AMEI-WAECE  
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Men have learnt how to fly like birds, 
have learnt to swim in the depths of the sea like fish,
but we have not learnt the noble art of living like brothers 
(Anonymous)

Unfortunately the sentence is absolutely right. If we analyze it carefully, we will probably reach the conclusion that we simply “have not learnt the noble art of living like brothers”, because nobody has worried about teaching us how.

We are aware that when a child is born his/her brain, except for a series of reflexes that allow him to survive (unconditional reflexes), is totally free of genetic and constitutionally inherited behaviors, and what he owns is an infinite possibility and capability to take in all the social experience accumulated by mankind during hundreds of generations, and that is transmitted by the adult who takes care and sees to him.

This capability to take in the world stimulation that surrounds him is what is called the human brain plasticity. The child, when born, does not know how to “fly like birds nor swim in the depths like fish”. He has to be taught. No doubt the same occurs with the noble art of living like brothers. HE HAS TO BE TAUGHT.

For this reason we have established this Permanent Chair, to educate, from childhood, in the noble art of living like brothers. To provide school teachers with elements that will help them educate the youngest children in love and respect for their fellow man.

This Chair will be a place where through the most diverse ways: courses, seminars, conferences, visual material, texts, among others, teachers will have access to pedagogical and methodological procedures that allow them to develop in children norms, values, concepts and behaviors towards the acceptance of peace and the rejection of violence as essential components of their personality. Our aim is to create habits in the children that determine any performance in the future, a transfer of values that remain in the long term that extends during all their lives.

With this program we intend to contribute with more than just doing our bit in the education of this huge beach of humanity in which everybody fits and where we can enjoy the advantages of a more educated and developed society, where we can LIVE TOGETHER AND IN PEACE. Because we deeply believe that we can only have a better world with adequate early childhood education.

Because it is our deep belief that we can achieve a better world if we start educating towards it from early childhood. The needed social changes can only come about if we provide education for all the children in the world. Isolated assistance or adoption programs only help a few children. Only if we educate all the children can we obtain a better world for them.

 LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER….IN PEACE.
THE CENTRAL THEME OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION.

It is well demonstrated that the first years of life are the most relevant to the development of the human being. This stage of the individual education has been called with different names: early childhood, preschool, initial, among others, but no matter what name is adopted, what all the scholars in psychological science agree on is that at this stage the fundamental basis for the development of personality are established, on which the following phases of life will be consolidated and improved.

Hence the extraordinary importance of this age period for the future of man as an individual and as a person, and the need to know thoroughly its characteristics: the causes and conditions of its development, the course of his biological, physiological and functional maturation, psychological and social processes, to exert a positive influence on the mechanisms and structures that are being formed and maturing, to reach the maximum potential achievements of this development, to make it possible that a healthy, apt and capable individual transforms the world and is transformed in this undertaking.

1.0.- Traditional early childhood education
Traditionally education for younger children has been marked by the later schooling, up to an extent that it was given the name of PRESCHOOL EDUCATION. At this stage of life, teachers limited themselves exclusively to transmit knowledge. Obviously they did not educate but they taught. In many countries there are even exams to enter certain schools. The tests consist of reading and writing exercises and the knowledge of numbers, or even, simple arithmetic operations. In this case, early childhood education, in terms of formal education, does not exist, confining itself to a mere speeded-up preparation for subsequent schooling.

1.1.- Early childhood education today
Nowadays we already know that when the child is born, he has a huge variety of possibilities. He carries with him a lot of hopes, but these hopes will be in vain if they do not receive from the human and physical environment a rich enough group of stimulation of all types. Modern biological sciences, and above all neurology, tell us that the nervous matter, especially developed in quantity in the human race, cannot reach its full development if there is no exterior stimulation that sparks off some reactions which allow these functions to be set off, to be improved and to develop fully. We can state that the individual development is, in the first place, linked to his biological and neurological state at the moment of birth, but that, further on, the influence of the environment around him turns out to be fundamental for his subsequent development. It is not that the influence of the environment can make or ruin everything, but that, at the moment of birth, there is a whole range of possibilities and that the actions of the environment will make, within the limits imposed by the biological and neurological situation, the development of the individual more or less comprehensive.

