7 Habits of Highly Empathic People

Image courtesy of The Shopping Sherpa
via Creative Commons
Empathy is a key component of humane education, and something our society is increasingly growing to understand as essential to our well-being and the well-being of the world. Studies show that we're innately wired to be empathetic, and that, for example, empathy can play a role in reducing racism. As we at IHE have talked about frequently (such as here, here and here), empathy is also something that can -- and must -- be cultivated and nurtured.

Roman Krznaric, author, and founding faculty member of The School of Life, wrote a post for the Greater Good Science Center outlining 6 habits of highly empathic people that we each can cultivate in ourselves.

Here are his 6 habits:

1. Talk with strangers.

"Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own."

2. Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities.

"HEPs [Highly Empathic People] challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them."

3. Try another person's life.

"HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, 'Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.'"

4. Listen hard -- and open up.

"There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist. One is to master the art of radical listening. ... The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences."

5. Inspire mass action and social change.

"HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change." 

6. Develop an ambitious imagination.

"We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be 'enemies' in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. ... Empathizing with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance."

Read the complete post.

But there's at least one vital empathic habit missing from Krznaric's list, so we've added it:

7. Extend your empathic lens to nonhuman animals and the earth.

We get so wrapped up in our own human problems that we forget there's a whole world of tens of millions of species, and billions of nonhuman individuals with their own needs, desires, and interests separate from our own, and a natural world on which we rely for our very existence. We also forget (or choose to ignore) just how deeply our choices affect other beings and the planet. Krznaric limits his habits of empathy to humans, but it's vital for our own health and well-being that we extend our empathic lens to include other animals and the earth.

Whenever we have the power to prevent or reduce suffering, cruelty, injustice, or destruction for people, animals, and/or the earth, we must act to do so. Otherwise, we can never fully reach our highest potential as human (and empathic) beings.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article activism / citizenship / compassion / empathy / habits / mindfulness / perspectives / social change with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/7-habits-of-highly-empathic-people.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.



"Your smartphone's dirty, radioactive secret" (via Mother Jones) (November/December 2012)

Study says except for black males, education extends life expectancy (via Alternet) (11/26/12)

Study indicates potential link between traffic pollution exposure and autism (via Treehugger) (11/26/12)

"The shocking details of a Mississippi school-to-prison pipeline" (via Colorlines) (11/26/12)

13-year-old from Sierra Leone makes generators, batteries, etc., out of scrap (via Grist) (11/26/12)

112 killed in fire at Bangladesh garment factory (via AP/Yahoo!) (11/24/12)

Study reports great apes also experience "mid-life crisis" (via LA Times) (11/19/12)

"More than 1,000 new coal plants planned worldwide, figures show" (via The Guardian) (11/19/12)

"The past and future of America's biggest retailers" (via NPR) (11/19/12)

Study with minks shows that captive animals get very bored (via PLOS One) (11/12)



Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article animal emotions / changemakers / consumerism / education / energy policy / environmental protection / global ethical issues / human rights / humane education / news media / public health / Social Justice with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-issues-in-news.html. Thanks!

Where Are All the Women & Girls? Report Shows Disheartening Picture of Female Characters in Movies and TV

Image courtesy Walt Stoneburner
via Creative Commons.
As humans, we pay a lot of attention to what we see around us -- what we notice others doing -- as it's important to us to feel like we belong. But what happens when the messages being modeled are skewed and potentially harmful? When we don't see others like ourselves portrayed in media? Females make up 50% of the population, but you wouldn't know that by watching TV or movies. And the kinds of roles female characters play are often stereotyped and sexualized.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media recently commissioned the Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism to research the prevalence and type of gender roles in film and TV. Their report, Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television, assessed "11,927 speaking characters for gender roles across three media: 129 top-grossing family films (G, PG, PG-13) theatrically released between September 2006 and September 2011; 275 prime-time programs across approximately a week of regularly airing series in the Spring of 2012 on 10 broadcast (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW) and cable (Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, E!, MTV) channels; and 36 children’s TV shows airing in 2011 across three networks (Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS)."

Researchers examined the prevalence of male and female speaking characters; the nature of those portrayals (e.g., any stereotypes?); and the occupational pursuits of characters, "and the degree to which males and females are shown working in a variety of prestigious industries and STEM careers." Their findings included these:

1. Gender imbalance still exists in popular entertainment.

Researchers looked at a variety of factors, such as how prevalent female speaking characters were across the various types of media and by program genre, and the degree of gender (im)balance within racial and ethnic groups. Here's what they found:

"Despite representing half the population, females are still sidelined in family films, children’s shows, and prime-time programs. The most gender inequality is observed in kids’ shows rated TV-Y7, PG-13 rated family films, and children’s and comedy series airing during prime time. It appears that, no matter their age, children and teens do not consistently see girls and women in the popular media they consume."

2. Females are still stereotypes and sexualized in popular entertainment.

Researchers examined "appearance indicators" such as attire, exposed skin (around the chest, stomach, and/or upper thighs), references to a character's attractiveness, and the prevalence of thin bodies. As researchers noted: "Females, when they are on screen, are still there to provide eye candy to even the youngest viewers."

3. Females still suffer from employment imbalance in film and prime-time TV.

Researchers assessed the percentage of speaking characters shown working, and also compared that information to real data about the U.S. labor force. They discovered that men are more often shown with jobs than women, and that media representations are skewed from real-world data.

4. Females are much less frequently shown in prestigious occupations.

Researchers looked at different high-level occupations and filtered by gender. These jobs included CEOs, investors, politicians, doctors, editors-in-chief, media content creators, etc. Their assessment showed that the percentage of female characters shown in positions of power is substantially smaller than for men.

5. Few females work in scientific fields.

Researchers also found inequity in the percentage of female characters shown in careers such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, and the life/physical sciences. As researchers said: "Outside of the dramatic series genre, only one comedy show and one news magazine depicts women in STEM. For females, excising dramatic programs eliminates STEM."

Read the complete report.

These findings are disheartening, but they're also an opportunity for students and citizens to conduct their own investigations and to take positive action to ensure that there are more women and girls appearing in significant roles in the media, and that those roles reflect more diverse and empowered characters. They're also a great reminder to us as parents and citizens to be mindful of the messages we're modeling about the role of women and girls in society.

