Interdisciplinary Inquiry


Gandhi and Education - Part IV - Nonviolence Education

The best expression of a combined ideology and practice is what I will refer to as Gandhian nonviolence education. The disadvantage to conflict resolution education is insufficient emphasis on cultivating personal and social transformation, whereas peace education is a holistic approach but lacks cohesion. Education for nonviolence draws upon the respective strengths of the other two approaches and integrates them to form a more effective pedagogy that is also more authentically Gandhian. It combines short-term efficiency and results with long-term consideration and prevention.

Nonviolence education recognizes the reciprocal relationship between tactics and value-orientation, between theory and practice. Nonviolence education is both object and subject; teaching about, for, and through nonviolence. The Metta Center for Nonviolence Education provides a working definition of nonviolence that undergirds all educational goals:

Nonviolence is a powerful method to harmonize relationships among people (and all living things) for the establishment of justice and the ultimate well-being of all parties. It draws its power from awareness of the profound truth to which the wisdom traditions of all cultures, science, and common experience bear witness: that all life is one.

Clearly, the “non” in nonviolence does not equal merely an absence or rejection of violence. The type of nonviolence I refer to in this assignment comes from the Sanskrit term ahimsa, the key to understanding Gandhi’s philosophy. In Sanskrit, the word has a positive connotation, meaning a force that overcomes the desire to commit harm or malice. In English, however, we use the negation non-violence; defining the word by its opposite.

The presentation of Gandhi and his legacy here is but one possibility. The fact that various interpretations exist and compete with one another is testament to the fact that all scholarship involving historical figures is subjected to a certain amount of bias. In fact, there is not one static or absolutely true view of the ‘‘real’’ Mahatma Gandhi. What we select, privilege, interpret, and write about Gandhi and his views of nonviolence, truth, and peace education is mediated and shaped by our own contextualized situatedness and our linguistic and interpretative horizons of meaning (Allen, 2007).

Admittedly, the relationship between different approaches to peace and conflict education is much more flexible than this series of short blogs might suggest, and educators might find my descriptions of their respective fields narrow and over-simplified. My objective is not comprehensiveness but rather the description of trends that have surfaced in my own reading, with the goal of articulating one way of increasing the cross-pollination between conflict resolution and peace education. Terminology can be hollow and misleading; the need for an integrated approach is of essence regardless of categories or labels. Education is – and should be – an open-ended and dynamic process, valuable in “serving as a catalyst that allows us to rethink our normal assumptions and dominant concepts and positions, and in offering new, creative, positive alternatives” (Allen, 2007, p. 306).

Rebecca Joy Norlander

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3) 

Reference: Allen, D. (2007). Mahatma Gandhi on violence and peace education. Philosophy East & West,
57(1), 290-310.


Posted at 09:41 AM

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