Papers and resource materials for the global meeting on

Oslo 2-5 September 2004 - The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief

To learn to live together- also a question of methodology[1]


By Dr. Ruth Firer

The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


 “Truth as factual, objective information cannot be divorced from the way in which this information is acquired; nor can such information be separated from the purposes it required to serve.”


(South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, 1998: Chapter 5, p. 42 and 44, in Ibid, Reason & Bradbury, 2001: XXVIII).







 The main questions of the present essay are: how can we know if we are doing the right pedagogical intervention? How can we measure the impact of P.E.?

 These questions were dealt with in the context of an Israeli –Palestinian P.E. project that was initiated and supervised by Firer (Truman Institute-Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) and Adwan (Bet Lehem University, PNA) during the years 1997-2000.

The project "To learn to live together" started in 1997 when the Oslo Accord (1993) process was on, and when still there were many hopes on both sides.  But, very often these hopes were disturbed by frustration; the Palestinians looked at the process as a preliminary stage towards establishing a Palestinian state, and considered peace and normalization with the state of Israel to be an outcome of this accomplished process. They were frustrated because it was prolonged, and because the Israelis continued to build settlements during the negotiation and implementation of the covenant.

The Israelis, on the other hand, considered Oslo period to be a start of normal and peaceful relations with the Palestinians. They were frustrated by the continuous terrorist actions of Palestinians against Israeli civilians and soldiers. Many on both sides believed that the other party cheats on them.

 Firer and Adwan started the project on 1997 aiming for 5 years reeducation process for Israeli and Palestinians teachers, pupils and scouts and their leaders.

The children were of middle school age in Talita School which is a German private school in Bet Jala (a quarter by Bet Lehem, PNA) in and In Bet Hinuch Tichon which is a state school in West Jerusalem - Israel).[2]

This project included two years (1997-1999) of training (national and bi - national) for teachers and scout leaders. The training resulted in composing new teaching/activities units in Geography, History, Literature, Languages and civic studies, and scouts activities.

These units were taught in separated national settings (7th grades in schools and parallel groups of scouts of both nations) for a full year, (1999-2000) thus preparing the encounters and joint activities of the pupils and scouts, planned for the next year.

Unfortunately, all the planes were canceled because of the Intifada of 2000, in spite of the Firers' and Adwans' efforts  to continue  to keep the participants interested for a whole year ( 2000-2001) because they still believed that the days of  Oslo will be recovered soon. The supervisors and the participants of the project "To learn to live together" were continuously concerned with the questions of the present paper: How to insure the success of their project? How to measure its success and failure?

When facing such questions, P.E. activists can use the abundant experience that was accumulated in the past. Being interested in modern and post modern planning and evolution, I shall start with the thirties when the scientific study of wars as a central human phenomenon. In those years it focused on the nature of war, the causes of war, processes, and results. 

The First Wave (1945-1970):  of peace studies started after World War II, adding to the previous studies new approaches and methods such as: economics, socio-biology, human ecology, anthropology, and epistemology. The first distinct academic peace research actually started in the 1950s, focusing on "Negative Peace" issues that looked for ways to avoid a repetition World War II, stop the Cold War, and the nuclear arms race (Galtung).

 The Second wave (1970-1980) reflected the public dispute in the United States regarding the Vietnam War and the impact of Civil Rights movements in the Western world led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Human Rights movements in the Third World led by Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  Gandhi, King, Mandela and Aung Sann Suu Kyi (in Burma) had become key contributors to civil disobedience theory and practice, and role models of nonviolent ways of solving conflict situations.

On the background of these events Galtung phrased “Positive Peace” theory that rejected wars and any other forms of aggression,   struggling peacefully for social justice and equality.

The third wave (1980-1990) was influenced by the end of the Cold War and détente. In this period the democratic western world stopped considering Peace movements and Peace studies as a Soviet conspiracy and threat.  It resulted in a broad legitimization of Peace Studies as the core of the mainstream democratic credo. The third wave emphasizes psychological and pedagogical angles as reflected in the large-scale development of Peace Education on both undergraduate and graduate levels, especially in the United States and Europe.

