More than 250 colleges and universities in North America currently offer “Peace Studies” programs, many of which allow students to obtain graduate or undergraduate degrees in that discipline. The first Peace Studies program in the United States was established in 1948 at Indiana’s Manchester College and was run by the pacifist Brethren. A first major expansion of Peace Studies took place during the Vietnam War; the next expansion came in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration advocated a strong defense against the Soviet Union; and the latest expansion has occurred since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As noted by George Lopez, Senior Fellow and Director of Policy Studies at the University of Notre Dame‘s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, these programs have generally proliferated during times of increased American resolve.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Peace Studies programs were concerned primarily with the Cold War and with America’s nuclear weapons; they called for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States, and derided America’s purported culpability for Cold War tensions while virtually ignoring Soviet policies. (In the 1980s, human rights activist Caroline Cox and conservative philosopher Roger Scruton analyzed Peace Studies curriculums and found them nearly bereft of information about the USSR.)
In 1990, Cox and Scruton conducted another comprehensive survey of Peace Studies programs and found them to be for the most part intellectually incoherent, rife with political bias, and unworthy of inclusion in college curricula. Katherine Kersten, Senior Fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, states that Peace Studies programs “are dominated by people of a certain ideological bent, and thus [are] hard to take seriously from a scholarly point of view.” Robert Kennedy, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, said that his own school’s Peace Studies program employs instructors “whose academic qualifications are not as strong as we would ordinarily look for.”
Today’s Peace Studies programs generally depict the United States as a nation founded on militarism, colonialism, oppression, racism, sexism, and class conflict. A recent study performed by researchers at the Peace Studies Institute of Manchester College reveals the field’s overriding disdain for America. Characterizing the United States as an unusually violent country, Peace Studies academics commonly argue in favor of a “transformation” of America society. Looking for inspiration to radical pedagogues like the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Friere, these professors see “education for social change” as their mission — the purpose being not merely to inform, but also to solve society’s problems, primarily by making structural changes to America’s economy and neutralizing its military.
This hostility toward America stems from the belief that any differences in prosperity between the U.S. and Third World countries are the result of U.S. exploitation and bullying. Thus Professor Gordon Fellman, Chairman of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Brandeis University, has called for a series of massive public inquiries into the allegedly evil legacy of “the centuries when Western powers assaulted and tragically exploited and damaged cultures throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”
On September 24, 2001, Jerry Sanders, a lecturer in Peace Studies at UC Berkeley, predicted that if the United States responded militarily to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks, hordes of Americans were likely to lash out with “war psychosis” and race riots would ensue. Diane Clemens, another Berkeley professor, feared a return to internment camps for suspect nationalities. Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, a Peace Studies professor at Notre Dame, advised America to eschew a military response to 9/11 — and to pursue instead a dialog with Osama bin Laden, so as to gain insight into what the nineteen hijackers were really trying to express by their attack. In a similar spirit, Gordon Fellman wrote that “the once-victorious nations” (i.e., principally the United States) needed to initiate “the most massive reparations process in history” as a means of beginning to atone for their sins and thereby earn the respect of the Muslim world.
The Peace Studies programs at many schools are active in anti-war organizing. In Minneapolis, for example, Peace Studies students at the University of St. Thomas have led many local demonstrations. A Peace Studies professor at the University of Missouri spammed an entire campus with protest propaganda, calling for students to cut classes so they could participate in anti-war rallies.