Competition for the Good #1: Debate Teams in British Columbia

I’ve just spent a week traveling to British Columbia and Seattle to offer humane education and MOGO (Most Good) workshops. In BC, I first gave a talk at the Vancouver Public Library, and I brought up my idea for solutionary teams in schools to exist alongside debate teams. (I’ve written about this idea in a previous blog post. I was surprised when one of the attendees said that in BC it’s uncommon to have debate clubs or teams at school.

The next day I was leading several workshops at a teachers’ conference, and as part of my keynote talk, I had planned to discuss this idea of solutionary teams in contrast to debate teams, but because I had been prepped by the comment the night before, I wanted to know from the audience if it was true that in British Columbia debate teams were uncommon. Did their schools have debate teams, I asked. They shook their heads. Well, do you have solutionary teams? Still no. So, I encouraged these Canadian teachers to lead the way on solutionary teams, and perhaps we in the U.S. will follow. That is, unless some teachers and school administrators who read this blog want to get them going in their schools!

~ Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of Lulu_Vision via Creative Commons.

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Humane Education in Action: Social Justice in the Middle

Stacy Goldberger spends her days connecting middle school students in New Jersey with the intricacies and intrigue of language arts. Because she believes in the importance of raising youth who are informed, engaged citizens, Stacy infuses her curriculum with issues and explorations of social justice. She also organized a Social Justice Day for the entire school and has built the 8th grade language arts curriculum around themes of social justice. Read our interview with Stacy.

Quick Facts:

Current hometown: West Orange, New Jersey
IHE fan since: 2005 when I became vegan and spent a chunk of my summer vacation researching compassionate and veg/vegan organizations.
Current job: 8th grade language arts teacher at Memorial Middle School in Cedar Grove, NJ
Book/movie that changed your life: After reading Howard Lyman's Mad Cowboy in 2002, I gave up eating all animal byproducts.
Guilty pleasure: Facebook and reading on the stationary bike
Inspired by: The many compassionate and enlightened people in my life
Love about yourself: I love that I am not the same person that I was 20 years ago, even though I was a nifty person back then and am quite youthful for my forty years. Being a real adult is cool.
One of your strengths: Being able to laugh over spilt (soy) milk
Interesting fact about you: When I renewed my NJ driver's license this past November, I became an organ donor.
Animal companions: I live quite comfortably with three cats, Scorsese, Zoey, and Rosalie.


IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?

SG: When I was working on my graduate degree in education at North Carolina State University, my professors stressed the importance of affective education as well as social justice in the curriculum and in our teaching methods. While teaching middle school students, moreover, I quickly learned how interested adolescents really are in issues of fairness; I also remembered they can be quite cruel to one another. Consequently, civic duty and empathy should be incorporated into any place where young adolescents learn. My own experiences as an on-and-off-again shelter volunteer and animal advocate have made their way into classroom conversations, especially when I produce sample essays for my students. In 2005 I was awarded a Geraldine R. Dodge Teaching Fellowship to volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. My goal was to incorporate kindness to animals as well as the spirit of volunteerism into my classroom. My week at the sanctuary, however, was a cathartic experience that left me an overall more appreciative, compassionate, and peaceful person and, therefore, a better teacher and human being in the classroom.


IHE: You’ve initiated a Social Justice Day at your school. Tell us how that came about, what happened that day, and what your plans are for future SJDs.

SG: Social Justice Day was born out of ongoing discussions between me and former colleague Bernadette Jusinski. We would frequently talk about bringing speakers to our school to talk to our students about humanitarian and environmental issues. After some grant writing, lots of planning, and way too many phone calls to count, we wound up providing our students and fellow teachers with a half day of specialized speakers and workshops. Our speakers for the fifth grade classes were from animal welfare and rescue groups; the speakers for the sixth grade workshops all discussed environmental issues; the speakers for the seventh graders workshops spoke about "people" issues, including living with a disability, voting, and advocating for the elderly. The eighth graders attended a ninety-minute panel with two Holocaust survivors and a moderator.

Pulling off Social Justice Day required me to use my preparation periods, days off from school, and late afternoons for making contacts and scheduling. Fortunately, we were able to make and save contacts, so when we have our second Social Justice Day in 2011, we will already have many speakers who are willing and able to return to Memorial Middle School.


IHE: You’ve developed lesson plans and curriculum of your own that infuse humane education into “traditional” lessons (such as your civil rights and Animal Farm lessons). Tell us about that process.

SG: Fortunately, we were able to build the 8th grade language arts curriculum around the theme of Social Justice, hence the subjects of responsibility to our world and empathy are threaded through many lessons. The required reading for my students includes Touching Spirit Bear, a story about justice, redemption, forgiveness and learning from animals; Warriors Don't Cry, a memoir about the Little Rock Nine; Farewell to Manzanar, an autobiographical piece on an internment camp for Japanese Americans; Animal Farm; and Night, Elie Wiesel's personal account of surviving Auschwitz. All of these texts automatically lead to discussions, writing assignments, and research on justice.

Although George Orwell's novel is an allegory of the Russian Revolution, he delved into animal rights issues, which led to the uprising on the farm. The hens did not want to give up their eggs to other animals, the horses were tired of being worked to death, and the cows wanted their milk to be used only for their calves. Even though the pigs are the culprits, I do a lesson on the intelligence of pigs, an animal which surpasses dogs and cats in brain power. When the horse Eight Bells was euthanized on a racetrack two years ago, I brought several related editorials into class and also linked the issue back to Animal Farm.

Before starting the Holocaust unit, my students read the article "38 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police," which is about the murder of Catherine Genovese; they also read a story about a college student who was shunned by his classmates at UC Berkeley for not interfering when he realized his best friend was raping and murdering a seven -year-old girl. Now that we're in the middle of the Holocaust unit my students are linking issues like apathy and acts of resistance in those stories to what happened in Nazi-occupied Europe.

During the last two months of school, eighth graders work on their Social Justice research project and presentations. They choose from a list of topics that include the Salem Witch Trials, Miranda Rights, military conscription, animal testing, the Irish Republican Army, and the threat of corporations such as Wal-Mart.


IHE: What have been your successes? Challenges? How have students been reacting to these issues?

