PEACE: Education for Young Children (and their families and teachers)
In the Summer of 1979, after hearing of a mock nuclear bomb test was scheduled on Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts USA, two preschool teachers entered the base. Once inside they went to the base child care center and passed out flyers to teachers and parents giving information on the effects of nuclear war on children. The teachers and parents were shocked and alarmed about the mock test but had been so busy trying to keep their own classrooms safe they were completely unaware of the test.
Peggy Schirmer, one of the activist teachers, who had been a member of the Communist Party USA in the 1950s was the Director of a child care center at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With her connections in the early childhood community she decided to form a nationwide organization of teachers, family center providers, kindergarten teachers, and early childhood professionals called Concerned Educators Allied for Safe Environment (CEASE). It was during the era of the nuclear weapons freeze campaign and UN Conference on World Disarmament and the 1982 March for Disarmament in New York. She saw the potential of early childhood educators to become a force against violence and war. She began speaking talking and quietly organizing teachers around the country.
Peggy died in 2004 and CEASE became PEACE (Peace Educators Allied for Children Everywhere) in 2014 to focus on Peace Education for young children. For 39 years we have been encouraging activism in the curriculum, in the schools, in the community, around the country. We present ideas on how to teach empathy with babies, how to garden with preschoolers, how to teach anti-racism and anti-bias with Kindergarteners. We encourage parents to become activists at home, in the schools and in the big world. We used social media to share ideas from a wide variety of sources. We have joined the War Toys Campaign from War Resisters League, we have designed a curriculum with the help of native experts for all children on the Wampanoag Indigenous tribe on respect and cultural sensitivity. We have trained teachers on how to teach about nuclear war. We have supported the growth of Peace Camps, which are run by teen leaders for young children to learn about nonviolence and conflict resolution skills. We write about helping young children learn how to work cooperatively and be aware of the environment.
We have demonstrated in Washington DC around the War budget with so little of the budget supporting children and families. We have advocated for and supported the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and TRUCE, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment. We have advocated for children’s issues in our state and nationally and keep our members informed about latest legislation pending.
We have done this while keeping our own classrooms organized. Most teachers are overworked and underpaid but have a commitment to children. That is our form of resistance. We hope to develop the next generation of peace activism. We haven’t changed the world—yet! We now look internationally for help, ideas and solidarity. We are now an Associate member of War Resisters International and hope to be part of an ever growing peace education and resistance network.