The Non Violence Project for Elementary-Secondary School Students
BASED ON PRACTICE OF NON VIOLENCE BY LEADERS LIKE MAHATMA GANDHI, DR. REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., PRESIDENT MANDELA, FRONTIER GANDHI, AUNG SAN SUU KYI
Launched on November 23, 2009 Coinciding State Visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India by President Barack Obama of United States of America
Among the illnesses in American society today, violence among school-age youth is one that cries out for effective remedy. Almost weekly, we read of tragedy in the classroom, appalling gang attacks, or a senseless rampage by a lone young killer. The outcomes of these awful events have wide-spread and long-lasting harmful effects across families, communities, and upon young lives which are often deformed forever.
We at the American institute of Sindhulogy believe there is an approach to this problem, which could be employed quickly, directly, and with minimal cost that has potential benefits for all. By introducing courses in non-violence into our schools we think the propensity to violence among students could be lessened. By demonstrating to students that there are constructive alternatives to conflict, teachers can dampen the aggressive impulse. Practicing non-violence in response to violence itself is a tough decision requiring patience, self-control, and courage. These characteristics are usually associated with maturity which, by definition, school-age youth have not achieved. Nevertheless, we are persuaded that exposing children to the notion of non-violence offers them a choice they might not otherwise have, and we feel it worth our time and effort.
Our initiative was prompted by an especially egregious recent episode of violence in Chicago where several young men set upon another school boy, aged 16, and beat him to death with wooden clubs. The victim, apparently an innocent bystander, was merely at the scene of an ugly confrontation between two neighborhood factions. The incident drew national attention and a visit to Chicago by the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Education.
The Institutes founder, Dial Gidwani, was familiar with communal violence during his years of residence in his native India, and had direct experience of violent scene during the turbulent period of Partition when his home state of Sindh was absorbed into the new nation of Pakistan. It occurred to Mr. Gidwani that there were applicable lessons from the peaceful efforts of Mahatma Gandhi that could be brought to bear here in the U.S.
That seed developed into a plan to bring into classrooms the teaching of non-violence based on the life histories of practitioners like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, President Nelson Mandela, Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
American institute of Sindhulogy proposed this idea to Education Secretary Arne Duncan who was sympathetic and urged him to share it with educators and officials with a view towards implementation. The Institute has contacted local and state officials, civic and religious leaders, and others who might endorse the project.
As groundwork, Mr. Gidwani is explaining the philosophy of non-violence, relating his own experiences, and seeking advice for how the project can be instituted locally. Ideally, after official approval is obtained and funding arranged, we expect teachers would themselves be introduced to the topic, drawing from history. A syllabus would then be developed separately for use in schools. The final step would be the inclusion of non-violence classes in as many elementary and secondary schools as might be enlisted. Beyond this, it may be possible to extend non-violence teaching to correctional institutions in the state of Illinois.