teaching non-violence

A FEW BUSY WEEKS IN ALL THINGS PEACE-BUILDING

My team of visiting professors from Shihezi University, P.R.China - ‘thinkers’ at Monash University

My team of visiting professors from Shihezi University, P.R.China - ‘thinkers’ at Monash University

The last few weeks have been an extremely busy, yet productive and rewarding time for me.

I have:

  • Headed up an education program running out of Melbourne University for 16 Chinese professors from Shihezi University;

  • MCd the Afghan Komak Awards and danced my way into the night, Afghan style;

The Team organising the KOMAK Awards, celebrating achievements in our Afghan Community.

The Team organising the KOMAK Awards, celebrating achievements in our Afghan Community.

  • Facilitated workshops on Global Citizenship and Leadership Within at the Wyndham Community and Education Centre's inspiring multi-faith camp;

“I really enjoyed the part where we got to learn about conflict resolution, which helped me a lot.”

“I really enjoyed the part where we got to learn about conflict resolution, which helped me a lot.”

  • Run a Positive Thinking workshop for African women through African Family Services.

And in between all this, I have met other pretty extraordinary people.

Phew! 


So I needed time to stop and smell the roses! I was lucky enough to do so at my friends' house up in the Melbourne hills, at Sassafrass.

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Stop and smell the roses

This one smells like peachy heaven!

My own learning has been deep.

"For me, the special moment came, when in our final workshop, 'Almost Impossible Thoughts', each Shihezi University professor, all from science backgrounds, stood up to share what they would be taking home. They spoke of how they had come to a sense of a shared global humanity, giving very specific examples of how they would develop their own research projects to help shape a more positive future for all." 

#ArmMeWith HOW DO WE MAKE THE VOICE OF PEACE EDUCATION LOUDER THAN THE VOICE THAT RAISES GUNS?

Global Citizenship - it starts with us! teacher training workshop, Mumbai.

Global Citizenship - it starts with us! teacher training workshop, Mumbai.

Opinion piece.

See all these teachers? Amazing people. Every one of them committed to values education. Every one of them seeking to implement more peace and values education, embedding it into the academic curriculum.

 

And yes, that’s me in the centre – having just run a livley teacher-training workshop, Global Citizenship – it starts with us! for Principals and teachers in Mumbai.

 

Yet, now I sit with my head in my hands. Deflated. A physical and emotional response to the suggestion that teachers in America be armed with guns.

 

Thankfully, as I scan social media, I discover two American teachers, Brittany Wheaton and Olivia Bertels,  - and I take time to observe these are American teachers -  have created the #ArmMeWith movement. Essentially, they are saying, Arm Me With the equipment, resources and stability to teach, NOT GUNS! And teachers all across America are joining in.

 

Here is what I have read thus far:

Arm me with smaller classes

Arm me with books, not guns

Arm me with mental health resources

Arm me with anti-bullying programs

Arm me with suicide awareness

Arm me with libraries with books (What? They don’t have a library in their school?)

This one speaks volumes: I don’t need a gun; I need a raise.

Arm me with school supplies. I should not be single-handedly keeping Target in business

And Arm me with politicians who value my students over guns

 

It is difficult to point the finger overseas and let it rest there. Only two weeks ago, I visited a vital organisation here in Melbourne which works with youth at risk. I listened as their CEO spoke of how they are struggling to continue their programs with funding cuts. I returned home to turn on the news. The headline - 'Australia unveils plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters' - also left me with my head in my hands. I will not have guns used in unearthly conflict with ‘Made in Australia’ stamped upon the barrel and by extrapolation, upon my own sweating brow.

 

If you think we are already ‘doing enough of this stuff’ in schools – you know, the ‘peacey stuff’, then ask yourself why a man who thinks it is ok for teachers to carry concealed weapons got into power. Stop. Think. He didn’t vote himself in.

 

In fact, we need more of the ‘peacey-stuff.’ The stuff that helps kids unravel hate and discrimination. In particular, an education that unravels fear.

 

Recently, I was chatting with a primary school student. It was just a light-hearted, friendly chat. Out of nowhere came this question from the child, ‘Did you know you can only go to America for one day.’ I smiled inwardly at the child’s cute lack of knowledge about global travel. I asked casually, yet curiously, ‘Oh, why is that?’ ‘Well,’ replied the 9 year old, ‘It isn’t safe to go there.’

The time to do more is well overdue.

For me, my Arm Me With wish?

#ArmMeWith the funds to continue teaching non-violence, in all its forms. To allow peace and values education to gain wider reach and depth. For the work to flourish, just as our kids should be flourishing.

Look back to the photo above. Trust in the solidarity of educators who are change-makers and peace-builders.

