Partnership education for our new century

Partnership education for our new century – Editorial

Riane Eisler

EDITORIAL BY RIANE EISLER, PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER FOR PARTNERSHIP STUDIES

website: www.partnershipway.org. Adapted from Riane Eisler, Tomorrow’s Children:

A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century. (Westview Press 2001)

For over two centuries reformers have called for education that prepares for democracy rather than authoritarianism and fosters ethical and caring relations to help young people – indeed all of us meet the unprecedented challenges of a world in which technology can destroy us or free our unique human capacities for creativity and caring. Partnership education is designed not only to help us navigate through our difficult times but also to create a future oriented towards what I identified as a partnership rather than dominator model.

We are all familiar with these two models from our own lives. We know the pain, fear, and tension of relations based on domination and submission, or coercion and accommodation, of jockeying for control, of trying to manipulate and cajole when we are unable to express our real feelings and needs. . . . Most of us also have, at least intermittently, experienced another way of being, one where we feel safe where our essential humanity and that of others shines through. . .

But the partnership and dominator models not only describe individual relationships. They describe systems of belief and social structures that either nurture and support – or inhibit and undermine. Without an understanding of these configurations – and the kind of education that creates and replicates each – we unwittingly reinforce structures and beliefs that maintain the inequitable, undemocratic, violent, and uncaring relations which breed pathologies that afflict and distort the human spirit. . .

Once we understand the partnership and dominator cultural, social, and personal configurations, we can more effectively develop the educational methods and institutions that foster a less violent, more equitable, democratic and sustainable future. . .

Partnership education has three core interconnected components. These are partnership process, partnership structure and partnership content. . .

Young people are being given a false picture of what it means to be human. We tell them to be good and kind, non-violent and giving. But on all sides they see and hear stories that portray us as bad, cruel, violent, and selfish, In the mass media, the focus of both entertainment and news is on hurting and killing. Situation comedies make insensitivity, rudeness and cruelty seem funny. Cartoons present violence as exciting, funny and without real consequences. . .

History curricula still emphasize battles and wars. Western classics such as Homer’s Iliad and Shakespeare’s kings trilogy romanticize ‘heroic violence.’

If we are inherently violent, bad and selfish, we have to be strictly controlled. This is why stories that claim this is ‘human nature’ are central to an education for a dominator or control system of relations

This worldview is our heritage from earlier societies structured around rankings of ‘superiors’ over ‘inferiors.’ In these societies, violence and abuse were required to maintain rigid rankings of domination – whether man over woman, man over man, nation over nation, race over race. Over the last centuries we have seen organized challenges to traditions of domination. These challenges are part of the movement toward a more equitable and caring partnership social structure worldwide.

Young people have often been involved in the movement toward partnership, as we see today in the environmental movement challenging the once hallowed conquest and domination of nature. . .

During the 19th and 20th centuries in worldwide movements, we see change from the colonization and exploitation of indigenous peoples to their independence from foreign rule. We also see global movements challenging economic exploitation and injustice, the rise of organized labor, and a gradual shift from unregulated robber-baron capitalism to government regulations, for example, antimonopoly laws and economic safety nets such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. The 20th century civil rights and women’s liberation and women’s rights movements were part of the continuing challenge to traditions of domination. The 19th century pacifist movement, followed by the 20th century peace movement, expressed the first fully organized confrontation to the violence of war as a means of resolving international conflicts.

The 20th century family planning movement has been a key to women’s emancipation as well as the alleviation of poverty and greater opportunities for children worldwide. In some basic respects, however, the dominator system remained firmly entrenched…

In Europe, we saw Hitler’s Germany (from the early 1930’s to the mid 1940’s) and Stalin’s Soviet Union (the 1920’s to the 1950’s), in which the ideals of a more just society were coopted into a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ creating still another version of a brutal dominator model. . .Under the guise of economic globalization, we have seen a re-centralization of economic power worldwide.

Under pressure from major economic players, governments have cut social services and shredded economic safety-nets – an ‘economic restructuring’ that is particularly hurtful to women and children worldwide. The backlash against women’s rights has been increasingly violent, as in the government supported violence against women in fundamentalist regimes such as those in Afghanistan and Iran. We have also seen ever more advanced technologies used to exploit, dominate and further ‘man’s conquest of nature,’ wreaking ever more environmental damage.

However, there is at the same time a mounting challenge to traditions of domination. The environmental movement is growing worldwide. So also is the family planning movement as integral to environmental sustainability. Movements against the domination and exploitation of indigenous peoples; a growing challenge by peoples in the ‘developing world’. . . Thousands of grassroots organizations all over the world are working toward non-violent ways of living, and economic, racial and gender equity are signs of the sustained vigor of the movement toward partnership. . .

Child abuse, rape and wife-beating are increasingly prosecuted. The United Nations has finally adopted conventions emphasizing children’s and women’s human rights. A global women’s rights movement frontally challenges the domination of half of humanity by the other half, gaining impetus worldwide. This movement to shift from domination to partnership in how we structure relations between parents and children. women and men is basic to the shift to a world of partnership.

It is in these intimate relations that we first learn and continually practice either partnership or domination. Until now the primary focus of organized progressive movements has been on the top of the dominator pyramid – the relations in the so-called public sphere. . . But the base on which this pyramid rests is the parent-child and man-woman relationship where we first learn to either respect of violate human rights. . .

But since violence is what ultimately maintains dominator relations, as women’s and children’s human rights are asserted, violence against them has also increased to beat them back into submission. This violence is often perpetrated by government officials; for example, in Afghanistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Iran the stoning to death of women for any act perceived as countering male sexual and personal control is being justified on ‘moral’ grounds. . .

The outcome of the tension between the partnership and dominator models as two basic human possibilities is far from settled. . .We need an education that counters dominator socialization. . . Education can accelerate the movement toward partnership not only as a vision but as a reality.

Partnership education includes education for partnership rather than dominator childrearing. Children who are dependent on abusive adults tend to replicate these behaviors with their children. . . In schools, teachers can help students experience partnership relations as a viable alternative through the partnership process. . .

Partnership education offers scientific narratives that focus not only on competition but also, following the new evolutionary scholarship, on cooperation. . . . .

Because the social construction of the roles and relations of the female and male halves of humanity is central to either a partnership or dominator social configuration, unlike the traditional male-centered curricula, partnership education is gender-balanced. It integrates the history, needs, problems, and aspirations of both halves of humanity into what is taught as important knowledge and truth Because in the partnership model difference is not automatically equated with inferiority or superiority, partnership education is multicultural. It offers a pluralistic perspective that includes peoples of all races and a variety of backgrounds. . .

Partnership education offers empirical evidence that our human strivings for love, beauty and justice are just as rooted in evolution as our capacity for violence and aggression. . .This transformation of education is foundational to the movement toward a partnership way of living and working. . .

We can all join in this process by using partnership education in our own homes and communities in ways that highlight our enormous human potential to learn, to grow, to create and to relate to one another in mutually supporting and caring ways.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Women’s International Network

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group