~ Marsha


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

You have read this article changemakers / gender bias / gender roles / humane education / media / media literacy / popular culture / reports / systemic change with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/where-are-all-women-girls-report-shows.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Global Closet Calculator

Image screenshot National Geographic Education.
As humane educators, we know it can be challenging to uncover the hidden costs of our product choices and where they were made.

National Geographic Education has created a little interactive tool called Global Closet Calculator, which can help students begin to think critically about the global connections and impact of their clothing and product choices.

The tool is divided into two sections. Students begin by creating their own avatar.

The first section focuses on clothing choices and where those clothes are made. Students are encouraged to inventory their closets and record how many of what items were made in which countries. Categories include tops, bottoms, shoes, and "other," -- each of which is further divided (t-shirts, work shirts, sweaters, etc.), so that students can be somewhat specific.

Once students have finished recording their various items, the tool creates a map, showing all the countries where their items were made. The map can be added to, and it can also be filtered type of  clothing item.

The second section helps students think critically about the challenges of balancing choices that do the most good and least harm with issues of economics. Students must choose either an mp3 player or jeans and make choices about the various components of those products. Based on each choice made, a brief video explains the consequences of that choice.

While this tool addresses issues of globalization, the true cost of products, human rights, and similar social justice issues on only a basic level, for students unfamiliar with these topics, it provides a useful and interesting introduction. Make sure your students know this tool oversimplifies the issues, and use it as a helpful springboard for further exploration.



~ Marsha


Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article clothing / critical thinking / economics / ethical consumerism / globalization / human rights / humane education / Most Good Least Harm / responsibility / Social Justice / socially responsible businesses / teaching tools with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-educator-toolbox-global-closet.html. Thanks!

That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling You Get When You Help Someone in Need

Image courtesy of Ravenwood.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent essay I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from "That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling You Get When You Help Someone in Need":

"In my book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life, I write about 7 keys to making MOGO (most good) choices. One of these keys is to pursue joy through service. When I was writing the book, I initially planned to separate these into two keys: to pursue joy and to be of service. Joy is an important component of a life that does the most good and least harm, not only because it is MOGO for us personally to feel joy, but also because joyful people influence others to lead MOGO lives. If we’re activists and changemakers who are angry, depressed or burnt out, we’re not very good at inviting others to join our life-affirming efforts.

But when I asked a few hundred people 'What brings you joy?' and so many answered that being of service and helping others brought them joy, I realized I’d landed on a lovely alchemy. We humans experience joy by doing good. What a wonderful win-win.

I had the opportunity to experience this firsthand recently.
"

Read the complete essay.

~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

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

You have read this article activism / citizenship / compassion / helpfulness / joy / Most Good Least Harm / service with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/that-warm-fuzzy-feeling-you-get-when.html. Thanks!

You Haven't Lived Until You've Hugged a Turkey




"My name is Morgana. I am someone. My name is Maeve. My life matters to me."

"The most important thing you should know about us is that we have feelings."

"Your 'turkey meal' costs me my life. Do you really think that I don't mind?"

"You Haven't Lived Until You've Hugged a Turkey" is a new film (20 min) created by Sandra Higgins, Director of Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary & Matilda's Promise Vegan Education Centre in Ireland. Sandra was one of our online course students, and she has been working to inspire compassion and positive action toward animals in Ireland through humane education. This film is one of the first projects from her new Vegan Education Centre.

In the film, which primarily pairs still photos with captions and quotes, turkeys from the sanctuary tell their story, interspersed with statements and information from scientists, activists, and academics. Unlike with some other films, there is no graphic footage to shock and traumatize; just the turkeys sharing their lives and speaking out for their right to live free from suffering and exploitation.

Sandra says:

"We often see the non-human animals we oppress referred to as ‘The Voiceless.’ I do not believe they are voiceless. They have voices and they use them, constantly. It is no reflection on them that we do not understand their language. But we share a common body language and a language of emotion through which they have a lot to tell us if we listen. In the movie ... they use this common language to give an account of who they are. They are not voiceless; listen to them and they will speak to you of justice and of love."


~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. 
You have read this article animal agriculture / animal emotions / animal protection / compassion / empathy / farmed animals / food choices / humane education / oppression / turkeys / veganism / videos with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/you-haven-lived-until-you-hugged-turkey.html. Thanks!

Thanksgiving Gratitude From IHE's Staff

Image courtesy of Calsidyrose via Creative Commons.
Gratitude is such an important part of humane education and changemaking. Since today is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., some of the IHE staff wanted to share with you what we're thankful for.

And we'd like to take a moment to say how grateful we are for your support and everything you're doing to create a better world. We couldn't do this work without you. So Thank You So Much!



 Sarah Speare, IHE's Executive Director:

I am thankful and in awe of the beauty, love and inspiration that abounds on our planet earth. May it unite us all in peace and justice.




Zoe Weil, IHE's President:

Some people say grace before a meal. In our family we each say something that we’re grateful for before dinner. It’s a powerful practice. If I’ve had a bad day; if I’m feeling a bit petulant, whiny, or peeved, the ritual of giving thanks always puts things in perspective. And thank goodness I have this daily ritual in my life, because I can’t imagine trying to express my gratitude just once a year at Thanksgiving. It would take the whole day! For this Thanksgiving blog post, the collected expressions of gratitude from our staff at IHE, I know I need to narrow it down. This is what comes to mind: I’m grateful that this dream I had so many years ago of a comprehensive humane education movement spreading across the globe is slowly but surely coming to pass. We have programs and graduates on every continent except Antarctica. People contact me every week because they’ve seen one of my TEDx talks and want to bring humane education into their classrooms and communities. Our free resources have been downloaded more than 150,000 times over the past couple of years. And more and more young people are becoming solutionaries for a better world. This gives me great hope.


Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Education:

I am grateful for the community of dedicated and passionate people that surround, enrich, and deepen my life and work every single day.





Melissa Feldman, IHE Faculty:

I spend Thanksgiving with my family. I enjoy taking out the once-a-year impractical serving dishes, pondering the menu with my partner and experimenting in the kitchen. Last year my root vegetable puree was only a partial hit; I have a new idea for this year: a mushroom dill strudel. It’s a leisurely day as we are only five in my family who live close enough to spend the holiday together. We play games. We share our own stories. We often read and discuss short stories or news articles. We laugh and sometimes cry as we think about who is not present at our table. On Thanksgiving Day, I think in particular of those not present. There will be no turkey on our table, but I think of the millions of turkeys that take center stage, yet remain entirely invisible, in so many American homes.