SG: Currently, I am teaching a Holocaust and Genocide unit, which offers plenty of challenges. Very often my students ask me a general 'Why?' abut genocide, and I have to admit that no matter how much history I learn, I will never have a valid reason as to why crimes against humanity occur. My students want a clear explanation and often try to develop them on their own, and I tell them some things will never be understood. We have to focus on prevention.

Additionally, Holocaust/Genocide studies can be emotionally trying on kids and adults. Learning about death, hate, and apathy is unsettling but necessary. My supervisor, who once attended a Holocaust slide show I gave at another school, told me that I teach the subject very gently. I cannot explain how I or anybody else achieves this, but I was relieved to learn this about myself. Additionally, I prefer to focus on resistance and justice rather than on death, evil, and shock value. Since students often see history as only what has happened in the past and not what has shaped us and what repeats itself, I have had success with linking more current issues to the Holocaust as well as the internment camps.


IHE: What advice would you give to other teachers who want to include humane education issues in their own teaching?

SG: Review your state's curriculum standards to connect humane education into your own classroom lessons; chances are that your state has character education standards and that your social studies curriculum emphasizes civic-mindedness and duty. Additionally, many historical events (as well as current events) reviewed in social studies and books read in English language arts are springboards for humane topics.

Also remember that you are teaching other people's children, and that helping them become more empathetic and compassionate needs to be done without a particular political or ethical agenda. When teaching children to be kind to other humans, animals, and the planet, you need to consider what they learn at home. Never tell or imply to children that what they learn at home is wrong. Use what they know as a starting point.


IHE: Any future plans, dreams or projects?

SG: At times I toy between several goals, including studying genocide and writing a young adult novel on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. One of these years I will be returning to Best Friends for more scooping, cleaning, walking, and purging my soul of any lingering stress and negativity.


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What a Humane World Looks Like: Lots of Positive Stories

Turn your attention to the news, and it's often about something depressing, tragic, irrelevant, superficial or misleading. Our penchant for bite-sized news bits means we rarely see topics addressed in comprehensive, meaningful ways. And there is a dearth of stories about the positive. Fortunately, more people have realized that "positive" news -- stories focused on people doing good, meaningful and hopeful news and evidence of a better world emerging. Here are a few sources for positive news I know about:

Daily Good

Good News Gazette

Good News Network

Ode Magazine

The Good News-paper (focused on Maine)

The Portland Upside (focused on Portland, Oregon)


Part of realizing a humane world is being able to envision it. And positive stories like those from sources like these offer us hope and inspiration in making a positive difference in our own corner of the planet.

~ Marsha



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MOGO is for Pessimists, Too

Here's another excerpt from my book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life, that I wanted to share with you.
“Some may be pessimistic that MOGO (most good) living can truly change intractable problems and create a peaceful, humane, and healthy world. Yet the MOGO principle is not just for the optimistic. Walking the MOGO path is joyful and meaningful in and of itself, and inevitably restores our hope as we, and others who share our vision, persevere and create healthier lives and a healthier world. As former Czech Republic president, Vaclav Havel, has written: ‘I feel a responsibility to work toward the things I consider good and right. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to change certain things for the better, or not at all. Both outcomes are possible. There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.’”

~ Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm

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Resources for Teaching About Haiti

Skim the news, and what you'll frequently hear about Haiti is focused on poverty, "looters," and Haiti's "inability" to take care of itself. You don't hear much about the U.S.'s involvement in Haiti, or about the Haitian Revolution of the 18th century, in which Haitians freed themselves from slavery, or about the underlying reasons for the wrecked government, inadequate infrastructure and mass poverty.

To help educators provide students with an opportunity to dig deeper into the history, culture and issues surrounding Haiti, Teaching for Change has put together a list of useful resources, including a teaching guide (which includes some outdated material, but plenty of useful information), suggested books, and other teaching resources.

The New York Times has also put together some suggested resources for exploring issues surrounding Haiti (mainly repackaging their stories to fit different topics), as well as an article called "5 Ways to Teach About Haiti Right Now."

And, vlogger Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine has a done nice, brief thought-piece on Haiti, which serves as a great springboard for discussion. You can see it here:



Update: I just found a great commentary by Amy Wilentz which criticizes several news stories and commentaries about Haiti and offers her own views on the situation. This is a great piece to use for encouraging an analysis of the reporting and commentary on Haiti to look for biases, themes, misinformation, missing information, etc.


~ Marsha

Image courtesy of United Nations Development Programme via Creative Commons.


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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

UK boy raises £125,000 pounds for Haiti in one day (via Mirror News) (1/25/10)

Interview with changemaker Robert Redford (via Democracy Now!) (1/25/10)

"What could you live without?" (via NY Times) (1/24/10)

Middle schooler motivates youth to help with Millennium Development Goals (via GOOD) (1/23/10)

Reports shows 1/4 of grain crops in U.S. used for biofuel rather than food (via The Guardian) (1/22/10)

Indonesia's solution to protect endangered tigers: adopt them as "pets" for $100,000 (via Treehugger) (1/21/10)

Study shows average kid spends more than 7 hours/day with media (via NY Times) (1/20/10)

New U.S. Basketball league for white players only (via Augusta Chronicle) (1/19/10)

"Why it's important to put a price on nature" (via The Economist) (1/18/10)

Texas study shows link between air pollution, school absences (via Star-Telegram) (1/18/10)

Instead of 10% unemployment, lets work 10% less (via Yes! Magazine) (1/15/10)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Impossible Hamster Model Shows "Growth Isn't Possible"

Yesterday I happened upon a great little video about consumption, growth and the economy called "The Impossible Hamster." You can view it below.




The video was created in part by the New Economics Foundation, which has just released a new report called Growth Isn't Possible: Why We Need a New Economic Direction (pdf). It argues that unrestricted, indefinite global economic growth isn't sustainable and that a new paradigm for how we think of "growth" and "success" is necessary for us to survive and thrive.

The little video is a great springboard for discussing issues of how we define growth and a successful economy. And, we did a blog post a few months ago about the GDP, which includes some useful resources for exploring the issues.
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Most Good, Least Harm

For the next few blog posts I’m going to share excerpts from my book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life.
My book, Most Good, Least Harm, “is based on a very simple premise: when we do the most good and the least harm through our daily choices, our acts of citizenship, our communities, our work, our volunteerism, and our interactions, we create inner and outer peace. I call this way of living ‘MOGO,’ short for ‘most good,’ and it has become the guiding principle of my life.