In this sense it has been stated that, once born, the child is no more than a “candidate to the human race” (H. Pieron). This means that the path is quite long from birth to the human life and the participation in the human race. The link between them, which allows the access from one to another, is education.

And this is confirmed time and time again, without us even being aware of it. Doctor Venter, who is a director in one of the companies that carried out the research in the human genome mapping, stated something fundamental when he said: “The idea that the personality features are closely linked to the human genome can be considered false. Men are not necessarily prisoners of their genes and life circumstances in each individual are crucial to their personality”.

The social setting and the surrounding environmental stimulation make it possible for these processes and formation to be structured and allow for a certain level of development in all children. However, the social and familiar environment, if acting alone and without a scientifically given direction for the stimulation, might be not suitable, and not enable children to reach all the potential for their development.

That is, through the creation of a system of scientifically given influences organized in a sensible way, it is possible to reach goals for development that are unlikely to be achieved through spontaneous stimulation.

Even in the case, as Jean Piaget pointed out, of poor or no stimulation, it can determine the period of psychological development, when there is always a specific sequence in the emergence and change of the evolutionary phases, it may be the case that in the formation stage of the formal thought operations, that allows high reasoning and the carrying out of logical-abstract operations of quality, they do not develop, as a result of insufficient or not sensibly directed stimulation.

On the other hand, the fact that the system of influences may have its action in an evolutionary stage in which the biological, physiological and psychological structures are in full development and maturing has a special meaning. In this sense, Lev Vigotski, one of the most acknowledged scholars of early childhood, pointed out the fact that if this action is taken at a given time of development in which such structures are being formed, it allows to exert a much more significant effect about their own processes and qualities that depend on these structures and of the development itself. Although the organization and direction of a system of scientifically given influences is important at any stage of the development of the individual, it is during childhood when such stimulation is marked by the greatest importance and significance for the rest of the life of the human being, by acting upon bio-physiological and psychological formations that at this moment are being formed, and not upon structures already formed as it happens in most of those that are present in other ages.

That is why this stage has been highlighted as crucial for the development, and the need to organize a well thought-out, scientifically conceived system of educational influences that is aimed at enabling the maximum development and expression of all the physical and psychological potentialities of the child in these early years.

Early childhood education can, by its social function and its technical level, assume this system of educational influences and together with education in the family, help to reach higher goals for the development of all children.

1.2.- How does early childhood education have to be?
Now, since all the scientific community agrees on the need for education since birth, if not earlier, it would be advisable to reach an agreement on how this Education should be, in order to avoid that it becomes just a mere stage of preparation for further education, as we stated previously.

If we re-read the article 29 of the Convention about the Children Rights approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th Nov, 1989, we find basically what we should understand by a childhood education nowadays:

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; 
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; 
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own; 
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin; 
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.
Although this is not a definition, but “what it should be aimed at” it is in line with and defines perfectly what we should understand by education nowadays. Currently, education is defined as that offered to the child for his comprehensive development NOT ONLY in the COGNITIVE aspects (word that is not used throughout the article) but the psychological and spiritual ones, and this, clearly through experiences of pedagogical and recreational socialization. This definition is perfectly valid from the very moment of birth. The methodologies to be used may vary, but the essence of the concept will remain during the whole life. It has to be, in accordance with paragraph D, an education aimed at preparing the child to assume a responsible life in a free society, with an understanding spirit, PEACE…

It seems obvious that the educational concept has to be understood as «the strengthening of the capabilities that nature has in store for the child» and not as a mere transmission of knowledge. Today our actions must be directed so that the children learn to be themselves (learning to BE), learn to understand, as in the social-type aspect (learning to LIVE TOGETHER) as merely cognitive (learning to KNOW, and to DO).

