Teaching Peace, Understanding War
While it is necessary to teach children to celebrate diversity and learn tolerance, it is not enough. Even though they are very young, children in preschool-primary classrooms must begin the work of learning how to build a culture of peace. This work, like all their learning, begins with themselves and their here-and-now experiences.
In the typical preschool-primary classroom, opportunities to teach peace abound because fighting and conflict are a way of life for young children. Some researchers estimate that young children, with their egocentric thought, engage in a fight every few minutes (Levin, 2003).
Young children are highly affected by violence and wars. Many children have been personally involved in wars because a parent, a relative, or a neighbor is serving or has served in the military or because a relative or a family friend is experiencing war. Even for children who are not personally involved in war, far too often it is a very real part of their lives. Reserchers suggest that children experience a variety of adverse effects in reaction to wars. Both boys and girls appear to exhibit more behavioral problems and higher levels of anxiety when a war is taking place, with girls in particular exhibiting higher levels of anxiety and more behavior problems (Ronen, Rahay, & Rosenbaum, 2003)
It is well known that children are exposed to violence daily through the media. Even parents who monitor their children’s television viewing find they cannot shield their young children from viewing violence in commercials for movies, upcoming TV shows, Saturday morning cartoons, computer games, or news coverage. Many researchers believe that the violence and fighting children witness through the media are observed and modeled (Teaching Tolerance Project, 2003). Violence marketed to children through the dolls and other toys that replicate the superheros children view on TV or in movies further channels children into imitating violence they have seen on the screen (Carlsson-Paige & Levin, 1998).
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