Can We Really “Teach Peace”?

In light of recent violence in the world,  I have been pondering the role of educators in this shifting paradigm.  As members of an international organization, TESOL professionals can be found in every part of the globe, working with all types of people across differences in age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, and religion. As a group, we are continually touched by events outside of our classrooms, and this requires us to be aware of economic, political, and social affairs that impact us as well as our students.

However, being aware of differences and addressing them with our students (or teaching future teachers how to address them) are two different things.  Topics such as immigration, inequality, or politics might make teachers feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, as they can produce volatile conversations (See Amobi, 2007). However, if these topics are rarely or never addressed, people may lack the time to process their own perspectives or begin to understand others’ viewpoints and personal histories.

Thus, we need to ask ourselves as teachers and teacher educators, what role do these topics have in our instruction? How do we include them in an effective way?  If you’re teaching English as a foreign language,  you might incorporate topics with multiple perspectives to encourage authentic conversation and examine current affairs in your region, as well as those in Anglophone countries.  If you’re teaching English as a second language, many of your students might be immigrants, refugees, or children of immigrants who are living or have lived these experiences themselves.  As such, talking about these issues and sharing information may help them feel more empowered about their circumstances.  Great care should be taken, though, to tread lightly with issues that learners are perhaps not willing to address in a public setting, or that might make them feel singled out in a mixed group.

I am hopeful that peace can be taught, and I find that even the smallest endeavors to understand each other can result in some form of change.  I think that language classrooms are excellent settings to communicate about the human condition, at any age, and so I offer some current resources for pedagogical support in addressing differences and promoting diversity.  While these are mostly US-based, feel free to add any others that you have used in the comments section.

Beyond Bias: Countering Stereotypes in School
A year-long online series of articles, interactive activities, commentary, and Q & A sessions examining efforts to recognize and overcome discrimination in schools.

Courageous Conversations about Race:  A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools
A guide to engaging in honest dialogue about the social construct of race, and the resulting inequality in schools.

Smart Girls
Dedicated to cultivating intelligence and imagination among today’s youth, with particular emphasis toward empowering young women.  This site focuses on the lesser-known contributions of women throughout history, as well as important contributions women make to current society (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Teaching Tolerance
A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center designed to “reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences.”  This site includes blogs, classroom resources, professional development sets, film kits, and webinars to support educators in teaching tolerance toward others (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Zinn Education Project
Created in the same vein as Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, this site shares materials and pedagogy that “emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history.” Emphasis  is placed upon the notion that history is “made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter” (also available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).


Amobi, F. A. (2007). The message or the messenger: Reflection on the volatility of evoking novice teachers’ courageous conversations on race. Multicultural Education14(3), 2–7.


About Kristen Lindahl

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl holds a PhD in linguistics with a specialization in L2 teacher education from the University of Utah. She is currently assistant professor of bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches pre-service ESL/TESOL educators at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Dr. Lindahl has taught K–12 and college ESL, and actively pursues consulting and coaching teachers of English learners in public and English language schools around the globe.
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7 Responses to Can We Really “Teach Peace”?

  1. Khalid says:

    Great and useful work, that change the world if we all do in our societies.

  2. Aneliz says:

    Teaching students that come from different countries and understanding their culture is what we as educators must do. They have come to the United States not because their home life was fantastic and perfect but because families wanted a better life for themselves and most importantly for their children. I think we can help teach students acceptance, peace, and tolerance of each other. We can also help other students learn about student cultures, religions, and family life. We can do this in an effective way by not generalizing all cultures. We can teach acceptance by leading by example as well.

    • Kristen Lindahl Kristen Lindahl says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Aneliz. You make an important point about not over-generalizing people into cultural stereotypes.

  3. Jesse Schaub says:

    Teach Peace. Give Peace a Chance. Chance It. Game It. Peace Be With You Dr. Lindahl!!!

  4. Rai Farrelly says:

    Kristen – this is so timely! I’m giving a talk tomorrow at St. Mike’s about the roles and responsibilities of students and instructors when it comes to internationalization of higher ed. And – in light of the recent events, my focus is shifting to these very thoughts. We have such a huge responsibility as educators to create open and safe spaces in our classrooms to confront dissonance and have difficult conversations, to notice and address our biases and assumptions about others, to cultivate community, to raise awareness about and appreciation for difference. I’ll definitely share this and some of your ideas tomorrow! Thank you!

  5. Nora Buchanan says:

    Good subject to address always. If our students come from many walks of life, their global perspectives are a first hand insight to different cultures and nations, it is enriching to all of us in the classroom, we can all learn! If we create a safe place to discuss these issue in our classrooms we will give our students the language to talk about their personal experiences. The students in our classrooms will enhance our knowledge and perspectives as human beings so we can create a more empathetic and understanding world!

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