I think of all those with no home, no family, no food, no rest, no safety, no power, no peace, no voice, no choice, and little hope. It took me many years to reconcile my incredible privilege with what is occurring to people, other animals, and to the environment in this moment, in this country and around the world. Right now. There have been many days, weeks, and months when I could not find one thing about which to be grateful. I would have ridiculed the question. But that’s no way to live. Despite the seemingly overwhelming, relentless and intractable global challenges that must be addressed, and addressed soon, I look for and find reasons to be grateful.

So yes, I do enjoy Thanksgiving. I make time for good food and good company. I celebrate what is to be celebrated. After all, much good has come of people sitting down together, breaking bread, or in the case of our Thanksgiving, breaking cornbread and rosemary biscuits.

On Black Friday, I will not be shopping. I will again focus on making most good/least harm choices, daily doing what I can do. But, I insist on enjoying each day, taking time to bake bread, have coffee with a friend, ride my bike, or go swing dancing. And, above all, I try to remember to be grateful. Every day.


Amy Morley, IHE's Director of Operations:

I’m thankful that I’m not alone in wanting and working for a healthier, more sustainable world.
I am thankful to any person that stands up peacefully for justice.
I’m thankful to IHE, Zoe, and everyone who has ever worked with IHE for being a part of opening up my eyes to the reality of the world situation.
Before working with IHE, I was more aware of human suffering and environmental degradation. I’m thankful to IHE that I have learned about animal suffering and I am thankful to have an open enough heart to include animals in my concern.
I’m thankful for all of the kindness I have received in my life.
I’m thankful I have enough food to eat and a beautiful shelter where I live.
I’m thankful for my health and for being alive.


Lynne Westmoreland, IHE online course instructor:

I'm grateful for my mindfulness practice, which allows me to deal with darker, more difficult emotions with equanimity, balance, and clarity. I am also enormously grateful that since the death of my mother four years ago and the impending death of my father, there is healing of decades of wounding and misunderstanding.  I never thought this outcome would be possible, and the road ahead is still unclear, but there is an opening of hearts and intentions that gives me the greatest hope for healing of my family I have experienced in my adult life. And finally I feel such gratitude for the number of healers, artists, writers, friends, mentors, activists, musicians, politicians, faith communities, children, adults, and animal spirits that are working for the healing of our planet, of all species, and are revealing to us the enormity of our possibility and potential when we allow our hearts to be open.


Marsha Rakestraw, IHE's Director of Online Courses, Online Communications & Education Resources

I'm so grateful for all the many blessings in my life, and for everyone in the world who is doing their best to create a just, compassionate, healthy world for all people, animals, and the earth.




Happy Thanksgiving! May you find much to be thankful for today, too!

You have read this article activism / citizenship / gratitude / holidays / humane education / Most Good Least Harm / thankfulness / Thanksgiving with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/thanksgiving-gratitude-from-ihe-staff.html. Thanks!

The Fall Harvest

Image copyright Zoe Weil.
It’s quite a lot of work growing food. And sometimes the results aren’t as expected. I’ve stopped growing corn after losing the entire crop two years in a row to a hungry bear; and I still haven’t managed to grow good-sized onions. There are the hours and hours of preparation and weeding, harvesting and storing. Sometimes there is even the guilt-inducing “problem” of abundance, when a home gardener knows she can’t eat it all but then has to figure out how to get the surplus to people who need it before it goes bad (which is why I’ve stopped growing zucchini).

And then there is the question that I hear in my mind every year when I have so much work to do (my real work – saving the world through humane education), yet my garden requires my attention: “Is this the best use of your time, Zoe?” After all, there are farmers’ markets I can visit, and my food co-op I can support. Why do I feel so compelled to grow food?

I grow food because it’s powerful and magical to tend the soil; to put tiny seeds in careful rows; to thin the seedlings so that each has space to grow; to week after week pull out those plants that are crowding the crops, and to watch over several months as bare earth turns into a spectacular, outrageous, crowded 900 square feet of huge quantities of... food.

Image copyright Zoe Weil.
I’m lucky to live in a rural area where land is plentiful, but even when I lived in a row house in Philadelphia, I grew food in the postage-sized back “yard.” And friends in inner city neighborhoods have converted squalid, abandoned lots with compacted, glass-filled, trash-covered ground into bountiful, productive gardens.

Hundreds of generations of humans have turned wild plants into cultivated, flavorful, nutritious masterpieces called carrots, beets, kale, broccoli, chard, beans, asparagus, kohlrabi, squash, cabbage, and so many other vegetables. So if you can, grow a radish or a big pot of tomatoes. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.


~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.   
You have read this article abundance / food / gardening / gratitude / mindfulness / Most Good Least Harm / resilience with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-fall-harvest.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.


New report says world is on path to 4°C of global warming (via Washington Post) (11/19/12)

New report says poverty can't be stopped without addressing climate change (via Christian Science Monitor) (11/19/12)

"Babies help unlock the origins of morality" (via CBS News) (11/18/12)

"Occupy's new offshoot set to cancel millions in medical debts" (via YES! Magazine) (11/16/12)

"$500 million animal abuse settlement reached" (via AP) (11/16/12)

Wildlife services worker's abuse of animals indicates larger problem (via Treehugger) (11/15/12)

"Walmart hit by walk-outs in build-up to 'Black Friday' disruptions" (via The Guardian) (11/15/12)

"BP gets record U.S. criminal fine over Deepwater disaster" (via BBC) (11/15/12)

Report says teaching of science reduced in elementary classrooms in Kansas, other states (via Education Week) (11/14/12)

"California high schools scrap 'plastic foods' in favor of real nutrition" (via Alternet) (11/13/12)

"Swedish schools big lessons start with dropping personal pronouns" (via NY Times) (11/13/12)

Report says global CO2 emissions set new record high (via Treehugger) (11/13/12)

"If microfinancing creates a cycle of debt, is handing out cash a better option?" (via GOOD) (11/12/12)



Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article animal abuse / citizenship / corporations / education / ethics / gender / global warming / humane education / news media / poverty / Social Justice / systemic change with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-issues-in-news_20.html. Thanks!

Humane Education Activity: Exploring Ethical Dilemmas

We never know how we'll behave in challenging and stressful situations, but we can improve our chances of acting in ways that are aligned with our values by practicing and role playing. After all, empathy and compassion, justice and courage, critical thinking and delayed gratification are all qualities that we can cultivate in ourselves and inspire in others.

