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  • Helen Griffin

Nonviolent Action: A Force for Change

Deepening understanding of controversial and complex issues through P4C

At DECSY most, if not all, of our curriculum development projects have P4C (Philosophy for Communities / Children) at their heart. DECSY supports teachers and other educators to implement education for a just and sustainable world. Global issues are both complex and controversial and so P4C methodologies are invaluable for exploring these.

Nonviolent Action: A Force for Change is a four-year project, (now in its 3rd year) working with teachers to develop learning materials for students aged 8-14. It was inspired by research that shows that nonviolent movements for change are twice as effective as those that use violence. However in schools and beyond we hear very little about those large and small movements that are making such a difference to improving societies and the environment around the world. In schools we might mention famous individuals such as Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks but we might not show how these figures were supported by huge movements of ordinary people nonviolently making change happen on the ground. The danger of focussing on the exceptional individuals is that we may not believe in our own ordinary ability to effect change.

The project introduces young people to engaging case studies ranging from nonviolent resistance in WW2 to the Bristol Bus Boycott. It includes Otpor’s overthrowing of the Serbian dictator Milosevic; the Chipko tree protection movement in India and English Disco Lovers, an anti-racist social media campaign that toppled the English Defence League from top of the Google list when searching for EDL.

In this project we use P4C to explore huge and important contestable concepts such as violence and nonviolence, power, responsibility, change, choice, freedom, racism, rights, protest, democracy, obedience, justice and equality to name a few!

‘You can do something positively and nonviolently and still change things for the better’ — Y6 pupil, St Catherine’s RC Primary, Sheffield

A discussion activity from the project which explores the boundaries between violent and non-violent action has also been used successfully with adults. If you would like a chance to philosophically explore these concepts with others then join our session at Sheffield’s Festival of Debate on 22nd May 2021: ‘The Ethics of Action for Change: An Enquiry into the Rights and Wrongs of Activism’

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