NEWARK — Education without ethics can be just as bad as ignorance.
That was the main theme today during the second day of Newark’s Peace Education Summit, one that echoed the mantra the Dalai Lama has been sounding since his arrival in the city on Thursday.
“From kindergarten, we have to teach that whenever there is conflict, teaching the use of force is the wrong method. It brings mutual destruction,” the Dalai Lama said. “Whenever there is conflict, the immediate thought in our mind should be how to solve this through dialogue instead of how to solve this through force.”
Participating in a panel discussion with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, actress Goldie Hawn and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, among others, the Dalai Lama led the second day of the three-day summit, homing in on the need to introduce ethics education in America’s schools.
“The kind of education that is needed has to be thought through because education does not necessarily lead to peace,” said panelist Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University who has been working with Newark schools for several years.
Then, citing the amount of engineering that went into constructing the gas chambers used during the Holocaust, Noguera said, “Education can be used to oppress or to liberate.”
Panelist Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, said the U.S. teaches violence through its militaristic behavior.
“We preach peace but practice war,” King said.
King said that when he has sought funding for conflict-resolution education, the response is usually, “Oh we don’t have the money for that” But, he said, “every time we need to drop a bomb, there are resources.”
In an interview after the panel discussion, the Rev. Edwin Leahy, headmaster of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, said teaching ethics starts by imbuing students with the notion of personal dignity.
At St. Benedict’s, he said. “we spend a lot of time creating a sense of self-worth and a sense of community.”
Leahy said that for decades Newark has been losing that sense of community because of the dissolution of neighborhoods that once served as surrogate families. His goal with students, he said, is to “create that neighborhood.”
About 1,500 people attended the nearly two dozen panel discussions held today at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Afterward, panelists and city leaders warned that unless the discussions were brought to the street, the conference will achieve little.
“This cannot be another conference where we get together and just talk about problems,” Booker said. “We cannot do the same things we did last year and expect change this year.”
The summit concludes Sunday.