Paxeducare’s Blog

What Are Safe Communities? And How Do We Build Them? -Radio Panel With Youth Forum Representatives
August 20, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Public radio and especially public affairs shows play a vital role in continuing engaged citizenship. I was honored to have been invited last Thursday to the show “Where We Live” with host  John Dankosky, to engage with a panel and an in studio audience of high schoolers who are part of the Connecticut Youth Forum, a program of the CT Forum 

There were call ins as well and for an hour we had a lively discussion of these important issues. Below is a link to the program.


Workshops on Visioning a Future Free of Fossil Fuels- a posting on Earth and Peace Education Website
July 29, 2013, 4:52 pm
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Some readers may be aware of the recent workshops I have been developing on Futures Imaging, adapting the work of Elise Boulding on Imaging a World Without Weapons, which she developed in the 1980s,  to the new challenges we face with climate change, deep economic dysfunction and environmental devastation. Supporting the idea that in order to move into a more hopeful and less energy dependent future, we must be able to imagine and invent a different future and take action steps to move into this future.

I am fortunate to have had a recent essay posted on the website of Earth and Peace Education International, which describes the process of these workshops. It can be found on the right hand side of the Home Page. Also to call your attention to the fine work of Earth and Peace Education International, whose web site describes the mission:

a meeting place in cyberspace organized by Earth and Peace Education International (EPE).  Founded in 1992, EPE’s educational activities aim to promote our global community’s transition towards a culture whose institutions and norms are based on ecological sustainability, nonviolence, social justice, intergenerational equity and participatory decision-making. You are invited to join the global network of  educators and citizen-learners who seek to achieve these goals. We hope the  resources provided on this website will contribute to your efforts.

Mary Lee Morrison

Peaceful Protest-the Culture of Peace Infuses a Climate Change Action
July 29, 2013, 4:39 pm
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Yesterday my husband, Bill Upholt, and I participated in a climate change march and rally in Somerset, MA, near Providence, home site of the Brayton Point power plant, the largest coal fired plant in New England. The event was organized by, MA Brayton Point has the dubious distinction of being the largest single source of carbon pollution in the region,  consisting of 3 coal fired units. The plant also uses natural gas and oil to fuel the energy needs of over one million customers. Nearly 200 are employed there. Recent attempts at climate mitigation by the plant include installing 2 large water cooling units to reduce egregious pollution to the surrounding area.

Though the plant is a source of jobs for locals, health issues have plagued the community for the last 50 years, while hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 have been emitted in the lifetime of the plant, contributing greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of the event was to make demands of Governor Duval Patrick, under his authority with Massachusett’s Global Warming Solutions Act, to shut down the plant and move toward a rapid transition to green jobs and renewable sources of energy. Some locals have supported the action. Others not.

One of the speakers was Peter Knowlton, President of the regional United Electrical Workers Union. We were reminded that there are possibilities for transition to just and equitable, fairly paid jobs, transitioning from  reliance on fossil fuels to greener and renewable sources of energy. We also heard movingly from two speakers from West Virginia, site of horrific mountaintop removal for coal, which coal extracted finds its way into New England power plants. Both speakers had been steeped in the tradition of coal mining, speaking proudly of their tradition and poignantly of what they have lost and are losing, not only physically (literally the mountains but the beauty associated with the the ecology there) but also of the many illnesses plaguing current and former miners.

What most impressed me, as a veteran of many years of protests, rallies and, of late, more strident action on my part around climate change, was the ethos of positivism that surrounded this action. None of the invectives that have so often infused protests….name calling, inflammatory language and put downs. Careful and respectful dialoguing with the police had occurred. All who were arrested attended mandatory nonviolence training the day before. This was a call to action, done in the spirit of nonviolence, out of the love and concern we all have for our Earth. There were no human “enemies” here, only a spiritual call to transformation, to humility,  knowing that each of us, in our own way, is a contributor to this challenge as we are steeped in the human addition to fossil fuels.
44 people were arrested.  Bill and I chose not to be among them but the crowd estimated at 350-400 warmly applauded those as they crossed the “yellow line” marking the entrance to “no man’s land” on the plant property. Prior to the arrests, several of the “red shirts”, as those choosing arrest were called, had erected several small symbolic windmills along our route of the march, a vivid reminder that alternative technologies are out there…we need the will to develop and use them much more prevalently.

