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Building Democratic Peace Through Handling Conflict in Schools? Evidence from México, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Canada

Tue, March 27, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 4th Floor, Don Alberto 4

Group Submission Type: Round-table Session


Public schooling contributes to shaping youth’s social-political capacities for handling social conflicts, thereby potentially building peace. Yet, education also may ignore or contradict what young people in violent contexts learn feet first, through life experience (McCauley, 2002). This roundtable (or panel) session will involve brief presentations, to emphasize North-South-South dialogue among authors and audience in a comparative conversation around the role of schools in handling social conflicts experienced by youth, in contrasting social conflict contexts.
Five papers consider how curriculum practice may help or hinder youths’ democratic engagement with social conflicts (problems, competing goals) in the context of violence (harm done) in different countries. Informed by conflict theories of Marc Howard Ross (2007) and Johan Galtung (1990), authors examine socially structured interests—people’s unequal social positioning and political power to fulfill their wants and needs, and cultural narratives—embodying interpretations such as trust, fear, and enmity. Adding Nancy Fraser’s (2004) theories of justice, authors also attend to a third dimension, direct confrontation, examining the conflict transformation potential of (collective) representation in governance, in addition to the ways social-structural and cultural forms of violence feed direct physical violence (per Galtung), and what schools (can) do about it, in comparative perspective.
The first paper, derived from multi-year “Peace-Building Citizenship Learning” (PBC) comparative research, examines youths’ lived experience with conflicts and violence, compared with their experienced curriculum, in marginalized urban communities in México and Canada. The remaining papers are drawn from doctoral thesis research by members of the PBC research team, each extending the original inquiry and conceptual framework. The second paper presents research on classroom pedagogies for democratic convivencia (peacebuilding) in similarly-marginalized urban schools in the same city as the PBC study. The third and fourth presentations replicate PBC’s interest on student and teacher voices, this time in violent urban surroundings in the comparison cases of Bangladesh and Colombia. In Bangladesh, violence associated with political polarization is prominent. Also experiencing political polarization in the current endeavors to emerge and recover from a decades-long civil war, the case of Colombia focuses on students’ conceptions and opportunities to learn about resource-related conflicts in their social sciences and history curriculum/learning activities. The last paper reports research on the relation between continuing violence due to persistent unresolved social conflicts and peace education programs being implemented in an armed conflict zone of Colombia.
Building sustainable just peace requires building capacity for democratic transformation of the varied dimensions of social conflict. Publicly funded schools can be—but often are not—major social resources for building such capacities (Davies, 2011; Lopes Cardozo et al., 2015). Comparatively identifying (dis)connections between youths’ and teachers’ considerations on how to deal with social conflicts, in relation to various global contexts, can help us make sense of the factors impeding or fostering democratic peacebuilding education in schools.


Davies, Lynn. (2011). Can education interrupt fragility? Toward the resilient citizen and the adaptable state. In Karen Mundy & Sarah Dryden-Peterson (Eds.), Educating Children in Conflict Zones: Research, Policy and Practice for Systemic Change—A Tribute to Jackie Kirk (pp. 33-48). New York: Teachers College Press.
Fraser, Nancy. (2004). Recognition, Redistribution and Representation in Capitalist Global Society [Nancy Fraser interviewed by H. Dahl, P. Stoltz, & R. Willig]. Acta Sociologica, 47(4), 374-382. doi:10.1177/0001699304048671
Galtung, Johan. (1990). Cultural Violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27(3), 291-305.
Lopes Cardozo, M. T. A., Higgins, S., Maber, E., Brandt, C. O., Kusmallah, N., & Le Mat, M. L. J. (2015). Literature Review: Youth Agency, Peacebuilding and Education. Retrieved from Amsterdam:
McCauley, Clark (2002). Head first versus feet first in peace education. In G. Salomon & B. Nevo (Eds.), Peace Education: The concept, principles, and practices around the world (pp. 247-258). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ross, Marc Howard. (2007). Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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