A Case for Humane Education

As my blog post today, I want to share humane educator, Tim Donohue's, excellent essay in Independent Teacher, "A Case for Humane Education." Here's an excerpt; enjoy!:
Against a student’s slate of classes that includes Hamlet’s potential suicide, the Holocaust, entropy, La Biographie de Robespierre, and the rules of trapezoids, humane education allows students to connect with the world that the archetypal graduation speakers say they “will inherit.”

President Barack Obama promised five million new green-collar jobs would rise out of this challenged economy, where survival seems to depend upon sustainable practices. The unlikely “Blue Green Alliance” between United Steelworkers and The Sierra Club underscores this. According to Executive Director Dave Foster, “It’s not a question of jobs or the environment. It’s both or neither.” When problems are conceived in absolute terms, critical thinking skills give way to bipartisan ruts. Humane education involves the sort of integrated thinking that promotes such “win-win” alliances and allow the most good and cause the least harm.

A lesson on urban transportation, for instance, considers not only the health of the local environment, but also that of the people who are commuting. It considers the quality of life for those who live near streets with high traffic volumes and whether urban planners could introduce healthier modes of transit. It takes the immediate problem of the danger a child might have in crossing the street and asks this student to re-vision — literally, drawn on paper — a viable, safer model. This one lesson, then, can enlighten the student about a wardrobe of green collar options: urban planning, environmental justice, alternative energies, public transportation advocacy, or architecture. No matter how beautiful The Great Gatsby is, it can’t do this.
Read the complete essay.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Humane Educators' Toolbox: Weathering Change

While many Americans are still struggling with whether they believe in human-caused climate change, let alone with taking positive action, people in the developing world -- especially women -- are feeling the effects in their daily lives. Population Action International has recently released a short film (about 13 minutes) that highlights the impact of global climate change on women and children in developing countries. Watch the film here:




Population and global climate change are two profound and immediate challenges that everyone must address. Toward the end of October we'll see 7 billion people on the planet, with that number projected to grow by another billion in less than 15 years. And there's significant irony in the fact that many people in Western countries, who are responsible for so much of the increase in global climate change, point fingers of blame at those in the developing countries (who are most significantly affected by global warming) for having more children. These issues offer a rich and meaningful source for exploring important issues with older students, and this film serves as both a useful backdrop for sparking discussion, as well as a tool for increasing awareness about these interconnected issues with changemakers, policymakers and concerned citizens.

~ Marsha

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8 Tips to Make it Easier to Speak Up Anyway

Last week I wrote about the importance of speaking up anyway to say "enough hurting," even when we're afraid to do so. Today I wanted to share a few tips for making it a bit easier to speak up, since we know how challenging and intimidating it can be to do so, especially in an unknown and potentially hostile situation. Here are 8 tips:


  1. Make sure it's the right time. If someone else is in danger or being hurt, and you can help them without putting yourself in significant danger, then it's probably the right time. But, there are times when silence is the better strategy. For example, speaking up about cruelty to animals during a meal with your omni friends or family will only hurt your credibility and any chance to help the animals.
  2. Use compassionate communication. No matter how the other person reacts, maintain compassion in your manner and words. You don't have to take abuse -- you can end the conversation at any time -- but always speak kindly and politely. Additionally, don't just walk up to someone and tell them they're doing something wrong. Ask them a question (be careful about making assumptions about what you think you're seeing) and find a way to make a connection. You can also approach in a helpful, non-judgmental way: "You look like you're having a rough day; can I help?" or "I noticed x, and I thought you might not be aware that y. Can I offer assistance?" It helps to practice -- a lot -- with a loved one in a safe environment. Think about past encounters you've had or witnessed, and practice modeling compassionate communication.
  3. Don't take it personally. Often when people think their judgment or values are being questioned, they may feel defensive or hostile. They may look for a way to turn the issue back to your faults. Remember that (unless you're not using compassionate, non-judgmental communication) it's not about you; the harsh reaction is often a response to others having to face inconsistencies in their own values and actions. Focus on your goal of helping others and saying "enough hurting." But, if you find you're getting nothing but negative reactions to your encounters, then take time to evaluate your methods and look for ways to improve.
  4. Let go of  the need to change. Focus on the single encounter and doing the most good and least harm. If people sense that you're trying to change them or tell them what to do, they're going to shut down and ignore you. Additionally, remember that you can't control the outcome of your speaking out. You can only strive to inspire, educate, and empower.
  5. Offer positive choices. It's essential when speaking up that you provide positive choices. Many people aren't aware that they have other options. Connect them with resources that eliminate or reduce obstacles. Be their ally, not their opponent.
  6. Gently refute the "It's none of your business" statement. Sometimes people will tell you that what you're speaking up about is "none of your business" or that what they're doing "is a personal choice." You can kindly respond with something like: "Respectfully, it IS my business when I see someone being hurt." or "It ceases to be a personal choice when it causes harm to others." or something similar. Or, you can say "Yes, it is none of my business, but I can see that you're hurting, and I want to help anyway."
  7. Keep trying. As long as you're confident that you're using your best compassionate, non-judgmental communication, keep trying, even when you're met with hostility, defensiveness, or indifference. As Gandhi said “It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
  8. Speak out with a friend. As we know, there can be power in numbers. We're not always with another friend when it's time to speak up, but it can feel a bit less scary when you have a friend along for support. They don't have to say anything; just be there. But, be careful that having a friend along doesn't feel like you're "ganging up" on whomever you're talking with.


 What additional tips do you have to make it easier to speak up anyway? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

~ Marsha

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What It Will Take to Change the World: A New Field of Dreams

Many years ago, when I was stuck in traffic, a cyclist zoomed by me. I’d just added a new bumper sticker to my car that read, “Earth’s best friend is vegetarian.” I thought it was rather witty with its graphic of the Earth in the shape of an apple, and I personally considered myself far ahead of the proverbial curve, because I was promoting my personal animal protection goal to a wider audience of environmentalists. I even felt a wee bit smug about just how well I could make connections between issues and teach others about what I knew and they didn’t.

