Education is key to understanding violence
By Dan Chase
From the Littleton, Colo., school shooting to the beating of the gay student in Wyoming, the media continues to be plastered with stories of violence.
And though many may claim that violence cannot be stopped, there are some believers that think it can.
Barry Kort is one of them.
"To stop the violence, we have to understand the roots of violence in the culture," said the 54-year-old electrical engineer from Bedford, Mass., in an online interview Sept. 28. "If we understand the roots, we can avoid culturing it."
But understanding the roots and avoiding the culture of violence is easier said than done, said Kort, who devotes much of his time to "learning theory" and educational technology.
"(The world has) crafted a horrific culture of violence," Kort said.
And though Kort said the best way to educate society about violence is to expose it, the media are not doing their job.
"The media are failing to explain how the cycle of violence works," Kort said. "They report episodes, but not the model."
And that's why Kort has developed The Orenda Project.
"(The project) is about solving major problems in our society," said Kort. "(It solves) problems like violence, injustice, corruption, oppression, poverty and ignorance."
According to The Orenda Project website, at www.musenet.org/orenda, its purpose is "to play a nurturing role in education and empowering people to realize their full potential to participate cooperatively, creatively, innovatively, effectively, productively and rewardingly."
Part of the project is Kort's so-called "cycle of violence," which was established by Stanford University Professor Rene Girard.
The five-stage model, which can be found on the project's website, describes the evolution of violence and the characteristics that exist in each stage.
Girard defines the first stage as "Mimetic Desire." In this stage "one party identifies an object of desire and other parties imitate that desire."
The second stage is "Mimetic Rivalry" the point at which competition begins between parties.
Next is the "Skandalon" stage. Skandalon, which is Greek for "trap," suggests that when one party is offended, the other's natural reaction is to retaliate.
The fourth stage is "Alienation and Scapegoating." In this stage, "whichever side goes over the arbitrary line becomes blameworthy, and the others who kept their violence below threshold are victims. They (then) gang up on and alienate the scapegoat."
The final stage is "Authorized, Sanctioned and Sacred Violence." In this stage, guilt is determined and punishment is given, which often "escalates the violence to the next higher level."
"(The model is) pure science, pure reason, and pure theology," the website states. "It's time we learned, reviewed, reflected, and meditated on (it)."
"Peacemaking is a learnable behavior," Kort added. "It requires a method of reasoning that is not hard to learn, but is not routinely taught."
Kort also said he hopes to use the project to improve education.
"I became interested in educating children when I encountered (them) starving for an education," Kort said. "(They're) children of people I meet in everyday life."
And though parents and other educators have a big responsibility to properly teach and influence society, Kort said the bulk of learning is left up to the learner.
"I don't like forcing things down people's throats," Kort said. "I wait for them to become ready.
"It's up to the learners to learn and up to the educators to remove all obstacles to learning," Kort added. "Educators can allow students to learn even when the educators are not up to speed themselves."
And though Kort said he thinks many are not being educated properly, the solution to this, as well as many of the other problems listed above, is recognizing and correcting mistakes.
"Humans are Xerox machines," Kort said. "They imitate what is. We have been Xeroxing some colossal mistakes for millenia."
And in order to correct these mistakes, people need to supply society with honorable ideas and actions.
"We need to seed the culture with better things to imitate," Kort said.
And just how many people would it take to provide "the culture" with more positive examples?
"Probably a few million would suffice," Kort said. "A small army.
Right now there are fewer than a few thousand."
Archived Months:September 1998