Speaker / Author / Educator Margaret Hepworth is an expert in teenage motivations & behaviours; a thought leader in peace education; the founder of The Gandhi Experiment;  an English and Humanities teacher of 30 years; author of The Gandhi Experiment – teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens; recipient of the 2016 Sir John Monash Award for Inspirational Women's Leadership; creator of Collaborative Debating ©. www.thegandhiexperiment.com

Margaret@margarethepworth.com  

'The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens' Purchase here

Please note: The views expressed are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily of anyone pictured or mentioned. 

Arm me with politicians who value my students over guns
— Teacher from the #ArmMeWith movement

WILL YOU WHISPER PEACE WITH ME?

Part One:

Are Gandhi's teachings still relevant in today's world?

William Ricketts Sanctuary Vic - Photo taken by Margaret Hepworth

William Ricketts Sanctuary Vic - Photo taken by Margaret Hepworth

‘Too many people are experimenting with war and violence. We need more people experimenting with peace and non-violence.’ This clear thought came to me when visiting Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram (memorial) a few years ago. Gandhi had a workable methodology for countering violence with non-violence. Today, we need to teach solution focused activities for positive change. So now I experiment with lessons in peace-building – through The Gandhi Experiment.

In my student workshop, Global Citizenship – it starts with us! I ask my teenage participants, ‘What are our current big global issues?’ It doesn’t matter which country I am in, Australia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia – or wherever these participants are from – Kashmir, Timor Leste, Vietnam, Malaysia, Afghanistan -  they name the same things: war and conflict; poverty; domestic violence; asylum seekers and displaced peoples; global warming; greed; over-competitiveness; terrorism; inequality; corruption; discrimination – religious, gender-based, Islamophobia. On occasion they even name a world leader as a global issue!

Every item in their list is a form of violence – violence to others and violence to our planet. And then comes the realization – at a deep and intrinsic level, these all pertain to violence to ourselves.

At The Gandhi Experiment, we don’t study Gandhi, the man himself, per se. What we do examine is the essence of his messages. To keep it simple, easily learnt and applied, I teach our teenagers what I call the ‘three plus one model’. Essentially, Gandhi stood on three platforms:

1.   In conflict situations, always choose non-violence as a conscious choice.

2.     ‘Satyagraha’, Gandhi’s word for your 'truth-force' or 'soul-force.' Yet when ‘my truth’ does not match ‘your truth’, we always revert to the first platform, to choose a non-violent method to sort out our differences.

3.     The third one is oh-so-relevant to us all today. Gandhi would sit and pray each morning and night. Thoughts would come in; insights and wisdoms that paved the way forward. Then, Gandhi would get off his backside and take action. There it is, the third platform - action. How often do we sit around the dinner table, whinging and whining, blaming the rest of the word for all its problems? Yet we fail to take the actions required to meet real change head on.

And the ‘Plus one’? The over-arching theme that encompasses all three of the ‘platforms’ is to profoundly understand that ‘Change begins with me.’

Gandhi is often quoted as having said the famous line, ‘Be the change you want to see in this world.’ Now a little digging research will tell you, he didn’t say exactly that. To paraphrase, what he did say was, ‘If you can change yourself, the world around you will change.’

Sit for a moment and breath that thought in to your being. If, in mid-screaming match with your teenager or in a heated dispute with a co-worker - what is the change that you can make to effect the change you want to see in this world? If you can change your own behavior, then the world around you will change as well.

What is the change that you can make to effect the change you want to see in this world?
 

It doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up. But it does mean giving – respect, understanding and listening – even at your most troublesome times. And sometimes it means giving all of these things to yourself – respect, understanding and deep listening.

I apply the learning through Gandhian philosophy, making it relevant to today’s context. Here are just a few examples:

1.     ‘Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong’ underpins The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever.

2.     ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed’ underpins the Dinner Party to Save the World.

3.     Respect at all times – even for your enemy. ‘It’s always been a mystery to me how people can respect themselves when they humiliate other humans’ underpins Collaborative Debating. I once had a young man, 15 years old, who said to me, ‘We should ask your enemy, what is your truth?’ A young Gandhi in the making.

4.     ‘The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear,’ underpins a break-out workshop I run with adults: ‘Why should you never use fear to control a classroom? Why should you never use fear to control your home? Why should you never use fear to control a country?’

And so, so much more.

I often ask myself, why is it that our kids seem to know more about Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein than they do about Mohandas Gandhi? Why aren’t we taking the lessons of Gandhi, Mandela and King and using them more effectively in our classrooms? Let’s don’t study them as people of history; let’s study them as lessons for the present. It’s time for us to put these lessons into action.

Peace building is an attribute of the strong.

Will you whisper peace with me?

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www.thegandhiexperiment.com     margaret@margarethepworth.com