1.3.- Learning to live together
The end of the XX century and the beginning of the new millennium is characterized by a progressive escalation of violence that, extended to a great part of the world, has generated a whole lot of conflictive situations that have turned into military confrontations everywhere as well as new phenomena of tragic consequences on a world-wide scale, such as terrorism.

If we add up the effects of a devastating depredation of the natural resources of the planet, the global warming with its disastrous consequences, the progressive deterioration of the ozone layer that preserves life, the environmental deforestation with the logical consequences of a greater effect and intensity of phenomena and natural disasters (among other several factors) we can paint a gloomy picture of the current situation in which the current world lives in, and whose effects, either by natural or social causes, have an impact fundamentally on the most vulnerable members of the population: women, elderly people, disabled people, and above all the children to whom we offer a bleak future.

This disturbed situation has its expression in mass media, that reflects, through the most diverse ways this chaotic situation, and that almost always is turned into a mirror broadcasting the violence and the prevailing crisis in society, encouraged by the morbid fascination and the sensationalism of the events and the forms of expression of this daily violence. So, it is said that, when a child reaches the end of his childhood, he has seen thousands of violent crimes and other criminal actions on TV or in the cinema. He has faced the exaltation of negatives values for his personal and social development in a survival culture, of isolation, of the fiercest individualism.

Although it is naïve to think that the evils of this world will be solved by means of ideal and spiritual conciliation, without solving the great geopolitical and economical contradictions that make the gap between rich and poor countries even wider (because, undoubtedly, the poor countries are poorer every day) this does not teachers from trying to carry out actions that, acting on the children’s minds that are being formed, have them cooperate with each other and allow them to create norms, ideas, values, concepts, which make understanding between men and the acceptance of the huge diversity that is the human genre easier.

To achieve a more just and humane society, one of the necessary factors, not to say the most important, is the assumption that peace among men, in its broadest concept, is the only possible way to make the development possible and it is the job of education to prepare them for this development since only education is able to reach the challenge that society present us with the children’s formation. Education that must begin at the earliest stages of life, because it is at childhood when the fundamental basis of the man’s personality will consolidate and improve in the following stages of his development.

To extend further these concepts, and in view of the complex world situation with the great migratory movements that are taking place, one of the four pillars on which, according to the Delors report, education must rely on, LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER, has taken on special significance. Not long ago, Dr. Koichiro Matsuura, General Director at UNESCO said before a High Level Group of the Education for All Initiative, “the changing international situation has suddenly made one of the central themes of the Delors Report, the “learning to live together” one, acquire refreshed urgency and relevance”. More than ever, (Dr. Matsuura went on to state) the contents, methods and results of learning must be revised to make education a more effective and powerful tool to “build the defenses of peace in the mind of men. It is particularly important that we banish violence from young minds and that we guide them to the virtues of tolerance, mutual understanding and peace, not only in action, but also in thought and expression”.

Coinciding with such statement, and convinced that such education must start from the very birth, we have established the

WORLD CONFERENCE : 
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FOR PEACE
LEARNING TO LIVE 
TOGETHER... IN PEACE
from early childhood
For this, we have to make “peace education” a fundamental learning element in the life of young children, a continuous habit that determines any future performance, a transfer of values that remains in the long run, that extends during all his life. We understand that it is fundamental that from a very early age the idea of peace is built in the children’s minds as something inherent. Likewise, we believe that although there is an International Peace Day, and a great deal of activities specifically devised for this day, it is important to work with a wide-ranging program that determines any performance of the child in the future.

FOUNDATIONS OF THE CONFERENCE

When we asked ourselves how to set up the Chair a question came up that stirred a certain controversy: what is really PEACE?

The word PEACE is a word that undoubtedly everybody uses, it must be the most written and listened to in the media. To know its exact meaning we resorted to the dictionary and looked up its meaning. The surprise was, at least curious, since there are a whole lot of definitions for this word.

 

2.1.- The PEACE concept for children

If we have to devise a peace education plan for the children, it would seem to us very interesting to know what the children understand for peace.

For this, we asked the children (from three to six years old) what peace meant for them. Their teachers passed on to us the answers given by the children.