As the cyclist sped by, he yelled into my open window, “Earth’s best friend is a bike rider!” He wasn’t very friendly when he shared this. And he disappeared so quickly, without my having the opportunity to educate him about soil erosion, water pollution, depleted aquifers, greenhouse gases, fuel consumption – all caused in large part by animal agribusiness. How little he knew, and how much I had to teach him! Alas, he was gone before I could offer enlightenment (or defend my need for a car).

That bumper sticker is long gone. I realized it didn’t quite work. The sticker was smug, even self-righteous. It promoted a single act – vegetarianism – as best for the planet. Not that vegetarianism, veganism, or eating locally grown foods aren’t extremely helpful choices, but telling others what is the best choice is long gone from my activist/educator repertoire.

What the world – human and nonhuman animals and the Earth itself – urgently needs are activists and citizens who balance committed, confident energy with humility, and passionate, creative effort with wisdom. Our world is desperate for those who are willing to uncover every stone in an endeavor to understand the connections between all forms of oppression and destruction; who are eager to see problems from multiple angles; who want to work together, listening and learning from each other; who steadfastly refuse to accept or promote simplistic answers to complex problems; and who diligently strive for visionary solutions that help everyone.

Slowly but surely, such people are surfacing. They are like the baseball players emerging out of Ray Kinsella’s corn field in the movie Field of Dreams, coming because they are compelled to leave behind something that doesn’t work, for a better vision that will. They are forming a new team that neither they nor anyone else set out to create, one that doesn’t confine them to playing a specific position in a predetermined game organized by others who call the shots.

Some of these emerging players are young adults disillusioned by the polemics of organizations, institutions, and the media that focus on either/or solutions to multifaceted issues. Some are teachers scared for the next generation and despondent when misguided laws like the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act fail so dismally to live up to their own visionary titles. Some are CEOs of multinationals or politicians who realize what the future holds if they do not step up to the plate as true leaders. Some come when they suddenly see and are horrified that we’re losing our democracies to corporatocracies. Others appear when they discover they can’t afford, or even obtain, local, organic foods to feed to their families.

When they arrive some, like architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, authors of the book Cradle to Cradle, construct buildings and products that aren’t simply less bad, better at fuel efficiency, or more eco-friendly, but which are actually ecologically regenerative and restorative. Some, like Wangari Maathai, have planted trees that blossomed not only into restored and sustainable ecosystems, but also into democracy and empowered women. Some start community gardens to feed themselves and their neighbors, rich and poor. Some become stealth adbusters, using marketing tools to expose underlying systems of manipulation that have become the norm on Madison Avenue.

These people are engineers and scientists, nurses and electricians, parents and shop owners, artists and accountants, priests and rabbis. They are independent thinkers who see interdependency as part and parcel of the creation of a better world. They may work on separate pieces of the complicated puzzle, but they never forget how their piece is linked to the whole.

It is these people and the hundreds of connections they make, the ways in which they learn from and teach one another, and the revolution they are launching that is the real hope for the world. They are flocking to festivals, conferences, and workshops that link human rights to environmental preservation to animal protection to religion to business to democracy to the media to politics. They are bringing these interconnected issues to rotary clubs and boardrooms, villages and parliaments. It is these people and the ideas they generate that are producing brilliant, cutting edge solutions grounded in root causes and linked to broad positive effects.

Perhaps you are part of this growing revolution. Perhaps you’ll bring your voice to the hugely diverse, but nonetheless harmonic chorus that is echoing everywhere. Perhaps you’ll bring your passions and skills to bear on the enormous, but glorious work that is ahead of us. I hope so. As for me, I wish I could go back in time and smile at the cyclist who road by me and say, “Yes, please share with me what you know! Together let’s protect this beautiful Earth and all its inhabitants. I promise I’ll stop being so smug.” If you’re reading this, long ago cyclist, email me and let’s do what it takes to change the world before it’s too late.


For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Why We Need Humane Education: Manipulating Masculinity

Image courtesy of  Paul Needham
via Creative Commons.
Recently I came across a couple of great resources that highlight another reason humane education is so important: the messages our culture sends men (especially young men) about what it means to be men.

The first I found on the great blog Marketing, Media and Childhood, which posted the trailer from a new film from the fabulous Media Education Foundation called The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men. The film looks at the cultural forces that help shape young men to dehumanize and disrespect women. Filmmaker Thomas Keith dissects a range of media that glamorize and promote sexism, violence against women, and certain very specific definitions of "American manhood."

The film is divided into four steps:

Step 1 Train men to womanize.
Step 2 Immerse men in porn.
Step 3: Make rape jokes.
Step 4: Obey the masculinity cops.

Watch the trailer here (NOTE: CONTAINS VIOLENT & SEXUAL IMAGERY AND PROFANITY):


TRAILER: The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men from Media Education Foundation on Vimeo.

The Media Education Foundation has several other great films exploring media, culture and masculinity, such as Tough Guise, Hip Hop: Beats and Rhymes, Dreamworlds 3, and Generation M.

The other resource is a news story posted on Sociological Images (and other sites) about IKEA's new "Manland" -- a pilot program providing a separate area of the store for men to watch TV, play video and other games, and hang out in manly ways while the women do their shopping thing. Women are given a buzzer that goes off after 30 minutes to remind them to pick up their men. Manland not only perpetuates stereotypes about men, women, gay couples, and consumers, but insults men and frames them simultaneously as too macho to shop and as so infantalized that they must be constantly distracted and entertained. The media has picked up on IKEA's new plan and is happily trying out new labels, calling it a "playpen for men," "daddy daycare," a "nursery for men," and "a holding pen for bored male shoppers."

Both resources offer important opportunities to explore the messages we send men (and women) about what it means to be masculine -- to be a man.

~ 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.

