Kent State Research on Full Display at Peace Conference in Rwanda
A host of Kent State University faculty and students took center stage at a global peace conference on July 12 in Kigali, Rwanda, sharing their knowledge and research with delegates from more than a dozen countries as well as the U.S.
The conference, Peace Education in an Era of Crisis, taking place from July 11-13 in Kigali, is sponsored by Kent State University’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies, the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education within Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, the University of Rwanda and its Centre for Conflict Management, and the non-profit Aegis Trust, which works to end genocide.
Rwanda was selected as the location for the conference because of the way the country has managed to recover from its 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, in which more than 1 million members of the Tutsi tribe were murdered at the hands of their Hutu tribe friends and neighbors, over a 100-day span.
All conference topics focused on ways education can be used to teach peace and peace-making skills.
Molly Merryman, Ph.D., associate professor of peace and conflict studies, presented a panel discussion on exploring marginalized identities through peace education, along with Caraline Feairheller, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and a doctoral candidate in political science with a concentration in conflict analysis/management at Kent State, and Isobel Day, of Grove City, Pennsylvania, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Merryman stressed that equal rights for all are required for there to be any real peace. She said one way to effectively engage students is to use oral histories as a way to help students to understand the past.
She noted a class project in which she asked her students to interview Black Americans and capture their oral histories about living through segregation, yet many of the white students didn’t even know Black people to interview. They had to rely on the minority of Black students in the class to help them identify and get to know Black people to ask. In such a case, the majority had to rely on the minority to accomplish the project and gave students an understanding of what it was like to be in the other’s shoes.
“This positioned our African American students as experts and shifted the balance of power in our classroom,” Merryman said. “This is a really good tool for K-12, to use oral histories in the classroom,” she said.
Making students active partners in the process is essential to peace education, she said.
Feairheller’s presentation focused on how teachers need to be aware of the many ongoing legislative efforts to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community.
“There is a lot of legislation targeting schools,” she said, noting that laws banning books, or focused on bathroom codes, athletics eligibility, and medical care for youth all are part of an effort to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community at the school level.
Day’s presentation focused on her research into the staff uniforms at several peace museums, an area of little existing research. She suggested that “queering uniforms” or allowing for more freedom of expression in clothing could improve the work experience for employees.
Also presenting on Tuesday was Professor Joanne Caniglia, Ph.D., who helps to train future math teachers in Kent State’s School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies, along with Jean Francois Manuraho, a professor from the University of Rwanda, who also prepares math educators.
Their presentation, “Teaching Future Mathematics Teachers: What Does Peace Have to Do with It?” reviewed a wide variety of ways in which peace education can be woven into math education.
For primary students, Manuraho said lessons in peace can be as simple as learning to share classroom materials without arguments or sharing them equally and peacefully. Another activity he uses with young children is showing them finger puppets or images and asking them to count the number with unhappy expressions, then talking about why that person might be unhappy and how they can help.
For older students, Caniglia said a variety of topics can serve as both a peace lesson and a math lesson. The Global Peace Index, for example, teaches students the math concept of exponential growth but also offers a lesson in what countries are the most peaceful, and which are not. The high cost of war is another topic that can be used to teach ratios and proportions, which can be difficult concepts for students, Caniglia said.
“The higher the cost, the lower the peace, which is a great example of inverse proportionality,” she said.
Also presenting on Wednesday was Elaine (Lan Yin) Hsiao, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, who shared her research that addresses conflicts in conservation – both human-protected area conflicts and human-wildlife conflicts – conservation in places of conflict, and conflict resolution through conservation, also known as environmental peace-building.
The conference concludes on Thursday, July 13.
Top image: Molly Merryman, shown here, presented a panel discussion on exploring marginalized identities through peace education, with two Kent State students.