82% OF THE CHILDREN ANSWERED IN A UNANIMOUS WAY, THAT PEACE WOULD MEAN NOT TO HIT EACH OTHER

From that point on dozens of “PEACE definitions” came up, with which we could write an entire course of curious things. So, among the multiple definitions, we found:

• WHEN ONE DOES NOT BLEED (Mexico)
• MY MUM (El Salvador)
• SPEAKING WITHOUT SHOUTING (Argentina)
• WRITING A LETTER TO THE POLICE SO THAT THEY ARREST THOSE WHO MUG OTHERS (Argentina)
• AVOID SAYING UNPLEASANT THINGS (Peru)
• THAT NOBODY DIES (Colombia)
• THAT PARENTS SHOULD NOT SMOKE OR THEIR LUNGS WILL TURN BLACK (Spain)


2.2.- The concept of PEACE for adults

We drew up a questionnaire and sent it by e-mail to centers in more than 20 countries, in both English speaking and Spanish speaking countries, where we asked: what is peace for you? How would you work the concept of peace with young children?

We got responses from the 20 countries, and curiously in the answers appears an enormous variety of nuances already previously detected, without any kind of correlation between a specific type of answer and the situation of the country of the person responding. It is true that we found a slight trend in the answers of the teachers in religious schools, where we spotted some of the replies that bond peace with religion.

Considering the totally open question “what is peace for you?”, only 9% of the surveyed replied that it was the ABSENCE OF MILITARY CONFLICTS. The great majority relates the concept of PEACE to an inner state that is subsequently passed on to the rest of society. The items that obtained more than 5% in the answers were:

38% harmony and inner well being
36% respect for your neighbor
16% a harmonious coexistence
11% love for the rest of the people
9% absence of military conflict
8% understanding towards others
8% settlement of a just society
5% dialogue between people
5% solidarity between countries and people
Practically in all of them the word PEACE is associated with what we have always known as VALUES that is, RESPECT, TOLERANCE, UNDERSTANDING, HELP, etc.

2.3.- On values education
Peace education has to be a result of an education in values.

Starting from the premise that when the child is born he does not know the roles, the norms, the guidelines and the moral and social values of his community, the teaching agents turn into facilitators of experiences and relationships that make his progressive social maturing easier.

We can define a value as a real element, desirable, objective and convenient for the human being that is internalized through individual experience and that becomes a moral norm of conduct.

The children, through their experiences select, choose and make their own system of values that will help them to develop a moral conscience and to acquire an individual compromise to organize their conduct while putting them into practice.

Education has to offer a guide of conduct to the child from his early childhood to promote the internal maturity necessary to acquire an autonomous conscience.

Young children, in the first stages of development, are open to self awareness, of the world that surrounds them and of the people around them: They learn about life influenced by the environment in which they live. This environment must offer some role models and positive values accepted by the community, helping them to stay away from negative values, destructive forces and counter values.

To learn how to live with others, it will be essential to educate from childhood the norms by which this living-together is or should be governed.

The fundamental achievements of the development of personality in early education consist of the formation of self-awareness and of an unquestionable subordination and an organization into a hierarchy of reasons. Thanks to this, the child acquires inwardly a quite stable world that allows an active and conscious participation in the world that surrounds him and gives a determined tendency to all of his conduct.

The fundamental condition to be able to talk about the formation of personality at this age is that behavior can be predicted, which implies that behavior can be directed. The central point of this formation is the observance of the rules of conduct that are socially accepted. Norms that the children absorb in their activity and in their communication with adults and the surrounding world and that allow them to regulate their conduct in a much more effective way that in later stages.

From this point of view, the values are formed in the process of development of the individual from his earliest years.

Within this conception of MORAL NORM OF CONDUCT, values are infinite, in the sense that the object and ideal reality is infinite. This means that while doing actions that encompass an ample range of aspects of reality, we are laying the foundation for the formation of multiple values.

The formation of values in early education must be performed in the same way in which habits, skills, knowledge and capabilities are formed, and by means of the same educational processes and procedures, THAT IS, IN A GLOBALIZED WAY.