Women of Saudi Arabia granted right to vote (via NY Times) (9/25/11)

Controversy rises over mass deaths of factory farmed animals due to weather, other problems (via Kansas City Star) (9/25/11)

Barcelona holds last bullfight (via Treehugger) (9/25/11)

"Is junk food really cheaper?" (commentary) (via NYTimes) (9/24/11)

"Little girls or little women? The Disney princess effect" (via Christian Science Monitor) (9/24/11)

Report says U.S. spending billions to subsidize junk food (via LA Times) (9/22/11)

Experts say kids need more play (U.S. News & World Report) (9/21/11)

MD school ditches "regular homework" for new strategies (via Washington Post) (9/20/11)

Former trainer says killer whale captivity causes attacks (via Wired) (9/20/11)

Patagonia asks customers to reduce consumption & help promote reuse of their products (via GoodNewsNetwork) (9/16/11)

Schools look at teaching character (via NY Times) (9/14/11)

California passes state bill on Congo conflict minerals (via Change.org) (9/13/11)


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One Small Step for a Better World: Scoop the Poop

Image courtesy of  Daniel Lobo.
Despite the proliferation of kids' books like Everyone Poops, the subject of, well, poop, as a topic of conversation makes many people uncomfortable. But the simple fact is that dog poop left unscooped is a health and environmental hazard (not to mention unpleasant to the eye, nose, and foot). Picking up your dog's waste, whether during a neighborhood walk, a stroll on the beach, or a hike in the woods, prevents contamination of water supplies, the spread of disease, and harm to people, plants, other animals, and habitats. Plus it helps make the world that more beautiful. All great reasons to pack a bag or two and scoop the poop!

~ Marsha

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The Ethical Dilemma Inherent in the Weekday Vegetarian Plan

Image courtesy of Christina Hoheisel
via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from The Ethical Dilemma Inherent in the Weekday Vegetarian Plan:
"At the recent TEDxDirigo conference, we watched a 4-minute TED talk, Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian, by Treehugger.org founder Graham Hill. Hill explained why, despite everything he knows about the cruelty, health problems and environmental destruction associated with meat-eating, he wasn’t a vegetarian. 'Why was I stalling?' he asks in the face of the truth that 'my common sense and good intentions were in conflict with my tastebuds.'

"Hill’s answer is to become what he calls a 'weekday vegetarian,' someone who is vegetarian during the week and chooses whatever he or she wants on the weekend ....

"... I began thinking about how we would all react if we heard a talk by an activist working to end slavery who said that during the week she avoided chocolate produced through slave labor, but on weekends ate any chocolate she felt like. Or an environmentalist who said that during the week he only drove a Prius but on the weekend would drive a Hummer. I even imagined a man who spanks his kids, but is unable to resist coming to the decision – surely positive – that he’d only do it on the weekends and become a 'weekday good dad.'"

Read the complete essay.


For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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New Book Helps Educators Mentor Media Savvy Students

A few months ago we reported on a study about how addicted youth are to their digital technology and the media and connection it brings them.  More schools are trying to get in on the tech scene, with some districts starting as early as kindergarten. Today's youth are certainly more savvy when it comes to integrating technology into their daily lives. But many young people lack critical skills in understanding, analyzing, and evaluating the media and messages they're regularly exposed to. That's why a book like Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, edited by Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy of Rethinking Schools, is so essential.

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is designed to help educators help their students reflect on the influence and messages in media, gain fluency in understanding and interpreting popular culture, and learn skills to ensure that they're making informed choices.

The book is divided into several parts, in turn exploring corporate influence on youth and schools; dissecting the impact of pop culture on how we understand historical events and people; unpacking issues of race, class, gender, etc., in popular culture and media; analyzing how students and teachers are portrayed in media; and examining opportunities for positive action. The articles range from essays about particular issues and actions, to lesson plan ideas, to resources.

While the philosophical essays are interesting and relevant, the most useful sections of the book for most teachers will be those that offer specific curriculum ideas (e.g., sweatshop accounting, gender stereotypes, bias in the news) and those that analyze and dissect specific examples of media (e.g., Columbus in children's literature, fairy tales and cartoons, music videos). The essays on empowering students to take positive action on media issues is also essential reading. When you consider that youth between the ages of 8 and 18 spend nearly 8 hours a day (every day) engaged with all sorts of media (according to a Kaiser Family Institute Study), we as educators, parents, and concerned citizens have a responsibility and an opportunity to ensure that our youth are informed choicemakers, rather than unconscious consumers. Books like Rethinking Popular Culture and Media are an important part of that strategy.

~ Marsha

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Exposing the Impact of Our Choices on Nonhuman Animals

For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from Exposing the Impact of Our Choices on Nonhuman Animals:

"In 1985, I was fascinated by what I’d read about Sarah, a chimpanzee who could use a symbolic language to communicate, so I contacted Dr. David Premack, the principal researcher working with Sarah and other chimps at the University of Pennsylvania primate research lab, to volunteer. I’ll never forget meeting Sarah.

... Sarah lived alone in her cage. The four other chimps at the lab were only three years old, and I was told that Sarah might harm them, so this social animal was confined permanently in solitude. She had long since refused to continue with her language training, so her life consisted largely of watching soap operas on a TV on the other side of her cage or sitting in her small outdoor enclosure.

... For years I felt haunted by Sarah. Was she to live out her days in isolation and misery? All I could do was tell her story and, as a humane educator, teach, so that we might make different societal choices in relationship to others, whether people or nonhuman animals. Fifteen years later, I learned that Sarah had found a final home at Chimp Haven, a chimpanzee sanctuary that houses chimps formerly used in medical research, entertainment and as pets. My eyes filled with tears of relief at this good news."

Read the complete post.


For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Image courtesy of Joao Maximo via Creative Commons.

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What a Humane World Looks Like: Speaking Up Anyway

"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind -- even if your voice shakes." ~ Maggie Kuhn
In Zoe Weil's book, Above All, Be Kind, Ocean Robbins tells a story about his dad, author and activist, John Robbins. In the story, Ocean and his father were walking on the beach when they came upon a mother yelling at and slapping her young child. John turned to Ocean and told him "that even though what the mother was doing was awful, she must be suffering herself in order to be doing such a hurtful thing to her son." John then went on to offer his help to the woman, who at first rebuffed his overture, but then broke down crying and poured out her story. As Ocean said in the story, it's an example of "love in action" and of someone stepping up to say "enough hurting."

