FRED WHITTAKER heads the middle school science department at St. Francis of Assisi School in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches social studies, religion, and science. Mr. Whittaker and his colleagues introduced peace education initiatives to the school in order to teach the heart as well as the mind; he was instrumental in launching the Familiae Pacis program, the only school within the state to offer the program which is built on the tenets of compassionate listening, interconnectedness, and service to encourage the participants to act with moral courage. The result is that the students have become in touch with the impact of their actions and words and their power to hurt or heal. In addition, to expand the initiative, Mr. Whittaker created a Holocaust studies curriculum covering the destructive power of hate, the events leading to the Holocaust, and a yearly visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum accompanied by Holocaust survivors. This led to a petition from Mr. Whittaker’s 8th grade students to the Kentucky State Legislature to consider making Holocaust education mandatory. As a result of participating in Mr. Whittaker’s programs, the students formed a Committee on Conscience to raise funds and create awareness for causes such as Darfur and the Hope Flowers School in Palestine. In addition, the school hosted a Peace Summit to urge all students to work for peace. In Kentucky, the St. Francis of Assisi school is now identified with peace education. Mr. Whittaker challenges his students to strive for excellence and inspires them to act with compassion in every aspect of their lives. His mantra to his students: Be a witness. Be peace. Be change.
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