Kevin Kester

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What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

There are several divisions in the Korean context that are noteworthy to my work, including the North/South Korean division; Korea/Japan historical animosities; Global North/South divide; and new migrants from conflict-affected contexts. In my work, I address these conflicts and some possible pedagogical responses to them, primarily through teaching and scholarship. I teach courses on these themes, including postgraduate courses on Education, Conflict and Peace building; Education and International Development; and Comparative Education, as well as undergraduate courses on Peace and Multicultural Education. The coursework involves discussions, readings, essays and experiential activities around themes of inclusion, wellbeing, reunification of the Koreas, reconciliation between Korea/Japan, and critical multiculturalism within Korea. My scholarship further explores these topics using critical and postcolonial theories. What gets me going through the good/bad is turning to the counsel of trusted colleagues. They provide me inspiration to keep moving forward.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

The most striking/noteworthy moment I recall very vividly is my activism in Toronto when I was the Program Manager for the Transformative Learning Centre at the University of Toronto. We had two particularly impressive activities around disarmament and environmental sustainability. 1. A disarmament march through downtown Toronto that involved a group of about 150 of us in pajamas marching with alarm clocks, repeating in unison “It’s Time to Wake Up!” 2. A sustainability project that was a carrotmob on a local business, a form of positive direct social action that blends together the methods of flash mobs and boycotts/buycotts. What struck me the most about both of these events was the creativity and solidarity we received from the community. In each case somewhere between 150-300 community members participated, and the events generated valuable discussions in the community about disarmament and sustainability. It was peace education in practice! I won’t forget these experiences - they taught me so much about positive collective action!

How and why did you start working in peace education?

I think from a very young age I began to think internationally and interculturally. My second grade teacher, looking back, was an internationalist; I think she planted the early seeds. I still remember the pictures and stories that she shared with my class from her summer trip to the Great Wall of China, and how she had me and the other students make a papier-mâché landscape of Scotland for a homework assignment. She inculcated my interests in the world at that very young age. In addition, as the oldest of four children in my family I was always practicing conflict resolution with my younger siblings, and reflecting on how to be a positive role model to them. These early formative lessons surely laid the foundations for my personality and concern for global affairs. Then, I began formally working in peace education when I started my studies with Betty Reardon, Tony Jenkins and Janet Gerson at Teachers College in Tokyo in 2004. Those studies and discussions, in turn, led to more studies in peace and conflict at UPEACE in Costa Rica, and eventually a career in International & Comparative Education (with a focus on peace education) in academia.