Imagine Peace


With Valentine’s Day tomorrow and the violence in the world raging on, it is a good time to be reminded, as I stated in Reflect, Re-evaluate, Resolve, violence does not beget peace and hatred does not beget love.  We must be vigilant in promoting peace in our everyday lives.  It doesn’t start with us hoping for peace in the Middle East; it starts in our relationship with our significant others, our families, our neighbors, and our children.  In Hillary Clinton’s classic book It Takes a Village, Tenth Anniversary Edition, states that she makes it clear that “the choices we make today about how we raise our children and how we support families will determine how our nation will face the challenges of this century”.  It takes everyone to help raise a child and it takes everyone to promote peace in that child’s world.

Last week I talked about the Pyramid of Hate© and that I teach it in my classroom. You can do a Google search by typing in “Pyramid of Hate” and getting the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) lesson plan for it. I follow a lot of that lesson plan, but I have taken it several steps further.  I start by making a big pyramid out of bulletin board paper and putting it on the whiteboard.  We begin by discussing the shape of a pyramid, big at the bottom and small at the top and what that means for the Pyramid of Hate©, and we start discussing the things that could go on the bottom level.  I uncover each level’s title of the pyramid as we discuss it and the hateful behaviors related to that level.  This takes several days and while we are discussing, each student has to come up with examples for each behavior at each level.  While we are having these discussions, I give my students a paper with a blank pyramid on it.  Each day, I show 1-2 brief clips from movies that show examples.  This year I’m showing clips from the movie Radio, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Ed Harris.  It has excellent clips of Radio being a victim on the Pyramid of Hate© by both students and adults.  It also shows excellent examples of people promoting peace as they stand up for what they believe in.  After we watch these clips, we discuss what behavior(s) was exhibited and where it belongs on the Pyramid of Hate©. This year I’m going to teach the idea of a Pyramid of Peace and discuss where these types of behaviors would belong.

In other lessons, I have shown real clips about real kids who also have been victims of behaviors that can be found on the Pyramid of Hate©.  When my students find out that these kids killed or tried to kill themselves (yes, there are times we have to teach the ugly stuff), they are very quiet and can’t believe these kids were bullied.  “But she seemed so nice.”  “He wasn’t that weird.” “Why would people bully her?” However, when I turn the tables and ask why they bully kids, their answers are unequivocally, “He deserved it.”  The total disconnect to what happened to these kids in the clips and what happens to kids “who deserve it” is startling.  Our work is not finished.  Therefore, I continue to teach the Pyramid of Hate© while I teach about peace.

This year, when we get to the 2nd highest level, I will be referencing TJ Leyden’s book, Skinhead Confessions: From Hate To Hope.  It is a powerful book about a powerful subject:  hate and violence, which are powerful emotions.  Love and peace can be just as powerful, but in a completely different way.

As we get to the top of the pyramid, the students will come up with people in the news and in history who fall into these last two categories. Hitler is always identified at the top of the pyramid.

When discussing Hitler, I also introduce Gandhi.  We begin to move out of the Pyramid of Hate© lesson and into one of leadership.  I tell them that both men were great leaders.  Several students will argue that Hitler was not a great leader.  This then brings in another lesson, where we discuss what makes great leaders.  When we compare the list of good leadership characteristics back to Hitler, he does in fact, fall into the category of a great leader.  The difference, I then go on to explain, is that not all great leaders are leading for the good of mankind.  This creates amazing discussion from the group, even in middle school.  I then ask them what kind of a leader (or follower), they will be: one for the good of the world, or one for the detriment?  These are powerful but important lessons to bring into the classroom.  How do you teach about love and hate, peace and violence?

In writing these last two posts, I can’t help but think how different the world would be if we excelled at a Pyramid of Peace.  What would it look like?  What would be included in it?  Would it be an inverted Pyramid of Peace-with the most wonderful things happening at the top and most of the world’s population engaging in them?  I hope this gives you something to think about this next week.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

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