The first step toward change is awareness, and this was precisely the aim of the school
As an intern and outsider, I sought to better understand the general mood in regards to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict among the participants of the CTS. I was also interested in the methodology of the school itself; how it was planned and executed in order to challenge the participant’s thoughts in a productive, non-hostile manner. We began the discussion by trying to define critical thinking- a nuanced and often misused term that is of utmost importance to the individual who wishes to grow as a sensible, informed, and active civilian. We then briefly indulged in an overview of the most well-known theories of politics, society, and human nature, which was crucial to frame the challenging of stereotypes that to follow. Here the students were very engaged and throughout the four days, the subject of stereotypes and distinctions that we create for ourselves and for others was raised again and again.
What was intriguing for me was seeing the way students viewed themselves in relation to the “other” and to their government. This came to light during the question and answer period. Students were able to question their preconceived notions which had become internalized through what Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan called cultural violence.
The first step toward change is awareness, and this was precisely the aim of the school. In all, the CTS was an incredible program, and gave me a unique opportunity to understand the structural and cultural causes for intergroup hostility, in addition to possible strategies of transforming such conflict. Finally I kept thinking how much American students would benefit from such a course, for though we do not have the kind of conflict that Armenian’s have with their neighbors, there is undeniable cultural violence within the United States. The tools provided by the Conflict Transformation School could be applied to any type of conflict as its aim is to educate and unbiasedly inform individuals, opening discussion and the opportunity for asking the right kind of questions.