(KUNM Airdate: 6/24/05)

Peace: a science, a profession, a passion. It is a rigorous field of study, requiring painstaking labour and detailed study. It is an opportunity to explore the future societies and cultures through what people wish for the future. Above all, peace is a journey of discovery into the time in advance of history books, a journey into the unknown.

- Robert Stewart, Director, Canadian Center For Teaching Peace

This month, the program on peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution takes a look at university Peace Studies programs at both the University of New Mexico and elsewhere. Are college students drawn to learning the technology of peace? What are the courses like? What careers can follow a degree in peace studies? How can these programs benefit the community? Carol Boss is the host. Guests include Christine Rack of UNM, Michael Nagler of the University of California at Berkeley and Graham Bass, a Peace Studies student at Earlham College.

Click here to hear the program as an MP3.
Click here to hear Bonus Discussion with Dr. Nagler and Dr. Rack.
Click here to hear more our inteview with student Graham Bass, who talks about his visit to Northern Ireland.

You may also find out more about our series at

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Michael Nagler
University of California - Berkeley

CAROL BOSS: Would you tell us about the circumstances in the 1970's that resulted in the birth of the UC-Berkeley Peace Studies program?

MICHAEL NAGLER: I came to feel that Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most important human beings of the 20th Century, and that his major invention, nonviolence or HIMSA, was one of the most important things that anyone, anywhere could study. But the university wasn't doing it. And it was pretty open at that time because the Free Speech movement had kicked open a few doors and we could afford to experiment, so I offered this course on Gandhi and there was a huge turnout. Then I went around looking for a department to put it in and everyone had a good excuse why it shouldn't be in their department. I got very determined that this should be happening and I determined that there had to be a (Peace Studies) department to put it in. Now UC-Berkeley offers a major - a bachelor of arts in Peace and Conflict Studies.

CAROL BOSS: Can you sell young people on careers in peace?

MICHAEL NAGLER: Yes, you can, but you aren't exactly sure what shape those careers will take. Look, if we prepare people to go out and take the standard jobs that have been created by the violence accepting world-view that we now have, then we will have failed. What we're doing is creating a class of people that will be able to come up with new jobs. And often we have found that to be the case, our kids have been incredibly creative in finding ways to work all over the world. But if you don't want a lot of money, if you want a life of meaning, where you can go to bed at night feeling like you've helped to make the world a little better, then we can definitely sell them on high-powered careers that will definitely be very satisfying.

CAROL BOSS: Can you talk about the philsophy or mission of your program?

MICHAEL NAGLER: Our mission statement is that students should have a better understanding of the dynamics of peace and of conflict and be able to make a more effective contribution to a world that is characterized by peace and justice than the present world. The way we've organized our course offerings here...there are 4, sort of basic pillars, that we rest on. One, of course, is Nonviolence - that's sort of my area. Then we do Conflict Resolution, where we try to get people ready to have a type of conflict resolution license of some kind in California. Then Human Rights which sends students all over the world. Then sort of a Theory section on world order, political science and the social science approach.

Carol Boss

Christine Rack
University of New Mexico

CAROL BOSS: Christine Rack, the University of New Mexico's Peace Studies program is a newer kid on the block...could you talk about its beginnings?

CHRISTINE RACK: The UNM program was started in the early 1980's by McAllister Hall, who was a provost and professor of physics who had also been working at the Los Alamos National Laboratories, when the first tests of the nuclear bomb were going on. And then a woman from the community named Evelyn Sipp became convinced that UNM ought to have a Peace Studies program, so she dogged everybody to make that so. When Jennifer Moore, whose the director now, came over from the law school to take over the directorship, she brought Peace Studies into a whole new life. And it's currently in the sociology department. We have a 24 credit minor so 12 of those hours are required. It starts with Physics in Society which is a historical course and now an environmental course called The Blue Planet and then International relations. Then in later years there's a seminar and an internship. Those are required, then the other 12 hours are distributed in 4 categories that are different than Michael's. One is Thought, Ideology and Ethics which includes philosophy courses and linguistics....another one is Methodologies of nonviolence and Conflict Resolution - that includes Mediation and Intercultural Communication. And then there's an International cluster of courses that gets into disarmament, and regional conflicts and regional strategies. And then there's a Sub-national and Intergroup and that includes race and cultural differences and even family violence.

CAROL BOSS: What are some of the most critical and significant things that a Peace Studies program can teach?

CHRISTINE RACK: It is incredible when students realize that there are other ways to handle conflict. It's like this huge awakening in their minds. Most students who haven't sought out alternatives are just blown away and say that it has changed their lives. They're now able to walk into a conflict and be able to think about how to handle it instead of being trained to behave in dysfunctional ways.