"What if?" (What if you had a million dollars? What if you only had 1 day to live?, etc.) is a favorite game that engages self-reflection, critical thinking, and creativity. Our activity, What Would You Do?, uses this "What if..." framework as a platform to help students (grades 3-8) think deeply and critically about the quandaries between balancing personal desires with kindness toward others by engaging them in discussing personal and global ethical scenarios.

After exploring what it means to be humane (having what are considered the best qualities of humans), students grapple with a variety of theoretical scenarios, both personal and more global, considering the complexity of each situation and working to create a solution that does the most good and least harm for all concerned. What would students do if an unpopular classmate were being bullied? If they saw a friend cheating or stealing? What would students do if they want new clothes, but don't want to support sweatshops? If they want a dog, but are concerned about supporting breeders and puppy mills?

This activity can lead to an exploration of actual dilemmas students have faced or are facing now, as well as a broader investigation of what we can do as citizens to make choices and support systems that help create the just, compassionate, healthy world we want.

Download the activity (pdf).

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article curriculum / ethics / humane education / integrity / lesson plans / Most Good Least Harm / role playing / self-reflection / solutionaries with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-education-activity-exploring.html. Thanks!

HSUS Ranks Best, Worst States for Animal Protection Laws

Image courtesy of ventileit.
As we as a society become more conscious of nonhuman animals as unique beings with feelings, needs, and interests, one result of our evolving relationship with them is an increase in animal protection laws. Here in the United States, in addition to certain federal laws, each state has its own collection of laws related to animal welfare. But as evidenced by the spate of ballot measures in this most recent election, which solidified the "right" in several states to continue to abuse and exploit animals (such as North Dakota's refusal to pass a felony cruelty law), not all states are equal in their desire to protect animals.

Recently the Humane Society of the United States released its annual "Humane State Ranking," which rates all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. on their laws on a wide range of animal protection issues, from farmed animals to animal companions to wildlife. This year's report tracks states on 66 different types of animal protection legislation (for 66 possible points). The categories include:
  • animal fighting
  • animal cruelty
  • wildlife abuse
  • exotic pets
  • companion animals
  • animals in research
  • farm animals
  • fur and trapping
  • puppy mills
  • equine protection
According to the report, the states ranking the highest in animal protection laws this year include:

1. California
2. New Jersey
2. Oregon
4. Illinois
4. Massachusetts
6. Colorado
6. Maine
6. Virginia
6. Washington
10. New York
10. Vermont
10. District of Columbia

And those ranking lowest are:

42. Kentucky
42. Montana
42. Wyoming
45. Alabama
45. Missouri
47. Mississippi
48. North Dakota
48. South Carolina
50. Idaho
50. South Dakota

South Dakota and Idaho scored only an 8 and 9, respectively, out of 66 possible points (the top states ranked 46 and 40). For South Dakota, five of those eight laws relate to dog fighting. (South Dakota is one of just three states with no felony level penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty.)

Reports like this one provide a useful springboard for discussing our conflicting and inconsistent relationship with animals, and for exploring ways we can make choices and create systems that do the most good and least harm for animals. And it also serves as yet more evidence that we desperately need humane education everywhere.


~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article animal abuse / animal companions / animal cruelty / animal law / animal protection / animal welfare / dog fighting / exotic animal trade / farmed animals / humane education / legislation / reports / United States / wildlife with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/hsus-ranks-best-worst-states-for-animal.html. Thanks!

Hooray for the Decline in Sexist Language

Image courtesy Antony Pranata via
Creative Commons.
For thirty years I've been committed to both using and promoting nonsexist language in writing and speaking. I was criticized for using “he or she” on my papers in law school in 1984, instead of the accepted “he,” meaning “people.” When my son was in fourth grade and I sat in on a day of classes, I was dismayed that the teacher used “man” instead of humanity or humankind to refer to homo sapiens, but when I spoke to her about considering using nonsexist language she looked at me quizzically, truly perplexed by my comment, unable to comprehend my concerns.

In our graduate programs at the Institute for Humane Education the faculty all point out to students when they are using non-inclusive language, explaining that “he” used to refer to all people perpetuates assumptions in our culture and fosters continued sexist thinking, and sometimes sexist behaviors.

Because the English language doesn’t have a word to describe a male or female in the singular (we have “they” to describe both in the plural), we are constantly faced with the challenges of using language that is not discriminatory. As a writer, I often turn statements about a generalized person in the singular into a statement about generalized persons in the plural simply to avoid “he or she,” which I admit is awkward.

This is particularly challenging when trying to avoid speciesist language as well as sexist language by not referring to an animal as “it.” It can’t be done without resorting to “he or she,” and so I often choose to subvert our assumptions and challenge the default “he” by referring to a wild animal whose gender I don’t know as “she,” simply to shake things up and get us all thinking. Recently, walking with a group of teenagers in the woods we came upon a snake. I chose to refer to the snake as “she,” and one of the students asked how I knew the snake was female. I explained that I didn’t and why I used the female pronoun, but I knew that none of the students would have asked how I knew the snake was male if I’d referred to “him or her” as “he.”

And so I was delighted to read this article in The Atlantic about the decline in sexist language. It’s about time.

~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. 
You have read this article bias / Cultural Issues / equity / gender / humane education / language / power / sexism / speciesism with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/hooray-for-decline-in-sexist-language.html. Thanks!

The Art of Believing

Image courtesy of Biscarotte via Creative Commons.
We're swamped with some exciting projects (stay tuned), so please enjoy this repost from 11/29/10.

by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Education


 Long ago, as a new teacher in Niger, West Africa, I had three young boys in one of my over-sized classes who had purchased eyeglasses in the village market. They had promptly removed the prescription lenses from these glasses, and they kept the frames tucked in their shirt pockets.

Whenever it was time to read from the textbooks, which they all shared, they would remove their “eyeglasses” from their pockets, put the glasses on, and peer studiously at the small text of the book. When reading time was over, they would carefully remove these glasses and tuck them back into their shirt pockets.

At first, I was so amused by this. The students, while often rowdy and hard to manage as a teacher, generally had a great sense of humor and fun. When the boys first showed me the glasses, I asked what good they were (imagine my ignorance). They were shocked that I would ask such a thing. Glasses are beautiful, and they help you be intelligent, they explained. Many, in fact most, intelligent people they knew of wore glasses. I appreciated the aspiration to be beautiful and intelligent, so I just admired the glasses and never mentioned it again.