The MOGO principle is simple in theory, but it asks much of us. It requires a willingness to learn new information so that we might continually reexamine our lives with the greatest good in mind and commit to conscious and deliberate choice-making for the benefit of all. Doing so calls upon us to live with integrity, courage, wisdom, perseverance, and compassion. While at first glance this might seem quite challenging, embracing the MOGO principle is deeply rewarding. It puts us on a lifelong journey that helps us realize peace within ourselves as well as create a peaceful world.

I realize it can be very hard to imagine a peaceful world given the state of things: the horror of war, poverty, genocide, and human oppressions; the escalating degradation of the ecosystems on which all life depends; and the terrible cruelty that is perpetrated institutionally on animals. Yet we humans have faced seemingly insurmountable problems in the past, and we’ve triumphed many times. Apartheid in South Africa was eliminated. Mahatma Gandhi showed us that nonviolent resistance can topple an empire; and women gained the right to vote in democracies across the globe. Many people could not have imagined the end to many injustices prior to their demise. And, although humanity’s cruelties and failures persist, our positive achievements are enormous and unstoppable. These positive achievements have happened because individuals like you have chosen to make a difference.”

Zoe Weil, from Most Good, Least Harm

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Unnatural Disasters: Cruelty & Injustice Arise Right Behind Natural Disasters

Unfortunately, the news is all too-often filled with reports of "natural" disasters all over our planet. The eyes of the world have recently been focused on Haiti. Often when such disasters hit, there are plenty of news reports about people from coming together to help out, sending food, money, supplies, volunteering, etc. So it would seem that our actions post-disaster are a great example of humanity exercising its more humane qualities, such as compassion, kindness and generosity. What has remained unrevealed for some time, but has begun to receive wider attention in recent years, is the sheer number of atrocities, cruelties and injustices that arise for humans, animals and the planet during (and after) natural disasters.

Human Rights

According to the “Operational Guidelines and Field Manual on Human Rights Protection in Situations of Disaster” (pdf, 2008) some of the human rights challenges that come into effect after a natural disaster include:

“unequal access to assistance; discrimination in aid provision; enforced relocation; sexual and gender-based violence; loss of documentation; recruitment of children into fighting forces; unsafe or involuntary return or resettlement; and issues of property restitution.” (1)

The report also says that “experience has shown that, while patterns of discrimination and disregard for economic, social and cultural rights may already emerge during the emergency phase of a disaster, the longer the displacement situation lasts, the greater the risk of human rights violations.” (1)

Already, human rights and other organizations are calling for a halt to adoptions in an attempt to thwart child traffickers who are taking advantage of the devastating situation in Haiti.

Reports of the disaster in Myanmar in 2008 revealed government interference, such as the ruling junta in Myanmar seizing food aid shipments; and abuse and high risk for children, including being recruited or kidnapped into serving as child soldiers.

The tsunami of 2005 in southeast Asia brought an increase in incidences of rape, gang rape, physical abuse and other violence against women and children, along with them enduring “basic health problems due to a lack of personal hygiene products and maternal care.”

Research from the London School of Economics & Politics revealed that “more women die than men as the direct and indirect result of natural disasters” in countries “with very low social and economic rights for women.”

Reasons for such human rights abuses include, according to one report, the collapse of traditional society support mechanisms, prevailing attitudes toward women, alcohol and drug abuse, psychological strain, the lack of family or community protection, and fewer police or other safety officials.

There is also the danger of other countries and corporations using disasters to profit, as well as the significant impact of issues like poverty and interference from other governments.

Media & Culture

The issue of what gets covered in the media after such disasters and how has also been raised. For example, some media have been criticized for characterizing desperate Haitians as "looters" and for their "treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol." During the 2008 Myanmar disaster, a blog post on Racialicious, called “The Brown and the Dead” explored CNN’s graphic coverage of the Myanmar tragedy, showing numerous shots of dead bodies lying on shorelines, many next to dead animals. As the Racialicious blogger said upon seeing the footage, “This video desecration of the already desecrated was another example of how American culture sees brown people as somehow less human.” and “What are the chances that CNN will show the broken bodies of the 22 people killed in twisters that plowed across the central United States this weekend, y’know so we get ‘the enormity of the story?’ We did not need to see graphic footage of victims to understand the enormity of Oklahoma City or 9/11.” However, some blog commenters from a Huffington Post article about the footage have stated that it’s important for Westerners to see such footage in order to demonstrate that “this is reality and the U.S. public needs a dose of it everyday.”


Animal Protection

While the plight of animals during and after disasters is gaining increased attention, most communities still have no policies or plans in place for protecting, rescuing, harboring or relocating animals in cases of disaster. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 pushed this issue to world headlines when more than 250,000 pets (and countless other animals on farms, in labs, etc.) were abandoned. And, after the 2007 earthquake in Peru, hundreds of pets and farmed animals were abandoned. In situations like Haiti, where most people are struggling just to survive, the concern for animals tends to become ancillary.


Environmental Preservation


Aside from the obvious physical destruction to the natural world that occurs with disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, floods and volcanic eruptions, there are greater and broader-viewed issues. For example, according to the WorldWatch report Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace, there is a growing realization that “disasters are caused by human impacts on the natural environment as well as by short-sighted and inappropriate development patterns, settlements in increasingly vulnerable areas, and socioeconomic divides and inequities.” For example, most of Haiti is deforested, which has amplified the destruction and has contributed to problems of erosion, lack of water, and more. In Myanmar, mangrove swamps used to provide a barrier between the ocean and villages. Now, however, farms and shrimp ponds have destroyed most of them. Of course, there’s the prominent example of the occurrence of more natural disasters due to increased climate catastrophe, which is significantly connected to our fossil-fuel culture. And then there’s the destructive loop of disaster victims continuing to damage the natural world as they struggle to survive under new and horrific conditions.

And, out of this human-created environmental meltdown, another concept is emerging, the “envirogee” or “climate refugee,” people who are displaced from their homes due to environmental conditions that are causing catastrophe, from desertification to flooding to food scarcity to water shortages.

While maintaining healthy ecosystems to help protect us during times of disaster looks to “prevention,” some people are also calling for using disasters as a method of system-wide change. When communities crumble, they say, rebuild them sustainably.