In the first years of life values as a whole, in the child, have a globalized approach, in the same way as concepts, norms, notions, capabilities, skills and other psychological developments, because the child’s activity at these ages has a general character.

Within the child’s “global” approach, the premises of the different specific values that will characterize the adult being are established, but we can not truly speak of specific values in such early ages.

Only at the end of the stage is there a differentiation in these global values, whenever emotional and cognitive development allow for a greater awareness and experience of the surrounding reality.

As in all psychological formation, it is impossible to act directly in the structuring of the values, as it is in the abilities or the motivation. For this, it is necessary to carry out well-organized and methodologically conceived activities, that allow the children to guide themselves in their execution, this guidance is transferred to any other similar activity, and progressively forms the ability, the grounds and the value depending on what is to be formed.

Looking at it from our point of view, it is a conceptual mistake to suggest direct work in the formation of values, one must work on abilities, habits, concepts, notions and experiences that will give as a result the formation of values.

In this way, values are not really taught as such, but they emerge as a consequence of the performance of the activities that are of interest for the children and in which actions that are carried out influence on the composition of these future values.

For instance, when in a role play or in a dramatization one of the children plays the “hero” and assists a “helpless friend”, actions are being carried out that exert a certain influence on the conception of what friendship and human solidarity are, that gradually, and by repetition and enrichment of this activity, start to turn into what later will constitute a value in their personality.

A value, as we know it, is learnt and chosen in daily life actions, by the behavior that the children absorb and by what they observe in adults, and their education can occur in a spontaneous way, or can be pedagogically directed. The latter guarantees that the individual value matches with what is the social norm or value.

If the activities that are used for the formation of values are accompanied by satisfaction and emotional well-being, the child will tend to repeat them, and they will become habitual when they start to form part of the control system of a child’s behavior.

That is, the formation of habits and the activities directed to form values should develop feelings and experiences, and not only be external reinforcements strengthening to guide the children’s conduct.

In this sense, knowledge by itself does not guarantee the formation of values, it has to be accompanied by emotional experiences that express on this level the unity of the emotional and cognitive processes.

Bearing in mind the age characteristics (and here it is very important to have in mind the excitement and inhibition times of the basic nervous system of the children) and that children will work with what is interesting for them, we have framed “PEACE education” in a series of play activities that have a special meaning for the child.

2.4. Peace education throughouy the curriculum or just a section of it?
PEACE education has to really turn into a general program that is developed through all the activities in the centre.

 

As we have said, it is not about working directly in the formation of values, but to form skills, habits, concepts, notions and experiences that will give as a result the formation of values, through well-organized and methodologically conceived activities, that allow the children to guide themselves in their execution, this basic guidance is transferred to any other similar activity, and progressively forms the ability, the grounds and the value depending on what is to be formed. This determines that the formation of values is really a cross curricular component that has to be worked in any contents that are included in the activities with children, including them as a general goal inside the planning of any activity.

However, what we know of teaching practice makes us state that in curriculum it is necessary to work the general central points (in our case “Learning to live together... in Peace”) as well as the rest of the objectives and contents: in a structured way, as one of the blocks that the curriculum is made up of.

On the other hand, to work on values exclusively as a general central point has a suspected weakness that often causes that they do not get included in pedagogical practice and it is difficult to relate the general objective with more specific ones; such as how to work in the same activity without a proper content, how to assess it in reference to the general objectives, among others. But then, the excessive emphasis on “cognition” in programs, as previously shown, limits “work on the general central points” in most of the cases to a mere verbal observation from the teacher, which does not guarantee the learning of the values.

This is why it is not a pedagogical contradiction with the global approach to the formation of values to offer specific activities directed to carry out actions that will foster the formation of values, as if it were a specific content of the educational program.

In this way, in a certain moment the value is incorporated as a general objective in any general activity, and it is worked in others as a particular and specific content. The use of a methodological procedure or another will depend then on the characteristics of the group, the approach to the content, the goals of the activity, etc.