As the months wore on, I noticed some of my other students also began wearing “glasses” they had purchased in the market. In fact, one extremely hot afternoon I remember looking out over my class of 50 students and noticing a wide variety of eyeglasses – every kind of style. It had become the mode in my class, and I loved what it represented. I was not so na├»ve as to believe my students actually thought the glasses made them intelligent; in fact they were far too intelligent already for such an idea. But there was a growing seriousness about learning new things that was blossoming in these 10- and 11-year-old students, and the glasses expressed this new growth with style and prestige.

I should mention that at the time, there was not an eye doctor in the country, not even in the capital city as far as I know, and the eyeglasses in the market had been donated by the Lions Club for people who needed them. In a strict sense, we could say that my students were wasting the efforts of the Lions Club donors, popping out the lenses and wearing the glasses for “style.” But let’s not be so strict. The vision these eyeglass frames gave my students was a vision of themselves in their next stage of life – a vision of how education could help make them beautiful and intelligent. Wearing their special glasses, they saw themselves a few steps ahead of where they stood and gave themselves an attractive image to grow into. I was a teacher in that village school for two years, and I can tell you that the glasses worked.

I think of my bespectacled students often when I see people (full adults, including myself!) struggling to imagine how their lives might change if they tried to really live by what they knew -- if they made choices based on their best intentions and highest desires for themselves, their families, and the planet. We have something to learn from my young, beautiful, intelligent students, and that is the art of believing. As Virgil said long ago, “They were able because they believed they were able.” This applies to us as people striving to create a more peaceful and compassionate world through education: We must believe we are able. Sometimes, a little prop is needed – a little magic.

When we are facing down a seemingly intractable issue, I recommend that we remove our own version of the market-glasses from our pockets, place them on our noses, hunker down with friends, and look at the problem again. Not everything that works can be explained to or by the rational mind. Art, fun, theater, style – these things appeal to our emotions and often, what we remember emotionally, we remember for good. I vote that we practice the art of believing, no matter how disbelieving we might feel, and that we never leave our love of life, learning, and fun behind while doing so.



Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article beauty / beliefs / education / eyeglasses / framing / fun / intelligence / learning / lenses / schooling / Teaching / vision with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-art-of-believing.html. Thanks!

HEART Launches "Be Humane" Spots on Detroit Public TV

We're excited for our allies at HEART, who have launched a series of "Be Humane" spots on Detroit Public Television to promote the humane treatment of animals.

According to HEART: "So far four one-minute humane videos have been released. The spots have already started airing on DPTV Channel 56, reaching 1.5 million US, and 1.2 million Canadian, viewers."

Watch the spots below:





Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. 
You have read this article animal companions / animal welfare / compassion / humane education / kindness / PSAs / public television with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/heart-launches-humane-spots-on-detroit.html. Thanks!

If This is a NERD, Let There Be More of Them

I had the pleasure of meeting Nikhil Goyal at the TEDxYouth@BFS conference in September. Nikhil is in high school. He’s also the author of the new book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, and a frequent TEDx speaker. His talk at TEDxYouth@BFS, “Why Kids Hate School,” was powerful and compelling, and I highly recommend it:




Recently, The Washington Post’s The Fix tweeted: “This high school kid just wrote a book on education? NERD.” Having met Nikhil, here’s my new definition of NERD: Normal yet Exceptional and Reasonable Dynamo. May the NERD revolution begin!


~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.  
You have read this article Alternative Education / dropouts / education / education reform / learning / Nikhil Goyal / real life learning / students / systemic change / TEDx / videos with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/if-this-is-nerd-let-there-be-more-of.html. Thanks!

Are You Funding War & Promoting Rape? Photographer Uses Art to Confront Tech Industry, Citizens About Conflict Minerals

Image screenshot from Treehugger.
The connection between "conflict minerals" and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been reported on repeatedly over the years (we've done more than one post about it, including this one from 2010). Yet despite the egregious human rights horrors that are still being perpetrated -- including the rape and abuse of women and girls that has become "expected" and common place -- the world has yet to express much outrage or take much action.

Part of that is likely geographic distance. Part of it is lack of knowledge about the issue. But part of it is because we're addicted to our electronic gadgets, so we don't want to know. We don't want to take action that would disrupt our own lives.

Our friends at Treehugger recently featured the work of photographer Sarah Fretwell, who was so outraged by the lack of response by the world community to the horrific prevalence of rape, and so frustrated that media outlets told her this story had already been "done," that she decided to turn her "news" story into art. Now her images are getting attention.

In the interview with Treehugger, Fretwell summarizes the problem this way:
Originally, rape was used as a tool of war to break apart communities and scare them into loyalty or punish them for helping an opposing group. One of the most shocking things is that rape has become “normalized” and now boys/men are being raped too. Money from the “conflict” minerals in our technology fuels continued instability in the DRC.

The breakdown of society and the normalization of rape is a byproduct of a corrupt government, land disputes, citizenship disputes, and the exploitive businesses practices (including by US, European, and Canadian companies) occurring in the DRC. An elite class of Congolese, the corrupt Congolese government, unscrupulous foreign mining and banking companies, and paramilitaries from multiple countries (mainly Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi) are keeping the country unstable in a fight for profit and power.

The poor bear the brunt of the conflict, experience none of the benefit, and have no voice in the government. When they do speak out they are punished. Women, girls, and other vulnerable populations are at the lower echelons of society. They have no way to protect themselves and no one is protecting them. With few rights and no functioning justice system, they are the easiest to victimize. Men and boys have been emasculated and there is little opportunity to provide for their family. Often their only job opportunity is to join the military or a rebel group, as little of the profit the government or elite business goes back into building the country. 

With no transparency in the business transactions the people have no way to hold their government accountable for its business dealings. In not taking a strong stance on this issue of conflict minerals companies are in essence saying, “This is an acceptable cost of doing business”.

Fretwell doesn't just bring attention to this problem. She also offers suggestions for what the industry, investors, and citizens can do to raise awareness and create demand for conflict-free products.

Fretwell's work serves as a valuable springboard for discussing this issue with students and colleagues and for taking positive action to address this grave situation. Fretwell herself is also a wonderful example of an ordinary hero who was inspired to help amplify the voice of those in need and to take on broken systems.

