We are not peace scholars. Yet.
Last Thursday, we visited the Fulbright office in Oslo to learn about the different opportunities Fulbright offers both in Norway and in other countries. One remark from the presenter really stuck with me. Toward the end of the session, she said something like this:
“You are probably most familiar with ‘Fulbright Scholar’ as the identifying term for participants in the program, but we prefer a different term. Because those accepted by Fulbright receive a grant to learn more about a topic they are interested in through research or teaching, we think the term ‘Fulbright Grantee’ is more accurate.”
Similarly, though it is not as impressive-sounding, I think a more accurate name for the Peace Scholars is Peace Grantees. To illustrate this, while I study political science and keep up with international affairs, I don’t know a lot about peace and conflict and hope I wasn’t selected for this program because someone thinks I do. Instead, my application focused on how I want to incorporate knowledge of historical conflicts and effective peacemaking techniques into my eventual career as a social studies teacher. And I think the same can be said of all the other Peace Scholars. None of us are experts.
I’ve learned a lot from the readings, discussions, lectures and field trips associated with the week at the Nansen Center and with the Peace Scholar course at the ISS. Topics like the negative impacts of colonization, the artificial construction of race and ethnicity by those in power, and how dialogue can lead to peace are all things that will improve my curriculum and teaching in subjects like history and civics/government. But after this mere seven-week program is over, I will still not be a scholarly authority on peace by any means.
The purpose of this post is not to blame the people who named this program the Peace Scholars program. Rather, it is to reflect on how this lack of peace expertise should shape our goals for after the program.
There is much more to learn about peace and conflict than what can be garnered from a few articles and conversations. Herein lies what I believe to be the main lesson from the Peace Scholars program. This experience is laying a foundation for us to further our studies in peace and conflict and, more importantly, apply what we’ve learned to our future vocations and everyday lives.
If this mandate is carried out, we will no longer be Peace Grantees, but true peace scholars.