Although what we as individuals can do when disaster strikes for those in another part of the world is somewhat limited (sending donations to reputable organizations, volunteering our expertise, lobbying for debt relief, working for positive policy changes, etc.), we have much more power to influence own communities. Exploring the impacts and consequences of natural disasters is an excellent time to bring awareness to emergency preparedness for ourselves, our families, our animal companions, and those around us, as well as to talk about how we can make our own communities more sustainable and secure against such disasters.

In addition to preparing ourselves for such unexpected events, we can also work to ensure that our daily choices have a restorative, sustainable, just, compassionate impact on all people, animals and the planet. Since more disasters are arising due to the influence of human activities, we can examine our own choices and behaviors, exploring how we can do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet.

~ Marsha

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The New Golden Rule

For the next few blog posts I’m going to share excerpts from my book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life.
“We’re all aware of the Golden Rule to ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto us.’ Whether phrased in the positive or negative (don’t do unto others what we wouldn’t want done unto us), this ‘rule’ is integral to every major religion and has been prescribed by philosophers over millennia.... But now our complex world requires a new Golden Rule, one that enables us to put into practice the original Golden Rule universally. In a world in which our clothes, food, transportation, fuel, products, and homes come to us through a web of connections that extend around the planet, we need a principle to guide us so that we actually can do to others, no matter how geographically distant, as we would have them do to us, and refrain from doing to others that which is abhorrent to us. Most good, least harm (MOGO) is that principle. MOGO calls upon us to raise our awareness and connect the dots between ourselves and others whom our life impacts so that we can make sure that we are not being abusive or oppressive, and instead are increasing joy, health, and equality for everyone.”
Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm

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What a Humane World Looks Like: Sharing Food, Connecting With Friends

Sharing food is one of the most powerful ways for us as humans to connect. At my co-housing community, we often find opportunities to share food with each other, so it has been on my mind lately as a great example of what a humane world looks like. I wanted to offer three recent examples:

1. Each New Year's Day evening we celebrate by having a progressive dinner among our 26 families. Some families sign up to be the "host" houses, others sign up to help prepare food, and some just shuffle from house to house, enjoying the bounty. This year was especially memorable for me. Often our progressives have been a quick munch at the first house, then scramble into your shoes (if you can find them), dash through the raindrops and rush into the next house to nibble there; repeat. This year we extended the time at each of the 5 houses to 45 minutes each. People were able to relax, enjoy each other's company, and really relish the food. The food this year was also exceptionally tasty. In past years there hasn't always been an option for those who are vegan or wheat-free, but this year all the cooks made sure to provide -- not just something, but something really delicious.

The last stop was at our house -- dessert. We made 5 different kinds of vegan dessert (if you count the two kinds of fudge), and all were pronounced tasty. We had enough of our apple crisp left that the cooks for the common meal the subsequent night were able to use that for their dessert. A large group hung around in our small, cozy home long after the event was "over" -- chatting, laughing, sharing stories, and celebrating the joyful feel of good friends and good food.


2. A couple days after the progressive dinner, we got a call from one of our co-housing friends. She had made soup for the dinner and still had quite a bit left over. Would we like to get together that night and have dinner? We still had dessert, so we whipped up a quick salad, and the three of us sat down to a delicious impromptu meal of soup, salad, bread, fruit and dessert. Simple, yet so enjoyable.


3. One of the older couples here in our community has begun to find daily life more challenging as they age and struggle with health problems. Members of the community have joyfully jumped in to help, running errands, driving them to appointments, helping with projects, and cooking them meals or treats. Just a couple nights ago I cooked up a big batch of chili and took some to them. The next morning someone else left some homemade biscotti on their doorstep, anonymously. The community is finding ways to show their love for George and Zan, and, in return, they know how much they are adored and appreciated by the community.


~ Marsha

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Nominate a Teacher for the KIND Teacher Award

Are you a Pre-K-12 classroom teacher who includes humane lessons in the curriculum or inspires students to action? Do you know a teacher who has done so in an effective, innovative manner? Nominate a teacher -- even yourself -- for The Humane Society of the U.S.'s 2010 National KIND Teacher Award.

According to HSUS:

"The National KIND Teacher Award recognizes an outstanding teacher who consistently incorporates humane education into his or her curriculum and/or motivates students to get involved in community service."

To nominate yourself or another Pre-K-12 teacher for this award, please fill out their online nomination form.


The deadline for nominations is February 15, 2010. The winner will be notified before the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

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The Important Message in Stephen King's Under the Dome

I just finished reading Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome. The book is about what happens to a small town in Maine when a dome descends around their town, blocking their access to the outside world. (Note: If you want to read the book, you may want to skip this blog post because I’m going to reveal the source of the dome.) There are lots of important themes in the book, not least of which is the power accorded to the selectman who takes an evil, manipulative, Hitler-like role and creates a gang of followers who destroy the town through ignorance, greed, stupidity, and power addiction. A revisit of Lord of the Flies, adult-style.

But the theme that interested me most was the revelation that the dome was created by alien children as a game -- one that is compared throughout the book to those cruel games human children play on animals, such as burning ants by directing the sun’s rays at them through a magnifying glass.

In Under the Dome, we are the ants, but all the alien children had to do was create the conditions for fear and panic. We humans did the rest, destroying ourselves and responding to fear and danger with a conflagration. Not all humans, though, and this is the hope. We can overcome our penchant for indifference and curiosity that turns into cruelty. And we can raise our children to respect all others, including ants, and to refuse to indulge the impulses that would have us treat anyone – even the smallest of living beings – as anything less than worthy of reverence and kindness.

Zoe Weil
Author of Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times and Most Good, Least Harm

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Rethinking Portrayals of Muslim Girls in YA Fiction

If you asked many students (especially Westerners) to describe a Muslim girl, would they point to a photo like the one here? Would they associate her with oppression, lack of education, early marriage, and vulnerability?

With the U.S. embroiled in many-years wars with Afghanistan and Iraq, news and entertainment media that sometimes seem intent on cultivating negative stereotypes of Muslims, and recurring controversies in the news, such as France's bid to ban burqas -- in part because they are considered in some circles as a symbol of gender oppression -- our understanding of Muslim people and culture can often be limited, superficial and mistaken.