It would be wonderful if that's always how the story ended when we spoke up with compassion and an open heart to say "enough hurting." But that's usually not the case. Often, as I know from my own experience -- even when you speak in the kindest, most judgment-free voice, and with only loving intentions -- people will become angry and defensive, and sometimes go on the attack when you speak up to say "enough hurting."  I've had that very thing happen several times, from speaking to a couple who had left their dog in the car on a hot day, to speaking to a man who was hitting and yelling at his dog, to speaking up when neighbors were gossiping hurtfully about  another neighbor. Each time, I found not just my voice, but my whole body shaking, and my speaking up was met with hostility. But I still did it, because who knows what kind of positive seeds it planted? And every now and then I find that when I speak up, I'm met with a more positive result.  I won't pretend that it gets easier each time. But for me, not speaking up means condoning whatever "hurting" is happening.

Many of us really dislike conflict. And speaking up often means putting ourselves squarely into situations of conflict (and sometimes potential danger), even when we step in with kindness and non-judgment. But the simple truth is that the only way we're going to realize a compassionate, just, peaceful world is to speak up and say "enough hurting," even when we're deeply afraid -- even when our voice shakes.

~ Marsha

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iSchool? Why There's No Technological Fix to Ailing Education: iPads for Kindergartners is Not a Good Idea

Image courtesy of  Ian Eure
via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here’s an excerpt from "iSchool? Why There's No Technological Fix to Ailing Education: iPads for Kindergartners is Not a Good Idea":
"At a recent conference, I met a woman who was ecstatic about the new Auburn, Maine program which is providing all Kindergartners with iPads. At first, I thought she was joking. While the goal sounds positive – to better teach these children so they will more easily and readily learn their letters in a district where approximately 40% of third graders have not achieved literacy standards – after watching some news reports and reading some articles about the program, I found myself quite troubled. 

"... Instead of rushing to use technology with five-year-olds, we must first seek to understand why so many children are struggling to read at a standard proficiency by grade three. Is it a failure of technology, a failure of teaching and schools, a side effect of other variables (perhaps too many computer games and too much TV watching), a combination of these, or something else entirely?"

Read the complete essay.


For a humane world,
Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to the RSS feed.


 
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Why We Need Humane Education: Survey Shows Young People Perceive Online Slurs as "Just Joking"

Image courtesy of  txmx2 via Creative Commons.
We all know that greater anonymity and distance are usually paired with a feeling of greater freedom in speaking our mind without thought to the impact of our words. Blog post and news story comments are a prime example of how free many people feel to spew hate, vitriol, hyperbole, and even misleading information. Our growing attachment to online communication has seeded a culture that condones (largely through silence) this heightened perception of a no-holds-barred environment that allows, if not encourages, us to speak unkindly. We perceive such an environment as giving us permission to leave our best selves behind. And unfortunately we're passing on that legacy to our youth.

A recent AP poll discovered that almost 75% of young people are more likely to use slurs and offensive name-calling online than they would in person.  The poll notes that most young people aren't bothered by this kind of language use. Many (about 54%)  say that they use it with their friends because "I know we don't mean it" and other teens say it's just the way teens talk to each other.
The percentage of young people who find a particular slur offensive increases significantly, though, if the slur is directed at them, or a group with which they feel connected.

Most slurs tend to be against women (about 75% "think slurs against women are generally meant to be funny") and those who are overweight (47% say such comments are meant to be hurtful). However, there are plenty of other targeted groups, from people of color and different religious backgrounds (especially Muslims), to young people who are gay or mentally challenged.
One student said that constantly seeing ugly words used online has deeply influenced what young people find acceptable: "It's caused people to loosen their boundaries on what's not acceptable." Another said, "People have that false sense of security that they can say whatever they want online."

Read the AP story here.

We know that words hurt. There is a skyrocketing suicide rate among bullied teens to help prove it. If we have a culture that condones and ignores hurtful, discriminatory, inflammatory language and behavior -- whether it's meant as a "joke" or not -- then that environment of acceptance ripples out to more and more people, including our youth, who are looking for signals about who and how to be.
That's another important reason we need humane education integrated into all our systems, from education to journalism to politics to culture, so that young people get the signals early and often that creating a just, compassionate, healthy world for all means always striving to bring our best selves to thought, word, and deed, and to model a message that is aligned with our deepest values. In such a world there's no place for slurs, "jokes" or not.

~ 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.

Poll shows that young people see online slurs as "just joking" (via AP) (9/20/11)

Global energy consumption predicted to rise by more than 50% by 2035 (via Yale360) (9/20/11)

West Hollywood, CA, bans sale of fur clothing (via ABC7) (9/20/11)

"USDA, FDA get an F on livestock antibiotics" (via Grist) (9/16/11)

New poll shows more Americans belief climate is warming (via Yale360) (9/20/11)

Three market-based solutions to help people raise themselves out of poverty (via Fast Company) (9/15/11)

UK supermarket sausage ad banned as too misleading (via TreeHugger) (9/15/11)

Study reveals that 4,600 turtles are killed in U.S. fisheries each year -- which is actually positive progress (via TreeHugger) (9/14/11)

Study shows cities could grow large percentage of their own food (via Smartplanet) (9/13/11)

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Remembering Who We Are

This post is by contributing blogger Lynne Westmoreland, long-time music instructor and a humane educator. Lynne is a graduate of our M.Ed. program, and is the instructor for our online course, A Better World, A Meaningful Life, which is designed for people who want to put their vision for a better world & a more joyful, examined life into practice (next session starts November 4).



I'm the co-chair of the Social Justice and Action ministry at my local Unitarian Church. On September 11, I had the honor of taking part in an ecumenical service in remembrance of 9/11. I wanted to share what I shared with the congregation:

Will you enter with me into an attitude of prayer and meditation with this chant, often repeated by Buddhists to send loving kindness into the world.

“May all beings be peaceful,
May all beings be happy,
May all beings be safe,
May all beings awaken to the light of their true natures,
May all beings be free.”

