The Refugee Crisis: Teaching Peace

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The Refugee Crisis Image_10 14 15.jpgPeace is perhaps the best solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, if also the one that sometimes feels most unattainable.  All the more reason, I think, for us to find ways to teach peace in our classrooms. At my institution, we have a major Peace, Justice, and Human Rights initiative, supported by our school’s most recent strategic plan, spearheaded by our college, and connected to our local communities and donors (see a snapshot on the right). Emerging offers some options for you to initiate conversations about peace:


  • Madeleine Albright, “Faith and Diplomacy” Albright’s essay examines the role that faith plays in diplomacy and thus offers students a useful grounding for thinking about a complicated global situation like Syria.  While we in the United States stringently separate church and state, Albright argues, the same is not true elsewhere in the world.  Thus, in pursuing diplomacy we must attend to the role that faith and religion plays in political situations.
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Making Conversation” and “The Primacy of Practice” Appiah’s essay is a perennial favorite because it so elegantly discusses the complex issues framing so many situations in the world today.  Appiah’s discussion of the difference between values and practices is also useful because it offers a macro model of social change that doesn’t depend on changing what people believe but on changing what they do.
  • Malcolm Gladwell, “Small Change” Gladwell’s goal is to interrogate the idea that “the revolution will be tweeted.”  In doing so, he explores the ways in which the Civil Rights movement used the ties between people to produce lasting social change.

Thomas Friedman’s essay, “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention,” is also a logical choice for this sequence. Friedman’s suggestion that global economic systems promote piece, and his observation that terrorist networks use the same strategies to sow chaos, both reiterates the challenge of peace and offers some possible (if limited, given their economic nature) avenues towards peace.

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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.