More on the event can be found at the following news sources.–Power-Plant-Protest/

Mary Lee Morrison


What We Learned: lessons from a high school’s first peace course by Dr. Phil Harak
July 18, 2013, 2:28 pm
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Dear Readers: I invited Dr. Phil Harak, a teacher at South Windsor High School in Connecticut, to submit his article, first published in “The Peace Chronicle”, the newsletter of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, Spring-Summer 2013. MLM

I recently finished teaching our high school’s first peace course, titled, “Conflict Resolution in the Twenty-First Century.”  I am an English teacher in a public high school near Hartford, CT, where I have worked since 1989. I have always wanted to write and teach such a course, but it was not until recently that I was successful in getting it approved, because of substantial student interest in a “peace studies” course, my emphasis on practical skills building such as peer mediation and anti-bullying methods, and because I could demonstrate that students would be taught a large number of the federal and state mandated Language Arts skills. After reviewing a number of existing curricula and reading several books, and consulting with numerous experts in the field, such as my own brother, Fr. Simon Harak, S.J., Colman McCarthy, Fr. Charles McCarthy, and former MA Pax Christi Board member and Peace Educator, Michael True, I had some good ideas from which to base my course. I then “tested” my ideas with my wife, Margaret, who is also an excellent educator. She encouraged me to continually focus on engaging activities that would be both fun and educational.  I never looked forward more to teaching a course, and I would like to share the essence of what I had hoped to accomplish, and some of what my students and I learned after that inaugural year.

I know from my own work as a peace builder and social justice educator that it is critically important that all voices have equal opportunity to be heard. When addressing a conflict, discussion needs to focus on the problem and solution from all sides, not in attacking the people involved. Good educators seek to know their students, and to learn their students’ culture. As I was learning about my students, I reviewed what I knew of their—of our—culture. Clearly, both popular culture and our unilateral, bellicose international policy imposes the same approach to opposing, or alternate voices: there is no need to negotiate; we shout down, ignore, or eliminate those in opposition with our way, which is the only way. But here is the insidious “trickle down” effect of that approach in traditional educational practices: When those in absolute institutional power—educators and administrators—who “know what’s best,” interact with the powerless students, the manifesting dynamic consists of the teacher filling up the student with what the teacher determines is the important knowledge. Social inequities of power get reproduced in the classroom, and students learn their subordinate place. But that dynamic presents a conflict for me. I believe that violence begins when we begin to treat others as “things,” even if it is for what the powerful determine to be “for their own good.”  I knew I could not conduct a conflict resolution course in that way, since the pedagogical means would be in opposition with the ends, which I envisioned would be one of liberation through critical examinatin. More on my teaching and learning process a little later. For this course, I decided to include the students and all of their viewpoints from the start.

So on the first class day, I asked students what they wanted to explore: what were questions and topics about conflicts, peace, and violence that they thought were important. I communicated to them that we all needed to be “curriculum” for each other, learning from and teaching each other. I invited them to always explore new ideas, and taught them how to recognize resistance to new ideas. Here are a few of their questions from the first day in class, in their own words:  What is peace? How do you achieve peace? Is peace the opposite of conflict? Why are people not peaceful? Is peace more than just tolerance? Is peace different for every person? Where does peace start? How do you bring peace to your surroundings/community? The first thing I learned, on Day 1, was that these 11th and 12th grade young people and I shared many of the same questions.

I continued asking them what they wanted to study and to do throughout the course, and included that in each unit, and to account for what they had learned and how the learning could be applied to real life situations. I would coach them by providing resources, and let them explore options that they probably did not know existed (end of the course evaluations confirmed my suspicion here; most students told me they “had no idea” there were effective alternatives to the power of violence).  I then adapted my flexible course outline of four units to include most of their questions, allowing space to explore new ones as they arose. Briefly, the course began with a self-examination of values and beliefs about violence and nonviolence, and then gradually progressed to include skillful ways of listening; understanding, addressing, and managing conflicts in our own circle; and finally, a study of effective practitioners of nonviolent action in American society. We read and viewed a wide variety of texts, and we all kept a journal, in which we logged our thoughts, feelings, reflections, and actions.

