Before Sept. 11, 2001, many people the world over were starting to
believe that we were finally moving in the direction of peace,
understanding, and respect for differences.
Now they know they were wrong.
Terrorists and their supporters showed very clearly that a
significant portion of the world's population either does not agree
with such values, or sees the material success and the globalization
of Western values as a threat.
The willingness of people to murder and die for a belief that is not
questioned, thought about, or reflected upon now looms as the
world's most fundamental problem. That people of all nations and
backgrounds cannot overcome the corrosive, divisive, and destructive
properties of hatred is humanity's greatest, and most urgent,
We must transform situations of conflict -- turning "us and them''
"You've got to be taught, before it's too late . . . to hate all the
people that your relatives hate -- you've got to be carefully
Those words from a number in the 1949 musical South Pacific
hold two clues to what is necessary to begin to bring peace and
understanding to our world: "taught'' and "hate.'' Any "war on
terrorism'' must recognize the twin effects of faulty education and
The enemies of peace, understanding, and respect for diversity have
a long-term strategy that begins with children. Today, those
children are threatening the entire planet.
We who want peace must adopt the same child-based, long-term
The transformation must start with young people who, because they
have not had to deal with repeated failure, still carry a sense of
possibility. We urgently need to invest in the thinking and
emotional skills of the world's youth to break the self-perpetuating
cycles of hatred, intolerance, and violence.
That is the heart of the New World Project, a world peace initiative
emanating from Putnam Valley, New York. To change the course of
world events, we believe four things are essential for the youth of
A common vision of the changes required to establish a new world.
Development of critical-thinking skills and emotional
The ability to apply these skills and intelligence to real-world
issues and problems.
Use of modern technology and the Internet to communicate
Several components of the New World Project already exist. The
critical-thinking tools that John Chaffee of Manhattan describes in
The Thinker's Way (1998), provide a means for cutting
through prejudice and faulty reasoning. Chaffee's materials are
taught at more than a thousand colleges around the country.
Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, in their book
The Art of Possibility (2000), outline a set of
out-of-the-box thinking skills and what I call "emotional wisdom''
skills. Benjamin Zander is the acclaimed conductor of the Boston
Philharmonic. Rosamund Zander is an accomplished family therapist
and developer of breakthrough thinking strategies.
To tie it all together and disseminate the lessons worldwide, the
award-winning Peers Influence Peers Partnership, which originated in
Putnam Valley, New York, under Frank Reale, offers a proven
mass-media communication model. Reale provides guidance for
student-created and -directed video productions about drug and
alcohol abuse that motivate teen participants and carry the message
to audiences of all ages. The other three members of our team are
Buck Heller, president of Heller Creative, our-Emmy award winning
producer; Chip Paliocha, president of Evolving Systems, our
Internet/Web systems guru; and Carl Patrick, our strategic
The New World Project's first undertaking in August 2003 will bring
together students from the United States and Arabic countries in a
neutral Third-World setting. Chaffee and the Zanders will introduce
them to powerful intellectual and emotional tools in workshops.
Students also will cooperate on communication projects using video,
computer and Web-based technologies.
The workshops will address current world situations and events,
focusing on a specific problem, such as hatred. They will serve as a
forum for developing a shared vision for the group's efforts. The
vision will be inclusive -- something that no participant group or
individual would oppose, and from which no group or individual would
feel excluded. It will establish an umbrella for the participants'
projects, both at the workshops and back in their communities.
After the workshops, participants will return home to implement
similar projects and share what they have learned. Ongoing support
through frequent contact with other participants, staff visits,
follow-up workshops, and an innovative Web system will ensure that
the participants have the crucial follow-through they need to be
Carrying the lessons to the widest possible audience is the crucial
mission of the project. In order to accomplish this, we plan to
videotape the entire process for a television documentary that will
reach a worldwide audience.
Billions of dollars have been spent on the military and billions on
aid, but getting funds to actually work at the underlying roots of
the problem is our biggest and most immediate challenge -- one that
we and the New World Project are determined to overcome.
© Michael Sklaar 2002
Michael Sklaar is president and co-director of World
Exchange, a small not-for-profit international student exchange
program begun in 1985 with his wife, Vera Sklaar. The
Putnam/Westchester, New York-based World Exchange has welcomed more
than 9,000 students to the United States and Canada from Europe and
Asia. His email address is
The Thinker's Way by John Chaffee
The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander