When Dr. Mike Klein, a professor in the University of St. Thomas’ Justice and Peace Studies Department, first read The Compassionate Rebel Revolution: Ordinary People Changing the World by Burt Berlowe, he was “inspired by the very personal and accessible stories of people who responded to violence and tragedy with nonviolence and hope.” So inspired was he by the text’s storytelling that when Berlowe approached him last year to write an educators’ guide, he happily accepted, but with a twist. He assigned the writing of the guide to the 15 students in his JPST Conflict Transformation course.
The end result, Teaching the Compassionate Rebel Revolution, which Klein edited, was published as an ebook in July. It contains teaching guides for 15 of the 58 personal stories of social transformation presented in The Compassionate Rebel Revolution as well as a few sections penned by Klein, including an introduction, a chapter on pedagogy and a chapter outlining the Writing in the Disciplines assignment.
“The educator’s guide encourages people to not just read the stories but also to use them as tools for promoting peace and justice,” said Berlowe, a local journalist and social activist with whom Klein became acquainted through their mutual membership in the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers. “Mike titled the guide with the idea that students would be moved by the stories to take action and perpetuate and grow the social movement known as the compassionate rebel revolution. … By reading about the struggles and accomplishments of the everyday heroes that have preceded them, the students become inspired to get involved in shaping that revolution and, in the process, positively changing the world.”
Klein explained that compassionate rebellion “is not a new idea, but recognition that positive social change has always come from empathetic and courageous individuals who inspire people to work together to change structures of injustice and violence into systems for justice and peace.”
The student-contributors were graded on each step of the writing process – which Klein developed through a Writing Across the Curriculum workshop during J-Term 2013 – including their peer reviews of their classmates’ steps.
Emily Balius, a junior double majoring in justice and peace studies and communication and journalism who developed a guide for the chapter “Married to the War – John and Cheryl Fields,” said she enjoyed the teamwork dynamic in writing the ebook: “We all worked together as a class to put this teaching guide together. We could not have done it without each other’s caring and thoughtful feedback.”
Of the books’ student-contributors, all were sophomores, juniors and seniors with the exception of Father Thomas Anamooh, a Ghana, West Africa, resident visiting St. Thomas. He audited the class to explore theories and practices that will inform his work in developing parish-based conflict resolution centers in northern Ghana.
The assignment afforded the students an opportunity to not only reflect on their aspirations in the field but also to challenge them to spread their academic wings. Ashe Allen, a junior contributor majoring in justice and peace studies and women’s studies, remarked that “the assignment had me compacting a lot of deep and complex theories and methodologies into a concise paper. I was challenged to make the language simple – the audience was first-year college and high school students – without bogging the readers down with jargon.”
Similarly, war veteran Brian Fulton said his “views of justice and peace were broadened and changed by the diversity of ideas we learned in the book.” An ex-Marine who served in Iraq in 2008, he plans to draw upon justice and peace studies “to prevent the future pain and suffering of war and conflict.”
Klein is working to spread the word on his and his students’ achievement and already has introduced the student-written guide at a meeting with the Minnesota Humanities Center and plans to introduce the guide to peace educators through the Justice and Peace Studies Association and World Citizen Peace Educator Workshops.