CHILDREN'S THOUGHTS ABOUT PEACE AND WAR

Emilia S. Sokolova Director of Peace Pedagogics Centre, Moscow, Russia


 

Sociological data of the survey
The end of the cold war inspired and is still inspiring hopes. However, the present situation shows that wars are not ended. Armed conflicts in various places in the world remind us of the fact that we have to go a long hard road towards a humanistic, non-violent, peacful world.

What is going on in the consciousness of children living in these controversial circumstances? How are they handling the process of assimilation of global values, of connecting the future of humanity with the concept of a non-nuclear, secure and comfortable planetary "home"? How far has the implementation of "the new way of thinking" progressed? What do today's school children think about peace and disarmament? Are they satisfied with their knowledge? How do they understand the role of the school in bringing up young people in the spirit of peace? What do they believe to be necessary and possible to do to strengthen the atmosphere of harmony, friendship and cooperation? These questions comprised the program for the research carried out in 1990-1993 in the former USSR and Russia, and in the USA, reflecting the attitudes of children aged of 10-15, towards war, peace, disarmament, peace education values and ethnic tolerance.

I. Organizers, methodology
The organizers of the project were the Institute of Youth Research Centre and the Pedagogics for Peace Center under the International movement "Educators for Peace and Understanding" (Moscow).

The questionnaire was entitled; "We and Peace in the World". It consisted of four parts: 1. Questionnaire (7 open questions); 2. Short essay on one of the questions from the questionnaire; 3. Drawing on one of the topics of the survey; 4. Personal data about the respondents.

The first question of the questionnaire calls for arguments for the impossibility of nuclear war; the second asks for opinions about the expediency of the complete liquidation of armament; the third aims at finding out thoughts about the process of conversion; the fourth and fifth inquire how to organize the educational process and upbringing in order to develop peace and nonviolent behaviour in personalities. The sixth and seventh questions aim at concrete steps towards living in peace and harmony.

II. Contingent description

In the spring of 1990, 1050 students (ages 10-15) from 31 regions of the former USSR were surveyed using to this questionnaire. In the spring of 1992, 126 students (ages 11-14) from Pacific Junior High School in Evergreen School District, Vancouver, WA, USA were surveyed with; this questionnaire. This was possible because of the good will and enthusiasm of Karen Owen - along with many other teachers and activists in the "Accent of Understanding" organization.

In I993 Russian schoolchildren of 11 schools took part in the survey. These schools are located in diifferent regions of the country and are supervised by the Railroad Ministry of Russia. The total number of questionnaire copies was 472 (ages 10-14).
Regardless of differences in the number of the groups, the comparison was possible because the ages of respondents, level of education, and proportion of boys and girls were approximately equal. The content of answers to the questionnaire was also very close.

III. Analysis of the results

3.1 About war, peace and armaments

Analysis of the answers showed a shocking result: an abrupt growing fear of war. The answers to the question "What are you most afraid of ?" was in 90% of cases "of war". The question "Is nuclear war possible in our time or in our future?" was answered positively "yes" by 59% of the respondents. (Diagram 1.)

Such a level of fear was registered only during the peaks of confrontation of two superpowers. The end of the cold war, the disarmament campaign has considerably reduced the fear of war, of nuclear war in particular. It might seem at first sight that the nuclear threat had been pushed aside and a new era of peaceful development of world civilisation had come and alongside this, peace, come into the souls of children. This was proved by the results of the opinion polls carried out among children in some countries within the 80's and 90's.

However our time has brought the children´s psyches back into the state of mass alarm, caused by the possible beginning of military events. Let us compare the following data: in the mid 80´s the possibility of nuclear war was admitted by 37% of the participants of the surveys, (survey by S. Roshchin), in 1992 the number of children supporting this opinion to 23%. And according to the results of 1993 this number had become almost 60%. It is obvious that this is connected with the severe armed conflicts in the former USSR, in Europe, and on other continents; with the growing economic, social, political and national conflicts in some regions. It is also the result of sudden antagonistic attitudes toward other cultures, ethnicities and religlons.

The fear of war naturally changed the children's views on the necessity of disarmament. Thus in 1990 only 26% of the respondents considered that it was not possible to destroy all the armaments while in 1993 the percentage rose to 68, (diagram 2.) It is worth emphasising that the children have become more convinced that there is a threat of nuclear war, of invasion, and that one must be on the alert and must keep the weapons "to be on the safe side". Some of the participants think that the weapons are needed to struggle with the mafia, with criminals and armed groups.

3.2. How to achieve peace and harmony?

Opinions of the youth from the two countries on this question are shown below. It presents some sort of typical suggestions. The comparative systematization is based on the similarity in ¢. the content of the responses and takes into account the frequency of the mentioned ideas and recommendations by children.

USSR, 1990
Talk more with children on peace themes,and
now at school we are mostly talked to about war

It is necessary to introduce a special subject
issue a special textbook for schoolchildren

It is necessary that a peace lesson would be
at least once a week on a school schedule

We need computer peace programs, not war
programs

It's necessary to introduce in all countries in
the world a peace lesson at which teachers
should prove to children that peace is the
core value nowadays

Study the Bible - it teaches peace

Teachers should not "fight" pupils

Boys should not fight at all

Children of all nationalities should be
respected

Friendship and freedom is necessary at school

It s necessary that it will be as good at school
as at home

USA, 1992
Hear more about peace in school

Conduct peace lessons

It is necessary that children should learn new ideas about different cultures, races, nationalities

Children should learn all the ways of strengthening peace and then choose the best one

We need clubs where we can talk and do only good things

Only the Lord can bring us peace

From his birth a child should know that he is loved

Everybody should be taught to love others and to be patient

A lesson of care is needed where everybody is taught to treat others the way he wants to be treated

It's necessary to divert the children from bad influences, narcotics, alcohol

All the fighting should be stopped at school

Children should be taught to be friends, good manners, not to fight and quarrel

There should not be a place for racism at school


Conclusions
The data presented in the brouchure doesn't pretend to be the basis of "global generalizations". It just reflects some trends and changes in the mentality of the young generation in the 90´s towards a more peactul and secure world. At the same time the results of the surveys mark just the first steps of the process and demonstrate the urgent need to continue and to improve peace education enriching its concept with new aspects which are determined by the new realities. This goal seems to be one of the core challenges for educational systems, at the beginning of the XXI CENTURY.

 

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