In this article, the author reflects on his experience as a member of the 2015-2016 Peace Teachers Program cohort. Learn more about the USIP Peace Teachers Program.

The most important lesson I ever learned when I started out teaching was to start at the end. If you have no idea of where you are going, it is difficult to develop a road map there. My 8th grade social studies class is World Issues. It is different than the typical social studies class that focuses on a specific time period or geography. Instead, we look at the world today, analyze how we got here and come up with a vision for the future. I came to realize that “the end” I have for my class is having a group of students equipped to be peacebuilders when they leave my classroom. 

Artwork by one of Andy Blair’s students at St. Mary’s Academy.
Artwork by one of Andy Blair’s students at St. Mary’s Academy.

The U.S. Institute of Peace and the Global Peacebuilding Center provide quality resources to help achieve this end. I have also been lucky enough to participate in the inaugural Peace Teacher program and learn from remarkable teachers throughout the country trying to inspire future peacebuilders as well. Through this program I have learned and been driven to create more engaging lessons that equip students to be peacebuilders in their daily life and beyond.

One of our units is on international conflict. We look at conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st century and examine how events over a hundred years ago are still shaping the events we face today. Because of the Peace Teacher program, I have learned how to start with the end and make this unit about peacebuilding by using the Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators. Once we have established a strong foundation of what peace is and how we can work towards it we will look at conflicts today and work backwards. Always keeping in mind that we are learning from the past so we can build a peaceful future.

Our culture understands that our education system must teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to prepare students for future occupations. We need that same focus and determination in teaching peace. If we want a more peaceful future, we must equip the future generation with the skills required to build peace. MTV recently named the next generation “The Founders”. This is because our students will be tasked with being the founders of a new world. Technologically they will solve problems surrounding energy, space exploration, and healthcare. When it comes to peace, they will have to solve problems surrounding the rule of law, violent extremism, and post-conflict reconstruction. We have a duty to equip The Founders with the skills necessary to build a more peaceful world.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Learn more about USIP’s resources for educators and students.