What do different media teach children about WWII?

The field of peace education addresses how we may build a future of global peace when our global history is filled with violence, war, and conflict. One proposal is to focus on the upbringing of the next generation. Educational psychologists note that socialisation by adults during childhood has lasting impacts on pro-social behaviour, and mechanisms for morally disengaged reasoning start to develop during childhood.[1] These findings indicate the importance of childhood as “the time when the seeds of peace and conflict are sown”. Children will grow up to become leaders and policy makers, and purposefully educating future generations during their formative years may well encourage them to prioritise peace and moral courage, and advocate for alternatives to violence.[2]

Sarah Gough, Laidlaw Research Essay 2022

In 2022 Undergraduate student Sarah Gough was selected for a prestigious Laidlaw Scholarship at the University of St Andrews. She spent six weeks on a research project connected to Visualising War, exploring peace education in different contexts. Her research led her to ask a series of important questions:

  • What different approaches/guidance to teaching war are promoted by different pedagogical theories?
  • What can different educational methods and media teach children about conflict?
  • What habits of visualising war do different teaching methods engender?

Sarah looked at school syllabi, educational resources produced by NGOs, war reporting aimed at children, documentaries, the museum space, and publications such as Horrible Histories. She focused her research particularly around the lessons that children might learn from these different media in relation to World War II.

This poster sums up her key findings:

You can find out more about Sarah’s research in the essay below, which has an extensive resource list for further reading:

[1] Hymel and Darwich, Building Peace Through Education, pp. 345-357.  

[2] Lombardo and Polonko, Peace Education and Childhood, pp. 182-203.