After much research of both Christian and non-Christian sources, I designed the course in ways that mirrored those of the successful nonviolent thinkers and activists. That meant that the focus always had to be on one’s self throughout. Not in a narcissistic, unhealthy way, but as the person for whom we are ultimately responsible in all interactions. I have learned that successful peacemakers balance a strong prayer/spiritual life with a critical but supportive community. So, with specific student input for the kind of classroom they needed to best learn, we sought to create a safe learning community in the classroom.

And that leads to this next important reflection. I knew that of equal importance with the content students would learn would be the process by which they would learn it. I will next share that process, and what we all learned from that approach.

I wanted to provide an educational opportunity that encouraged students to explore alternatives to the culturally reinforced “status quo” of violence, vengeance, and dehumanization. But I did not want them to merely parrot back my values. Traditional approaches would dictate a teacher-centered course, with lectures now updated with glitzy Powerpoint presentations.  But I believe that if I preached my values to this captive audience, I would be inhibiting their own discovery and their own liberation. I would also be violating an important tenet in my educational philosophy (even if I was sure it was for their own, and for society’s good!) Moreover, if I only lectured them, and even if I sold them on the benefits of nonviolent conflict resolution, those teacher-centered means would be the same ones that have been already used to indoctrinate them. That type of noncritical ingestion and enculturation is what perpetuates our current condition of perpetual warfare. Rather, I wanted them to examine themselves throughout the course, looking for their agreement, disagreement, emotional and learning edges. Through their frequent activities and projects, I wanted them to learn by doing—and even through their failures to do what they had hoped to accomplish. Only then would they be able to freely choose nonviolence. Wise teachers and parents understand that true choice fosters ownership and promotes authenticity.

But what of my own deeply-held values? How do I avoid “selling” to this captive audience of public high school students my own strong commitment to Christ’s clear teaching of nonviolent love of all, of endless forgiveness and mercy? First, by not preaching it, but by living it in each interaction.  Also, in the interest of providing the widest examination from which students could then personally choose their own path, I would use reason and emotion to argue the pro-violence viewpoints in discussion, encouraging critical examination by all students. Underneath this approach is my complete faith in the efficacy of Jesus’ teachings. Let the power of that Truth ultimately convert; do not force it. While students have learned about the power of violence in and out of schools, they now began to learn about other powers, as well, such as the power of empathetic listening (a skill we learned), the power of curiosity to prompt independent research (students conceived of and conducted some great projects), and the proven power of nonviolent actions in U.S. history. Kevin told me that learning about the Nashville sit-ins by Fisk University students and supporters in 1960 “changed my life. Such courage. I never knew something like that could really work.” Students told me that they learned that nonviolence took courage, and that it was not passiveness, as several had once thought. Some began to wonder if this kind of nonviolent power could truly be transformative. I like to think that these students were being exposed to the truth behind King’s statement, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” Transforming social structures was something this next educator, philosopher, and activist wrote much about.

My teaching and learning process were also informed by the writings of Paulo Freire, the progressive (and exiled) Brazilian educator. He believed that each person’s life task was to become fully humanized. This rang true to my desire to have students deeply consider the counter-cultural premise that all people, even those demonized and called “enemy” by us, our friends, or the State, are in fact humans first. He advocated for the use of education’s potential for extraordinary transformative powers by suggesting a new kind of literacy. The learning process to achieve it involved ongoing personal awareness with critical thought, and finally with reflective action (a close parallel to our Pax Christi’s prescribed course of research, prayer and action). The best sequence to achieve this transformative literacy is for students first to be taught to “read the word,” which is acquiring actual text literacy. Then, students need to learn to “read the world,” which is to develop a sociopolitical historical understanding of one’s own life conditions and broader society. After that, students could then choose to “write the world”; that is, change the world in ways that promote each person’s full humanization.