~ Marsha

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


You have read this article art / changemakers / citizenship / conflict minerals / Democratic Republic of Congo / electronics / heroes / human rights / humane education / photography / rape / systemic change / violence with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/are-you-funding-war-promoting-rape.html. Thanks!

Work at the Root of Creating a Better World: Apply Now for a Graduate Degree in Humane Education

Merge your passion and skills and work at the root of creating a more just, healthy and sustainable world; apply for one of our accredited online graduate programs, including an M.Ed., M.A., and certificate.

Spring semester deadlines are:  December 1 for the M.Ed. programs and December 15 for the M.A. and graduate certificate programs. Summer semester deadlines are May 1 and 15.  Find out more.

The programs focus on changemaking and deeply examine root problems and emphasize the interconnectedness between human rights, animal protection, and environmental sustainability. Here is what some of our students and graduates have said about IHE's graduate programs:

"Enrolling as a graduate student at IHE will give you a set of tools and a series of lenses to view the world that you simply cannot get in any other program."
~ Christopher Greenslate, M.Ed. graduate, teacher, education doctoral student

"The graduate program is as much a personal journey of discovery and growth as it is an academic pursuit. This program is highly meaningful, rich, and full of opportunity. The program design, faculty, and peers gracefully and effectively overcome any tendencies of an online program to be dull, simplified, or lacking in community and support. In addition, this unique opportunity to work with others from around the globe adds even more depth and perspective within the experience. IHE's graduate program is a gem to be discovered!"
~ Cassandra Scheffman, M.Ed. student, environmental educator


"The curriculum is carefully designed and delivered, the support and mentorship are outstanding, and the benefits are undeniable. You won't regret launching a relationship with IHE!"
~ Kurt Schmidt, M.Ed. graduate, university faculty and math educator

"When looking for educational programs to attend, I always longed for one that would not only educate me, but would make a impact on my life and help shape who I am. The program at IHE not only helped me to grow professionally, but it made significant positive changes in my life.  If you are looking for program that will educate you and help you to become a more compassionate, aware citizen, IHE’s grad program is for you!"
~ Karen Patterson, M.Ed. graduate, Humane Education Director, Humane Society of Huron Valley

“I feel like this graduate program was designed with me in mind. The content is relevant and timely and from day one I was able to find things that I could bring directly into my classroom, either as activities or lessons or other things that helped shift my attitudes and look at students and the classroom differently. Not only is the program taking me long-term to where I want to be in my career, it has changed me as a teacher, from the very first day.“
~ Rebecca Brockman,  M.A. student, classroom teacher


Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.  
You have read this article activism / animal protection / certificate programs / changemakers / environmental protection / graduate degrees / graduate programs / human rights / humane education / social change / Social Justice / solutionaries with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/work-at-root-of-creating-better-world.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.


Teen changemaker invents "GreenShields" to help the environment (via Forbes) (11/12/12)

"California's new global warming law becomes real this week with first cap-and-trade auctions" (MercuryNews.com) (11/10/12)

"Florida to grade black students on a different scale than white students?" (via Alternet) (11/9/12)

U.S. drops in ranking of world's top countries for women (via Daily Mail) (11/8/12)

Unity College in Maine first to pledge to divest from "dirty energy" (via YES! Magazine) (11/8/12)

4 teenage girls in Nigeria have invented a generator "powered by pee" (via Grist) (11/8/12)

"Education ballot initiatives results show mixed returns on school reform" (via Huffington Post) (11/7/12)

Study explores positive & negative impacts of "childhood adversity" (via Education Week) (11/7/12)

Chicago project follows what happens to juveniles in justice system (via NY Times) (11/4/12)

"Animal rights in China" (via Forbes) (11/2/12)

"Is it ethical to defy evacuation orders?" (via Washington Post) (11/2/12)



Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article changemakers / education / ethics / global warming / humane education / juvenile justice / news media / Racism / systemic change / women's rights with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-issues-in-news_13.html. Thanks!

IHE Welcomes New Board Members

IHE's new board members









Our recent call for new board members drew several terrific applicants. We're proud and excited to announce our newest three board members:

Dr. Elizabeth Crawford is a faculty member in the department of Elementary, Middle Level, and Literacy Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Recently she created and piloted a curriculum unit for TeachUNICEF that features IHE's solutionary approach.

Neil Hornish is an IHE M.Ed. graduate who is co-founder and director of education for the Compassionate Living Project, which offers humane education in the Connecticut area.

Tony Scucci, MSW, works as a Senior Governance Associate at BoardSource and specializes in board and nonprofit consultation and training.

Read about all IHE's board members.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.   
You have read this article animal protection / board of directors / changemakers / environmental protection / global ethical issues / human rights / humane education / social change / Social Justice / solutionaries with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/ihe-welcomes-new-board-members.html. Thanks!

6 Activities for Teaching About Advertising

In her newest TEDx talk, Educating for Freedom, IHE President Zoe Weil highlights how our culture inundates us with marketing and advertising every day, telling us we won’t be happy or successful or sexy or worthy unless we buy what they have to offer, and hiding from view all the suffering, oppression, and exploitation that are inherent in many ads and their products and services. She also emphasizes the need to provide students with the tools to free themselves from the pull of such advertising and to help them become conscious citizens able to discern, think critically, and make choices based on their own values.

We can help both children and adults protect and empower themselves from marketing and advertising. Here are 6 humane education activities that can help:
  1. Analyzing Advertising
    Students learn to be ad-savvy by exploring the pervasiveness of ads in their lives and by analyzing what ads are trying to sell…and trying to hide.
    Recommended for grades 5 and up.
    Time: 45-60 minutes
  2. Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.
    Participants learn and use the C.R.I.T.I.C. technique to enable them to bring critical thinking skills to any information they receive, whether from industry, non-profits, government, or media.
    Recommended for grades 6 and up.
    Time: 30-45 minutes
  3. It Ads Up
    This activity explores: How do ads influence us? What strategies do ad designers use to target different groups of people? How can we recognize those strategies and our own triggers?
    Recommended for grades 8 and up.
    Time: 30-45 minutes
  4. Not So Fair and Balanced: Analyzing Bias in the Media
    This lesson plan helps high school students take a closer look at prejudices, the biases that media contain and perpetuate (such as in what they do and don't report on, or how particular genders or ethnicities are portrayed), and the ways we are influenced by those media biases.
    Recommended for grades 9 and up.
    Time: One week of 45 minute class periods
  5. Take Two
    Unveil the manipulation inherent in marketing and corporate branding and awaken the creativity of your students by having them explore commercials aimed at them and then empowering them to create new commercials with a positive message.
    Recommended for grades 8 and up.
    Time: Two class periods, one week apart
  6. We Have You Surrounded
    We're surrounded by marketing and advertising telling us what to buy, who to be, what we need to be happy. Use this series of activities to help students explore issues of branding, marketing, and globalization.
    Recommended for grades 9 through 12.
    Time: Several weeks 
~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. 
You have read this article activities / advertising / critical thinking / curriculum / education / global issues / humane education / lesson plans / marketing / media literacy / Social Justice with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/6-activities-for-teaching-about.html. Thanks!

