Books

Of peace and non-violence: Australian takes Gandhi's lessons to the classroom

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

Aug 4, 2017
By Saket Suman
 
 As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.
 
"The Gandhi Experiment" (Rupa/Rs 295/151 pages) has been authored by Margaret Hepworth, a noted Gandhian scholar and peace educator from Melbourne, Australia. The book literally equips teachers and parents with tools and strategies for peace-building. It is an apt manual on teaching our teenagers to be global citizens by urging parents and teachers to experiment with peace and non-violence.
 
Hepworth's drive and commitment for social justice have flourished through her secondary teaching of almost 30 years and has now culminated into her workshops for both students and adults. Using this vast experience, the author combines concepts, techniques and practices, creating activities that engage, provide equity and enable teenagers to make powerful and positive choices for a better tomorrow.
 
The book also deserves praise for its creative merit. While being a largely nonfiction title, it carefully mixes imagination to suit the minds of young students and in conveying, with utter subtlety, the many tools that teachers, parents and adults can use to impart Gandhi's values to kids without slightest boredom.
 
Consider the first chapter, for instance. It invites readers to an imagined dinner party where 13 people have gathered. The task at hand is to deliberate on how best to save the world. The discussion that follows is an eye-opener, with suggestions and tools that seem familiar as well as out of the box. The best part, however, is the fact that readers, as well as the people on the dinner table, are not being told what to think. Rather, they are being invited to think.
 
This holds true for the rest of the book as well. The author does not see her suggestions as the only means to reach the objective. Instead, she is urging people to think and contemplate on imparting such lessons to young children in a way that they deem fit.
 
But there are more graver questions that the book sets out to answer. How are hate and fear created and what are we doing to build trust across the world's divides?
 
Hepworth argues that we have enough people trying to create hate and fear in our societies. What we need to counter this phenomenon is an overwhelming desire among the majority to be brilliant in creating hope and love.
 
Hepworth, in her own words, is a 'peace educator' and she insists that if this term was as easily understood as an English or Science teacher, our world would have been a much better place than what it is today.
 
(Saket Suman can be contacted at saket.s@ians.in)

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