The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s education
BridgeND | Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Mahatma Gandhi once said,“If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” If we are to begin with the children, we are to begin with their education. A quality education contributes not only to socioeconomic progress, but also to the holistic development of the individual. I think that many, like myself, would agree with this philosophy on education — there is much more to it than training for the workforce. Still, Gandhi’s proposition begs the question: Can the education of children truly build peace? Fortunately, it can; accessible and quality education can serve as the keystone of peace within a society and ultimately, the world.
I grew up being told that my education was a privilege, not a right —that I should be grateful to have attended highly-rated public schools meant to prepare me for a successful career and a life of financial security. While I am certainly privileged to have received a quality education, I now believe that a good education is, in fact, a right. In 1948, education was recognized as a basic human right by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This means that the right to education is legally guaranteed for all, that states are obligated to protect and fulfill this right and that they can be held accountable for violating it. In my first year at Notre Dame, I gained the ability to articulate what my education means to me, as well as what it can mean for the world’s youth. If every child was able to complete secondary education, UNESCO data shows that globally, the number of poor people could be reduced by more than half. Universal access to quality education is an urgent need, but committed changemakers are needed to create a tangible impact.
I feel called to defend the right to education because I recognize the value of my own educational opportunities. Above all else, I believe that education produces hope. Confucius once said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” My education has given me the confidence to ask difficult questions, offer my perspective and engage in discussions with experts in the field. My professors at Notre Dame have encouraged me to brainstorm innovative solutions to elusive issues, such as world peace. Drawing on John Paul Lederach’s “The Moral Imagination,” peacebuilding requires “innovative responses to impossible situations.” In the hope of creating a better future, we must step into the unknown that exists between what is and what is possible without the guarantee of success.
I live one mile away from Paterson, New Jersey, a city with a rich history dating back to its days as a mighty industrial capital. The city, though still diverse and heavily populated, is now characterized by violence, crime and drugs. I noticed educational disparities from a young age, but these disparities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were forced to shut down. During the early days of the pandemic, the public high school dropout rate in Paterson was at an all-time high. The same resources that were provided to me — sufficient school funding, experienced teachers, textbooks and technologies — were not distributed to students living in Paterson. As my peers struggled to transition to online platforms and learn how to navigate Zoom, few realized that schools in our own county lacked the resources and capacity to even offer virtual classes. Disparities in education are present in my own community — the same disparities that impact children globally. If Paterson was used as a case study, there would undoubtedly be connections between quality of education and participation in crime and violence. Ingrained within me early on was the value of my education; it was something to be taken seriously and never for granted. Still, I have grappled with the educational discrepancies to which I have borne witness and have been empowered to search for a solution.
Anyone can be a peacebuilder, and everyone should be. Throughout my life, I have always wanted to change the world for the better, and now I am able to express my “why” (or more specifically, my “who”). I believe that children are the future; at a minimum, education creates opportunities for the future parents, leaders and changemakers of the world to determine their own paths. A quality education offers career enhancement, employment opportunities and higher earnings, and studies show that education helps reduce attitudes toward participation in violence. This is likely because a quality education encourages the development of communication skills (a critical key to conflict resolution), effective collaboration and sociopolitical participation, especially for women. As peacebuilders, our ultimate duty is to the global common good, consisting of economic prosperity, social justice and peace. Our ultimate duty is to the most vulnerable members of society, as well as those previously excluded from shaping their futures. In our increasingly globalized world, it is important to recognize our shared responsibility to protect human rights everywhere.
After all, “Violence is known; peace is the mystery.” At Notre Dame, we are imaginative and creative individuals; we must be willing to step into the unknown that exists between what is and what is possible. We must boldly question the status quo — to understand why things are as they are and attempt to make them better.
Ashlyn Poppe is a sophomore living in Pasquerilla West Hall studying global affairs and political science. She currently serves as the director of operations for BridgeND.
BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @bridge_ND.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.