MICHAEL NAGLER: One of our students at grauation said, "Well, if you want to sum up Peace and Conflict Studies in one word it's hope." Look, for example, at what is going on with China. China is rather flexing its muscle, so to speak. If you read "Atlantic," the last edition of that magazine, the only response that people can think of coming up with is, "how do we fight them?" That could lead us into a disaster of unparallel proportions. In fact, it is a disaster already, in terms of the alienation. Like they say, if all you have is a hammer, you treat every problem as if it were a nail. Another country that is getting up on its feet is not a nail. And it does not mean that the only response we can have to it is to smash it. Christine hinted before at the circles of peace development, which is very traditional throughout the field now. Our program does consider that. The smallest circle is, truly, inner peace; we do try to touch on that. I teach a course on meditation practices, for example. Then, there is interpersonal peace, and then the social institutions of peace, like Restorative Justice, instead of retributive justice. For the international area, we talk about Peace Keeping, Peace Building and Peace Making. By the time our students leave, they know all of that stuff. And they are going out into a world that does not know all of that stuff. I think, when we have reached a critical mass with all these brilliant and idealistic young people, we could really put the planet on a safer, better course.

CAROL BOSS: How do you teach and develop a Culture of Peace, amidst a culture of violence that is ingrained in us and perpetuated, to a large degree, by the media? Can there be a successful selling of peace and nonviolence to the American people that thwarts this culture of violence? I want to hear what you have to say about that, Michael.

MICHAEL NAGLER: In my book, Search for a Nonviolent Future, I have a list of five things that everybody can do. The reason I have that list is that the first edition of that book, which was called Is There No Other Way, when I'd go around talking about it, people would ask, "ok, but what can we do?" I came up with this list with the help of my students. The first thing I recommend to people is to break contact with the commercialized, mass media. We do not need it for news, and we certainly do not need it for entertainment. I recommend that people get their news from alternative sources, instead, which is very easy to do now days. The second thing I recommend is that they try to find some spiritual discipline that works for them. The third is that they learn about nonviolence. You need to know the name, the model and the explanation for what you are doing or you will lose faith in it and stop doing it. Then, I tell people to act out what they have learned. Because the incivility and the local, one-on-one violence is becoming so painful for everybody. Finally, get involved in some kind of peace creation activity, with the guidelines I think you can learn from past history and from certain, philosophical models of how nonviolence and social change work. We have no way to start by reforming the mass media; they are completely out of our hands. I have every confidence that individuals make a tremendous difference. If we can convince one person to get his or her head out of the TV, to start relating to real people, that is a big step, right there. The next is to learn about how nonviolence and peace work.

CAROL BOSS: I would think that some people believe that teachers in a Peace Studies program would be advocating a political position, in that anti-war, in the current political climate, is considered an anti-administration point of view. How do you stay neutral in the classroom, or do you?

MICHAEL NAGLER: Well, I present the history and theory and logic of peace - peace creation, peace development and nonviolence and I let people take it from there. Now obviously, the administration is committed to a different course. And I will often use them, frankly, as examples of the wrong way to go. You know I'll talk about the Mayaquez Episode (1975) when 34 Marines died in an attempt to save 30 Merchant Marines who were already being given back by the Cambodians. I don't make any attempt to conceal my disagreement with the administration. Nor do I think that I would need to or do I think it would be necessary from the point of view of academic freedom. I would say that I'm in a distinct minority. Even at Berkeley, most professors are much more in line with the administration stance. So the students get both sides and they get to make up their mind and that's called democracy.

CHRISTINE RACK: I always say now at the beginning of class that this is about Peace Studies, so there is a value-base...we're going to look at peace and we're not going to give equal time to the military perspective. In and of itself, that's pretty radical because you are suggesting that there are other ways than what are currently being done. And students sometimes say, "Is this anti-U.S.?" And I say, well, it is critical. I step very carefully around that but I don't hide from the fact that this course is going to do peace. That's what we do here.

CAROL BOSS: Graham Bass will be entering his senior year at Earlham College in their Peace and Global Studies Department. He just returned from a semester in Northern Ireland. What interested you in finding a Peace Studies program?

GRAHAM BASS: Well, wanting to DO something. Money wasn't really something that I was concerned about earning a lot of. So I wasn't really trying to find a particularly lucrative profession - more one that was personally satisfying, one where I could go to sleep at night and feel half-way decent about myself.

CAROL BOSS: What do you think about the importance of Peace Studies programs and the inspiration that it's provided you?

GRAHAM BASS: I think the importance is that there IS an alternative. And that that alternative works. It's hard to make arguments for Peace Studies, and I think this is one of its limitations, is that it does have to be largely spiritually based. Unlike war which is very easily mentally, or biologically, triggered through training or hormones. Peace Studies' importance is offering an alternative method as well as an alternative spirituality for conflict transformation.

I'm very interested in the Peace Corps, in human rights work possibly with a law degree, in community organization and community development. That was one of the important lessons that I learned in Northern Ireland. I've never seen so much community organization and community development as I have in Northern Ireland. It is absolutely astounding. And the things that they've done to improve their communities are phenomenal and I think that's been a very strong influence on me.

Graham Bass
Peace Studies Student
Earlham College