Teaching for Peace in Practice – Challenges and Opportunities

Day 3 of the 2016 International NGO Conference on History Education and Peace in East-Asia and Europe

@ Utrecht University

The ‘2016 International NGO Conference on History Education and Peace in East-Asia and Europe. Teaching for Peace – History in Perspective’ as a whole, explores the role of international cooperation, history education and civil society in establishing sustainable peace in East Asia in dialogue with Europe. During the third and final public day, hosted by Utrecht University, the focus of the Conference was ‘How to Teach Global History in the 21st Century’. Leen Dorsman, historian and professor at Utrecht University, was the Chair of the Day. The day brought together a group of experts, speakers and participants from all over the world.

Leen Dorsman opened the day, together with Hellen Janssen (History teacher and Board member of VGN, History Teachers Association of the Netherlands).  To start the morning on topic, one of Leen’s students, presented a student initiative called ‘Dare to be Grey’, a public (social media) campaign that aims to put a stop to the polarisation that is dividing society by creating a platform with room for personal stories.

The day continued with several rounds of workshops. The first round consisted of two different workshops, one hosted by Hellen Janssen and the other one hosted by Bjorn Wansink (Assistant Professor in Education and Pedagogy at Utrecht University). In their workshops, Hellen and Bjorn shared their experiences on how history is being taught in European context. Bjorn Wansink focused on multiperspectivity and how this can be taught, by asking the participants to write down what they define as multiperspectivity. It was clear that there were multiple views and interpretations challenging the concept of one truth.

The second round of workshops was hosted by several speakers and presenters from the History NGO Forum for Peace in East Asia. Daesoo Lee (Chairperson at Asia Peace Citizen Network) gave an activist speech on the impact and destruction of the Nuclear Bomb and why nuclear energy thus should be boycotted. The destruction it brings to humans and their homes, for example in Fukushima, is unresolvable. By stating that production of these nuclear devices should be boycotted, Deasoo Lee opened the discussion with Seungwook Kim (professor of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies) and Chongho Beun (institute for Korea History and Culture Education).

After a few days of interesting panel discussions in an academic setting, Steven Stegers (EuroClio Deputy Director) and Judith Geerling (EuroClio Project Manager) changed the dynamic of the afternoon around the question ‘how can educators address those issues in their real teaching?’. They did this by presenting EuroClio’s online platform Historiana, followed by a workshop about a learning activity using life stories from the project ‘Decisions and Dilemmas. Learning about the EU from a Historical Perspective’. This workshop gave all participants a practical, active insight in how you could teach about the Post-World War Two years in the classroom by using the personal life stories of different people from all over Europe. At the end of the workshop, people were asked to name keywords which would describe the lives of the people from their life story. By receiving many different answers, it was made clear that there is no uniform description for the post-World War Two years in Europe.

Overall the day was filled with active working sessions and sharing many practices on how to teach about Global History and challenges and opportunities that arise.