Thank you so much for being here today to remember one of the saddest days in our nation’s history and to pay tribute to all of the lives lost on September 11, 2001. But we are also here to honor and remember all of those precious souls lost since then as a result of the continued violence sparked by that day. We have seen over the last decade that returning hatred for hatred and violence for violence only accelerates and feeds the cycle of misunderstanding, tension, pain, killing, and vengeance. Mahatma Gandhi addressed this response by reminding us that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”


There is an organization called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family members of those lost in the terrorist attack of 9/11. In the days after the news of Bin Laden’s killing they issued this statement: “It is our hope that the rule of law, underpinned by our Constitution that was so terribly strained in the name of September 11th, will again become the guiding light of our policies at home and abroad. One person may have played a central role in the September 11th attacks, but all of us have a role to play in returning our world to a place of peace, hope and new possibilities. We hope that process will begin today.”

Andrea LeBlanc, whose husband was on the plane that hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center, has worked for peace ever since the attacks on 9/ll. She does not believe that anger and despair are the most appropriate responses to being harmed. She believes that we all always have a choice in how we will respond. In her words she stated that “Human beings are born with the ability to be empathetic and compassionate, equal to, or maybe greater than, our ability to be aggressive. It’s about what you nurture.”


Recently, the people of Norway were given the chance to choose how to respond to the tragedy of the attack on innocent people that killed more than 70 and injured more than 150. One little girl was quoted as saying “If one person can create so much hatred, think of how much love we can all create together.” The politicians from the eight major parties in Norway put aside their disagreements to declare “We have a common enemy to fight -- hate, revenge, and intolerance. Our answer shall be love, openness, tolerance, and democracy.”

In 2006, a gunman entered an Amish schoolhouse and killed several schoolgirls before killing himself. In the aftermath of that terrible loss, the Amish extended forgiveness and comfort to the family of the killer. They modeled for the world a different way of shaping a terrible act visited on innocent people. They chose to respond with love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

There are so many people who have called for peace, dialogue, forgiveness, deep listening, and striving to understand each other as a way to interrupt the knee jerk reactions of violence, hatred and revenge. Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Buddha, Nelson Mandela, and all the major religions throughout time have taught that the most courageous way to respond to wrong being done to us is to invite the one that has hurt us into our circle of kindness and compassion. The idea that we are all whole and complete at the core of our being is one reflected in the Buddhist belief that, when we are behaving badly, it is because we have forgotten who we are. We are then encouraged to remember that we are loving people, designed to forgive and build compassionate relationships with all other sentient beings. While today is a day of sad remembrance, it is also a day to celebrate. It is a day that we can remember who we are and honor those whose lives were lost by working toward peace, justice, and respect for all from this day forward.


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A Brief, Gorgeous Present

In July, I wrote about my intention to get a tattoo, and on August 22, I found myself in a tattoo parlor with my 18-year-old son, watching a Star Trek episode on my laptop in order to endure the hour of pain as I did something so utterly and bizarrely out of character. As I’ve pondered for two weeks about what I wanted to write about the experience on my blog, I found that I would either need to write a chapter-length account, or just share a poem. I’ve chosen the latter, my ode to my new tattoo.

They say you become more of who you are as you age
(neural pathways so deeply etched it would take a deluge to shift them),
and boy is that true
as I try not to react to every trigger
even faster than the last.

So how can I explain a big tattoo on my back?
Me, of all people,
who swore I’d never,
ever,
get a tattoo.

Me with a coward’s tolerance to pain
(who can moan and complain about a paper cut and has to hum audibly when getting a shot)
under the gun for a godawful hour
to stain my skin
with a permanent mark

of transformation (there’s the rub)

A luna moth has alit on my spine,
a spine that caused me no end of grief for thirty years,
and then mysteriously stopped hurting;

A luna moth,
caterpillar dissolving into genetic goo
to emerge completely changed,
a reminder that this DNA does not mean
we’re stuck forever in our ever deepening ruts;

A luna moth who lives for one week,
(only to mate and reproduce, without even a digestive tract);
just joy and beauty for a brief, gorgeous present.

Imagine that.
A brief, gorgeous present
permanently etched on my back.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: "The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Books for Parents Now in IHE's Resource Center

We're always trying to make our Resource Center (which is pretty fabulous, if we do say so ourselves) more useful. Recently we added a page of suggested books for parents. Here's what we have to so far:

Book Cover: Sharing Nature with ChildrenSharing Nature with Children (20th anniversary edition)

by Joseph Cornell
Dawn Publications, 1998.
Wonderful activities for bringing nature to children and children to nature.




Book Cover: Black Ants & BuddhistsBlack Ants and Buddhists

by Mary Cowhey
Stenhouse, 2006.
A primer on teaching for social change and meaning in the primary grades.


Book Cover: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
HarperCollins, 1999.
The best-selling book on more compassionate, effective communication with your kids.



Book Cover: Free the ChildrenFree the Children

by Craig Kielburger
HarperCollins, 1999.
One young man's discovery of child slavery leads him to take action and make a positive difference on a global scale.



Book Cover: So Sexy So SoonSo Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids

by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne
RandomHouse, 2008.
Outlines the landscape of increased sexualization of children, especially in media and marketing and offers suggestions for taking positive action.


Book Cover: Consuming KidsConsuming Kids: Protecting Our Children From the Onslaught of Marketing and Advertising

by Susan Linn
Knopf Doubleday, 2005.
A very important book on the effective of consumerism, marketing and advertising on children.


Book Cover: Last Child in the WoodsLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder

by Richard Louv
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008.
A ground-breaking book about the need to reconnect children with the natural world.



Book Cover: Raising ElijahRaising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis

by Susan Steingraber
Da Capo Press, 2011.
One scientist and mother's quest to help empower parents to protect their children from environmental toxins that saturate our daily lives.


Book Cover: Family ActivismFamily Activism: Empowering Your Community Beginning with Family and Friends

by Roberto Vargas
Berrett-Kohler, 2008.
Offers strategies and tips for family activism, which is “interacting with those close to you in a way that inspires and prepares them to serve their families and communities as a positive force for change."