The fourth wave (1990-2000) was the result of the decline of totalitarian regimes in East Europe and the peace process in the Middle East, as well as reaction to the new “small” local bloodshed and wars.  In the late 1990s it was focused on War Culture versus Peace Culture.  Both were based on holistic philosophies.[3]

The fifth wave (2000- on) in the new millennium reflects the disappointment of the hopes for peace:  A new kind of wars wagged by terrorism against civil society became the horror of humanity.  Peace theoretician/researchers and practitioners felt failure and guilt.  They are deeply concerned with W.W.W, meaning: What Went Wrong?  And, they differ in answers and recommendations.

I am certain that the main reason for the failure of most P.E. experience is the blunt fact that the aggressiveness, open clashes and wars didn't stop, and it is almost impossible to have P.E. during bloodshed. The scholars argue in addition to this obvious that most of P.E. is done by well intentioned activists who have too little professional knowledge. While they agree on this, they differ in the requested methods and definitions for more professional P.E.

A. Disciplinary approach: Salmon (2000) categorizes different conflict situations and claims that peace education has to do only with open conflicts and wars. He argues that only well defined projects that aim at directly changing such situation can do it.  Correlatively, he insists on tight disciplinary way of research basically riled on quantitative measurements and psychosocial analysis.

            B. Interdisciplinary approach: Haverslad, Reardon, Firer, Darawsha and others[4] argue that there are not clear differences of conflict situations (which constantly change) and therefore they can't be dealt with a certain defined type of P.E.  They are of opinion that in every situation few kinds of peace education can be applied, according to a flexible approach that takes into consideration, age, gender, culture and other local issues (UNESCO, 1995). Accordingly, all models of peace education (teaching, contact, task, psychological etc) may include a large range of topics, from Conflict mediation to Human Right education, ecology, history and culture as long as they are based on the international goals of P.E. (UNESCO 1974, 1998, 2000).  I also insist that in most of the cases, children and adult can't  transfer ideas from one subject to another, and therefore  such large scale approach must have a clear message of P.E. , namely, a reference to the real conflict and  to the sides that have to be brought together for negotiation for peace and co existence.

The above interdisciplinary approach requires alternative research methodology.

            There is no doubt that each choice of planning, implanting and evaluating influence each other, especially in complex human circumstances that encompass many variables which can be isolated. The fewer variables that are checked the easier is to be strictly disciplinary, for example:

A/1. Textual analysis and evaluation of pedagogical documents, textbooks, curriculum as reflectors of cultural/religious/political orientations within the power centers of nation/public[5] ( Fireres' pubs and Firer/Adwan, 2004, mainly qualitative discourse analysis).

A/2.   Assessment of attitudes before and after P.E. experiences (Maoz, 1997, mainly quantitative closed end questionnaire).

For a large scale P.E. projects like to learn to Live together all the above methods are needed, including open end questionnaire and many other devices that sometimes are named "Action Research" which is an interdisciplinary method in which the participants are also the taking part in the research. All the members of the "Action" use every possible device in order to get more data and understanding. This methodology belongs to the anthropological studies and is close the post modern outlook.[6]


The implementation of Action Research methodology on the project "To Learn to live together":

The creative Empowerment stage (1997-1999):

            The teachers and the scout leaders went through a critical reading of the curricula and textbooks (or leader's guides). They learned to read the explicit, implicit and non existent text and to offer corrections and completions in the spirit of P.E. Their views were documented and used as indicators of the development of their attitudes knowledge and skills. This process resulted in composing the "Fill in Packages" that were new P.E. teaching units, based on a humanistic approach on various subjects and topics of Positive and Negative Peace.


The stage of implantation: (1999- 2000):

Firer and Adwan composed open end questionnaires for observers who used them in classes in order to evaluate the teacher's work and pupils' involvement.  In the scouts there were no observers but the leaders and their monitors reported on each activity.