In the latest issue of Rethinking Schools magazine, there is an interesting and important article called "Save the Muslim Girl," which explores messages and stereotypes in young adult fiction about Muslim girls in the Middle East (written predominantly by white women). The authors of the article say:
"Authors portray Muslim girls overwhelmingly as characters haunted by a sad past, on the cusp of a (usually arranged) marriage, or impoverished and wishing for the freedoms that are often assigned to the West, such as education, safety, and prosperity."
The article's authors focus on three issues related to the stereotypes and messages that can be perpetuated in such novels:

1. Muslim girls are veiled, nameless and silent.
2. Veiled = Oppressed
3. Muslim girls & women want to be saved by the West

They go on to say:
"What we contend is that young adult novels written by white women and marketed and consumed in the West consistently reinforce the idea that Muslim women are inherently oppressed, that they are oppressed in ways that Western women are not, and that this oppression is a function of Islam. By positioning 'Eastern' women as the women who are truly oppressed, those in the West pass up a rich opportunity to engage in complex questions about oppression, patriarchy, war, families, displacement, and the role of values (imperialist or faith-based) in these relations."

The article's authors, Özlem Sensoy and Elizabeth Marshall, don't advocate avoiding these books, but rather engaging with them using critical thinking and a deeper and broader social context. They offer an excellent list of questions to start such a conversation.


~ Marsha

Image courtesy of localsurfer via Creative Commons.

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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

"The compassionate instinct" (via Greater Good) (1/10)

3/50: A campaign for spending locally (via Mother Nature Network) (1/16/10)

Naomi Klein on the corporate branding of Obama & politics (via The Guardian) (1/16/10)

Skin-lightening products "may bring risks" (via NY Times) (1/15/10)

Jane Goodall works to spread hope (via The Guardian) (1/13/10)

Study says 3 types of Monsanto GMO corn cause cancer, organ damage in mammals (via Twilight Earth) (1/12/10)

What do you do about the subtle messages movies send your kids? (via NY Times) (1/8/10)

NYC organization brings unsold clothes to those who need them (via NY Times) (1/8/10)

"The climate killers" 17 "polluters and deniers" blocking efforts to stop global warming (via Rolling Stone) (1/6/10)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.


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More Evidence of the Intelligence of Animals: See For Yourself

For some reason, even with regular stories in the media, the intelligence of our animal cousins continues to be a topic of debate (as if animals require a certain level of intelligence to be considered worthy of, well, consideration).

Here are a couple of videos focused on animal intelligence that I've come across recently. The first is a BBC story about a dog in Austria who knows more than 340 words.

The second had the jaws of both my husband and me dropping wide open with appreciation -- Capuchin monkeys in Brazil using tools and intelligence to "process" and eat aged palm nuts (and chase away predators). You can watch the latter video below (try to ignore the patronizing music that accompanies the video):



If you've seen some good videos showing off animal intelligence, please post the links in the comments.

~ Marsha

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The Gift of Snow

I live in rural Maine, and two weekends ago we had a huge snowfall. One of my favorite things about snow is that no animal can escape its ability to perfectly mark tracks. Last week, my husband and I went snowshoeing in a wilderness area. We followed a fox trail for a long while, passing the trails of many small rodents -- among them mice and squirrels. Next we came across porcupine trails –- a veritable Times Square of them –- followed by the tracks of a smallish member of the weasel family.

We hiked up a small mountain to where cliffs descended, and all around us were Rock Dove tracks. Rock Doves are pigeons, but in this context it's worth calling them Rock Doves because they build their nests on cliffs (which is why it should not be a surprise that they have adapted so perfectly to city life where tall buildings provide the perfect nesting sites).

Next we came upon coyote tracks and followed them for awhile, until we descended to a bog and pond. There we smiled at the carryings-on of an otter, who alternated between running and sliding, leaving what looked like a Chutes and Ladders game in the snow.

At one point, I lay on the snow and let the bright sun warm me. I felt a momentary wave of blissful peace here among my wild relatives who, thanks to the snow, revealed themselves to me.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Image courtesy of Edwin Barkdoll.

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Critiquing Educational Initiatives Instead of Exploring Fundamental Questions About the Purpose of Schooling

In her recent Atlantic Monthly article, "Cultivating Failure", Caitlin Flanagan critiques the current educational movement to bring the cultivation of gardens into schools and curriculum. Because Flanagan makes her argument so well, I don’t want to try to paraphrase her, except to summarize her position: Taking time away from book-learning for gardening, especially for Hispanic children whose families have worked to escape poverty and to provide their children with an education that will enable them to do things with their lives other than farming, limits precious studying time, thereby reducing the acquisition of essential knowledge. As with many well-thought-out critiques, the criticism is compelling, but suggestions for solutions are weak, if non-existent.

To me, the problem with debating specific curricula or initiatives in education -- whether school gardens or another program -- is that the big picture is often lost. That big picture requires that we explore and seek to answer the question “What is schooling for?”

We will answer this question differently in different settings and situations. Some of the Hispanic families that Flanagan writes about might say that the goal of their children’s education should be to provide them with the core competencies and tools to enable them to have healthy, positive, and economically successful career choices. The girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan educated in the schools built by Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute might answer that the purpose of schooling should be to teach them to be verbally and mathematically literate in order to escape crushing poverty through skills that make them employable in life-sustaining jobs.

These are important and noble purposes for schooling. Yet, at this point in history they are not good enough. They may be good enough in certain situations, but not as the overarching educational purpose of a wealthy, powerful nation such as the U.S., whose work force and citizenry have enormous influence on everyone and everything across the globe.

Instead of focusing on specific educational initiatives such as school gardens, we need educational leaders, teachers, and parents to ask and answer the question “What is education for?” in a visionary way that assesses the world we live in, all those we are impacting, and the future we are influencing. In a world that is quickly warming, rapidly desertifying, overpopulating, losing species at an alarming rate, drying up ancient aquifers, running out of relied-upon energy sources, escalating its reliance on slave and sweatshop labor and thereby fomenting inequity and rage, and so on, the narrow focus on educating for white-collar jobs through ensuring specific core competencies just isn’t enough. It’s foundational but inadequate education. And this is why either extolling the virtues of school gardens or critiquing them isn’t enough either.