Book Cover: Above All, Be KindAbove All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times

by Zoe Weil
New Society Publishers, 2003.
Tools, ideas and resources for parents who want to raise humane children.










If you have other suggestions that fit really well into the humane parenting category, let us know in the comments. We'll be adding more terrific titles as we discover them.

And parents and educators, remember that we have a nice selection of suggested children's books, as well as a whole slew of suggested titles for learning more about humane issues.

~ Marsha


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Why We Are So Lucky That We Are Going to Die

I found these four minutes profound and beautiful and deeply motivating to protect our beautiful planet:




I feel lucky that I am going to die one day.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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What We're Reading: Raising Elijah

"I am a conscientious parent. I am not a HEPA filter." ~ Sandra Steingraber

We often hear of people who don't pay much attention to the impact of their choices...until they have children. (Food safety advocate Robyn O'Brien is just one example.) Having someone to protect and nurture brings new passion and clarity to our relationships with the world. Scientist and author Sandra Steingraber's attention was captured sooner, when she was diagnosed with cancer, but having children launched her desire to take positive action into high gear.

Steingraber's third book, Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, provides an important synthesis and call to action for everyone who cares about children, parent or not. Although her book is at heart a memoir, Steingraber uses her own family's challenges and triumphs as a springboard for exploring the broader issues of the toxic environment we have constructed that threatens our families' health and well-being. Through the universals of childhood -- such as school, laundry, and food -- Steingraber dissects the frightening and frustrating obstacles that mindful parents encounter, from arsenic on the playground to chemicals in the food to neurotoxins in the air, through simply trying to raise and provide for their children.

Steingraber provides plenty of information to make us angry and despairing and inspired to take action, but not quite enough information about the most effective ways to take that action. However, she does an excellent job of highlighting how deeply interconnected protecting children and protecting the environment are, as well as emphasizing the necessity for parents and concerned citizens to become actively engaged at a policy level, as well as a personal and community level.

This is a must-read for all parents, and for other people passionate about protecting children.

~ Marsha

IHE's six-week online course, Raising a Humane Child, is designed to help you in your quest to live your life according to your deepest values and to raise your children to be joyful, engaged citizens in creating a just, compassionate, healthy world for all. Many tell us this course is life-changing. It is also world-changing. Next session starts November 7. Sign up now.

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Coincidences, Patterns, Beliefs and Baloney-Detection: A Call for Humane Education

As readers of our blog know, I’m a skeptic. To the best of my ability I base my beliefs on scientific, rather than anecdotal evidence, and I am fairly demanding of substantiation when people make unvalidated claims and assumptions or present belief systems as facts. I’m particularly uncomfortable with some of the overarching generalizations I hear about the nature of reality. For example, I’ve heard the statement “Everything happens for a reason” more times than I can count. Whenever I hear it, I think of victims of the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, the trillion animals treated cruelly and killed for food every year, those in Hurricane Katrina’s path, the millions of children who are trafficked and sold into slavery, or the one billion people who don’t have regular access to clean water or food. It is painful for me to think that others believe that the victims of such atrocities or suffering are part of some greater plan.

Another arena where I often wish for substantiation of supernatural claims revolves around coincidences. Merriam-Webster includes this definition of the word coincidence: "The occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection." There are those who believe that there are no coincidences and that any such “accidents” are part of a greater plan and/or replete with consequence and message.

My husband, a former scientist and now a veterinarian, began recording coincidences about two years ago. It’s been quite interesting to notice how often they occur. Here are just a few of them:

“I'm listening to French language tapes on my iPhone through the car radio. I remove the iPhone from its holder, which stops the transmission. Normally I hear static because I’ve relied on an unused radio station to connect to the iPhone but this time I hear a French station.”

“I’m listening to senate hearings on the car radio. On the radio I hear a car door slam. This occurs simultaneously with a woman slamming her car door on other side of Main Street where I am driving.”

“I do a crossword puzzle in the morning and one of the answers is Yahtzee. That afternoon, I get out of the car at the supermarket and there by my foot is a card with the word Yahtzee on it.”

“Yesterday’s dictionary word of the day was juju. Today I saw a dog whose name is JuJu.”

Some of these seem rather remarkable. Yahtzee? Juju? It’s no wonder people ascribe so much meaning to coincidences or claim that there’s no such thing and that all such occurrences have meaning outside of what we might personally ascribe to them.

Why would so many of us be inclined to see meaning in these coincidences? Because we are pattern recognizers who have evolved to pay attention and respond to patterns.

As Michael Shermer writes in his new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce them as Truths:
“The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. The first process I call patternicity: the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. The second process I call agenticity: the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency. We can’t help it. Our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen. These meaningful patterns become beliefs, and these beliefs shape our understanding of reality.”
This patternicity is very helpful when we hear a rustle in the woods and assume it is a threat rather than the wind because we’ve created a pattern in our minds between a rustle of unknown origin and danger. If we’re wrong, there’s no harm done, but if we haven’t created such a pattern in our mind and there is indeed a threat, we’re in trouble.

Shermer goes on to say:
“There is the basis for the evolution of all forms of patternicity, including superstition and magical thinking. There was a natural selection for the cognitive process of assuming that all patterns are real and that all patternicities represent real and important phenomena. We are the descendants of the primates who most successfully employed patternicity. ... This is not just a theory to explain why people believe weird things. It is a theory to explain why people believe things.”
The problem is that “Unfortunately, we did not evolve a baloney-detection network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns. We have no error-detection governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine.” The scientific method, he points, out, is quite new in our evolution as a species.

This is why we often believe in scientifically unsubstantiated things, like the inherent (rather than created) meaning in coincidences. We notice when coincidences happen, but we don’t notice the millions of times they don’t, and we fail to realize that the laws of probability will inevitably supply us with many events that seem correlated but which are actually accidental. The pleasure and power of these events lies in our capacity to create meaning around them, which is why I like to ask the question, “What can I learn from this occurrence?” rather than “What is the universe (or God or Spirit) trying to teach me?” thereby embracing my own agency to learn, grow, and act anew.

