Violence is anything that objectifies people, other creatures, or the earth—seeing that being as a thing to use, exploit, or damage.
Because learning takes place in a state of relaxed alertness, and a sense of safety is needed for curiosity and exploration, the pervasive presence in our world of diverse forms of violence inhibits and threatens learning all kinds of things in both formal and informal settings.
Violence is not an aberration or extremity in our world: it is deeply sewn into and is often the foundation of how we organize human activity, from institutions to households. Those of us with obvious or relentless lives marked by violence, neglect, or other experiences that lead to trauma are like the canaries miners used to take underground with them, to warn them that the methane gas was life-threatening. The levels of violence we have come to see as ordinary in most societies are life-threatening too.
Violence affects everyone, not a handful of poor ‘victims’. Though there are individuals who have survived and thrived in the aftermath of catastrophic, acute violence, the people trying to learn in schools and other environments are often processing subtle and complicated things that get in the way of their learning. And for many, school itself is a site of trauma – trauma being our natural response when violence is inflicted on us.