In closing, I will share some of what students—including this facilitator/student–produced and shared with each other.

Remembering Margaret’s encouragement, and understanding the power of learning by doing, I required my students to attempt some kind of action in any of the studied unit areas, and to report on what they learned from that project. They worked in groups around similar interests, and presented their findings to the class. I learned so much from my students last year. Peter, an extraordinarily gifted artist, wrote and illustrated a graphic novel about bullying and how to stop it. Mike, a tech whiz, wrote, directed, and starred in a short film about how others can readily join to help counteract the isolation bullied students feel. With a growing sense of empowerment and understanding about the value of truly listening to others, and more fully understanding a problem from others’ perspectives (rather than imposing an “expert’s” unilateral solution to a problem), senior students Rebecca, Kevin, and Nick decided to interview my sophomore class to ask them what they thought were the biggest obstacles to living a peaceful life in the school. I coached those young researchers about the basics of focus groups, and they reported back to our class a number of insights that probably would have been forgotten if merely read in a book. Later, Kevin wrote that as a result of listening to those sophomores, he changed the way he thought and later acted towards a younger student on his athletic team, having been sensitized to the thoughts and feelings of the “Other” who was unlike himself. “Before that experience,” he wrote, “I actually did make fun of that kid, I am ashamed to admit. But I stopped it.” John wrote a proposal to the Board of Education via the principal, recommending that each high school student be taught peer mediation and collaborative problem solving—practical techniques I taught this class. John wrote that in addition to helping resolve school conflicts, the “mediation skills … are invaluable and will be of use in many other areas of conflict, such as family conflicts…”

I was strongly reminded of this observation: that students who are encouraged to look at new ways of thinking and acting will activate their curiosity and passion to produce imaginative applications in their own lives. When high school students are empowered, they challenge the status quo in ways that question and countermand the myth that “violence (and by extension, war) is part of our nature, and therefore inevitable.”

Part of my final exam involved students going back to their questions on the first day. Someone asked then, Where does peace start? I took the final exam as well. I wrote in my journal that although culture and maybe human tendency encourages me to blame the Other for my internal state, my task is to keep the focus on myself—what I can control—and to honestly determine my part in contributing to a conflict, and then to do all I reasonably can to transform the conflict into compassionate and merciful ways of acting with myself and with those with whom I am in conflict. Jesus reminded us to be vigilant about ourselves, especially when condemning others, when He told us to “take the plank out of our own eye” before removing the saw dust from others’ (MT: 7:5). Broadly, I believe this admonition advises us to avoid hypocrisy by humbly and honestly doing our own inventory, most especially when in perceived conflict. The Dalai Lama once wrote that “Although attempting to bring world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.” That belief was echoed by my student Nick, who shared with us that “peace comes from within, not without.”

I close with this reflection. Freire encouraged each of us to develop our own “praxis,” which requires us to choose to subscribe to a theory, to which we should fuse “action, reflection, the word, and the work.” Because students continually reflected on their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and actions in this course, they were better equipped to act in praxis. And I must admit, it is my fervent hope that today’s students will write the world in ways that embrace the tenets of nonviolent peace and social justice for all.





What the Future Holds: Trends in Peace Education
January 17, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Submitted January 17, 2013 as an essay for the Global Campaign for Peace Education newsletter

What the Future Holds: Trends in Peace Education

Mary Lee Morrison


                Delving into research through reading, deep listening and conversing over the past few years in  preparation for the publication this year of a book[i] , I have found cause for hope for the learning and teaching of peace. However as educators we will also be faced with significant challenges in the decades to come. I see the following themes emerging for our work:  1) we are going to have to learn to live he idea of uncertainty; 2) we will be required to teach toward building resilience; 3) the concepts of community and social capital will increasingly be important and 4) we and our students must develop the skills of visioning and action toward a hopeful future.  These themes are set against a backdrop of a significant  in increase the development of the field, yielding an exponential rise in interest in and in the number of programs in peace education and peace studies.