            Adwan selected about fifty questions (mostly closed end) from the international questionnaire sources, which were translated and adapted from English into Hebrew and Arabic. The questionnaires were implied in the project class and in the control classes (7th grades) at the beginning, middle and end of the school year in which the teaching took place (preliminary, formative and summative feedback and evaluation).  The answers were elaborated by statistics according to the social studies quantitative method.

            Through the years the project  became a semi-structured intentional intervention that interwove action and research, in which the researchers and the teachers/ scout-leaders, observers, critical friends and children were in the same time the interveners, monitors, participants, analyzers, and evaluators.

Firer and Adwan were interviewing teachers and pupils, having class conversations, group and individual sessions with the teachers, some video typed (reflecting group dynamics and body language) some recorded and some remembered in order to be put in writing later on. These texts were analyzed, compared and evaluated by hermeneutic discourse analysis devices (Ricoeur, 1984).

            The ongoing assessments and feedback referred to all the participants as objects and subjects, and it changed constantly according to the situations and needs; the project developed into a scientific/human multi-variable laboratory( classroom, teachers room, and scout group)  in constant change.  Therefore, the investigation was based on various kinds of data, sources and methods, aspiring for emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dynamic portrayal of all the participants, on levels of analysis, reflection, assessment, and evaluation. The monitors, researchers, teachers, scout leaders, and their clientele (pupils and scouts) went through a reeducation process during a period that was ambivalent and insecure. It was interesting to see the differences of the attitudes of the participants in 1997-2000, when compared to 2000 on, as influenced by the eruption of the Intifada; there is doubt that the evaluation of the success of the project was deeply influenced by the collapse and failure of the Oslo period…..

 To sum up:  Noffke (in Hollingsworth, 1997) describes the historical development of action research in education, starting in the thirties of the 20th century, in agreement with Dewey(1929/1984:13) characterization: “Educational science cannot be constructed simply by borrowing the techniques of excrement and measurement found in physical science”; This statement was fully adopted by Action Research methodology. Because of its flexible nature and open terminology, almost any monographic report of self, or group educational/teaching activities, can go under this umbrella; and this is also the main academic criticism against Action Research method. They claim that it isn't scientific/professional enough (In Israel, each year there are few hundreds of P.E. projects implemented by well intentioned individuals and groups that their work is many time semi professional). But, non the less, most of the practitioners and grassroots leaders all over the globe have preferred humanistic, self-empowerment, action research models  over too tight disciplinary strategies (Hollingsworth,1997,xi) mentions: United States, The United Kingdom, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Italy Israel) and I would like to add  to this list: the PNA.

            People in developing countries, like in Latin America and Africa (Nambia from 1999) decline any imposition of external culture ( named by  them: "new colonialism") and develop their solutions in the context of their indigenous context, in order to forward their emancipating liberating skills.[7]  Researchers who prefer action research methods claim that flexible methods can be used in such intervention within educational settings, and that there are ways to assess them.

            I also agree with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa statement, (1998) being aware of the fact that researches' results are very often influenced by the researcher's opinions and their chosen methodology.

 But, astonishing enough, Israeli P.E. researchers, when using different approaches and methods agree that P.E. in the Middle East failed.

I challenge this pessimistic evolution by using a broad historian approach (which is my main professional discipline). Thirty years ago any Israeli who would acknowledge the Palestinian nationality and/or would speak on behalf of Palestinian state would be considered either: mad, traitor, or an extreme left / Communist. Now most of the Israelis are ready for these notions; the majority of them acknowledges the nationality of the Palestinian and would like them to have their state.  For most of the Israelis at present it is only a question of price and timing… Thus, the Israeli P.E. can prides itself with these results, proving the old truth that  education takes time, and it fruits are far away from present hard work of the practitioners…

 P.E. has the power to change slowly, in small stapes the future. It enfolds the most important component for human: Hope; Therefore it should be taken seriously, and be implemented professionally.



