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Abstract

A common adage used in psychological exploration tells us that “If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.” While typically employed to emphasize the importance of upbringing and environment on personal outcomes, this phrase can be equally applicable in examining the ways in which society has developed over time to produce our polarized sociopolitical culture of today. This work explores from an integrative psychosocial perspective the potential that exists in working to define a new “end” by shaping a new “beginning,” through going directly to the institutions that comprise our own beginnings— schools. Through a combined research lens of peace studies and developmental psychology, this presentation will examine in detail the capacities of sociocultural dialogue as a strategic peacebuilding initiative, specifically in the context of institutionalized education. Through initiating relevant, age-appropriate conversational opportunities for our youngest minds to encounter and understand difference, this method would thus essentially strive to serve as an embedded, ongoing strategic peacebuilding initiative that assumes a preventative rather than reactionary approach to conflicts in perspective. In using an interdisciplinary approach to both inform frameworks and measure outcomes of implementing developmentally appropriate sociocultural dialogues in early educational settings, we gain a heightened understanding of the ways in which these types of dialogues can contribute to increased levels of empathy—ultimately working, from the beginning, to pre-emptively instill qualities capable of bridging the divides which we have clearly seen to emerge in the end.

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