Flanagan quotes the late Theordore Sizer’s compelling statement from his 1984 book, Horace’s Compromise:
“If students have yet to meet the fundamental standards of literacy, numeracy and civic understanding, programs should focus exclusively on these. Some critics will argue that the school must go beyond these subjects to hold the interest of the pupils … but a fourteen year old who is semi-literate is an adolescent in need of intensive, focused attention.”
Who can argue with this? Of course teenagers need to meet such fundamental standards, but these should not be hard to meet. It only takes a couple of hours a day at most to meet such standards if we organize our schools efficiently, reduce class size, and hire excellent teachers. To argue against school gardens because we’re failing at these very minimal and basic standards is to give up on the great potential and power of education. And to focus on school gardens as some awesome or awful use of time just leads us away from the essential goals we must embrace. The core competencies every child must have must be directed toward a greater and worthy purpose, and that, in my opinion, is the development of healthy, just, sustainable, and humane systems so that we solve the grave challenges we face and build a world in which we can all live and thrive.

Until we begin having a discussion about the core question “What is schooling for?,” we will continue to argue about specific educational initiatives and fads and lose sight of the great promise that schooling holds and the great danger if we fail to achieve that promise.

Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of spacecadet via Creative Commons.

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Worldwatch State of the World 2010 Calls for Cultural Transformation

Skim your newspaper, pop on the news, check your RSS feeds and most likely you'll see something about more people making greener choices: changing to CFLs, driving a bit less, eating veg a couple days a week, shopping with the planet in mind, etc. To some degree "going green" has become more mainstream. But our systems -- education, media, government, business, etc. -- and the cultures of our society still support and nurture consumerism, the destruction of the earth, and the oppression and exploitation of others as means for making money and finding "happiness."

According to Worldwatch, a research organization that focuses on global issues (primarily environmental challenges related to food, climate change and the green economy), this way of living and doing business has to change if we're to avoid the catastrophic consequences of our consumer culture. Worldwatch publishes an annual State of the World report that provides a comprehensive exploration of one or more topics related to creating a healthy, sustainable world. This year's report calls for nothing short of complete global transformation -- using the various systems of education, media, government, business and so on, to "reorient cultures toward sustainability."

According to Worldwatch, “This transformation would reject consumerism—the cultural orientation that leads people to find meaning, contentment, and acceptance through what they consume—as taboo, and establish in its place a new cultural framework centered on sustainability."

"Cultural patterns are the root cause of an unprecedented convergence of ecological and social problems, including a changing climate, an obesity epidemic, a major decline in biodiversity, loss of agricultural land, and production of hazardous waste," says Erik Assadourian, project director.

The report, Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability, which involves the work of 60 authors, begins with a look at "the rise and fall of consumer cultures." Sections on traditions, education, business and economy, government, media and social movements each offer several essays exploring different aspects of those sections and highlight relevant facts, statistics and studies. The report also provides examples of positive changes already occurring around the world.

Read excerpts from the report for free (pdf).

Even the free sample essays would provide excellent sources for discussing the issues of cultural transformation and a shift from consumerism to sustainability with students.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Worldwatch.

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Zoe Weil Interview on Animal Voices Radio - Listen Live!

IHE President Zoe Weil will be interviewed on Animal Voices Radio on CFRO 102.7 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The interview is Friday, January 15, at 12:30 PM (PST). Zoe will be talking about humane education and MOGO (Most Good) choices, and the power of both to create a compassionate, just world. You can listen live!

If you know someone else who might like to tune in, please let them know!

(Posted by IHE staff.)
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What a Humane World Looks Like: Helping Haiti

Yesterday I happened to flip on the radio on my way to pick up my husband, and I heard a brief story about the earthquake in Haiti. Of course I immediately felt very sad for the people and animals who have been killed or harmed, and thought about what I might be able to do -- what organization might I donate money to that could do the most good?

As part of my work for IHE, I skim my RSS feeds of blogs and websites focused on humane issues, and I update IHE's Twitter and Facebook pages. Everywhere I looked today -- green blogs, "mommy" blogs, human rights blogs, Twitter, Change.org, and on and on -- I saw numerous posts and tweets from people and organizations of all sorts from all over the world offering suggestions about how people could help those in need in Haiti and encouraging them to take positive action, rather than sitting back and letting this tragedy pass by unanswered.

To see such a response -- telling people it's they're personal responsibility, that it's their duty to take a moment from their daily lives, and reach out and help those in need -- really gave me hope and inspiration.

Today I'm writing checks to more than one reputable organization that is helping Haiti...and I've seen another glimpse of what a humane world looks like.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of M_Eriksson via Creative Commons.


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Status

My husband and I are taking an 8-week improvisation class. The first class met last week, and one of the topics that we explored was status. Our teacher asked us to have a group conversation about coffee. The conversation was short with every person contributing briefly their opinion about coffee. There were a few back and forth comments, and then we were done.

The teacher asked us who had the most status in the group.

What a question!

I had never thought about status in the context of daily interactions and conversations, but as we explored this concept, it became clear that status lurks in almost every circumstance and relationship, and once I became aware of it, I could see it everywhere – in body posture, facial expression, tone of voice, and the content of what was spoken. People are claiming status and people are giving it away all the time. But interestingly, status doesn’t necessarily correspond with social class, education, profession or what would seem like its outward manifestations.

The physician who looks downward, bites his nails, and mumbles may have less status in an interaction than a laid-off blue collar worker who is friendly, clear, and looks directly at the doctor. Status is fluid, changing all the time depending upon circumstance. It comes with confidence and often with an open, kind, unafraid demeanor. It is lost when we avert our eyes or defer to another against our own values or beliefs.

But why is status so ubiquitous? Can we imagine our species living without its presence? Given that we share the social configurations status conveys with many other species, one wonders if it something to overcome or something to understand and work with so that it does not perpetuate oppression and exploitation, but rather becomes a part of our psychology and social relationships to lift into the light.

I’m only at the beginning of paying attention to this new concept in my life. I’ll report back in this blog as I notice more. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on status – what elevates it and what diminishes it and what makes it disappear into an honest and healthy equilibrium among people.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Image courtesy of zozo2k3 via Creative Commons.

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King Corn Duo Follow the Big Impacts of Their Little Acre of Corn in Big River

In 2007 two friends, in an effort to learn more about where their food comes from, decided to conduct an experiment: to farm an acre of corn in Iowa and follow it into the food system. And then they made a film about their experiences: King Corn. What they learned about the impacts of industrial agriculture on the food system shocked and amazed them.

