On Our Must Read List: Practice What You Teach: Social Justice Education in the Classroom and the Streets

We haven't read it yet, so we can't recommend it, but Practice What You Teach: Social Justice Education in the Classroom and the Streets by Bree Picower (Routledge Press, 2012) is definitely on our must-read list.

Most teachers become teachers because they're passionate about making a difference. But then the reality of the education system sets in, and their dreams of doing things differently fade away.

In Practice What You Teach, Bree Picower, an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Montclair State University and a core member of the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE), explores the challenges and triumphs of educators pursuing their passion for social justice education and activism.

Picower records the experiences of three groups of educators: white pre-service teachers typically enrolled in most teacher education programs; new teachers striving to integrate social justice into their teaching, and experienced educators who see their teaching and activism as inextricably linked.

The chapters include:
  1. Teacher Activism: Social Justice Education as a Strategy for Change 
  2. "Why Do We Have to Talk About Race Again?": Oppositional Stances and Tools of Whiteness
  3. Teaching for Justice: Developing Strategies for Integrating SJE in the Classroom 
  4. Stuck at the Classroom Door: Falling Back on Tools of Inaction   
  5. Reconciling the Vision: Taking Action for Educational Justice  
  6. "Making a Difference": Teaching in the Classroom and Organizing in the Streets
 You can read excerpts from the book here.

Social justice education, as it's generally defined, has much in common with humane education, and this book looks like it will serve as a useful too for teachers passionate about helping their students (and themselves) become effective leaders and changemakers for a better world.

~ Marsha

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Declaring Our Independence From Oppression & Exploitation and Embracing the Freedom of Independent Thought & Humane Action

Image courtesy of Benjamin Earwicker
via Creative Commons.
We're in the middle of our student residency this week, so here's a repost of a lovely essay from 6/27/11 by 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.


We are approaching the day that we, as American citizens, celebrate our independence from British rule. The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most revered document in our nation’s history. Americans take great pride in their independence, autonomy, free will, and governance by democracy. Most Americans pride themselves on their ability to freely choose their life’s path and are vehement regarding the idea that we have always been a free and socially diverse population. We want freedom for ourselves, and we also engage in wars waged to win democracy, accountability, and freedom for all others the world over.

Yet our history shows a continuum of hypocrisy, blind spots, and exclusion of many from the full realization and practice of self-determination. It took another century after the signing of the Declaration to include African Americans in our dream; and we still have much work to do for true equality in education, opportunity, pay, respect, and inclusion. It was almost 150 years after the signing that women were finally regarded as full citizens who were allowed to vote. Almost 250 years later we are still grappling with whether gay, lesbian, and transgender people can be “allowed” to marry, a decision based on the dominant heterosexual culture’s will and whim. We require gay people to observe all of the tax and civic responsibilities of our culture, but still deny one of the most basic rights and privileges of our society: the right to marry the person whom you love and to commit fully to that person with the support and witness of that commitment by the larger community.

While we pride ourselves on being independent thinkers, our reality is often something much different than critical and creative thought and decision making. We often give over our opinions and desires to fit into the mainstream culture and value systems. Many of us spend every day meeting the requirements of job, family, status, and social networks that are not what we truly want to be doing with our lives. We are caught in between what we most deeply value and what is expected of us to “fit in.” We fall prey to the ubiquitous messaging that tells us how we should look, what we should wear, the kinds of jobs we should aspire to, the school that we should mold ourselves into the likeness of, what food is healthy and appealing, and so forth. We have often ceased being citizens that shape our world and have instead been fashioned into consumers that shape and grow the bottom line of corporations. All too often our lives look pretty much like everyone else’s, and we have forgotten what truly matters to us.

Independence Day represents freedom from oppression and exploitation, and this is something most of us believe in, at least theoretically. But when we don’t think about the conditions of the work places that our clothes come from, or what happens to other people unfortunate enough to be out of work or without health insurance, or the migrant workers poisoned by the chemicals and fertilizers used to produce our food, or what the real, live animals endured to become the hamburger on our grill or the eggs making up our breakfast, we are supporting oppression and suffering without meaning to.

This Independence Day can be a new beginning, though. We can declare our individual independence from advertising, cultural “norms,” and unhealthy and inhumane actions. We can choose instead to be independent thinkers and visionary pioneers, and to practice collaboration, community, and true freedom for all to be happy, healthy, and respected. Now that would be an Independence Day truly to celebrate.