There are massive, entrenched, threatening problems to solve in the world. Without the scientific method to validate claims as true or false, we are at the mercy of our beliefs, and these beliefs can often determine our actions, or lack thereof. For example, there are some who, because they believe in the blanket statement “Everything happens for a reason” or “We create our own reality” question the need to work to end poverty or disease, which are (according to these belief systems) either meant to be or the responsibility of the victim. Others believe that they are absolved of the responsibility to work to end classism and poverty because poor people's fate is determined by a previous life. And then there are some who believe that God is sending one natural climate-related disaster after another to punish the wicked, and therefore that global warming is not our purview to address. There are many positive responses elicited by our belief systems, too, of course, as evidenced by the generosity, loving kindness, and service often practiced by people of faith whose religions urge compassionate action on behalf of others.

But whatever our belief systems, however meaningful and powerful they may be, it’s so important to cultivate and teach the second element of humane education: fostering the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Curiosity leads us to question and explore and use our minds; creativity provides the innovative push for new thinking and connections and ultimately solutions to problems, and critical thinking provides the skepticism and clarity of thought that enables “baloney-detection” and hence the discovery of truths. Without these, we may infuse patterns with meaning where there is none to our detriment; rely upon belief systems that potentially demotivate our impulse to right wrongs, and possibly fail in the important roles we must play in creatively addressing global challenges.

There’s an excellent YouTube video to help people understand and better utilize critical thinking. While it begins with a proverb that I find worrisome in a world that has exploited and destroyed so much sea life, it’s a very helpful film in explaining and encouraging the use of critical thinking for problem-solving. I hope individuals and educators will use it both personally and with others so that we can raise a generation of clear-thinking solutionaries for a better world.

For a thinking world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Image courtesy of v8media via Creative Commons.

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The Power of One: Mom Takes on U.S. Food Supply

"Maybe one person really can make a difference." That's what Robyn O'Brien learns when she decides she has to take action after learning more about what's in the U.S. food supply. In this TEDx talk, Robyn discusses how she didn't pay attention to food until one of her children developed food allergies. When she decided to learn more about why rates of food allergies and cancers and other health ailments have skyrocketed, she set herself on a journey of discovery about chemicals, synthetic proteins, subsidies, and other obstacles to healthier, safer foods. Watch her talk:




As Robyn says, "Each and every single one of us has something that we are uniquely good at. And when you leverage that with something that you are passionate about, it can serve as a rocket fuel to create extraordinary change." Robyn serves as an inspiring example of how one person can make a positive difference.

~ 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.


"Teaching students to ask their own questions" (Harvard Education Letter) (September/October 2011)

"Is your Gmail account killing the planet?" (via Mother Jones) (September/October 2011)

U.S. poverty rate highest in years (via NY Times) (9/13/11)

"Ban on E. Coli in beef to expand to 6 more strains" (via NY Times) (9/12/11)

Do TV shows like SpongeBob hamper kids' learning? (via KATU News) (9/12/11)

More students in AZ taking environmental studies courses (via Arizona Republic) (9/12/11)

Bikesharing programs find success across the globe (via BBC) (9/9/11)

The gap between teenage workers in agriculture...and anywhere else (via Grist) (9/7/11)

Study shows number of popular laundry detergents emit carcinogens (via E Magazine) (9/7/11)

Cash-strapped schools turn to corporation-sponsored online contests (via San Jose Mercury News) (9/5/11)

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Why We Need Humane Education: We Can't Just Legislate Ourselves Into a Better World

Recently The Guardian reported that many chicken farmers in the European Union plan to "flout a ban on conventional battery cages" that's set to come into effect on January 1, 2012. Considered one of the most significant pieces of animal welfare legislation thus far, the ban has given egg producers 12 years to comply with the new (minimally better) standards. And some of them have chosen not to make the required changes, which is affecting not only the welfare of the hens, and of the people who want less cruel options, but of the producers who have chosen to comply.

This story is yet another example of the challenges of trying to legislate a better world. (I've written about this challenge before.) While creating laws meant to help protect people, animals, and the planet is essential and important, without the will (and willingness) of The People behind them, these laws often prove ineffective and impotent, especially when you're affecting someone's chosen livelihood.

This is more evidence of the importance of humane education. When we bring accurate information, critical and creative thinking, a sense of respect and responsibility, and the ease and convenience of positive choices to people of all ages, then we enable people to make daily choices -- and to nurture, support, and create systems -- that do the most good and least harm for all. Humane education helps create critical mass for manifesting a just, compassionate, healthy world for all. That's not something that simply passing a law can accomplish on its own. It must be paired with the passion, free will, and positive action of the people involved.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Farm Sanctuary via Creative Commons.

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Homage to Teachers

For my blog post today, I simply want to share an essay from the New York Times by Charles Blow that was published on Sept. 2. Blow says it all so well. Here is a brief excerpt:

"Since it’s back-to-school season across the country, I wanted to celebrate a group that is often maligned: teachers. Like so many others, it was a teacher who changed the direction of my life, and to whom I’m forever indebted.

... I’m not saying that we shouldn’t seek to reform our education system. We should, and we must. Nor am I saying that all teachers are great teachers. They aren’t. But let’s be honest: No profession is full of peak performers. At least this one is infused with nobility.

And we as parents, and as a society at large, must also acknowledge our shortcomings and the enormous hurdles that teachers must often clear to reach a child. Teachers may be the biggest in-school factor, but there are many out-of-school factors that weigh heavily on performance, like growing child poverty, hunger, homelessness, home and neighborhood instability, adult role-modeling and parental pressure and expectations."

Read the complete essay.

For all you teachers out there beginning a new school year, thank you.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Young Changemakers: Sequoyah Students Engage in Real Life Learning

IHE M.Ed. graduate, Susanna Barkataki, teaches language arts, social studies and history to students in grades 5-8 at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, California. Last fall, as her students were studying issues of land, power, and resistance, they learned about the terrible floods in Pakistan that occurred during the summer of 2010. Students were so passionate about helping people in Pakistan, that they focused their studies on learning more about the people there and how they could help. Susannah talked with us about their project and other ways that students internalize humane education principles into their learning.


IHE: How and why were you drawn to humane education?

