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Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

Dear Mr Oppenheimer by Antony Owen

By Blog Editor, on 25 July 2023

Dear Mr Oppenheimer

Beneath your crafted nebula  

I picture your dead noon walk 

casting a long shadow eastward. 


In the post atomic abendrot 

you brush off Alamogordo sand 

like glitter from a forbidden kiss. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

sky is badged in yellow stars, 

magenta stars, violet dust. 


Dear Mr Oppenheimer, 

this night your star was born 

sunset bled over Hiroshima. 


At the IMAX film of your life 

a man scoffs bulb warm Dorito’s 

sharing his awe on TikTok –  

the new age Brittanica. 

By Antony Owen

For Teaching resources around early atomic scientists see these lessons from Quakers in Britain and the Peace education network.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Blog Editor, on 17 July 2023

Dr Anna Korula, is a former Senior Human Rights Officer and Adviser at the UN and OSCE. She now works as an independent Consultant, Advisor and author on human rights, mediation, peace-making, conflict transformation and peace education. She recently contributed to the Citizenship PGCE and makes strong suggestions here about how universities, schools and NGOs can collaborate.

Helping to shape the future: For and with pupils and students

By Dr Anna R. Korula

In the educational sphere there are innumerable opportunities for teachers, particularly PGCE graduates working with pupils or students, to shape the future. Together with staff, other academics, and relevant university departments they might link with think tanks, NGOs and governments to draw attention to and generate action on a host of pressing societal issues during the course of their entire teaching careers. IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society for example, is very well placed to propel forward movement in many potential areas. Drawing on my own insights gained over three decades of a career in the human rights arena, including research, as well as a decade of active peacebuilding in five field missions based in Europe, Africa and Asia, with the United Nations and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), I outline some ideas in case they are of some potential interest to teachers engaging with various cohorts.  I have attempted to set it squarely in the context of education and social impact, also given the many pressing issues that are pertinent for the pupils and students of the present and future.  I do this in the hope that they will be given due consideration, and that they may help shape some future directions, as well as discussions.

  1. As I see it, I think it important to have stronger elements of Leadership Studies included in the curriculum or extra-curricular courses offered in schools, with emphasis on ethical leadership.  Practical implementation could also draw on the model used by the Obama Foundation to train youth in leadership, for example. Several charities in the UK, e.g., Quaker for Peace and Social Witness, the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, The Prince’s Trust, and others train or use staff or community members to become leaders in their fields, even if not always through specific leadership programmes, so it would seem the knowledge and capacity exist, but have to be included in a more systematic way.  My hope is that including such practical knowledge, as well as leadership studies per se will help shape more ethical young leaders for the future. Needless to say, embedding these courses within an overarching human rights framework would make eminent sense.
  2. I believe it important to consider, with some urgency, how AI, robotics, ChatGPT, Google Bard and other such tools will need to be managed by students, teaching staff, administrators and government agencies so as to draw on their strengths, whilst recognizing and managing their negative impacts. These are concrete challenges everyone will face, which will have very long-lasting impacts, also in the legal and ethical spheres. Here it becomes an imperative perhaps to adopt or adapt new EU legislation on AI regulation (currently being negotiated) for example, and include or tailor it to specific local i.e., national contexts and needs as well.  For example, EU legislation proposes that ChatGPT must disclose that content was AI-generated, which is an absolutely crucial pre-requisite and should be the minimum that is required by all teaching institutions. I am also particularly concerned about the developments in thought/brain controlling AI tools that have evolved with as yet no legal or ethical guidelines in place on their use and proliferation. It is perhaps essential to consider how best AI, robotics, and other tools currently under development be challenged more systematically (e.g. for bias; fake news, lack of ethical and legal norms) as well as built upon to propagate peace education, human rights education, but also e.g., generate wellbeing, supportive peer relationships, and enhance mitigatory approaches like restorative justice, mediation etc.  The possibilities are challenging, but also endless in their potential for good.

It is worth noting here that the commercial sector, as recognized just recently by McKinsey (June 2023) for example, is welcoming tech developments such as generative-AI with open arms as it is estimated to contribute $4.4 trillion annually to global GDP, so will not be ignored or marginalized, but embraced. Education needs to embrace this trend as well.

If undertaken in the near future, these initiatives as summarized above, could also feed into my third prospective initiative suggested below:

  1. Based on my subjective experience and insights I suggest a good way forward may be for academics/universities, NGOs (charities) to work via governments and the UN, with a special committee or subgroup set up primarily under the UN’s aegis, but with sub committees in all countries (lead and supportive countries initially) to work toward specific goals, as described briefly below. The SDGs may provide the lead-in required, as well as the glue, as they are now well established and gaining currency worldwide, so linking these initiatives to the SDGs will have many advantages, as the framework and structures already exist and they have cross-cutting themes across the main UN pillars.

UCL/IOE could for example, together with other relevant UCL departments as well as networks such as OxPeace, CPERG, charities such as the Association for Citizenship Teaching, Quaker for Peace and Social Witness Peace Education, the Peace Education Network, Peacemakers and so forth spearhead some of these initiatives. This could, over time, ensure global convergence of peace and human rights education in these areas, as foreseen in some of the literature on peace and human rights education (e.g., Hantzopoulos and Bajaj, 2021).  At present the division is still quite marked, also because the UN core pillars on security (including peacebuilding) and human rights are seen to be inter-related but separate, i.e., as parallel entities. So let’s hope this long overdue convergence and coordination will now begin and the overlap eliminated, streamlined, or rationalized.

