Early Childhood Development and World Peace: A View from 100 Years Ago

The founder of the World Peace Foundation, Edwin Ginn, was an educationalist with remarkably progressive views.  Among the causes that he espoused was educating young children to create peace.


In an 1895 pamphlet, “Our Schools are in Danger,” Ginn commented that the majority of existing school textbooks glorifies warfare and patriotism. He wrote: such “glorification at young ages encourages the acceptance of the expansion of deadly armaments and greater prospects for war.”[1] Ginn believed that schools should teach young people to settle differences peacefully and avoid the inhumane and devastating effects of military destruction.


In his later years, Ginn’s dream was to establish an International School of Peace in Boston, funded by the wealthy proponents of world peace. However, Andrew Carnegie did not support this project, and Ginn instead shifted to the more modest World Peace Foundation.


Ginn wanted the World Peace Foundation to impress upon young minds “the principles” that govern international affairs. The Foundation could not instruct children in classrooms, but by arousing teachers could reach children in their care. He hoped to influence the curriculum of schools, to reduce the glorification of war and instill an awareness of how civilization had been hindered by martial activity. The teaching of history, he said, “should dwell largely upon the peaceful pursuits of life – agriculture, trade, commerce, schools, (and) science.”[2]


Ginn was also focused on how mothers could contribute to world peace. In 1909, Ginn declared publicly that mothers should encourage their children to avoid war-like play and aggressive instincts. Ginn believed that young children could be educated against these “evils”, and that the key to a more peaceful world was such a “socialization of future generations.”[3]


He also urged mothers to encourage their children to revere life. For example, Ginn argued that mothers should take the toy guns away from their sons. According to Ginn, even the “little harmless gun or toy rifle encouraged the desire to see blood and death.” Ginn therefore held that “the child should be taught not how to mount a gun and play at shooting soldiers. It should be taught to take care of them and guard them against getting broken.”  A mother who stopped her son from shooting tin soldiers, Ginn urged, was doing her bit to establish world peace. Mothers who prevented their sons from going into the woods and “killing everything in sight” meaningfully assisted the advance of civilization.[4]

[1] Edwin Ginn, Are Our Schools in Danger, p. 2-3.

[2] Robert Rotberg, A Leadership for Peace: How Edwin Ginn Tried to Change the World, 2007, p. 120.

[3] Rotberg, A Leadership for Peace, p. 103.

[4] Rotberg, A Leadership for Peace, p. 103.

One thought on “Early Childhood Development and World Peace: A View from 100 Years Ago

  • September 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Does anyone have thoughts on the effects of malnutrition in this regard? Does education matter if substantial numbers of children suffer from stunting, with cognitive impairment as one of the results? Does violence beget violence though a process of retarding the development of children?

Leave a Reply