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Promoting Nuclear Disarmament Education

Fresh hope—Participants at the forum for nuclear disarmament education hosted by the Ikeda Center, Cambridge, Mass., May 2024. Photo by David Degner.

by Mitch Bogen
Special to the Tribune 

On May 10, the Ikeda Center hosted a multigenerational forum devoted to the cause of education for nuclear disarmament. With speakers and discussants ranging from student activists to veteran figures in the global disarmament movement, the event kindled fresh hope for a future free of nuclear weapons.  

The gathering was conceived by Kentaro Shintaku, a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a member of the Ikeda Center’s Youth Committee. He said that he was first motivated to work for disarmament through his participation in the Nuclear Politics Program offered by the Soka Institute for Global Solutions at Soka University of America (SUA).

Also sharing their experiences were two high school students representing the national activist organization Students for Nuclear Disarmament (SND). Rishi Gurudevan, of Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, talked about his personal experiences around activism and founding SND.

Eddie Laiche, of Burbank, California, shared how he successfully lobbied the mayor to proclaim support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. During this process he worked closely with Back from the Brink, an organization that mobilizes regular citizens to help change critical government policies to prevent the threats caused by nuclear weapons.

Both said they were initially inspired by a former talk by Dr. Ira Helfand, of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, who took part in the panel discussion that followed the student presentations.

Joining Dr. Helfand on the panel were professors Meira Levinson, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Elaine Scarry, of Harvard University; and Alexander Harang, of SUA. The panel discussion was moderated by Tetsushi Ogata, who leads the Soka Institute for Global Solutions at SUA.

The panel and subsequent dialogues were rich with take-aways. Key points included: the value of engaging young people in direct learning about nuclear issues; the need to teach about nuclear weapons as a contemporary challenge and not just one relating to World War II or the Cold War; and the importance of teaching about disarmament in a way that encourages agency, drawing attention to victories that have been achieved and to the work of organizations such as Back from the Brink.

Throughout, participants were guided by Daisaku Ikeda’s call to understand “disarmament education as a means of transforming the paradigms of society to move from a culture of war characterized by conflict and confrontation, to a culture of peace based on cooperation and creative coexistence.”

July 5, 2024, World Tribune, p. 4

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