When I was growing up in India, non-violence was considered the highest virtue. In fact, my grandfather was a strong supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, and an advocate of non-violence to bring about social and political change. Modern society also has prominent icons of non-violence such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Lech Wałęsa. Yet today, basic human values are being eroded, resulting in violence and aggression.
The high incidence of violence in the society is appalling, whether at the domestic or societal level. Aggression has become an integral part even in the lives of children. In the United States, violence in school and college campuses is on the rise. In classrooms, aggressive children are sometimes considered heroes. If children lose their temper, they feel it is normal and even take pride in it. Many of them grow up thinking that they will have their say if they are aggressive. Bullying incidents are often seen and reported by the media. Strength and dignity lie in peace and cooperation, however these qualities go unnoticed.
As the children and young people in the United States get ready to deal with the challenges of a new decade, we need to revisit the education system and create an environment where learning is more interesting and joyful. The approach to education should nurture a child's ability to assimilate, comprehend and present information and knowledge effectively. It should also aim to restore pride in being peaceful and responsible, in being non-violent. Violence makes noise and news while non-violence happens in silence. The time has come for the voice of non-violence to be heard loud and clear.
We need to bring back the pride in being peaceful and steady, and compassionate. If we could instill that pride in our children and youth, then their whole life will take a new direction. To end violence of any kind from our society, we need to commit to the human values of friendliness, compassion, and non-aggression. A lack of connectedness or belongingness breeds crime and violence. No individual can be violent against someone with whom he or she has a true sense of belongingness.
Limited wisdom and a lack of education on human values are the main factors creating division. We need to introduce a sense of belongingness to nurture the character and the heart. This will not be possible without putting attention on values of responsibility, compassion and caring for humanity. Each of these must come to the classroom where school students participate in programs that instill the importance of non-violence.
An Integrated Approach Towards Learning
There are three specific components of an integrated approach that will help our children choose a path of peace. Teachers and parents should collaborate to create such a path and make learning more interesting and joyful.
The first component is a multicultural and a multi-religious education. There is great value in having children learn a little bit about various cultures in the world that will help them grow with a broader mindset. Even if a small part of the world is left with people thinking that only they are right, the world will not be a safe place to live. The sense of belongingness and oneness, the sense of connectedness to one global family despite different colors, languages and traditions, has to be developed in young people.
The second component involves physical fitness and outdoor activity. With the advent of computer, video games and social media, we are facing a crisis in the United States where children don't go out and play as much. Instead, they lock up themselves with the video games, most of which are violent or spend too much time online. We need to give them an orientation to function more through sports, yoga and breathing exercises that calm the body and mind.
The third component involves children participating in service projects. When young people are involved in service activities in their communities, it gives them satisfaction and confidence that they can make a positive difference to the world.
Violence is neither our true nature nor the basis of civilization. When we bring up the human values in society, and give people confidence that non-violence has more power and a longer-lasting impact than violence, the whole world will benefit. This is what Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated for us. We need to work collectively to bring back non-violence as the highest virtue.