After WWII, the world entered a new phase of development. At that time, the world was ready to do everything possible and impossible to avoid any such conflicts in the future. However, with the emerging Cold War tensions and the risks of an international nuclear war looming at the horizon, the society slowly realized that conflicts would always accompany humans, as they developed new relationships with the rest of the world. Today, one cannot imagine a world without conflicts and wars. Numerous “hot spots” emerge in response to new political, social, and economic problems. The issue of globalization and conflict has become too overwhelming. As of today, everyone must be aware of the complex conflict landscape and possess at least the basic conflict resolution skills.
The new university administration makes a huge mistake, by cutting all conflict classes and diversity education. Students need an opportunity to engage in a productive process of learning the basics of social justice and peacemaking. Modern students cannot successfully operate in the modern world without at least the basic awareness of conflict and the simplest understanding of how such conflict can be resolved. The world is becoming too diverse and multidimensional. Globalization opens new business and research frontiers. Yet, even personal and professional growth is impossible without conflicts, and students must be prepared to deal with the real-life problems posed by globalization. The university administration should reserve students’ right for peace and conflict education. The strategy below may be particularly helpful in persuading the administration that such studies and learning opportunities are worth their costs.
Strategy to Persuade the Administration
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that conflicts have become an inevitable component of everyone’s daily routines. One should simply switch on a television set or read a Facebook news set to see how deeply conflicts are engraved into the realities of the global world. Adam Withall of the Independent has calculated that only 11 countries of the world are currently free of conflict. Syria, Israel and Palestine, the ISIS and Iraq, and the military conflict in Ukraine are just some of the many problematic spots on the map. One can say that the entire world is at war. Consequently, by depriving students of an opportunity to engage in peace and conflict studies, the university administration limits their outlook and makes them totally unprepared for living and functioning normally in a conflict-driven world.
Certainly, most military conflicts seem to be located too far from the United States or even South Korea. For that reason, the administration may think that students do need to know what is happening somewhere in the Middle East. They may also believe that watching news is enough for a university student to monitor the changing global situation. In reality, students need at least the basic knowledge of conflict and peacemaking to develop their own opinion about the world and its problems. The mission of university education is to empower students with analytical and critical skills for self-reflection. Without engaging students in peacemaking and diversity classes, the university administration will fail to accomplish its educational mission. Meanwhile, students will be totally unprepared to make judgments and propose solutions to every new problem the global society is likely to face.
Secondly, putting large military conflicts aside, students experience the pressure of smaller conflicts on an everyday basis. Such conflicts stem from the growing diversity of the global population and individual or collective failure to recognize and reconcile with the existing differences. What the university administration is trying to do is actually denying the very possibility that university students will engage in any conflict situations. Most likely, the administration members believe that students are professional and self-sufficient, but everyone needs professional help and at least the basic education to know how to deal with daily conflicts. I still remember how I was writing my Red Line Assignment. That was the task, which exposed me to a great diversity of people and experiences. I am from South Korea. I have spent a few years here, in Chicago. Since I mostly drive to school and do not use any communal transport, I am not fully aware of the scope of diversity in the city, particularly when it comes to suburbs.
Had I have no opportunity to study the PAX 200 course, I would have found myself totally unprepared to be a member of a society as diverse as that in Chicago. As a student, I cannot thank my professor enough for uncovering the hidden dimensions of the world to me, The university administration should be provided with detailed information on how many diverse groups live in Chicago, how they treat each other, and how conflicts that stem from diversity hinder students’ integration into the global society. By seeing how devastating the impacts of conflict can be, the administration will develop a better understanding of how important peace and conflict studies are for every student, since conflicts can emerge in any situation, and everyone deserves to be prepared for them.
Finally, the decision of the university administration to cut all peace and conflict as well as diversity classes implies that its members do not understand the value of democratic decision making, which is impossible without quality conflict resolution and peacemaking. The purpose of studying peace and conflict is two-fold. On the one hand, students must know how conflicts emerge and how they can resolve them. On the other hand, they need new skills to resolve personal, interpersonal, local and global conflicts without violence. The world has become too aggressive, and even a simple conflict resolution lesson can bring tangible results. From my perspective, PAX 200 has become a real discovery in terms of how social movements help people to become more powerful and, at the same time, avoid violence. In our democratic society, we must be able to address conflicts before they translate into violence. We must be ready to defend our rights in a nonviolent manner.
We need to know how to fight with inequities and injustice. Such inequities are everywhere and impact every single aspect of our lives. It would be relevant to organize a group of student activists who will persuade the administration that youth is at the heart of social change. Peace and conflict studies will teach them to be wiser and more patient, as they are struggling with various life problems. The administration should be told that, by cutting diversity and peace and conflict classes, it incapacitates students who came to the university to improve their conflict resolution and communication skills. It creates a new generation of society members who do not know how to make their lives better without applying to violence. PAX 200 is a unique course that teaches students how to develop strategies for communication, consensus building, negotiation, and non-violent conflict resolution. Let us provide the administration with the detailed curriculum, supported by the actual learning materials and the dramatic statistics of conflicts in the modern world.
Because conflicts have become particularly common in the modern world, students can be exposed to rich research, theoretical and practical literature. I would advise using three groups of learning materials. First, these are the materials covering theory of conflict, conflict resolution, and peacemaking. Such literature should include seminal works in peace and conflict, as well as the most recent works about modern conflicts. Second, these are practice research materials that test various theories and study real-life conflicts. Third and, probably, most importantly, the curriculum should incorporate news reports and first-person accounts of relevant conflict and peacemaking experiences. For example, the article by Rivlin and McClellan will improve students’ understanding of health inequities. Chenoweth’s insight into the nature of social movements will teach students the basic peacemaking and negotiation skills. Moyer’s “The Movement Action Plan” will help students understand how they can build a successful social movement to protect their rights without applying to non-violence.
Still, the most important will be organizing events and activities that will help students test their social and peacemaking skills in practice, as well as learn something new about diversity and tolerance. For instance, meetings and holiday activities could be organized with the support and participation of diverse population groups, so that students can feel the taste of diversity and learn to appreciate it. Also possible are events and meetings with famous professionals and diplomacy leaders, who can share unique conflict resolution and peacemaking experiences with students. Overall, the course can become extremely right, bright, productive, and fascinating for students. The university administration will greatly benefit students, by empowering them to become essential drivers of peacemaking and conflict resolution on their campus and beyond.
Peace and conflict studies reflect the realities of our time. The university administration should understand that students need new skills, knowledge, and abilities to manage major and minor conflicts without applying to violence. The strategy outlined in this paper will help the university administration to recognize the value of such studies and develop a new, “fresh” curriculum to meet the learning needs of students. Such students will be better equipped to defend their rights in a non-violent manner.