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Global Peace Index Show World is Slightly More Peaceful

The world has become a slightly more peaceful place, according to the newest Global Peace Index (GPI). Each year the Global Peace Index ranks the world's nations by their levels of "peacefulness." To determine rankings, the GPI tracks 23 indicators, including the level of safety and security, the degree of militarization, and the extent of domestic or international conflict.

Some of this year's key findings:
  • Iceland is the most peaceful nation for the 2nd year in a row;
  • For the first time, Sub-Saharan Africa is NOT the least peaceful region;
  • Syria dropped more than 30 spots to 147th;
  • This year the U.S. ranks 88th of 158 countries;
  • Although countries are doing better at getting along with their neighbors, unrest and conflict within countries has risen.
Find out more.

Watch this video that summarize's this year's Global Peace Index in just a couple minutes:




The website for the GPI can serve as a useful tool for students exploring international issues, peace, and/or conflict. It's possible to view each country and where they rank with the various indicators, and whether that indicator rates as more or less peaceful. Countries can also be selected and compared side-by-side, and a map of the world offers a useful visual representation of how the various countries rate on different indicators.

Peace is a simple concept, but achieving peace is a long and complicated process. The Global Peace Index is a helpful resource for examining and thinking critically about peace, violence, and conflict on a national and global scale.

~ Marsha

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My Favorite Commencement Address: Kimmie Weeks

For my blog post today, I wanted to share my favorite commencement address, delivered by Liberian human rights activist Kimmie Weeks at my son's high school graduation. Enjoy!


129th Commencement at Northfield Mount Hermon, May 27, 2012. from Northfield Mount Hermon School on Vimeo.


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 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.



U.S. supreme court strikes down parts of Arizona's immigration law (via CBS News) (6/25/12)

"Line blurs" between humans, animals, as more studies show higher level capabilities of monkeys, primates (via AP) (6/24/12)

"McMansion creep: homes rising in size" (via Wall Street Journal) (6/21/12)

"Mother goats remember kids' bleats even after long separation, study shows" (via Huffington Post) (6/20/12)

One possible solution: urban "mining" of rare earths minerals (via Treehugger) (6/20/12)

Report says environmental activists around the world being killed at rate of "one a week" (via The Guardian) (6/19/12)


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Environmental Working Group Releases New Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Image copyright Environmental Working Group.
Since it's summertime and people are crowding the farmers markets, lusting over the delicious produce the warmer weather brings, it's especially important to pay attention to which produce has the highest and lowest pesticide use and residues.

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a free, downloadable Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which includes the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15″ produce items that have the most and fewest detectable pesticide residues. Topping the "dirty" list this year are apples, followed by celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, and strawberries. This year EWG has renamed their list "Dirty Dozen Plus" to reflect the fact that two crops -- green beans and kale/greens -- don't meet the traditional criteria for the "dirty dozen" but "were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides." According to EWG,  "These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops."

You can also find a list of 45 fruits and vegetables, with their pesticide rankings.

As Mother Jones columnist Tom Philpott points out, this list frames the produce according to pesticide residues consumers are likely to encounter, but doesn't address the quantity of pesticides farm workers are exposed to. As he says:
"Sometimes, crops that are heavily sprayed while growing end up with very little pesticide residues on the supermarket shelf. That's great for consumers but awful for farm workers.

In an analysis of last year's EWG lists, Pesticide Action Network's Karl Tupper found that the two most pesticide-intensive crops in the field are sweet potatoes and mushrooms—which both made the Clean Fifteen list both this year and last. I can't consider a crop "clean" that exposes farm workers to pesticides at high levels—and I'm sure many consumers would feel the same way if they had access to information."

Part of living a life that strives to do the most good and least harm means choosing foods that reflect a plant-based, local, healthy, just focus whenever possible. But, choosing organic produce 100% of the time isn’t always possible, whether it’s due to availability or budget. For those who want to support richer soil, cleaner air and water, healthier bodies, safer wildlife and other benefits, but can't go totally organic, this guide is a great tool.

~ Marsha

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10 Tips for Talking with Loved Ones About Global Issues

Often when we learn about cruelty or injustice, we become energized to educate others about the issue and passionate to inspire them to make positive changes themselves. But what has become obvious, relevant, and compelling to us can seem alien, extreme, or upsetting to our loved ones. And the more we try to help them see through our new lenses, often the more resistant they become.