Possible long-term outcomes therefore might be an UN Convention on Peace and Human Rights Education, though a Draft Declaration would be the first step toward this. Although the plethora of existing laws is an impediment to budgetary allocations and implementation, there is evidence to suggest that working toward a Convention would raise awareness globally, encourage governments, NGOs and community groups to become more active in establishing this as a part of the curriculum, provide the backbone for more ethical leadership, inform as well as strengthen democratic governance. This could spur greater citizen participation, particularly with youth and children becoming a natural part of the process. In addition, UN Conventions generally spawn ad hoc working groups or committees, Special Rapporteurs or other experts at the UN’s top tiers, who work to raise awareness and further the objectives of the convention or declaration.

In fact I suggest here it has to become an imperative to set up, perhaps as a first step, task forces managed and directed by children and youth, also linked across the globe, in keeping with the requirements of the CRC, and also enabling cross-cultural critical examination of issues of global concern such as climate change, the impact of technology etc.

At the very least, or as a first step, one could work to institute an UN International Day for Peace and Human Rights Education as this too raises awareness worldwide on both the necessary foundations as well as ongoing work in the area. Initiatives could coordinate with existing ones such as those undertaken by e.g., Global Peace Education, enabling a streamlined approach, as well as helping coordinate the innumerable local/national initiatives under way, and to augment as well as enhance them.

Perhaps pupils and students in global hubs could also be mentored or linked to former and serving UN and others peace workers to shape a new generation of peace workers who bring science and tech more into play in peacebuilding activities and institutions of the future, with a greater focus and emphasis on prevention.


Poet Antony Owen reflects on Peace education & publishes new poem ‘War Anniversary’.

By Blog Editor, on 1 March 2023

Antony Owen is a writer from Coventry with an avid interest in the psychological and physical affects of conflict. In World War II his Nan, Martha Sherriff was forcibly displaced with her children following the Luftwaffe bombing of Coventry. As a child/adolescent growing up in the 1980’s where nuclear war tensions were high and weapons were proliferated to nearly four times what they are today (55,000 nuclear weapons) this had a profound affect on his interest in modern conflicts. Since 2009 Owen has had nine volumes of poetry published by many presses internationally and his work is widely translated. His 2017 book The Nagasaki Elder (VPress) was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry and he was also a winner of the Museum of Military Medicine Poetry Award in 2018.  He has met survivors in Hiroshima, Dresden and Coventry and has a passion for peace education and the role poetry and arts has to play in raising awareness of the consequences that conflict has on people in both the immediate and longer term.


I am writing this with a heavy heart at the first anniversary of the Ukrainian war and the ongoing escalations in nuclear weapon rhetoric. Despite feeling sad and deeply reflective about the lives consumed by this tragic war I am hopeful as Peace education has never been so active. With organisations and individuals working together to guide the next generation to better understand the consequences of warfare away from a video game or Hollywood film. The reality of war is far more devastating but seeing the progressive and balanced work CND Peace Education and places like the education team at Quakers UK is hopeful. These organisations continue to provide high quality teaching resources to meet the needs of student curiosity about the world of conflict, providing them with a balance away from aggressive militarisation.

A few years ago I visited Jogakuin School in Hiroshima where 350 students and teachers died from the atomic bomb explosion in 1945. At the existing school I conducted a Peace education lesson to students using a visual stimulus of over 2050 dots on a blackboard that represented a nuclear test conducted since the last atomic bomb on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. We discussed how this made them feel, how they thought atomic bomb survivors felt, how the Marshall islanders and people from the Polygon and Aleut people felt seeing their land poisoned. They were undoubtedly very sad. Peace education in Hiroshima is mandatory and embedded into their social conscience in the hope they will never suffer again. With their American teacher we discussed Truman’s quote justifying use of the atomic bombs where Truman said “Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned of obeying international laws of warfare” (Source: PBS). The student responses included points that the tens of thousands of children and babies that were killed from the atomic bombings were not responsible for the cruelty to American Prisoners of war. Another point from our discussion was the dozen American POWs killed in the blast. This helped us to consider the different views involved that are not expressed in the speech from Truman and why Peace education provides that criticality.

I read a poem on the bombing of Hiroshima inspired by the testimony of an atomic bomb survivor the perspective was welcomed. Flags and nationalities are not respected by nuclear weapons and we know that all will be lost if a nuclear war was to happen. This is the most compelling insight I have had to the power of Peace education and poetry. The Quakers, CND Peace Education, ICAN, UCL PESIG are playing a key role in Peace education which is why the Quakers and CND Peace education can use my poems as they wish to advance their work in UK schools.

The poem below is written for the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War and is dedicated to ALL victims in that conflict and to our inspirational school students and teachers in creating a more informed and peaceful world for the future.


War Anniversary


Let us for a moment

be patriotic to human life

think of flags as swaddled babes

their burst eardrums of bomb tinnitus


Let us for a moment

remember a beautiful blooding

a baby made in the kiln of her mother

wanting only the sonar of scent and milk.


What have we learnt?

that frozen ground can warp spades

of bodies covered in ghost white sheets

haunting the bones from previous massacres.


What have we learnt?

when wheat bends away from the scythe

and the mad machinery destroys mother earth

all because of locusts who leave nothing but plague.


Let us for a moment

pledge allegiance to life

learn that compromise is not Armageddon

to remember a baby today shall lead us tomorrow.