Visions of Peace: How Youth in Scotland Define Peace and What They See as Their Role in Sustaining Peace Locally

Anderson, S. and Nesterova, Y. (2022) Visions of Peace: How Youth in Scotland Define Peace and What They See as Their Role in Sustaining Peace Locally. CIES 2023 Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA, 18-22 Feb 2023.

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This paper will showcase how young people in Glasgow (Scotland, United Kingdom) define peace and justice, what it means for them to be a peacemaker in their local community, and what commitments to peace and justice they, personally, desire to make. Although the UK has a very high overall score of positive peace (ranked 18 in the world), the past years have seen marked deteriorations in grievances between groups, exclusion by socio-economic group, rule of law, freedom of the press, and level of trust in governments (Institute for Economics & Peace, 2022). In addition, when defining peace as the absence of violence or fear of violence, Glasgow is rated as the least peaceful major urban centre in the UK and the most violent in Scotland due to, primarily, gang and knife crime as well as extreme health inequalities (Institute for Economics & Peace, 2013). At a more micro level, for many young people in the UK, including in Scotland, spaces that they spend most time in – school, home, and community – continue to be unsafe as they experience marginalisation, violence, and conflict of different types (Ogunnusi, 2006). In such context, peace education is key to equipping youth with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and competences to lead peaceful lives and contribute to building and sustaining peaceful communities. In Scotland, where the voting age is 16, children’s rights, youth engagement, and political literacy are essential responsibilities of the education system. And yet, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, a single curriculum for students ages three to eighteen, has been found to be lacking dialogue on positive peace and tools for nonviolent conflict transformation (Standish & Joyce, 2016). This paper is part of a larger project that seeks to holistically incorporate peace education and peacebuilding citizenship into all aspects of formal education in Scotland and across the UK: the written, taught, learned, and evaluated curricula, teacher education and teacher professional development, as well as teacher practices. Our work is guided by Critical Peace Education (CPE). First, drawing on Bajaj and Hantzopoulos’s (2016) conceptualisation of CPE, we paid close attention to local realities and local conceptions of peace by focussing on local youth voices and perspectives, including youth of disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds. Second, in line with CPE, we sought to “empower learners as transformative change agents” (Bajaj & Brantmeier, 2011, p. 221) who critically analyse social inequalities and injustices and engage in practices that increase societal equity and justice to build lasting peace (Zembylas, 2018). In particular, we did it by creating space and giving young people tools to reflect on and determine how just and peaceful their communities are and how they can contribute positively to their communities and the world by “transforming conflicts and altering structures to affirm justice” (Bickmore et al., 2017, p. 283). We relied on three activities to achieve our objective. Our participants were secondary school age young people ages 12-18. The activities took place in two areas of Glasgow to engage, separately, young people from a wealthy area and a disadvantaged and marginalised area of the city. First, before the participants joined a group activity, they had a data walk about peace and justice. As they walked towards the room, they viewed posters depicting global, regional, national, and then local issues related to peace and justice, and were asked to complete a short reflection afterwards. This activity prepared them for a subsequent arts-based workshop. We conducted six interactive, two-hour, arts-based workshops to give voice to a local youth perspective. The workshops were facilitated using drawing and storytelling techniques to develop an understanding of perspectives from the community/local area about peace and justice. The final activity was a reflection wall to explore what it means for local young people to be a peacemaker. The reflection wall included papers with prompts such as “Peace is…”, “I take a stand for…”, “I imagine the world…”, and others. Each participant was asked to complete at least one of these prompts with their views, opinions, and commitments. The data were analysed using six phases of rigorous thematic analysis (Nowell et al., 2017): familiarisation with data, generation of initial codes, searching for themes, reviewing themes, defining, and naming themes, and producing a report. In our paper, we will present what peace and justice mean for youth in Glasgow and how they envision their role in building and sustaining peace and justice in their local communities and beyond. We will discuss the differences and similarities in conceptualisations and actions between young people of different socio-economic and geographic backgrounds. We will also reflect on the opportunities, challenges, and limitations that this type of engagement offers in order to “enhance transformative agency and participatory citizenship” of young people (Bajaj & Brantmeier, 2011, p. 222).

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Peace education, positive peace, youth voice.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Anderson, Dr Sarah and Nesterova, Dr Yulia
Authors: Anderson, S., and Nesterova, Y.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Professional Learning and Leadership
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the author

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