Book Review

Peace and Pedagogy

Molly Quinn, Peter Lang Primer, 2014. ISBN-10:1433118440, $5.74.

Tricia Herbert
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

The introduction of a twenty-four hour news cycle and its daily live broadcasts help to inform our lives. As such, terrorist attacks, gang violence, natural disasters and revolutions are prominent features of the news industry’s broadcast. We, the public, consume these broadcasts, and consequently witness images of war and peace; death and life; chaos and calm; as well as evil and good. We have seen the possibilities and impossibilities of peace nestled in a world revolving around what we observe. The author, Molly Quinn, in her current research inquiry, Peace and Pedagogy, resists such overdependence on the news industry in shaping our views of the world. Instead, she attributes value to the seen lives of individuals in her investigation of peace with students, children and prospective teachers. Her book asks us to dialogically reimagine peace or to see peace anew first in our lives and then with others.

Quinn develops this present work outside the prevalent traditions in research inquiry as she integrates different methodologies, philosophies and theories together in research design and analysis that defiantly challenges “a banking approach to research, to qualitative or curriculum inquiry” (Quinn, 2014, p.17). She holds a central premise that peace, peace education and educating for peace do not partake of any standard definition but delight in a multiplicity of interpretations stemming from the subjective lives of the “I/Eye” or individuals seeing peace anew alone and with others. Quinn makes our peace tangible.

The reader will notice the book is arranged in seven chapters. The first two chapters along with the seventh explicitly articulate the author’s views on peace. Chapters three to six present the author’s research, analysis and interpretations of inquiry on peace pedagogy with student teachers, three elementary school teachers and their students in two New York City public schools.

The first chapter, titled “Picturing Peace: A Beginning,” begins with peace as an educational project that is political and thus linked to questions of “justice, equity, power, freedom, and subject…” (p.5). The political designation assigned to peace is based on the traditions captured in the concepts of natality[1] (Arendt, 1954/1993) and “historical vocation of humanization”[2] (Freire, 1970/1993). Both traditions serve the author’s purpose by infusing peace with agency that defies its historical denotation as soft or weak. In other words, peace as political is the human engagement of one’s ethics and desires to reimagine possibilities and praxes for peace in a world broadcasted simultaneously as violent and calm; oppressive and hopeful; as well as unjust and just.

In chapter two, “Why Picturing Peace?”, the author describes the book’s research methods and theories used to inform her peace research and inquiry. The study initially centers on prospective New York City student teachers gleaming of peace in a university social studies course. The use of photography as part of the research process to capture images of peace and written reflections on those images is informed by the project’s emergent research design from the subjective and dialogic lives of students as self-together-with-others unified for peace. Quinn’s use of subjectivity in research (Quinn’s life as teacher educator in conversation with her students’ lives: autobiographically and biographically) affirms her allegiance to make visible the human subject in peace or the “I/Eye”.

Moreover, the author continues to draw inspiration from Hannah Arendt (1954/1993) and Paulo Freire (1970/1993). She uses natality to show that the responsibility and capacity to begin anew for the purpose of peace is an act of the human subject or self. The prominence of the “I” or self to seek peace coupled with conscientization (Freire, 1970/1993), or the task of becoming aware of one’s own “biographic and existential situation” (p.18), forms the book’s quest to make peace an ongoing inquiry. In short, the possibilities for peace through the subjective lives of teacher educator (Quinn), student teachers and children require a continuous re-imaging of peace as “beginning with me, the self, the person and human subject must be birthed from within each of us, and with others” (p.16). Quinn recalls our humanness for peace.

Finally, chapter seven concludes the book with an analysis on what this peace project is, can do and will do if it is concretized in me, you and the world. The most meaningful discussion about peace and pedagogies for peace in schools and classrooms is the author’s continued analysis of the political and politicized nature of education. If peace is an education project, then it is political and politicized. This is the author’s burden taken up as a quest to reimagine and see peace anew in a world awash with juxtaposing images of war and peace; chaos and tranquility; as well as uproar and quiet. Can we see peace and make it visible in our lives? The author’s critique reminds us that peace as a project of education seeks to make relevant human action, desire, influences, dreams and aspirations for peace, first in our lives and then together with others. The book accomplishes the task in humanizing peace in education.

Quinn describes the American education system as “audit culture” (p.7). The implication is that education, as a system, is aligned with methods of surveillance codified as accountability and standardization in the name of student success. The book, consistent with the author’s views, fights against such a culture for educating for peace. We glimpse this culture as represented by the new elementary school principal at an East Harlem site who dismissed the first graders’ peace curriculum, one designed with features like a peace corner containing artifacts of peace that children use to temper their behavior or work out internal issues disrupting their classroom life. As readers, we may feel crushed or dismayed at the casual manner in which education is driven by outcome-based benchmarks that quantify our children’s learning as measured by test scores. Additionally, Quinn provides no actions to take once educating for peace is stopped in the classroom, outside her critique of the surveillance culture permeating our school system.

The work of Gert Biesta (2013) provides an informative approach for instances when educating for peace is stopped in the classroom. He sees education as problematic, and thus proposes that teachers separate or emancipate their practices from education. Biesta borrows inspiration from Michel Foucault’s (1975) term eventalization or transgression to suggest that structures of power cannot be fully understood, but can be confronted with practical ideas to teach differently. Quinn’s non-traditionalist work would benefit from synchronizing these three traditions (eventalization, natality and conscientization) to inspire the continuation of educating for peace under a culture of surveillance. In other words, can teachers develop the art of subterfuge to freely teach their heart and mind when educating for peace is stopped in the classroom?

This book is an excellent way to explore what peace and peace pedagogies can be if we start with our own lives as teachers, educators, human beings to re-image peace in a world captive to parallel images of death and life; hunger and satisfaction; instability and stability; or even riots and calm seen from the twenty-four hour news cycle.


Arendt, H. (1954/1993). Between past and future. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Biesta, G. (2013). The beautiful risk of education. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Freire, P. (1970/1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

Foucault, M. (1975). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York, NY: Vintage.

Quinn, M. (2014). Peace and pedagogy. New York, NY: Peter Lang Primer.

[1] Quinn (2014) interprets natality to mean our “human capacity to begin again, to set things right” (p.6), and as a consequence, peace can be “birthed in each of us” (p.196).

[2] Quinn (2014) sees teachers and students “historical vocation of humanization” to be their “full and free presence-vision, agency, and voice” as involving dialogue, engagement and exploration to inquire “what it means to be human, and what might make for harmonious, fruitful, freeing and fulfilling relations among us” (p.87-88).



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