The Iowa floods of 2007 inspired Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis to create a companion documentary, which reveals what they discovered when they investigated the environmental impact of their little acre of corn on the people, animals and places downstream. In Big River the two friends hop into a canoe (and a paddle boat) and travel downstream through the river systems, where they discover the effects of the pesticides and fertilizers they used and what happens to the soil and the water. They learn about the dead zone in the Gulf, and the cancer clusters caused by herbicides.

Big River is currently being screened around the U.S., and the filmmakers are encouraging schools, non-profits and other groups to host a screening in their own community.

Check out the trailer:


Big River Trailer from Wicked Delicate Films on Vimeo.



~ Marsha


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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

"Can video games save the world?" (via Time) (1/18/10)

Humans causing species extinction at "1,000 times the natural rate" (via Treehugger) (1/11/10)

NY green schools teaching civic engagement, job skills (via NY Times) (1/10/10)

NYC organization brings unsold clothes to those who need them (via NY Times) (1/8/10)

Pesticides linked to mass animal deaths (via Yale Environment 360) (1/7/10)

U.S. scientists call for mountaintop mining ban (via The Guardian) (1/7/10)

"Minority" and poor students in the U.S. South become majority (via NY Times) (1/6/10)

Parents find barriers to improving school lunches (via Chicago Tribune) (1/5/10)

Clothiers caught defacing, dumping good clothing (via NY Times) (1/5/10)

Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Submit an Activity for the Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award

The Social Psychology Network is hosting its 5th annual Action Teaching Awards, given to honor educators who exhibit excellence in “action teaching” – teaching that “leads not only to a better understanding of human behavior but to a more just, compassionate, and peaceful world.”

Entries can include “classroom activities, field experiences, student assignments, or web-based tutorials and demonstrations.”

According to the SPN website:

“Entries may focus on the individual, group, or societal level, and may address psychological aspects of any major social issue, including prejudice, social injustice, conflict, crime, poverty, hunger, public health, the environment, animal cruelty, and domestic violence, among others.”

The winner receives a $1,000 prize and a free one-year membership in Social Psychology Network.

The contest is open to all teachers. The deadline is January 15, 2010.

Find out more.

Wouldn't it be great to show them the power of humane education? Last year IHE won an Honorable Mention for our Resource Center.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Sleestak66 via Creative Commons.


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What If Schools Had Solutionary Teams?

Two debate-related events coincided last week that sparked this blog post. First, at my son’s high school the seniors had their debates. Every senior is required to participate in a debate in order to graduate. Second, I read this report that had been aired on NPR:
“In Mexico, thousands of people have died in drug-related violence in the past three years as the government has ramped up its war on drug cartels. But is the United States to blame for Mexico's drug woes?

Some argue that the United States bears responsibility because of its market for illegal drugs, along with the flow of guns south of the border. Others blame Mexico's government, saying it permitted a culture of corruption to flourish and resisted U.S. help for decades.

A panel of experts recently faced off on the topic in an Oxford-style debate. Part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. series, the debate featured three experts arguing for the motion "America Is To Blame For Mexico's Drug War" and three arguing against.

In a vote before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 43 percent in favor of the motion and 22 percent against; 35 percent were undecided. After the debate, 72 percent agreed that "America Is To Blame For Mexico's Drug War," while 22 percent remained against and 6 percent were still undecided.”
Does anything strike you as odd about this debate? It certainly seems odd to me. How could something as complex as “Mexico’s drug woes” ever be reduced to an either/or question of blame? But so often, this is what debates foster – either/or answers to complex problems. Choose a side, argue it, and win or lose. Meanwhile the issue isn’t solved.

I think learning the skill of debate in school is useful. It fosters critical thinking and the use of logic. But I wonder why high schools have debate teams and make participating in a debate a requirement for graduation but don’t also have solutionary teams and make participation in creating solutions to problems a requirement for graduation.

Imagine if every school had a solutionary team; better yet, imagine if every school had a course in developing solutions to entrenched challenges. Better yet, imagine if the very purpose of schools was to prepare students to be solutionaries no matter what field they pursued upon graduation.

Maybe we should start with solutionary teams. Students could tackle a problem and (if we must have competition to make such a team fly) could compete. The winner would be the team that came up with the most effective and practical solution to a given challenge.

Oh, and then we could implement their solution.

Maybe we should institute a debate on whether this is a good idea or not.

Cheers,

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

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Resources to Help You Help Stop Human Trafficking

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S. A day dedicated to bringing attention to the plight of the millions of men, women and children around the world who have been abducted, coerced or tricked into modern day slavery and labor. Most often the exploited are women and children, and many times they’re forced into sexual slavery. The first step in systemic change is learning more about the issue. Use these resources to help you.

Selected Organizations:

Anti-Slavery International
Provides information and action opportunities on modern slavery and forced labor issues.

Childtrafficking.com Digital Library
An online library of information, photos and film sources regarding issues of child labor, slavery, sex trade, child marriage and more.

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
”Works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”

Diana Scimone
Follow Diane's blog to learn more about child trafficking and keep updated on what you and others can do (and are doing).

Free the Children
Find out about issues affecting children, such as slavery, poverty and sex trafficking, and what children are doing to help other children.

Free the Slaves
A treasure trove of information and resources on modern slavery.

Human Trafficking.org
Get reports, news and information about human trafficking from all over the world.

Not For Sale Campaign
Get information and resources, and join campaigns to stop human trafficking.


Selected Movies:

Born Into Brothels (2004)
Academy Award-winning documentary about the children of prostitutes in India.

Call + Response (2008 )
Call + Response goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2007, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.”

The Day My God Died (2003)
“Entering the brothels of Bombay with hidden cameras, The Day My God Died documents the tragedy of the child sex trade, exposing human rights violations and profiling the courageous abolitionists who are working towards change.”

Demand
Features “investigative footage of the dark and hidden world of sex traffickers, pimps and buyers. Demand exposes the men who buy commercial sex, the vulnerable women and children sold as commodities, and the facilitators of the sale within the marketplace of exploitation.” From Shared Hope International.

Fields of Mudan (2004)
“When Mudan, a frightened, young Asian girl, is forced into modern day slavery by the brutal child brothel owner, Madam Zhao, the only solace she finds is through the memory of her Mother and the promise that she would one day find Mudan and take her away to America: the place where dreams come true.”

