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Universidad de Navarra X INTERNATIONAL FORUM

“Seeking a Culture of Peace”

The way of Education: How The 7 Habits of Stephen Covey can promote a Culture of Peace

Contemporary society is in need of peace. But peace is not only the absence of war, it has a deeper dimension: You cannot work for peace without promoting justice and solidarity. Peace, justice and solidarity are words that can only be understood if there is relationship between people. It is clear that peace cannot be achieved – and much less a culture of peace – without dealing with people and their society. Only people create peace or war. Only where people live are justice and solidarity talked about. Otherwise those words would have no real sense: solidarity, who’s?, towards whom? The answer is always: towards others. Having established this premise, we can outline the specific approach that we have chosen. Last year, the students of the 55th class of Gaztelueta had the good fortune to be the first to follow Stephen Covey´s 7 habits course. Our school was the first one in Spain to put into practice the program conceived by the American 20 years ago. We also had the luck of meeting him personally when he visited the school last June. We had the opportunity to explain to him in person how we had worked with the habits during the previous five months. As a result of that, we have realised that all we had learned about the 7 habits could be directly linked with a culture of peace. If education is an essential part of promoting a culture of peace, how far could the education of the 7 habits contribute in this purpose?


Hence, in this essay we will explain how to achieve a culture of peace, efficiently and productively, based on our course built on Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” We are going to talk about personal achievements, about starting always with an objective in mind, about constant overcoming of personal obstacles, and most of all, about having an open mind with which everybody can win. This last point is the one that gives an idea of what a culture of peace actually means for us: A culture where everybody takes care of the well-being of each other, trying always to have the other’s needs in mind. To that end, we must consider the following questions: What does “Culture” mean? There are multiple definitions. One of them, maybe the most objective, can be “the specific way of being of each person who lives and creates for himself a relationship in a given society with a common lifestyle. In other words, it is the gathering of customs, codes of practice, rules, laws, religions, rituals, manners and beliefs that define a person and, in general, a group of people which share a common series of characteristics. Depending on the location, the culture of each society can vary greatly, for example: A native of Norway, because of the geographic position and climate and other natural factors, won’t have the same lifestyle as someone from a southern country. This definition can be applied to all mankind, as culture is an essential characteristic of the human being. Thanks to culture, a person lives as a human and not as an animal, since intelligence, free will, and liberty take part in the definition of culture. One essential feature of human culture is that it must respect everyone’s dignity, because we live in a society in which every one is equal, and no one is better or worse than the other. And the inter-personal relationship that the 7 Habits are established on has a lot to do with this. At the same time, we realise that it is not only one culture, but several of them. Then, the question we ask ourselves is: Does there exist a union between different cultures? Can we identify an element common to all cultures? Unity and diversity of cultures: Do they have a common element? The principle obstacle that we can encounter is that certain cultures have adopted violent customs that are completely in contrast with the basic principles of all human society such as freedom, respect and the capacity to live in harmony with one another. At the same time it is important that we achieve a situation in which the culture of peace does not become a ‘counter culture’ which clashes with the principles of other societies.


It would seem to us that a person acquires their values starting with the people that surround them, learning things from their environment, as well as receiving an education in line with the will of their parents. It is very difficult to promote a culture of peace among people who have grown up their entire lives learning negative values, or that enter in to conflict with a position in which “everybody wins” Culture and Education One of the most important ways to transmit the Culture of Peace is through education; teaching young children from the very start certain guidelines which they need to follow since, at the end of the day, the culture which we teach the young today is that which will govern in the future. The first thing to do in teaching Peace in an effective manner is to do so in a realistic manner; if we start with grand ideals of a ‘perfect world without violence’ it will be unachievable in the end and we will be forced to stop. It is not necessary to achieve total unity through the world in order to achieve a society of peace but rather if we can achieve a majority conscience in favour of peace that will be enough. At the same time, and contrary to the opinion of many, it is not sufficient either to create change the political, economic and social level. Such changes, although necessary, are not the only means to achieve true peace. Still more important is a change in the values that will change the way of thinking of people to a position in favour of peace, that they truly believe in peace and defend their right to obtaining peace until they are successful. Elements for a Culture of Peace Our starting point is that the simple absence of warm although so very desirable, is not synonymous with true peace. There is no true peace unless it comes accompanied by equality, truth, justice and solidarity. All these characteristics are indispensable in a society in order to attain a culture of peace. The problem with failing to comply with any of these conditions is that this creates conflict and as a consequence it becomes impossible to create a space for peace amongst lies and injustice. In respect of the truth, one cannot trust in somebody if that somebody cannot trust in you. A culture in which the truth is not hidden is a culture without gaps. The 7 Habits of Stephen Covey and the education for Peace The starting point of the 7 habit program is that in the relation between each of us there’s a essential point for achieving the victory for the society as a whole: the first task is to win privately (for yourself), and only then reach on for the public victory. The first three habits are focused precisely on that personal goal. We will explain them briefly, as they will be the basis


