This guest blog post was written by Mallory Servais, a senior at the University of Maryland. Mallory recently attended a lecture by NAPF's Peace Leadership Program Director Paul Chappell. The article was originally published by The Diamondback.
A couple Mondays ago, I found myself with free time and the curiosity to attend one of my favorite Monday activities — the Beyond the Classroom Monday-night seminars. So, sporting my "it's-red-lipstick-Monday" British lipstick and accompanied by my partner-in-peace, I sauntered down to the seminar room. For two hours, former U.S. Army Capt. Paul Chappell talked to us about how killing is unnatural in humans, war is not necessary and peace is entirely possible.
OK, so that may be a terribly basic summary of the evening, but essentially I found myself re-inspired and super smiley about peace and life in general after this talk. It helped me remember that I don't believe in anything (except love) as much as I believe in peace, and there isn't really anything I would rather spend my life pursuing. The only thing that comes close is the dream I have with a friend to run and own a vegan cupcake shop and bookstore aptly named "Nooks, Books and Cupcake Cooks."
Anyway, I say re-inspired because my first foray into peace in the classroom was sophomore year. I had finagled my way into an honors seminar course called HONR 359B: Alternatives to Violence, taught by Colman McCarthy. Every Monday, armed with quotes, books and films, about thirty students came together to learn about peace, love and truth. More important than anything else, though, we learned to question everything — that is to say, we learned how to question the norms of everyday life in the war-based society we grew up in. Simply put, this class changed my life — my worldview, the goals I have in life and the things I want to spend my time learning.
So my question is this: Why did it take so long for me to get to a class focused on teaching the principles of peace? Not a single class was offered about peace in my public high school. In college, the course was optional and technically only offered to a small group of honors students. What if I had not stumbled upon it myself, frog rain boots and all? What about all the students who never have the chance to explore these ideas in college?
I know what some of you are thinking: "Freakin' hippie losers! Quit daydreaming about peace, love and hugs. Quit playing with pinwheels and dancing in the sunshine. Quit doodling polar bears and get back to your useless anthropology, philosophy and art history classes. What good is teaching peace? We don't need your peace studies classes here."
But think twice about this. Mull it over with a vegan cupcake and a mug of soy chai tea. How can we, as a university community, strive to produce well-rounded students who hope to improve the world without endowing them with a perspective that encourages constructive peacemaking in all aspects of life? How can we hope to send truly innovative, free-thinking individuals into an inherently violence-based society without providing the context and tools necessary to question authority?
In May, I will graduate, having been blessed with the experience of learning an alternative to violence. My only regret as I leave is that more students don't get that opportunity here or in high school; I wish I had done more to promote peace studies here and I hope to spend my life working to change the lack of peace studies in American schools. My real hope is that this university takes proactive steps toward teaching peace in the future. Because, well, I don't know for sure about the rest of my fellow students, but I'd rather learn peace.