Seth Godin: What is School For?

As readers of our blog know, in my first TEDx talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach,” I ask the question, "What is schooling for?" At TEDxYouth@Brooklyn Free School where I recently gave another TEDx talk, “Educating for Freedom,” Seth Godin, a brilliant thinker, writer, and changemaker, gave a talk, “Stop Stealing Dreams” in which he asks and answers the question, “What is school for?” Check it out:





What do you think school is for? What should it be for?

~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.   
You have read this article citizenship / education / learning / obedience / schooling / Seth Godin / systemic change / Teaching with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/seth-godin-what-is-school-for.html. Thanks!

Teaching About Hurricane Sandy & Other Disasters

Cars in flood from Hurricane Sandy
Image courtesy of CasualCapture
via Creative Commons.
Disasters tend to get a lot of coverage before, during, and immediately after the event, but rarely does any significant mainstream media exploration dive deeper into the broader impacts on people, animals, and the earth. And if predictions are accurate, we're only going to see an increase in the frequency and severity of storms such as Sandy.

A group of social justice educators have created a wiki with resources to help educators explore some of the broader issues related to Sandy and similar storms.

Currently the wiki is organized into 4 general categories:
  1. Address the socio-emotional needs of students in the aftermath.
  2. Discuss the broader social (in)justice issues revealed by the hurricane.
  3. Find opportunities to get support or give support.
  4. Make links to environmental justice issues.
Since this is a wiki, anyone can add relevant resources.

A couple years ago we at IHE also explored the greater impacts and injustices to people, animals, and the planet, that often remain part of the fallout during and after disasters. Check out our blog post for additional discussion ideas.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. 
You have read this article climate change / critical thinking / curriculum / disasters / ethics / global issues / global warming / humane education / hurricanes / lesson plans / Social Justice with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/teaching-about-hurricane-sandy-other.html. Thanks!

Humane Education Activity: Circle of Compassion

What is compassion? Who and what are in our circles of compassion?

This activity, appropriate for grades 4 and up, can serve as an excellent springboard for exploring compassion and introducing important social change issues to students. After a brief reflection on what compassion means, the activity uses "scenario" stations to inspire participants to think about who's in their circle of compassion and why, and what they can do to make a positive difference for those being oppressed.
Download Circle of Compassion.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.  
You have read this article activities / animal protection / compassion / curriculum / empathy / environmental protection / humane education / lesson plans / relationships / Social Justice with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-education-activity-circle-of.html. Thanks!

Reach and Teach: Media Literacy

Image copyright Institute for Humane Education.
I was excited when Reach and Teach, a peace and social justice learning company, shared my new TEDx talk, Educating for Freedom, taking the ideas in the talk about media literacy and analyzing ads a step further. Here's a brief excerpt:
"When you see an advertisement for a store that's offering the VERY LOWEST PRICES, for example, taking some time to think about how that store manages to get things at such low prices could provide a great lesson in suffering, cruelty, and destruction.

Lower prices might make you happy, but what damage do they do to get those low prices? Child labor? Slave labor? Bankrupting suppliers by making them sell the store products at a price lower than it costs to produce? "

Read the complete post.


~ Zoe


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 TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"
My TEDxYouth@BFS "Educating for Freedom"

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.   
You have read this article advertising / body image / critical thinking / freedom / humane education / influence / marketing / media / media literacy / zoe weil with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/reach-and-teach-media-literacy.html. Thanks!

Cultivating Faith, Not Fear, in Humane Education

Image courtesy of maveric2003 via Creative Commons.
Editor's note: We're swamped with some exciting projects (stay tuned!), so please enjoy this repost from 8/13/09.

by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Education

I attended Catholic schools for most of my life. We were taught at an early age in Catholic school to accept and respect authority without question. This included the authority of our teachers, parents, adults in general, our government, the Pope, the church, and God. The way we were taught to accept and respect this authority relied largely on fear.

I entered kindergarten in 1962, so for most of my elementary school years corporal punishment was used as a tactic of first resort. Trust me, if you are a second grader and worried about being smacked by Sister Ernestine in front of the whole class, or having your desk toppled with your seat attached -- which will send you sprawling across the floor -- or being paddled behind closed doors by the school principal, your overriding temptation is to behave as well as you can, for as long as you can, on any given day, no matter what is going on in your head, heart, or home.

I myself received my last paddling when I was in eighth grade, already a teenager. I don’t remember the infraction, and I don’t think I was particularly fearful anymore -- just embarrassed both for myself and for the principal who was required to mete out the punishment. I can’t help but think of the Dalai Lama’s instruction that if we see a man kicking a dog, we should feel compassion not just for the dog, but for the man as well. We were all part of a system in that school; we complied with rules not necessarily of our own making. By eighth grade, most of us had learned how to live with fear without letting it define our inner lives -- just our outward behavior.

Since then, I’ve had many experiences that leave me feeling grateful (fear-factor aside) for this education and upbringing. Catholicism gave me what I’ve come to think of as a “vocabulary of faith.” As a young teacher in Niger, West Africa, I was completely comfortable in a devout Muslim country. I understood (without even having to think about it) the ways in which daily prayer, fasting, devotion, self-sacrifice, charity, respect for elders, reverence for sacred places, and a strong ethic of right and wrong guided the lives of my students and their families. I had no trouble keeping Ramadan; it reminded me of Lent. I loved being awakened at dawn by the marabout; his call to prayer was like a hymn. I relished the sight of old women in the market thumbing their worry beads as my own grandmother had prayed the Rosary every day of her life. Later in my teaching career, I felt equally and instantly at home working in other countries and situations where religious life underpinned all else –- other forms of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Animism –- the religion itself didn’t matter to me. It was the kinship I appreciated, the ease with which a common ground could be found.

