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Toward a "conflict" pedagogy: a critical discourse analysis of "conflict" in conflict management education Fisher, R. Michael

Abstract

This research study reviewed several disciplinary fields and their conceptualizations of conflict. The primary guiding question was, what is the best conflict education that is required for youth and adults to live in the world of a "culture of violence" in the list century? The general purpose of the study was to provide a critique that would initiate an expanded conflict imaginary, as educators and lifelong learners face a world of growing complex social and cultural conflicts. The "case" under specific critical analysis was identified as conflict management education (CME). CME provided the primary subject (text) for a critical discourse analysis of its conceptualizations of conflict. The main purpose of the study was to determine the hegemony of discourse in the text of a "representative" sample of 22 contemporary CME handbooks and manuals for youth and adults. CME was found to be a new social movement with a powerful "social technology" to change attitudes and behaviors, in order to diminish or eliminate violence. This study found there are virtually no systematic critiques of CME and no significant critiques that focus on the conceptualization of conflict itself. The discourse of CME's conceptualizations of conflict tended toward an ideological bias of consensus, unity, cooperation, 'peace and harmony;' and located within a politically conservative, pragmatist, social psychological discourse. The entire domain of conflict knowledge from critical pedagogies and the sociological conflict theory tradition was largely ignored in CME text. This has significant political and sociocultural implications in the biased shaping of conflict knowledge and the concomitant power relations of teaching, learning, and the constructing of 'democracy' itself. Without a critique of its own discourses, CME has limited means, as a discipline of knowledge, to establish how it may be perpetuating the very violence it is attempting to eliminate. 'Conflict' pedagogy is offered as an alternative to constructing a critical conflict education as counterhegemonic to CME. This report closes with a discussion of reflections on the study and recommendations for further research.

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