We’ve seen what happens when children learn about peace.
Making sense of the world is hard enough when you’re an adult.
So how do we equip children to make sense of it, without spoiling their innocence and their sense of hope?
It’s a challenge parents and educators deal with every day. And when evil and tragedy strike, it’s one that becomes even more pressing.
On the morning of May 23, family homes and schools across the city were forced to confront the most difficult subjects.
Good and evil, death and injury, tolerance and difference, vigilance, conflict, safety and fear – all had to be broken down in ways kids could understand.
The attack at the Arena that ruined lives and forced those questions was born of intolerance and hatred.
But it was followed by displays of unity, love and kindness. How can we harness that spirit for lasting good?
How can we ensure hatred and intolerance are defused before they can explode?
How do we give kids the resilience and resolve to avoid conflict, and deal with it emotionally when it happens?
The Peace Foundation has designed a programme, ‘Small Steps for Peace’, which is targeted at school-age children and aims to answer those questions.
We think it is an excellent way of promoting society’s finest values to the young. And so, as part of our We Stand Together campaign, we are urging our readers to back our campaign for ‘Peace Studies’ to be rolled out across schools in Greater Manchester.
Peace Studies is not about singing kumbaya and hoping for the best. The ideas it embodies are already central to the ethos of a number of Manchester schools.
We’ve seen ‘Small Steps for Peace’ delivered in the classroom and watched how children respond to it.
We’ve heard the testimony of teachers who are using Peace Studies programmes to improve their pupils’ behaviour and understanding of one another.
And we’ve learnt how the techniques embodied in these courses been used to bring together adults violently at odds – from IRA men and the families they caused to grieve, to warring families in troubled communities.
The children’s programme the Peace Foundation has developed uses games and activities – which are simple on the surface – to help youngsters explain and address their feelings with confidence.
The aim is that as they move into their teenage years and adulthood they will have the tools to resolve problems without violence.
Nick Taylor, CEO of the Peace Foundation, said: “The government is setting up a commission to counter extremism and promote British values in schools.
“We think they have to go further – we’re talking about fundamental human values, like compassion, courage, kindness. These are things difficult to teach but they are things people learn and learn through experience.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “I could not be more proud of how our Greater Manchester communities responded following our darkest hour this May. We showed the world and each other that hate would not win – we are stronger than those who seek to divide us.
“We need to further this sense of community. Tackling hatred and violence might be difficult but it is something that cannot be shied away from. I fully support this campaign and encourage everyone across Greater Manchester to get behind it too.”
“Manchester is a strong city. It has been made stronger”