written Krishna Swami

Should we teach peace or justice?

A lesson from the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King

I admit that I am a slow and boring learner. I spent nine years (from contract to publication) writing my intermediate non-fiction book, The Line of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Changed the World. I learned history, truth, adherence to principles, community building, and forgiveness. I learned not to give up. Most importantly, I carefully considered the word “peace”.

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I think we sometimes use this word carelessly. If you study Gandhi and Kim, you will find that peace is not the goal. If we appease a tyrant, we are at peace, but what do we get? For both, justice is the greatest goal.

So how do we teach peace? We teach it by asking young people to participate in the lives of all those who fight for civil rights and fight these dilemmas to find strength in their stories. I think we still need to ask where the injustice is today and how peace can best gain power-in terms of resistance and organization. Didn’t John Lewis say that voting is the most powerful agent of nonviolent change?

I think we teach peace as a deliberate choice, not an end in itself. A creative choice. A choice that we all have the ability to make, a choice that can help build what Dr. Jin calls a “happy community”.

Five novels and non-fiction books bring new inspiration to the past

  1. Children's books that teach justice
    The fault line in the constitution: the framers, their struggles, and the flaws that affect us today Authors: Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson. Peach Tree, 2019.
    An informative, thought-provoking non-fiction intermediate title; an incisive introduction to the chaotic origins, changing interpretations, negligence and ambiguities of the U.S. Constitution, establishing it as a very human document from the beginning, although Its ambitious. Author’s blog, www.faultlinesintheconstitution.com, Function update. Intermediate non-fiction.
  2. Children's books that teach justice
    The great miracle of the world: biologist Ernest Everett Just
    Mélina Mangal, illustration by Luisa Uribe, Millbrook/Lerner, 2018.
    Beginning in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1911, a man used a lantern to lure marine worms on the dock, and then returned to his family and childhood. A fascinating review of the work, struggle, and achievements of a pioneering African-American scientist. Beautiful artwork and simple, clear link text. Picture book, non-fiction.
  3. Should we teach children peace or justice?
    Sitting in St James
    Via Rita Williams-Garcia. Harper Collins, 2021.
    This amazing novel is based on the sugarcane plantations in the Shennan region, with a clear historical perspective, and epic qualities of whimsy, depth and artistry. Each character casts the shadow of its own story, and each character conveys the desire and calculation to represent the human condition. The barbarism of slavery and the calculation scope of the empire are equal. Yes, novels.

  4. Indians no longer
    Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell. Tu Books/Lee & Low, 2019.
    It was in 1957, when the federal government passed a law depriving her of Umpqua’s people’s sovereignty and tribal status, the ten-year-old Regina’s childhood was roughly interrupted. This story reveals aboriginal history and its impact on the lives of children. Look at conflicts and troubles from a child’s perspective. Intermediate, novel.

  5. Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees
    Painted by Jen Sookfong Lee, and painted by Drew Shannon. Orca Books, 2021.
    Part of the Orca Think series, learn how human migration changes the world. Introduction, sidebar, chapters on the history of human migration (including some discussions on prehistory and evolution and colonialism), today’s migration, racism and suffering, and life in a new country. Glossary, resources, index. Intermediate non-fiction.

About Uma Krishna Swami

Uma Krishnaswami is the author of several children’s books, including Book Uncle and Me (International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award, USBBY Excellent International Book) with On stage, Maria Singh (Asia Pacific American Librarian Award, FOCAL Award). She was born in New Delhi, India and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. To learn more, please visit her website: umakrishnaswami.org.

praise The Line of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Changed the World

“The combination of this book’s fascinating design, clear text, and carefully selected details creates a fascinating original approach to its theme. In this fascinating and reflective book, history and the present are closely intertwined. “—Kirks Review (Starred)

Should we teach peace or justice?A lesson from the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King

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