(Cover art featured from Raising Peacemakers. Now available in hardcover, paperback and ebook)

Foreword by Patrick Willard Shannon

Esther Fine is interested still in providing alternatives for schools and teachers. Raising Peacemakers chronicles her work with the Downtown Alternative School and its peace curriculum. The school is an alternative to the bureaucratic organization of student bodies and minds; the curriculum is an alternative to the “war” pedagogy of learning as competition to be measured precisely in order to declare winners and losers. She presents these alternatives beautifully, telling stories to complement the already existing multimodal and multi-genre texts that have documented the school and its peace curriculum across two decades. In the new telling, readers will see Esther’s acts of love within the pedagogy of her lifetime.

This book also offers an alternative to what constitutes evidence in the evaluation of interventions. We live in a time with a growing emphasis on accountability, in which programs must prove their effectiveness through rigorous methods or be discontinued. Typically, that means an intervention becomes subject to experimental comparisons using the “gold standard” of cause and effect studies with random control trials. Survivors of that rigor earn the label “evidence based practice” and must be implemented with utmost fidelity within any relevant context. Accountability enthusiasts point toward medicine as the classic example of how rigor works to determine the most effective course for immediate action to solve any problem.

In Raising Peacemakers, Esther’s practice based evidence demonstrates the limits of methods of evidence based practice in the real world. The lives of her students are too real, messy, complicated and changing, in ways that cannot be controlled or ignored in order to apply someone else’s intervention with fidelity. Esther tells new stories that provide detailed evidence of how and why the peace curriculum changed the dynamic relationships among the school’s children, adolescents and adults, both immediately and across time. Instead of settling for a single measurement of the question, “Did my intervention cause some learning?” she shows how adding peace to the curriculum altered the complex, personalized systems in the lives of the children before her. More than the immediate impact, Esther’s stories let readers learn how “doing peace” made and sustained lasting, positive changes in students’ lives. Medicine should be so accountable for its interventions.

Although situated in a different time and place, Esther’s practice based evidence resonates with my understanding of the curriculum and pedagogy used at the Quaker school that “peacified” Kathleen’s and my offspring during the1990s. Teachers Suzy, Eileen, Christy, Jane and Dan presented personal approaches to the principles of integrity, equality, community, simplicity, and peace. They took time to share their personalities, to know our kids, to expect that they could learn anything, and to take them seriously, but not too seriously. They forged lasting relationships built on the ideas that Laura and Tim Pat had to know themselves to love themselves, in order for them to have empathy for others both near and far. Our kids’ embrace of self and other remains with them in their adult lives. Esther’s report helped me to understand how and why two very different people are both at peace and make peace in a world that is not often peaceable. The systematic compiling of Esther’s research with the Downtown Alternative School community, the Quaker school our children attended, and other such stories, creates the practice based evidence to confront the evidence based practices that now control children’s and teachers’ lives in public schools.

Thank you Esther!

Patrick Willard Shannon
Professor of Education Pennsylvania State University February, 2015

About Raising Peacemakers

Raising Peacemakers by Esther Sokolov Fine tells a twenty-two year story of kids growing up with peacemaking as their foundation. At Downtown Alternative School (DAS), a small public elementary school in Toronto, child-to-child conflicts were understood as opportunities. Children and adults worked hard to create a warm inclusive community where differing viewpoints and disagreements could be handled fairly and safely.

While the book includes documentation and transcripts, it’s a narrative rather than an academic text. It’s the author’s story and many stories. It’s a trail of re-thinking, negotiating and re-negotiating, solving and re-solving (occasionally resolving) teaching and learning dilemmas. It’s a tale of one school’s brave and optimistic effort to create and sustain healthy, safe, equitable, and academically relevant conditions for and with people whose lives were and are at stake in public education. It’s about children and adults growing together as they discover more about what it means (and what it takes) to become responsible citizens who care about each other, about their community, and about the world.

Raising Peacemakers shows that an authentic approach to managing child-to-child conflicts, learned in kindergarten, stayed with young children as they grew into adolescence and adulthood. It demonstrates by contrary example the profound error of standardized programs-in-a-box for “conflict resolution” and, by implication, much else in education” –Carole Edelsky. Learn more about Raising Peacemakers and Esther Sokolov Fine.

esther-fine-2Raising Peacemakers

By: Esther Sokolov Fine
Hardcover, Paperback and eBook
AmazonBarnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo eBooks and other retailers
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-19-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-12-4
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-13-1
Garn Press Imprint: People and Society
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover: $24.95 USD
Paperback: $17.95 USD
eBook: $9.99 USD



Raising Peacemakers shows that an authentic approach to managing child-to-child conflicts, learned in kindergarten, stayed with young children as they grew into adolescence and adulthood. It demonstrates by contrary example the profound error of standardized programs-in-a-box for “conflict resolution” and, by implication, much else in education. Raising Peacemakers accomplishes this by offering pieces of the rarest of educational research: a longitudinal study over 22 years—highly readable interlocking stories told by the same participants at different times of their lives. And holding these all together is the wise, quiet, honest voice of Esther Sokolov Fine. Read Raising Peacemakers as a meditation or as an inspiration. It is both.

Carole Edelsky
Professor Emerita Arizona State University February, 2015


About Esther Sokolov Fine

Esther Sokolov Fine is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University, in Toronto, Canada, where she has taught since 1991. Before coming to York, she was an elementary teacher with the Toronto Board of Education. There, she taught in downtown public housing communities and alternative programs, including four years at the Downtown Alternative School (DAS). The book Children as Peacemakers (1995), which she co-authored with teachers Ann Lacey and Joan Baer, presents a history of the Downtown Alternative School and tells about the early years of peacemaking. Read more.


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