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Peace Studies

A couple of students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School want the peace studies class (taught by retired WaPo reporter Colman McCarthy) banned from the school. They’re going to fail, of course, but the article reveals much about liberal arrogance.

Discussions - 13 Comments

That is right. Liberals are arrogant because they want peace and conservatives do not. Liberals should realize that conservatives want to be represented in the school curriculum, too, and that that means a course on war and aggression. We need courses about war -- like courses that teach the American Revolution, the Civil War, the 100-Year War, the War of 1812, both World Wars, Vietnam, Serbia, Sudan, 6-Day War, War of the Roses, and all of the Crusades.

We need courses in intimidation, Capital Punishment, Corporal Punishment, armed resistance, armed responses to resistance, terrorism, armed responses to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, unarmed combat, armed combat, and just plain combativeness.

Then, our high school students will know what humble conservatives think.

I have never known a military historian who has taught that war is a positive good. Military historians simply believe that war, as unfortunate as it is, has played a critical role in the development of human history, and therefore is worthy of attention.

There is nothing good in "peace studies" that is not already subsumed under the disciplines of diplomatic history or (on the fuzzier political science side) international relations theory--that is, the study of how wars are concluded, prevented, avoided, and controlled. Of course, most of what makes up "peace studies" courses is pacifist navel-gazing and outright political advocacy.

John - I am not an expert on this. My impression is, however, that there might be a very big difference between "the study of how wars are concluded, prevented, avoided, and controlled..." and the study of how peace is pursued and maintained. In a similar way, "global’ studies might be different from "non-western" studies, "gender studies" might be different from "womens’ studies," and so on.

Of course, I am speaking almost metaphorically, but "Peace Studies" may very well involve a tearing down of old systems, assumptions, and paradigms -- all of which are war-related-- and may represent instead a new set of peace-oriented paradigms. In a similar way, a health-oriented approach is very different from a sickness-avoidance approach, growth-enhancement is different from loss-prevention, and so on. Am I crazy?


Fung, we aren’t really interested in whether you’re crazy. You’re deluded and consistently wrong. That’e enough, capiche?


"I cherish conservative dissenters. I wish we could get more of them in."
Colman McCarthy
"They’re going to fail, of course"
Post by Peter Schramm
Hmmm...going to tinker with the bell curve are you?

That was a really funny article. Even the picture of the guy in the sheet was funny.

"Peace Studies is one of the things that makes B-CC unique," Bulson said. "It’s been an institution here, and kids from all across the spectrum have taken it. It’s not about indoctrination. It’s about debate and dialogue." Except they have no debate and dialogue because conservative dissenters do not take the course.

"For McCarthy, it seems Peace Studies is not just a cause; it is a crusade." Who needs dissenters on a crusade? The New McCarthyism?

In a similar way, "global’ studies might be different from "non-western" studies, "gender studies" might be different from "womens’ studies," and so on.

I wouldn’t want courses on those subjects offered either; certainly not at the high school level. I reject disciplines based on the "tearing down of old systems, assumptions, and paradigms" as there tends to be no intellectual diversity in them. There are all sorts of "systems, assumptions, and paradigms" in diplomatic history and international relations, and they are constantly being challenged from people in those fields. One can be a diplomatic historian or an IR theorist and be a conservative, a liberal, a Marxist, a postmodernist, or whatever. The only thing that one must accept is that the field is worthy of study. Fields like "gender studies" and "peace studies" are created by people whose work cannot stand up to professional scrutiny within established fields. They therefore create whole new "disciplines" filled with people who share the same basic set of assumptions and ideas. Is there anyone in "peace studies" who is not a pacifist? Is there anyone in "gender studies" who does not believe that gender is wholly socially constructed? I reject any field that has an ideological litmus test for entry.

Intellectual diversity within a discipline develops with time. Herodotus, for instance, had little choice among fora at the annual Historians’ conference.

If allowed to grow and develop, as all existing disciplines have been, then it is entirely possible that different perspectives will emerge within upstart disciplines. You ask if there are any in "Peace Studies" who are not pacifists; I might ask if there are any Historians who do not value History. I expect that, given time, different schools might emerge.

What is a field?

"One can be a diplomatic historian or an IR theorist and be a conservative, a liberal, a Marxist, a postmodernist, or whatever. The only thing that one must accept is that the field is worthy of study." But must you also agree on the means of studying the field? Isn’t this just about the means of studying the field, so that you could say: Within the lens of "gender studies" such and such could be said...

The problem is that as a Historian you want to be able to say that the past tells us that X is good...And not merely that based on these assumptions the past tells us X is good.

Just to throw this out there....

But a lot of time when courses like this are offered...people seem to object because only one perspective is offered...but it is impossible to offer multiple perspectives simultaneously. Ultimately one always favors one side of the chess board over the other. In addition to this, offering different perspectives often times simply presents false dichotomies.

I say let this teacher teach his foolishness, and let the teacher of creationism teach his, and force them not to balance the course out with posturing for ballance or "objectivity". I think high school pupils should be taught to think critically, and contrary to popular belief...this isn’t necessarily accomplished by presenting alternate perspectives within a given class. What is needed is rather that students view teachers in any subject other than mathmatics or physics not as experts passing on truth but rather as attorneys arguing a case. The subject matter and approach is always inherently biased, the instructor is always trying to mold them. What the students must be internally led to ask themselves is:"Do I want to be this topiary?"

If allowed to grow and develop, as all existing disciplines have been, then it is entirely possible that different perspectives will emerge within upstart disciplines.

All right, I will hold out that possibility. But surely you must concede that, until and unless such perspectives emerge, classes in "peace studies" should not be offered at the high school level. The danger of politicization is far too great.

"The danger of politicization is far too great. "

I honestly have to think about it. I WILL concede that it is more difficult for me to be critical because I sympathize with the objectives of peace studies, as far as I understand them. If the goal was, for instance, "right-to-life studies" then I would more quickly concede your point -- so I am very close to a concession.

In our college (which is not necessarily representative) we offer "concentrations" in Womens’ Studies, and International Studies, and we are currently debating another one in "Peace Studies." We do not treat any of them as disciplines, but, rather, as multidisciplinary concentrations, in which a student can minor, but not major. Each one enjoys contributions from courses and instructors from different disciplines.

I like John L’s idea regarding balance via a diverse curriculum, as opposed to diversity within a course. This should work in higher education, but I no longer trust High School students to exercise the critical skills to both pursue and then integrate such diversity. I also suspect the abilities of many of my college students to do the same.

The Left is weirdly Orwellian. If something has "peace" in its title you can almost bet it will be 1) anti-capitalist, 2) anti-American, and 3) totalitarian. Kind of like that "people’s republic" nonsense.

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