Apple, W.M. and L.K. Christian-Smith (eds.) (1991) The Politics of Textbooks, New York and London: Routledge


Burns, Robin, J. and Robert Aspeslagh (Eds, 1996) Three decades of Peace Education Around the world. An Anthology. New York: Garland Pub.


Dewey, J. (1929/1984) ‘The Sources of a Science of Education’ in Boydston, J.A. (ed.), The Later Works: Vol 5, 1929-1930 (pp. 3-40) Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press


Firer, R. (1995) “From Peace Making to Tolerance Building,” in R. Moses (ed.) The Psychology of Peace and Conflict: The Israeli-Palestinian Experience,

pp. 79-86.  Truman, P.C.G. Adenauer Stiffung.


Firer, R. (1996) “‘Shalom’ Education through the Peace Process: Israel 1993-94,” Citizenship, 4(2):15-19.  London.


Firer, R. (1997) “The Holocaust - From Political Lesson to Politicization in Israeli History Textbooks, 1948-1995,” Politics, Groups and the Individual, IPSA:107-123.


Firer, R. (1998) “Human Rights in Civics and History Textbooks: The Case of Israel,” Curriculum Inquiry, 28(2):195-209.


Firer, R. and S. Adwan (2004)  The Narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1998.  A Comparison of Israeli and Palestinian History and Civics Textbooks --

Georg Eckert Institute, Germany


Hicks, D. (ed.) (1988)  Education for Peace. London: Rutledge


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Haavelsrud, M. (ed.) (1993) Disarming: Discourse on Violence and Peace, Tromso, Norway: Arena Publishers


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Hollingsworth, S. (1997) International Action Research: A Casebook for Educational Reform, London: The Palmer Press


Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (1982) The Action Research Planner,Australia: Deakin University Press


Kemmis, S. (1993) ‘Foucault, Habermas and evaluation’, Curriculum Studies, 1 (1): 35-45, Oxford, England: Triangle Journal


Kemmis, Stephen (2001) Exploring the Relevance of Critical Theory for Action Research: Emancipatory Action Research in the Footsteps of Jürgen


Maoz, I. (1997) “A Decade of Structured Educational Encounters Between Jews and Arabs in Israel” In D.S. Halperin (ed.) To Live Together: Shaping New Attitudes

to Peace Through Education, Geneva University and Paris: UNESCO International Bureau of Education


Maoz, I. (2000). Power relations in inter-group encounters: A case study of Jewish-Arab encounters in Israel. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 24(4), 259-277.


Reardon, B. (1988) Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for GlobalResponsibility, New York: Teachers College Press, pp. 29-37


Reardon, B. (1989) “Pedagogical Approaches to Peace Studies,” in D.C. Thomas and M.T. Klare (eds.), Peace and World Order Studies: A Curriculum Guide, pp. 20-27.  Boulder, San Francisco & London: Westview Press.


Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (2001) Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (eds), London: Sage Publication

Ricoeur, P. (1984)  Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Salomom, G. ( 2000) Peace education: is it possible without research? The Stonach Center for research on Peace Education (CERPE) University of Haifa Israel (Hebrew)


South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, 1998: Chapter 5. Pt 42 and 44, XXVIII


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1 The methodology chapter was composed by Firer, 2001 supported by U.S.I.P. (United States Institute of Peace), Washington, DC, and presented at the conference of Peace education, Haifa University June 200; it is adapted for the presentation for Oslo, 2004.


[2]  The PNA authorities didn't allow PE projects in their public schools so all P.E. Projects were implied on private schools.


[3] The historical summary mainly based on : Burns/ Aspeslagh, 1996


[4] Reardon 1988: 14; Haavelsrud, 1993; Rosandic, 1994: 10; Firer, 2002, and in the similar spirit Darawsha, 2000


5 (Foucalt, 1980; Firer, 1985, 1987; Apple and Christian-Smith, 1991; and others).


[6] Noffke (in Hollingsworth, 1997: 2-17) describes the historical development of action research in education, starting in the thirties of the 20th century


[7] Kemmis (in Reason/Bradbury, 2000:91-103) and his own pornographies explain in details Action Research methodology.