In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr., in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, quoting the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, said “we live in a day when civilization is shifting its basic outlook, a turning point in which the presuppositions in which society is structured are being profoundly changed”[ii]. King noted that we must remain awake through profound periods of change. A prophetic statement indeed. We are, in 2013, in such a period, the outcomes of which are indeterminate. Yet non action is not an alternative. The effects of global climate change are now becoming all too real. It is unclear whether greenhouse gas emissions will produce a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century, even with mitigation and adaptation, or whether this will be more like 6 degrees. A leading U.S. accounting conglomerate is banking on the latter, which we know could be catastrophic for certain segments of the global population, particularly the poor and vulnerable. This scenario will include a several feet rise in sea level, increasingly acidic oceans,  increased drought world-wide and rising food prices. We can anticipate increased violence as conflicts over limited resources among the expected 9 billion people may erupt in the decades to come.

Philosopher Charles Eisenstein, in a recent blog essay [iii], notes that we, at least in  the U.S. and Western culture, seem to find ourselves in the “space between stories”. Old ways of being, doing, being and interacting are no longer working. More and more people believe that civilization is not on the right track. We do not have faith in nor believe those institutions who used to hold up standards for us: scientists, politicians, our educational institutions. We once thought technology could solve everything. This “story” is going through death throes now. The extremes cry out to us, even as we, as a species, as far as “negative peace”[iv] is concerned, are more peaceful.[v] Human separation-the idea of the individual as supreme,  our culture of patriarchy and dominance-the utter senselessness of events such as the Sandy Hook massacre (which happened very close to my home in Hartford, CT) show us the extremes of human behavior, at times the negation  of our humanity. At the same time such tragedies often bring us together after these events in ways that in our day to day lives we do not experience. Witness the outpouring of support and love following the killing of 26 on that recent day in  Connecticut. We try and find a narrative, reasons for such disasters, be it the need for more gun control, mental health services, looking for some illusion of control in this period of ideological breakdown. Yet there is no adequate, complete story for what is going on. We are, as Eisenstein notes, left “naked”. The stories have yet to unfold. And in this I believe there lies hope. As Vandana Shiva, the Indian ecologist, reminds us “the uncertainty of our time is no reason to be certain about hopelessness.”[vi] We are the creators of our own stories of the future.

The Transition movement[vii] is articulating well the increasing need to teach toward resilience in the face of climate change, environmental degradation and world economic dysfunction. Adaptability is key here, as pure mitigation of the effects of carbon emissions will not be enough. A new form of creating wealth is being established, one not based on financial wealth, but on human well being based on relationships, care and in the spirit of community. Less overall full time employment, learning to live with less, can mean increased time with family, with engagement with neighbors and communities. The sharing of basic skills with one another is going to be important including those skills our grandparents knew and are still being used around the world in the less “developed” world-gardening, cooking, carpentry, sewing, all leading toward the building of the foundations of community.

The roots of the word community go back centuries to an Indo-European base mei, meaning “change” or “exchange”. Apparently this joined with another root word kom to produce an Indo-European word kommein or “exchange with”. So community means sharing, exchanging, so that change can happen. And there can be no sharing or exchanging without humans being in relationship with one another. Therefore we as peace educators must continue to teach the skills of dialogue, conversation and conflict resolution. Our survival as a species will depend on this. We must care for one another, requiring both short and long term commitments. Caring for one another also means caring for the earth and creating conditions so that present needs can be met without compromising those of future generations. As blogger Lynn McTaggart tells us, our biggest delusion may be that we have a collective assumption that individual aspirations and achievements can serve the common good. [viii] In reality, we will be nowhere without community.

Scientists are now recognizing that social capital is going to be as important as  technological mitigation to build resilience for our future. A recent New Yorker article compared two inner city Chicago, Illinois neighborhoods following a 1995 intensive heat wave in the city. The two communities are geographically situated side by side and demographically very similar. The community in which many fewer residents died, even fewer than in more affluent Chicago neighborhoods, turned out to contain “sidewalks, stores, restaurants and organizations bringing people into contact with friends and neighbors”. [ix] The other neighborhood had been basically abandoned. President Obama three years ago appointed an officer for preparedness and response in the White House. A former professor of health policy, Assistant Secretary Nichole Lurie is quoted as saying  “promoting community resilience is now front and center in our approach”.[x] Real security rests on human security-knowing our neighbors and looking out for them.