SB:
I was drawn to humane education in 2006-07 as I was seeking an education that modeled the values it taught. I was very excited to find a program that was truly humane in its implementation, as so much of modern education can be stressful and soul crushing. I was excited to start IHE's program, and my experience was very inspiring as I learned amazing things and had the personal support of the teachers.


IHE: Tell us a little about your work as a specialist at Sequoyah School.

SB:
Teaching students how to think critically, to express themselves both logically and creatively, and assist them in figuring out how to take meaningful action in the world are major goals for me as I teach social science and English at Sequoyah School to 10-15-year-olds.


IHE: Tell us about your students' recent exploration of Pakistan and their efforts to help those in need.

SB:
We started with studying the themes of Land and Power. As the year was beginning, we were presented with a problem. There were floods in Pakistan and hardly anyone was doing anything to help. So we brought our theme and the problem together to explore in Social Science. Students took their understanding of how to help in Pakistan to a deeper level, as we decided first we needed more background about the culture and society of Pakistan before we could help in a meaningful way. So we explored the current problems, as well as the historical formation of the country, and the government, religion, arts and culture, and social structure of Pakistan.

After gaining reliable information on the floods and what was occurring there we filled out a chart together. Students explored what was happening, what the problems were, who was already helping, and what we could do at Sequoyah School to help.

In our mini-unit on the history and culture of Pakistan, we looked at partition, and explored colonization, Hinduism, and Islam. After learning about the Five Pillars of the major religion in Pakistan, Islam, students had many questions. We watched a fabulous documentary called Inside Mecca, which follows three pilgrims from different cultures on their Hajj, or journey to Mecca. After this film, students had even more questions! So we were lucky to have two guest speakers who are Islamic come to speak to the students and lead a lively discussion.

After such rich learning, we then decided we needed to tie what we had learned together. Students filled out a chart addressing our essential questions and gave examples from our main units of study. They then wrote an essay synthesizing what we learned to make an argument about Land, Power, Sharing and Ownership. They worked together on fleshing out their concrete examples to support the argument they made.

IHE: How have the students reacted?

SB: The student response has been overwhelming. Students decided they needed to take action on their own, since the media was not alerting people to the severity of the flood or the needs of the survivors. The students decided to go classroom to classroom and alert other students about what was happening and ask their families to participate in helping out. Their research led them to discover that kids in Pakistan needed backpacks and other school supplies, so they asked all the families to bring in something to donate. Students also brainstormed a list of what else could be done to help, including (in their own words):

  • Make signs about Pakistan
  • Talk to our families and ask questions
  • Pay attention to the news
  • Research what help we can give
  • Research reliable organizations to donate money to

Students also wrote stories and poetry about the floods and the situation in Pakistan. Here are two of their poems, which they shared with 200 people at an all-school meeting:

Pakistan monsoon
Flood drowning
Military bombing
Help.

-5th grader

Flooded
Destroyed ruined
Pakistan
My home
Gone

-6th grader

IHE: What other ways do you integrate humane education principles into students' learning?

SB:
Perspective, inquiry, communication, collaboration, application, stewardship, and ownership are all Habits of Mind that we integrate into our hands-on and service learning-based curriculum. At Sequoyah, since we value Perspective as one of our Habits of Mind, we look at problems and issues from as many perspectives as possible. For example, we learned that another reason the world may have been tardy in acting to help flood victims is because Pakistan is viewed as the Muslim world, and therefore made up of people with a different worldview. Our perspective allows us to see that though people may be of a different religion or culture, they are still human beings deserving fulfillment of their basic needs. Our values showed us the human face of the survivors and encouraged us to offer them support in their time of need.


IHE: What evidence do you have that students are internalizing these humane principles?

SB:
One of the greatest examples that students are internalizing humane principles was in their choice of performance for the yearly play. They chose to perform a pastiche of "Children of Birmingham" and "The Children of Soweto." The performance was based on the role of children during the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. The students really owned their roles and passionately explained to the audience the importance of standing up for justice against oppression, nonviolently. Students also explained to me at the end of the year how important service learning was. “We really make a difference.” “We need to keep doing this.” “Now I know that I need to stand up to oppression nonviolently, if I can.” were some of their comments. The passion with which they address problems in the community and around the school, such as peer mediation and doing council circles to resolve their problems, demonstrate their commitment to humanity and nonviolence.


IHE: What are your future plans?

SB: This year we'll explore why people want democracy, who it works for, and what sacrifices people are willing to make for it. We will analyze different forms of democracy, as well as the roots of democracy all over the world, such as in Mesopotamia, Greece, India, Turtle Island’s Iroquois Federation, France, England, and the United States. We will also consider countries where democracy is emerging currently and take actions in our local government to give students the experience of the democratic process.

~ Marsha

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Educating Solutionaries for Resilience and Joy

My friend, Kathleen Skerrett, the new Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Richmond, gave a speech at a university colloquy last month. For my blog post today, I wanted to share this moving, powerful, wise speech. Here's a brief excerpt:

"The generation we are teaching will reach maturity in a world that is deeply wounded and precarious. The apocalypse proceeds for the diversity of species at a terrible rate, and the waters rise to engulf the lands of the poorest of the poor. We do not know what the new normal will be for the world economy, or how economic collapse will deepen ecological degradation. We do not know how religious or political forces will respond to crises of sickness and scarcity; or how technology and communications will interact with basic human need. Yet the students in our classrooms today must meet these global contingencies tomorrow.



Any of us who saw Tyler Hicks’ photograph of a starving Somali child, published on the front page of the New York Times on August 2nd, stopped in our tracks. Many scholars here could provide commentary: images of severely emaciated African children have a history in American media. Yet the photograph nonetheless incites our visceral knowledge that a person can suffer the most hideous anguish. If there is any hope to foster communities of nurture and justice for the future, it will fall to the ingenuity and compassion of this generation we are teaching."
Read the complete speech.



It is tremendously hopeful to me that at the highest levels of academia, humane education’s vision is being both embraced and promulgated. Enjoy.



For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education

Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Image courtesy of guillermo ossa.

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