At the end of September, two Peace Pioneers came together to promote Peace. Oldham is the first UK Council to sign the Pledge to Peace. Roamer is the first robot to sign the same pledge. Oldham Council marked the United Nation’s Peace Day (21st September) with a Peace Week. This effort gave Valiant Technology the chance to show various ways Roamer can meet its Pledge and help with a maths lesson at the same time.
We created two activities for the project: “Signing the Pledge to Peace” and “My Way”. You can use these within your classroom or for special events. In the first activity students explore the reasons for signing petitions by creating a Pledge to Peace Poster and programming Roamer to sign it. In the second they program Roamers with opposite behaviours to explore angles and use the experience to develop negotiation skills.
Kate and I decided this was a chance to get out of the office and mark the United Nation’s Peace day on the 21st September. We headed north to do a workshop in Knowsley Junior School. The school has also signed the Peace Pledge.
You could ask the same question about Knowsley’s Peace Tree. The act of making a dove and sticking it to a wall mural does not inherently evoke peace. What it does is engage students in peace symbolism and creates the chance to discuss ideas. What is peace? Do I want peace and how can I achieve peace?
Both Roamer tasks offer the same chance. “Signing the Peace Declaration” is also symbolic act. Discussing why you’re doing it makes it a peace contributor. “My Way” gives students the chance to work on their mathematical understanding of angles: acute, obtuse and reflex. It’s also a metaphor offering an enriching experience.
It’s exciting when some students “think outside of the box” and realise going backwards is possible. Group working always helps students develop their social skills and their ability to work with one another. People who resolve conflict use all of these skills. Doing My Way makes you to look at a problem from the other persons’ viewpoint. This is a method used by, for example, business deal makers, marriage guidance councillors and high stakes political negotiators.
Kate led the students to the idea that if you thought and talked about it, it was possible to understand other people’s view and find interesting solutions to problems. Oldham is on the outskirts of Manchester, so Kate teased the students by asking who supported Manchester United and who supported Manchester City. It was a fifty-fifty split. She agitated United fans by asking them if they could ever support a City player. She caused them to ponder when she asked if they would support a City player if they were trying to raise money so their best friend could get some specialist hospital treatment. Kate then set them a problem. The groups split into two teams, one had to make an orange fairy cake and the others an orange shortbread. Each recipe needed one orange, which all they had between them. What do they do?
Most groups came up with solutions like, cut the orange in half or buy another orange: both acceptable, but not the best solution. One group read the recipes and talked the issue through. They realised the fairy cake need orange juice and the shortbread wanted orange zest. The moral of the story: understanding one another solves personal conflicts.
Fortunately, the school gets the children to study and debate philosophy – an ideal way to involve My Way spin-off activities.
A small report the event appeared in the local newspaper: The Oldham Evening Chronicle. It quickly prompted comments like:
Lighting a few candles and holding hands whilst singing ‘Come by Yah’ is not going to sort of the worlds problems and anyone who thinks it will is delusional.
Nice but naive. How do you talk to loonies like ISIS and that ilk?
Research by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan showed nonviolent campaigns twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. They had more chance of long-term success, even in cases against repressive and authoritarian regimes.Drop Your Weapons: Foreign Affairs
The best answer to such weary cynicism is to remind people of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Leaders who changed the world and made it more peaceful by their thoughts and actions. Yes, both Gandhi and King suffered by the actions of “loonies”. But their message transformed the world. It still lives and inspires.
In the Huffington Post, Mitch Ditkoff reviews Peace Ambassador, Prem Rawat’s book: Splitting the Arrow. Ditkoff reminds us. “We are born without a user manual.” He goes on to say, “Splitting the Arrow is the next best thing.”
Unlike most instruction manuals, Splitting the Arrow makes no attempt to reduce the profundity of life to arbitrary lists of what to do and what not to do. The book evokes rather than prescribes, fostering the kind of mindset that makes it easy for readers to sense, at a cellular level, whatever they need to understand in order to live their lives to the fullest..
That summarises Roamer’s approach to the Peace Pledge. It is about getting our students to think about their real needs. Peace is a positive personal experience and anything we can do get our children to think about it is a step forward.
The wars we see in the world and the disagreements we have with those around us all start within human beings. The external wars can be temporarily ceased, but unless the conflict taking place within individuals is resolved sooner or later it will re-ignite the external conflict.
The first step is for individuals to nurture and practice peace within their own hearts. When enough individuals can do this, then the external wars can come to an end.
Splitting the Arrow.