And so, it might come as no surprise that when I first discovered humane education 16 years ago, I was immediately attracted not only to the subject matter but to the “missionary zeal” of its practitioners. My “vocabulary of faith” worked in my favor yet again as I meditated for the first time at a humane education symposium on what I wanted my epitaph to say. I soon implemented this meditation like a daily prayer. I loved the conscious thought brought to food choices –- not fasting exactly, but mindful choosing of food for the health of our bodies, all species and the planet. I felt drawn to the deep commitment of those around me to create positive, long-lasting change through education. The sacred place was the Earth, our elders the visionaries; and though we try to avoid the duality of “right and wrong,” we know that somewhere in the realm of what’s “right” live the tenets of sustainability and compassion.

I quickly realized, after so many years as a teacher and teacher-trainer, that my own definition of education needed to take a step forward. It wasn’t enough for us and our students to “know” things; we needed to learn how to use the things we knew in service of helping the planet and all her residents thrive. Shouldn’t this be the very purpose of education? And if so, then I propose that we have something to learn from faith-based education, and that something is: FAITH.

As humane educators, we must cultivate a faith in the goodness of humankind to do the right thing once the right thing is clear; to act humanely once we know how; to desire the truth and seek it out. In my opinion, fear has no place is this vision. Although fear might make people comply in the short term, it does not breed passion, creativity, optimism or respect.

I am aware of the ways in which we might subtly use fear to get a point across: “If we don’t do something about global climate change, we will all be underwater soon.” This is a flippant example of how fear can creep into our thinking, our living, our teaching. To my little Catholic schoolgirl ears, this is the same as “If you don’t go to Mass on Sunday, you will end up in Purgatory (or worse).” I might go to Mass, but only to avoid an unpleasant consequence. I would go because I was afraid not to. As soon as the rule is lifted, I will no longer go because I am no longer afraid. This is not to say that global climate change is not an immediate and complex problem that needs to be solved. It is to say that how we provide information and how we educate others to become stewards of the Earth should emanate from a powerful place of joy and excitement within us, not a powerless place of fear.

Humane Education has the chance to lead the way in the field of education with the great lights of curiosity, and critical and creative thinking; reverence, respect, and responsibility. I vote we do so, and we leave the fear in the dark where it belongs, where it won’t be given enough attention to survive into the next generation of learning.

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

You have read this article education / faith / fear / humane education / intention / power / religion / service with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/cultivating-faith-not-fear-in-humane.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.


Study shows "people in poor, non-white neighborhoods breathe more hazardous particles" (via Environmental Health News) (11/1/12)

"Hershey sued for info on use of child labor in cocoa supplies" (via Reuters) (11/1/12)

"Vanishing mustangs: are America's wild horses in danger of disappearing?" (via Treehugger) (10/31/12)

U.N. urges halt of "ocean grabbing" fishing (via Reuters) (10/30/12)

Botswana to stop issuing hunting permits (via China Daily) (10/29/12)

Scientists categorize 4 distinct elephant personalities (via The Telegraph) (10/28/12)

Studies show babies have sense of right and wrong (via Globe and Mail) (10/24/12)

"Ending rape illiteracy" (commentary) (via The Nation) (11/23/12)

"Cost to prevent all future extinctions: $11 per person?" (via Scientific American) (10/16/12)



Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
You have read this article animal intelligence / animal protection / child slavery / ethics / humane education / news media / public health / rape / wildlife with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-issues-in-news_6.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Sandra Steingraber Talks Fracking, Powerful Interests, & Cancer as a Human Rights Issue

Image courtesy dunrie via
Creative Commons.
As a scientist, educator, writer, speaker, cancer survivor, parent, and activist, Sandra Steingraber's experiences have led her on a journey that has culminated in using all those experiences to become a leader in fighting fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and in educating and advocating for stronger environmental and public health protections.

In a recent interview with Sage Magazine, Steingraber discusses some of the challenges citizens face in battling the powerful interests that are forcing governments to put economics before a healthy environment. As she says, "... in many states, laws require us to balance health interests with economic interests. You basically have to pile a bunch of dead bodies in front of the White House before you can overrule the economic interests."

Steingraber also talks about cancer and other environment-caused diseases as a human rights issue. She says:

"The idea that other people’s chemicals can enter our bodies without our consent as an act of toxic trespass, and that this can alter the chemical pathways of our bodies, trigger certain switches, turn off and on certain hormones, places cancer as a human rights issue. Anytime there’s a disconnect between those who benefit and those who pay a price, we have a human rights issue. 

Central to human rights is equal protection under the law. When we look at cancer, it’s not a random tragedy. People live near certain types of activities—whether large-scale agriculture or industry—where cancer is more common. That and other lines of evidence show that the role environmental carcinogens play and the story of human cancer is one that we have underestimated. It’s not the only cause of cancer, but it’s one that we can prevent, unlike the genes that we inherit—which turn out to play a much smaller role than we had originally thought. As far as I can see that is good news. It makes cancer prevention more possible."
And a bit later she criticizes the "big green groups" for failing to integrate human rights into their strategies:
"Most human rights movements ask people to do really heroic and big things, whether it’s Gandhi and the salt march or the Alabama bus boycott or Martin Luther King Jr.’s walk across the south. Most of the big human rights movements asked people to directly confront their oppressors. I don’t see the mainstream environmental movement asking that of people. Instead it makes us all feel vaguely guilty. I’m increasingly frustrated with the big green groups in the US because they generally take this conciliatory approach, accepting as inevitable that we are going down this extreme energy pathway."
Read the complete interview.

Steingraber's interview serves as a great springboard for discussing several important issues, such as:
  • When lives may be in danger, how long do we wait for how much scientific proof that we need to act?
  • How much should we weight economic interests over public health (if at all)?
  • Why is it so challenging to ban chemicals or other toxins that have been shown to be a health and/or environmental hazard?
  • How much accountability should companies hold for the negative health and environmental impacts of the chemicals and processes they use?
  • Where does the burden of change belong?
  • How much time should we spend on encouraging "small solutions" versus major systemic change?
  • How can we get our food, energy, shelter, job, and other needs met in ways that do the most good and least harm to all people, animals, and the earth?
~ Marsha

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


You have read this article activism / changemakers / citizenship / environmental justice / environmental protection / fracking / interviews / Most Good Least Harm / politics / power / public health / science / systemic change / toxic chemicals with the title 2012. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2012/11/humane-educator-toolbox-sandra.html. Thanks!