Peace Studies Unit

Mr. Steel


It would be hard to argue that there is a more important topic for study in any discipline than peace. What is peace? Is any kind of broad and lasting state of peace a possibility in the world? If so, how might this goal of peace be attained? Questions concerning peace have for millennia been a primary interest of many of the best minds and hearts in science and mathematics, philosophy and politics, the arts, and of course, in literature as well. During this unit of study, students will be exposed to some of the most radical and challenging thinkers on this topic in world history. It is my hope that, by their exposure to some of these great essays and classic works in non-fiction, students will begin to think seriously about some of the problems that arise in the field of Peace Studies, and moreover, that these lofty concerns might stay with them throughout their lives such that, perhaps, things will be different (and better!) for all of us in the future.


Work and Assessment


Minor Assignment:

            We will commence our foray into Peace Studies by watching the 1982 film Gandhi. After having completed this film, students will write a film review. Film reviews, like all work in English, must be written in proper sentence and paragraph form, and most good students usually write at least a page length submission. The components of this film review are as follows:

ð         some discussion of events and characters in the film (who they are and how they stand in relation to one another)

ð         some discussion of how concerns about peace are portrayed. Is there, for instance, more than one viewpoint entertained in the film? Do views and understandings of peace evolve or change during the course of this film? If so, how?

ð         any lasting questions about understanding peace with which the film leaves you

ð         what you liked about the film and why

ð         what you disliked about the film and why

ð         a rating of the film on a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being the best)


Minor Assignment:

All students will read excerpts posted on my website from three of Gandhi’s larger books. These include his autobiography entitled My Experiments with Truth, as well as his books Satyagraha in South Africa and Hind Swaraj. At the end of each reading, students will be required to write a brief one-page, double-spaced reflective response to what they have read. These reflections should not be expository or descriptive in nature like summaries (ex.: "This happened, then this, then this..."). Rather, students are expected to encounter the text deeply; they must investigate a major theme, question, idea, or problem encountered in each reading. Every student reflection MUST end with a question about the reading. No "Trivial Pursuit" questions will be accepted (that is, questions that don’t deal with substantial problems you’ve encountered in your readings, but simply gloss upon an insignificant detail). The point of the questions is to engage students in a class discussion, and to use student inquiry to engage deeply in the meaning and significance of Gandhi’s legacy. Students MUST keep on top of these assignments, since it is imperative that they come prepared to discuss the readings each class.


Major Assignment:

Students will choose a topic for a critical essay (1000 words double spaced 12pt Times New Roman font) from among the following four selections:

1. What is peace as Gandhi understands it? Can peace ever be attained? What is Gandhi’s proposal for peace, and why does he choose this route to his goal? Support your work with reference to the texts we have studied.

2. Assess Gandhi’s theory of non-violence. Support your work with reference to the texts we have studied.

3. Examine the connections between inner and outer transformations for peace in the writings of Gandhi in light of some examples from today in which peace talks and peace “processes” have met with failure. What lessons can be learned from Gandhi in this regard?

4. Enriched Learning Opportunity for Brave Students: Compare/contrast Gandhi’s writings on peace and non-violence with the theories and ideas of other authors I have posted on my website as part of this Peace Studies Unit. These include speeches by Martin Luther King, a famous essay by Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy’s work on peace which was a formative influence on Gandhi himself, as well as the scholastic writings of Thomas Aquinas, “just war theory” as it appears in selections from Book Nineteen of St. Augustine’s City of God, Immanuel Kant’s notion of perpetual peace, and Albert Einstein’s letters to Roosevelt concerning the development and use of atomic weapons during the second world war. Try choosing just ONE from among these other authors for your compare/contrast essay.