Holly (2006)
A docu-drama about an American stolen artifacts dealer in Vietnam who tries to save a young girl from child traffickers.

Not for Sale: The Documentary (2007)
A documentary that “covers what modern-day abolitionists are doing to fight the rampant terrors of human trafficking in the US and abroad.” From the book of the same name.

The Price of Sugar (2007)
In the Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians are under armed guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, most of which ends up in the U.S.

Sex Slaves (2005)
“An undercover journey deep into the world of sex trafficking, following one man determined to rescue his wife — kidnapped and sold into the global sex trade.”

Very Young Girls (2007)
A documentary “that chronicles the journey of young women through the underground world of sexual exploitation in New York City.”

Selected Books:

Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales (2007)
What can people, community and governments do to end slavery now?

The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking & Slavery in America Today by Kevin Bales & Ron Soodalter (2009)
Documents cases of modern slavery in the U.S., discusses causes and offers solutions.

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade -- And How We Can Fight It by David Batstone (2007)
Reveals accounts of victims of slavery and what people can do.

Free the Children by Craig Kielburger (1998)
An article in the news led a young man on a crusade that has touched millions and has freed thousands of child slaves.

Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery by Susan Kuklin (1998)
A biography of Iqbal Masih, the young Pakistani child slavery activist who helped free himself – and many other children – from slavery and brought attention to the plight of children in bondage.

Child Slavery in Modern Times by Shirlee Newman (2000)
“Discusses cases where children are forced to work against their wills in difficult and dangerous conditions in various countries around the world.” Has some great photos and quotes from children.

Human trafficking is happening around the world, including here in the U.S., and if we pay attention and take positive action, we have the power to stop it.

~ Marsha

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Ever-growing Expectations and the Roots of Complaint: Reflections on Sy Safransky's Notebook #3

Reading one of Sy Safransky’s Notebook entries in The Sun magazine this week provided a great explanation for my continued complaining (see my New Year’s day post: Stop Complaining) and provided some clarity for why it’s so hard to break this habit. Sy writes:
"In the nineteenth century it took six months to cross the country by covered wagon. At the start of the twentieth century it took six days to make the trip by train. Yesterday I flew from North Carolina to California in a little more than six hours. The engineering marvel of a modern jetliner borders on the miraculous, yet how mundane flying has become. There I was, soaring through the air at hundreds of miles an hour, fulfilling one of humanity’s age-old dreams, and all I could think about was how little legroom I had and when the couple behind me was going to shut up." (The Sun, January 2010)
When something becomes mundane we take it for granted. When we take something for granted we cease to think about it, and when we cease to think about it, we fail to cultivate our gratitude for it. We notice when things go awry, not when they go as planned. For example, most of us in the U.S. and other industrialized countries never have to think about obtaining water. Each day we drink from our taps, take showers and bathe in hot water that flows from our spigots and showerheads, and flush our wastes away in clean water. Imagine that. Not only do we fail to appreciate this incredible gift, we also fail to see its shadow (coal-fired power, sewage systems that pump our wastes into the environment, and so on). We only seem to notice if the water stops coming.

I remember the story of Boris Yelstin’s eyes filling with tears when he experienced a U.S. supermarket. But those tears will inevitably dry up in his or anyone’s eyes as soon as aisles of relatively inexpensive and abundant food (however unhealthy, overpackaged, and processed) become the norm. Our expectations just grow, and our ease in finding fault and vectors for new complaint just expand.

I wish I knew the solution to this beyond a committed practice of gratitude. I’ve written about Naikan, a Japanese form of self-reflection, in previous blog posts. As a reminder, Naikan revolves around three questions (you fill in the blank):

1. What have I received from ________________?
2. What have I given _______________?
3. What trouble or difficulty have I caused _______________?


Later this month I’ll be flying to Vancouver, B.C., for work (see my speaking schedule). I’m planning to practice Naikan on the plane and reflect upon what I’ve received from the airline, airport, pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and all the personnel and inventors and engineers who will have made my flights possible. If something goes wrong and I miss one of my two connecting flights or wind up spending hours in an airport due to inclement weather or experience some other hassle, I hope that I will be able to maintain my resolve not to complain and instead find ways to still marvel, be grateful, and give something back.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Image courtesy of Genkaku.

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WebSpotlight: Spy Joy

It's funny how the universe works. I've been thinking for awhile about trying to capture what a humane world looks like through my own lens of the world -- mainly through images (especially since my husband bought me a little pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera for my birthday) -- but also through words and news and such. And I'm planning on doing so and sharing, from time to time, here on this blog.

Today I happened upon the website of a like-minded soul. Michele Larsen started a blog to document her own journey toward joy and happiness and dubbed it I Spy Joy. The blog features joy-inspired images, as well as news accounts and Michele's own thoughts and actions related to her pursuit of and gratitude for joy.

Bookmark this blog, let it inspire you, and use it to catalyze your own journey toward realizing and discovering the joy in life.

~ Marsha


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IHE President Zoe Weil on MOGO Workshop/Speaking Tour

IHE President, Zoe Weil, has a few speaking engagements and workshops in the next few weeks, and we wanted to share her schedule with you.

Please spread the word to interested people who live around the various communities where Zoe will be presenting. We hope many of you will be able to attend an event!

1/20/10: Vancouver, B.C.Zoe is speaking about the MOGO Principle at the Vancouver Public Library (350 W. Georgia Street, 7th floor), Vancouver, B.C., at 7:00 p.m.

1/21/10: Maple Ridge, B.C. – Zoe will be a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at “Thriving in Today’s Schools”, the 2010 Convention of the Maple Ridge Teachers Association, Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Keynote at 8:45 am. Workshop at 1:00 pm. (not open to the public)

1/23/10: Seattle, WA – Zoe is co-leading a workshop for teachers – “The World Becomes What You Teach” — with Heritage Institute executive director Mike Seymour. Teachers can get continuing education credits. Antioch University (2326 Sixth Avenue), Seattle, Washington, from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm.

2/6/10: New York, NY - Zoe is leading a mini-workshop and doing a book signing at The New York Open Center (22 East 30th Street), New York, New York, at 1:00 pm. Find out more.

Visit IHE’s Events page to see all our upcoming events, and visit Zoe’s Appearances page to see all her upcoming engagements.

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