Finally, the creation of our future will require widely shared visions of a world with radically different planetary conditions.  We know that we can no longer mitigate all of the egregious effects of continued carbon emission and the associated changes due to climate chaos, despite our technological know-how.  An earth restored (albeit restored in ways we do not yet know) is far in the future but we must plan for this. This change in perspective to a long-term view, is, as environmental educator David Orr and others note, going to be the greatest challenge we face.[xi] It is one in which education must play an integral and key role. It will inevitably be a matter of change in our hearts and minds. It will not be enough to use hybrid cars, continue to recycle and reduce waste. These are all important. It will also involve action and policy changes. And we must act now.

David Orr reminds us that how we got to where we are now, in our present state of planetary emergency, is not the result of the work of ignorant people, but, for the most part, highly educated MBA’s and PhDs. The designers of the Holocaust were, as an example, the heirs of Kant and Goethe. Education does not serve as a barrier to egregious actions nor guarantee decency. More of the same kind of knowledge cannot get us out of the fix we are in. One aim of education should not be only subject matter knowledge but mastery of one’s own person or, as environmental theologian Frans Verhagen tells us, fostering our own “ecological identity”, finding our unique place in this world of wonder so that we can become truly human.[xii] This is inherently a spiritual process.

The maintenance of hope, as well as crucial knowledge building, visioning and action, will be the task of educators in the next decades. As Orr notes, hope means putting aside resistance to that we don’t wish to face and just getting down to business. And these visioning and imaging skills can be taught. Over the past couple of years I have begun to adapt the work of sociologist Elise Boulding, who pioneered workshops with Warren Zeigler on Imaging a World Without Weapon in the 1980s.[xiii] Boulding rested her philosophy of imaging on the work of the Dutch futurist Fred Polak, whose pioneering work in the 1950s showed that positive visions of the future empower action and that those societies lacking vision experience social decay. [xiv] The current theme of my workshops are “Building Resilience In a Time of Transition: Imaging a Fossil Free Future”. Over a period of hours, a day or two days, participants are led through a series of exercises to create and to structure the future. In an experiential and sharing mode individuals then create action plans to move into this future. Some find this process easier than others. For some, getting beyond the despair and hopelessness is more difficult.

I conclude with a quote from Emily Jean Balch, an excerpt from her 1948 Nobel Peace Prize speech:

We are not asked to subscribe to any utopia or to believe in a perfect world just around the corner. We are asked to be patient with necessarily slow and groping advance on the road forward, and to be ready for each step ahead as it becomes practicable. We are asked to equip ourselves with courage, hope, readiness for hard work and to cherish large and generous ideals.[xv]


[i]Ian  Harris and Mary Lee Morrison,  Peace Education 3rd edition, McFarland and Co., Inc., 2013,  Foreward by Tony Jenkins.

[ii]Retrieved January 16th, 2013

[iii] Retrieved January 16, 2013

[iv] By “negative peace” is meant the stopping of violence, one conceptual way of describing peace. “Positive peace”, on the other hand,  involves following standards of justice, living within a balance of nature, providing meaningful opportunities for civic engagement.

[v] see Steven Pinker. The Better Angels of Our Nature (New York: Viking, 2011).

[vi] Found at the Transition Culture web site. Retrieved January 6, 2013

[vii] Transition Network, retrieved January;  16, 2013; see also the Tellus Institute

[viii] Retrieved January 16th, 2013

[ix] Eric Klineberg, “Department of Urban Planning: Adaptation”, The New Yorker, January 7 (2013), 35.

[x] Ibid., 35.