for later developing the public victory, which is more directly related to the relationship with other people.

Private Victory: “Being proactive and not reactive” “Begin with the end in mind” “Put first things first” Public Victory: “Think Win-Win” “Seek first to understand and then to be understood” “Synergize” The last of the habits that Mr. Covey develops in his theory is what he calls: “Sharpen the saw”.

Next, we are going to explain how the development of the above mentioned habits can contribute to a culture of peace: What does it mean that peace is related to “everybody can win”? The idea “I win, you win” is just talking about choosing the best option according to common interests. In other words, what we should not do is to choose the best for our individual interests, without thinking about the others´. In the same way it is not productive to take a position in which you lose and the other wins, because in this case, over a long period of time one would not be able to help the other, and in the end both would lose. Another paradigm which should be avoided is “I lose, you lose” This could lead us to an unavoidable spiral staircase going down, which would have, as a result, no positive product: “Competitiveness is healthy when you are racing against yourself, and it drives you to produce the best. It turns bad when you use it to be over the other” Sean Covey (Stephen Covey’s son, and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers)


The positive competitiveness is supposed to be an effective development for all nations, if we consider that each society wants to produce a better result than the previous one. However when the purpose is to obtain a better result only for pride then that competitiveness becomes damaging. Seek to understand, and then to be understood: can it help to build up the peace? We must consider the importance of trying to understand opposing opinions when something is being negotiated in order to solve a conflict, so that we can see the other points of views first, trying to think as the other, and then from that point, trying to explain our ideas, establishing a good communication. We are much better off doing this instead imposing our opinion by force. To reach this reality we must use empathy when talking with others and not just sympathy (as people generally believe to be better) because sympathy is only a good smile and beautiful words, while the person that is talking to you wants, for instance, a sincere opinion, and not an empty conversation. Empathy is always a useful and necessary resort, that drives us to understand what the other wants to say. Secondly, empathy is based on taking the other person’s situation as if it was your own, so that you can try to provide the best possible solution, despite the fact that sometimes it is not the one that we would like to hear. The best way to achieve the other’s position, is to have a knowledge of his culture, so as to have better communication and then both parts would win, which is finally related to the previous habit. Synergise & build the peace In society we are all decisive. No one is better than the other, and this concept is the one that usually makes the existence of a true peace truly difficult. So what if each one of us contributed in the way he or she was able to? And if each person accepted the others’ contributions in the different aspects of life in society, would we not get much further forward? And more importantly: Couldn’t we advance, building up and strengthening a culture of peace? Conclusion The conclusion of this brief essay is that because of the social dimension of people, and their essential nature, everything that contributes to a peaceful, fluent and effective relationship, actually contributes to the strengthening of a culture of peace.


Therefore, as we have tried to explain in this essay, the 7 habits could play a decisive role in building a culture of peace. We would like to underline that, despite its´ importance at all levels (adult or teenager) teaching The 7 Habits program could increase efficiency, because it is effectively only by building from the foundations up that society has a viable future. 1938 words Rolando Barry Laso Iñigo Colina Astigarraga Peio Arrieta González de Arrilucea Roberto Fernández Dios 1º Bachillerato Internacional Colegio Gaztelueta


Gaztelueta School  

Project for International Forum "Searching for a Culture of Peace", The way of Education: How The 7 Habits of Stephen Covey can promote a Cu...