Are We Too Violent?

Instructor Name: 
DeEtte Beghtol Waleed
Course Description: 

“I learned that I can no longer just turn my head and walk away.”

We are surrounded by violence in many areas of our lives – crime, TV, wars, domestic violence and much more. The class seeks to understand why our culture is violent. We will interview leaders working to overcome violence in the US and other countries to learn how change is possible. Structural violence and the interconnections between violence and poverty will be explored and analyzed in order to learn new strategies to combat violence in the US and globally.  

Students will research causes of violence and learn strategies to overcome violence. Teams will interview individuals in the US and developing countries affected by wars and violence. We will work with our community partner, Communities of Support and Accountability, to plan and create a video educating the public about how people can be involved in changing the prison system to a more humane model.

Topics include: Why are we violent? Factors leading to violence in cities in the US; Effects of violence on soldiers; Relationships between poverty, racism and violence; Comparing strategies to overcome violence in the US and the developing world.

Final product

Students will interview leaders from developing countries and in the US who have created projects to reduce violence.  Teams of students will research political and cultural background of conflicts in the country of the interviewee. You will contact and set up interviews with international peacebuilders, and others working with community based organizations to build peace in their regions or locally. The basic focus of the interviews will be techniques and strategies field workers have found helpful in overcoming violence in their situations.

The class will work with Communities of Support and Accountability to plan and produce a video educating the public about problems and strategies for change in our prison systems.


Canada, Geoffrey , Fist Stick Knife Gun, Beacon Press, 1995 

Eggers, Dave, What is the What? Vintage Books, 2006

Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave, and DeGaetano, Gloria, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, Crown Publishers, 1999 

Roy, Jody M., Love to Hate, America’s Obsession with Hatred and

Violence, Columbia University Press, 2002

 Ury, William, The Third Side, Penguin Books, 1999

 Waleed, DeEtte Beghtol, Messengers of Peace, Inspiring Stories of

 Africans Creating Peace, Create Space, 2011.

Main Learning Objectives

By the end of the course students will:

Ø  recognize psychological and sociological theories on the causes of violence

Ø  develop strategies to decrease violence among youth

Ø  acquire and apply interview and data analysis skills

Ø  identify the reasons behind violence in cultures

Ø  apply theories to real life situations of violence occurring in the local community and in the world.

Ø  analyze situations of violence in order to explore more peaceful resolutions

Ø  synthesize information and analysis into a final presentation

Ø  compare strategies used in other cultures to violent situations in the US and evaluate their applicability

Link to local partner

Communities of Support and Accountability works with local communities to make our prison systems more humane. They rely on a restorative justice model and develop strategies to connect the community with prisoners in positive ways, such as re-entry victim voices, family visitation, and letter writing to prisoners.