Saving Civilization: Strategies for Peace

Saving Civilization: Strategies for Peace

David Overly (Citrus College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2209-6.ch014
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Abstract

This is a case study of the first time Humanities 123 Saving Civilization - Strategies for Peace was taught at Citrus Community College in Glendora, California in the spring semester of 2016. It is the cornerstone course of a new peace studies program at Citrus College, the third such program at a California community college. The course is an introduction to peace and conflict studies, with an emphasis on war's destructive impact on culture. The course examines the systematic approaches that combatants have historically used to obliterate the cultural heritage of their battlefield opponents. It encourages tolerance and respect for different perspectives, as well as hope for peaceful conflict resolution. The chapter reviews the course content, as well as student reactions to the material. Overall, the students found the course to be rewarding and were surprised at how interesting peace studies can be.
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Introduction

This chapter is a case study of a first attempt at teaching a new introduction to peace studies course at a Southern California community college. I taught Humanities 123 Saving Civilization – Strategies for Peace for the first time at Citrus College in the spring of 2016. The course is an introduction to peace and conflict studies, with an emphasis on war’s destructive impact on culture. The course examines the systematic approaches that combatants have historically used to obliterate the cultural heritage of their battlefield opponents. It encourages tolerance and respect for different perspectives, as well as hope for peaceful conflict resolution.

Citrus College is located in Glendora, California, approximately 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Founded in 1915, it is the fifth oldest community college in the state. It currently serves 18,000 students in a service area that is, according to the 2010 census, 10% Asian, 4% African American, 41% Hispanic, and 42% White non-Hispanic.

My involvement in peace studies began on December 10, 2013, five days after the death of Nelson Mandela. I was reading a newspaper article about Mandela’s funeral and wondered what I could do with my life that would be valuable. I didn’t want to spend 27 years in prison, as Mandela had done. But then I thought of Al Gore and his acclaimed global warming slide show and realized, “I could do that.” I hit upon the idea that I could publicize, as a pathway to peace, the new genetic evidence, presented by Spencer Wells (2002) in The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, suggesting that we’re all closely related to one another.

As a first step in this new direction, I started a peace studies program at Citrus College, where I had been teaching English for 25 years. I developed Humanities 123: Saving Civilization – Strategies for Peace as the cornerstone of the new program. The course examines the reasons for war, as well as strategies for peace. It looks at the cultural consequences of war, beginning with the burning of books, the leveling of libraries, and the destruction of architecture, including a screening of the documentary The Architecture of Doom (Cohen, 1989), which examines the aesthetic underpinnings of National Socialism.

The course continues with an examination of the causes of war, as well as the prospects for peace. It looks at the role of aggression, drives, and instincts at the individual and group levels, featuring a screening of Dead Birds (Gardner, 1963), an ethnographic film of warring tribes in New Guinea. It also looks at movements promoting peace, human rights, and environmental awareness, culminating in a screening of Who Speaks for Earth? (Malone, 1980), the 13th episode of astronomer Carl Sagan’s PBS series Cosmos – A Personal Voyage, which calls for the development of a planetary consciousness.

Other screenings include Journey of Man (Maltby, 2003), which presents genetic evidence suggesting the “global family tree” can be traced to one African man who lived 59,000 years ago; How Art Made the World (Dashwood & Hedgecoe, 2005), which presents the epic story of how humans made art and how art made us human; Gallipoli (Weir, 1981), the story of young Australian soldiers recruited to fight for the British Empire during the First World War; Gandhi (Attenborough, 1982), which depicts the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against Britain’s rule of the country, and Joyeux Noël (Carion, 2005), the story of French, German, and Scottish soldiers punished for singing Christmas carols together in December 1914.

When the associate’s degree in peace studies is fully implemented, it will be the third such program at a California community college. Other courses in the interdisciplinary degree are Biology 145 (Environmental Science), History 155 (History of the Vietnam War), Political Science 116 (International Relations), Sociology 202 (Contemporary Social Problems), Anthropology 210 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology), Philosophy 101 (Great Religions of the World), Psychology 110 (Psychology of Religion), and Psychology 220 (Introduction to Social Psychology).

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