A difficult dialogue: educating citizens in a divided society
Peace within pluralistic societies requires citizens capable of and committed to engaging non-violently in conflicts that will invariably arise due to differences in the interests, values, and commitments of diverse individuals and groups. Citizenship and peace educators suggest that this capacity can be cultivated by engaging students in a process of intergroup dialogue. In this qualitative case study, I investigated how a group of twenty-two Protestant and Catholic students in Northern Ireland participated in a series of dialogues concerning questions of national and cultural identity. Employing an ethnographic approach, I collected data by means of participant observation, interviews with students and staff, and document analysis. Data were analyzed according to a constant comparative process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and a participant feedback procedure (Bibace et al, 1999) was used to strengthen the accuracy and representativeness of my findings.Throughout the four-month program, students employed a variety of response strategies through which they consistently minimized the controversial nature of knowledge or value claims presented by others. Through the use of demystification and liminal subject matters, program staff occasionally succeeded in sustaining students' consideration of perspectives that challenged their own and initiating critical reflection concerning students' assumptions, behaviors, and commitments. I discuss what this case reveals about how dialogue can be employed to educate citizens capable of and committed to promoting peace and democracy in pluralistic societies.
- Education - Seattle