peace. Its founding spirit is being superseded by concerns for and prescriptions of positive peace. UN awakens public concern for equal opportunities, general access to education, gender equality, equity over equality, and sustainable development (UN, 2015). This is clearly reflected in the 2030 UN Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The harmony among stakeholders of peace should now include the nature. Ecological movements are no longer separated from the peace-related movements and negotiations among nation-states. Any peace education should take into account that the main source of struggle and violence among people have historically been over resources, power, and ideologies. Thus and amidst a quicker than predicted climate change, environmental education and education for sustainability should be a sizable part of any peace education. Related education for peace should aim at preventing foreseeable conflicts over natural resources, that is, it is related to the concept of futuristic peace.

Not without paradox, however, some efforts to achieve peace including peace education might justify the use of violent means. Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (1952/1986) (Fanon, 1952/1986) triggered the decolonization movement in the 1960s against French colonialism. He called it ‘authentic disalienation’ (Fanon, 1952/1986, p. 5) in which locals’ identity, psyche, and culture mediated by language are to be restored. This idea was further developed in his The Wretched of the Earth (Fanon, 1963). This book starts with a chapter on the violence as a social, cultural, and political currency in colonial territories. Since culture, economy, and polity are entangled, violence initiated and instrumentalized by colonizers takes various forms among which cultural discrimination and dehumanization (alienation) outstand. It is within and through the violence that a particular type of new knowledge (language and humanity) with its racial and cultural hierarchical structure, engenders a novel human—the colonial subject. This one-way violence does not last forever, however. Fanon argues that the colonizers’ violence is met with a counter-violence of the colonized in the manner of collective catharsis.

Currently, the mainstream scholarship on peace education are mostly about the immediacies, in time and place, of still-hot conflicts. They work and investigate in and for refugee camps, international agencies, tent schools, truth commissions, and reconciliation/truce centers. Despite the fact related scholarship and research point out the need for changing content, pedagogy, structures, and system (Bajaj & Hantzopoulos, 2016), peace education theories do not offer much of longitudinal curricular and pedagogic strategies (Noddings, 2012). Much of peace education scholarship are to denounce abuses, suffering, uncertainties, and memory of violence in its multiple forms, and less about long-term peace building. Harris (2004) argues, for example, that (any) peace education should teach the following postulates: Roots of violence; alternatives to violence; different forms of violence; contextually sensitive nature of peace; and, the fact that conflict is omnipresent. Notwithstanding, there are efforts to come up with an integrative model of peace education by incorporating different worldviews and cultural diversity (Danesh, 2006). There is also attempts to consider peace education as a higher education research arena that can be subject to poststructural critique and in defense of structural and cultural violence denounced by thinkers such as Paulo Freire (Bajaj, 2008; Bajaj & Hantzopoulos, 2016; Kester & Cremin, 2017; Trifonas & Wright, 2013).

In my opinion, peace education curriculum and pedagogy should include theories and practices of justice because justice and peace are inseparable as there is no peace without justice. In open and fair societies (Popper, 1965/2013; Rawls & Kelly, 2001), justice should be introduced and inculcated through education, not only as a personal and social virtue but also as a pre-condition of peace. However, a curriculum and pedagogy of justice cannot rely solely on a concept of negative peace because absence of war does not and cannot guarantee any of the three forms of justice, namely legal, communicative and distributive justice (Pieper, 1957). The other three conceptualizations of peace are as crucial. Justice as virtue is a main task of peace education under the concept of futuristic or dispositional peace. Furthermore, any kinds of international arbitrations and negotiations would be impossible without a peace education with the concept of homeostatic peace. However, the most important progress in peace education is more likely to occur under the concept of positive peace however daunting the task of elimination of poverty and equitable progress may be. There has never been a total attainment of any of known international or millennial goals in these aspects, except the elimination of Smallpox.

The link between peace education and justice is the final argument here, and I greatly indebted to an exceptional essay by Professor José Delgado and published by the Spanish Instituto de Estudios Jurídicos y Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (1966). A peace education under the concept of positive peace, i.e., tranquility of order, needs to include a curriculum deciphering relationship between law and peace. Law is a main means to achieve peace albeit not the only one. The attainment of peace through law is by regulatory and procedural mechanisms it generates, and its core mission is that of establishing a ‘relational order’ in the society and among societies. The sort of peace attainable through law is a ‘social peace’. According to Delgado (1966), social peace itself is an abstract concept, and amalgam of all other kinds of peace such as labral, religious, and state, whereas the individual peace is neither an immediate/primary goal nor directly achievable through law. Peace is an important goal of law because it is one of greatest common good achievable through law by establishment of a juridical order. In other words, the direct goal of law is justice, and not peace itself because peace is consequence of a social order that depend mostly on the juridical order.



The field of education usually describes, problematizes, and utters normative suggestions in view of an ideal social order. Education studies including citizenship/civic education discuss what an ideal society is and how people ought to lead a meaningful life in it. They principally offer peacetime curricula and pedagogies whereas war or other disruption of peace constitute a minor part. A massive disruption in ‘tranquility of order’ such as pandemic and war shatters plans and systems of education.


The co-existence with others today is a big challenge. ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’ (hell is others) by Sartre or ‘homo lupus homni’ (a person is the wolf for others) by Hobbes are but reminders of the challenge of human co-existence and harmonious relationship. Peace education today is more complex and challenging than those three pages devoted to the ‘Learning to live together’ in the Delors’ report (1996). Peace education requires, it is argued, a longitudinal and multidimensional understanding of peace and understanding of international efforts to achieve peace, principally through justice and law. There is no equitable world without peace and there cannot be global peace without equity.



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