Time and time again we’ve mentioned our Peace Education Curriculum and how it helps us bridge divides between Arab and Jewish kids. But what is it? and how does it work? This week we’re going to take a closer look at the curriculum, which holds powerful universal lessons for how we see ourselves and others in the world.
The curriculum, which is based on the Arbinger Institute’s Anatomy of Peace model, streamlines elements of basketball to create a roster of innovative basketball drills and dialogue sessions that serve to dispel stereotypes and build cooperation and trust between players. The main goal is to help Palestinian and Israeli PeacePlayers see one another as human beings, instead of objects. The first step to achieving this is helping them recognize, while in their personal lives, those they see as people and those they see as objects. That’s why the curriculum uses personal storytelling: participants recall how it felt to relate to someone else as an object and how it felt when others related to them similarly. The curriculum builds a “safe space” outside their existing narratives, where the participants can look at the conflict in a new light and re-imagine the “other” in a more humanizing way.
But let’s be honest. How long can a kid sit still and engage in a formal conflict resolution seminar? PPI – ME and the Arbinger Institute realized that the best way to teach children how to bring home the idea was by letting them play out these concepts on the basketball court. PPI – ME Manager of Basketball Operations Vito Gilic worked together with Arbinger to develop drills that let kids experience the consequences of seeing people as objects and of being seen as one. The curriculum helps participants understand that viewing another person as an object causes that person to view you as an object in return. This creates a vicious cycle of ill will, which inhibits our ability to actually get what we want. Through these drills, children can understand that cooperation and respect are the only way to succeed.
Here is one example of such a drill, which we use with middle-schoolers. A pair runs down the court. The player on the left passes the ball to a third player, who stands on the sidelines. After receiving the ball back, the first player passes the ball to his or her partner on the right for a lay up. This third participant is excluded from the play; all he or she can do is stand in place and pass. In this way, the drill helps kids feel what it’s like to be the “outsider” on the team; a player who is not treated as a team player, but is instead used by his or her teammates as a vehicle for their own ends.
PeacePlayers go home with an understanding that everyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion, is an individual, with his or her own dreams, challenges and fears. Seeing people as people isn’t about staying out of each other’s way. It is about finding a way to make the ‘other’s’ way entwine with your own.
PPI’s Peace Education Curriculum was developed in cooperation with the Arbinger Institute and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. With particular input from our friend and colleague Professor Chad Ford, Director of the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding and Associate Professor of International Cultural Studies at BYU – Hawaii.