We argue for peace education as a process of improving the quality of everyday relationships. This is vital, as children bring their habits formed largely by social and political institutions such as the family, religion, law, cultural mores, to the classroom (Splitter, 1993; Furlong & Morrison, 2000) and vice versa. It is inevitable that the classroom habitat, as a microcosm of the community in which it is situated, will perpetuate the epistemic practices and injustices of that community, manifested in attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and actions that can limit the child’s ability to learn. The educational task then, is to create opportunities for children to problematize the very environment they inhabit. To this end, our concern is for peace education aimed at addressing epistemic violence; a form of harm brought about by a particular rationality of domination.
The classroom community of inquiry, initially developed by Matthew Lipman and Ann Sharp as the methodology for the Philosophy for Children (P4C) approach to education (Lipman & Sharp, 1978; Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyan, 1980), is often viewed as a solution to inequality in the classroom—an intellectually safe environment which allows students to explore, practice and internalize good reasoning through philosophy so that they can make school relevant to their lives. Traditionally, the teacher’s role is to take a ‘neutral stance’ in discussion during the conduct of a community of inquiry. However, we argue that it is misplaced to assume that the community of inquiry is a safe intellectual environment in which the teacher as co-inquirer also facilitates the discussion procedurally, letting the argument lead, which Lipman took as the guiding principle for his process of inquiry. For, as Paulo Freire (1987) put it:
... the dominant ideology makes its presence in the classroom partly felt by trying to convince the teacher that he or she must be neutral in order to respect the student. This kind of neutrality is a false respect for students. On the contrary, the more I say nothing about agreeing or not agreeing out of respect for the others, the more I am leaving the dominant ideology in peace! (p. 174).
Teachers must be aware of the possibility of epistemic violence to be able to detect and disrupt it, in order to facilitate a peaceful inquiry. We do not consider peace in the negative, as the absence of conflict, but in the positive as the capacity to respond skilfully to conflict as a way of life. Therefore, we concentrate on peace education that prepares students to turn conflict into inquiry, rather than peace education as values education or character education that instils values of ‘fraternity and non-violence’ (Gregory, 2004, p. 277). The community of inquiry provides such a framework, however, we argue that it must be facilitated in a way that mitigates the effects of epistemic violence by creating an educational habitat in which multiple ways of knowing can flourish.