[xi] David Orr, “What is Education For? Six Myths About the Foundations of Modern Education and Six New Principles to Replace Them, retrieved January 16, 2013


[xii] Frans Verhagen, “Ecological Identity”. Earth and Peace Education Associates Newsletter 5 (2010), retrieved June 12, 2012

[xiii] see Elise Boulding,  Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World (New York: Teachers College, 1988). I have been collaborating in this work with Tony Jenkins, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the National Peace Academy.

[xiv] Fred Polak, The Image of the Future, trans. Elise Boulding, abridged version (San Francisco: Jossey Bass/Elsevier, 1972).

[xv]Retrieved January 16, 2013



Mary Lee Morrison is an educator and author whose current interests include the intersection between peace, ecology, equity and justice, sustainable food systems and our current economic system.  Dr. Morrison founded and is the  President Emeritus of Pax Educare, Inc., the Connecticut Center for Peace Education.  She is a currently an edu-learner faculty member of the National Peace Academy and teaches courses at the Connecticut based Graduate Institute Master’s Program in Conflict Transformation. She has taught courses ranging from  cultural and global perspectives,  educational psychology, history, philosophy and social foundations of education and global sustainability at several universities including the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, Saint Joseph University and Central Connecticut State University.   She has developed and implemented peacelearning curricula for educators and youth in schools, after-school programs and in community settings and frequently guest lectures on peace and sustainability for university classes and the public. She has authored several books including the recent publication of the 3rd edition (with Ian Harris) of Peace Education (McFarland and Co., Inc. 2013), Elise Boulding: A Life in the Cause of Peace (McFarland and Co., Inc. 2005) and numerous book chapters, essays and journal articles. She is an appointed member of the City of Hartford Advisory Commission on Food Policy and is an advocate for bicycling, walking, green city living, new economics and conversations at local farm markets. She lives in Hartford, CT. Her blog can be found at



Announcing the Publication of New Book on Peace Education (Harris and Morrison)
December 10, 2012, 3:53 pm
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Celebrating the publication of the 3rd edition of Peace Education. With my co-author, Ian Harris, we are happy to announce this event, after many months of writing, which for me is always fun. Here is a description of the book with a link to the publisher and ordering information. (McFarland Publishers).

Peace Education, now in its third edition, provides a comprehensive approach to an understanding of the what, why and how of educating toward a peaceful and sustainable future. Education for peace involves students and educators in a commitment to create a more just and peaceful world order. Providing both a theoretical base as well as practical ideas on how to start and implement curricula and programs, the book appeals to a wide audience of readers including academics, teachers in elementary, middle and high schools, religious and community educators. The authors, Ian Harris and Mary Lee Morrison, with over sixty years of combined experience in teaching, consulting, writing, activism and designing curricula in academic, school and community based settings, show readers the power of a transformative approach to education in which students (and teachers) are invited into collaborative, reflective, visioning and experiential learning, tapping into those energies that make possible the full human enjoyment of a meaningful and productive existence.

Peace Education illuminates the various forms of violence permeating our modern world through a comprehensive historical, philosophical and practical methodology. The book provides evidence of peace education as research based and including pedagogy and praxis as a growing scholarly discipline with its own theory and content.


The Urgency of Climate Change and Why Peace Matters-We Are All Educators
November 26, 2012, 5:53 pm
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For those of you who have been following this blog (thanks for your patience, it has not been really active of late!) I wish to announce that my intention is to be at least twice as active from now on! Pax Educare as a not for profit will close at the end of the year and the web site will remain up but not active, so postings of interest will go on the blog and there is a link from the web site to here.

The People’s Action for Clean Energy event held at the Friends Meeting House on November 17th was full of interesting presentations, each from a different perspective and all conveying the urgency of our actions toward reducing carbon emissions and working toward adapting and mitigating climate change. We must all be empowered to work for change.

This blogger’s contribution at the PACE event, whilst a panel member,  was toward making some connections between peace, the environment and education. Here is the final talk that I gave, revised from the previous posting.

PACE Talk November 17, 2012-Peace and Global Climate Change

Mary Lee Morrion Ph.D.

Part of  my charge this evening, as I understood it, was to engage in some discussion around why the environmental movement has historically been separate from the peace movement. This charge is rather daunting, as if I could speak in one voice for either of these movements! But I will do my best.  I hope I can lay out some conceptual definitions around peace and the environment and also, since I am an educator, try and bring education into this discussion. If human nature is fueling global warming, then how might we as humans  reverse this trend? How might education play a part?

It seems a good idea if we are going to talk about peace to define it.         I am using peace in its holistic sense, as  more than the absence of war or conflict.  We talk about negative peace and positive peace.  Negative does not mean that peace is negative-it means that  this way of focusing on peace is on the  absence of conflict, and sometimes stopping violence and conflict is extremely important. Whereas positive peace implies the holistic concept of living within standards of justice and human rights, within a balance of nature, providing meaningful citizen participation within government and communities.  The National Peace Academy uses peace as it is defined in the Earth Charter-that peace is “the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, with others, with other cultures, other life, the Earth and the larger whole of which we are a part”. This  kind of peace is inherently dialogic and relationship based.  It invites us into conversation with each other. It recognizes the  humanity in each of us,  as we encounter those with whom we may disagree.  This kind of peace rests on the moral assumption of the inherent dignity of every human being.

Peace in this context  cannot be separate from the notion of justice. Justice and human dignity are intertwined and rooted in notions of equity. Violence of any sort is an affront to human dignity. And violence does not have to be overt. It can be structural, including those conditions that give rise to overt violence such as lack of access to food, clean water, education.

And what about the environment? How does this figure in with peace? I think it important that we move beyond a rather narrow definition of environmentalism and embrace some new terminology. A sustainable future is one way of defining the issues. This term sometimes can be problematic however. I prefer the terminology used by some Permaculture folks: the interrelationship of Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share. This way of defining integrates our understanding of the issues of the environment as they affect people and the earth.  Justice and therefore peace are an integral part.

And where does education fit in? I like to think that everyone of us is an educator. Just as everyone can be a learner  all of us are educators in whatever settings we find ourselves. Most education happens outside of formal schooling. Maria Montessori has reminded us that education is the primary mover of making peace, all politics can do is to keep us out of war.

How can education help us get out of the mess in which we find ourselves? if we are all called to be educators, then we are all called to take responsibility in whatever way we can to first educate ourselves and then in dialogue and community educate others. Informing ourselves is task number one. Get facts, check sources, seek full understanding of these complex issues.

We must learn to live with uncertainty. Martin Luther King quoted the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead who said “we live in a day when civilization is shifting its basic outlook, a turning point in which the presuppositions in which society is structured are being profoundly changed”. This was 1967! How apt for today. King noted that we must remain awake through profound periods of change. As  one of my favorite authors and activists Gus Speth reminds us, given the right combination of knowledge, will and action, we just might make it as a human species through this time of peril. We might just learn to enjoy some of these new adaptations, living simpler and more fulfilling lives.

We can begin to understand that real national and international security is really linked to human security. We know who is most affected by the effects of global climate change.  It is those who, for the most part, have not contributed to the problem. The island nations in the Pacific, Bangladesh, the poor in Louisiana, the residents of hospitals in New York City who had to be evacuated during Sandy.  We can begin to understand the increasing societal costs of our continued war on terror, the U.S. government being the 4th largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world with the military accounting for 80% of our government’s energy consumption. Reliance on our military presence around the world exacerbates global warming, setting up a vicious cycle in which we have to defend our oil interests at the same time using enormous energy to maintain our military presence and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

We understand that we as humans have the capabilities to reverse some of the effects of climate change. Humans are immensely adaptable, creative and inventive.  For one thing, we can come to a new realization of what wealth is. Bill McKibben notes in his books that more wealth does not create more happiness. Wealth as happiness means wealth in human relationships and in community. Let us value our tasks as learners and as educators by spending time with those we love, with our families, with nature, recognizing and celebrating our common humanity. We will have to learn to live with risks and the safest way to do this is within communities. We know that the problems that we have created have no solutions within our present framework.  Yet the Vandana Shiva reminds us that “the uncertainty of our time is no reason to be certain about hopelessness”.  Thank you.