So how do we talk with our loved ones about important global issues without provoking them to feel defensive or want to cover their ears and run away? Here are 10 tips.

  1. Model your message. Truly, modeling the message we want to convey is one of the most powerful actions we can take. Countless people have told me I've inspired them to make changes in their lives and to be more mindful, just from seeing the choices that I make every day.
  2. Let go of the need to change them. We have no control over the choices others make or what they believe. We can educate, inspire, and support, but change will only come from them. Additionally, people can tell when we have an ulterior motive, so if they sense that our goal is to change them, they'll only become more attached to their perspective and find us less credible.
  3. Pick the appropriate time. When everyone is enjoying their meat-based dinners is not the time to start talking about the horrors of factory farming. When someone has the candy bar in her hand is not the time to talk about the connection between chocolate and child slavery. People need to be in a setting where they feel safe, and where they aren't distracted or predisposed to feel defensive or judged because of the situation.
  4. Keep it simple. A whole slew of statistics or example after example of cruelty do not make a convincing "argument." Stick with a core message (e.g., "I make this choice because...."), make sure whatever information you share is accurate, and perhaps tell one compelling story -- especially if it's of your own experience.
  5. Stay calm. Because we so deeply want our loved ones to share our views, it can be easy to become frustrated and exasperated. It's vital to stay calm and open to whatever is happening. Remember to model a message of love and compassion.
  6. Frame the conversation in the positive (when appropriate). Rather than focusing too much on all the horrors of the issue, emphasize the convenience, joy, money savings or whatever positive attributes are part of making the choices you're suggesting. Most people get disheartened and discouraged about the atrocities of the world, and it's important for people to be informed. But the focus should be on what they can do about it and how those actions can make their lives (as well as their world) better.
  7. Emphasize commonalities. Bring the issue down to its core values of compassion, care for youth, concern for injustice, etc., and help make connections about the commonalities you both share.
  8. Listen and empathize. Don't do all the talking or set the situation up as you trying to convince them of something. Have a conversation, and do more listening than you do speaking. You should be learning nearly as much from them as they are from you. Try to determine what their underlying needs, fears, and concerns are. And remember where you were before you made these changes in your own life. Show that you care and understand where they're coming from -- even if you don't agree with their views.
  9. Offer honest, accurate information, resources, and positive actions that fit within their current value system. When offering information, "less is more" should be the rule; but make sure that the information is accurate and honest. Tell the truth in what you're sharing. Avoid euphemisms. Also be sure to start from wherever they are and provide them with opportunities to take small steps that aren't too far outside their current comfort zone. Once they've been successful, they're more likely to want to venture further.
  10. Offer help. If your loved ones express interest in finding out more or giving something a try, offer them plenty of support. Give them relevant resources (that won't overwhelm them); cook them a meal (or teach them to cook one) with the ingredients in question; go with them to a talk about the topic; point them to places they can purchase the product(s) you've talked about. Be a mentor and sounding board.
Although we may desperately want our friends and family to share our views and values for a better world, spending a lot of time trying to "convince" them may not be the best use of our energies. Our efforts to nurture positive change may be most effective by working with people we don't know and to whose opinions we are much less attached. And remember that modeling our message through what we say and do each day can be the most powerful motivator of all for those who are watching.

~ Marsha

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This is Our Moment in the Sun

In the most recent issue of The Sun magazine, there’s an interview with Ran Ortner, an ocean landscape artist. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking interview, and in it Ortner says this: "... we come with an expiration date. We already know we're going to break down and crash. There's something liberating about that. This is our moment in the sun. Let's dance."

There are countless quotes about life and death; about our mortality; about living life to the fullest, but this one struck me -- perhaps because Ortner describes our mortality as liberating. We are free to embrace our moment in the sun largely because it is just that: a moment.

In her poem, “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver ends with this provocative question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?”

Wild and precious. Our moment in the sun. Our time to dance.

What does it mean to dance? What does it mean to plan to do something? To me, this combination of celebrating life (what else is dance but such a celebration?) and planfulness is key to seizing our moment in the sun; the recipe for a life of meaning and purpose and joy. Recognizing our brief moment in the sun and “dancing” our lives is a path toward living in the present moment, fully alive, fully grateful, fully here. And recognizing that there are things to do, things to plan for this brief time offers a path toward meaning and purpose without which the setting sun may come upon us one day and catch us unawares with regret for what we did or didn’t do.

Each of us has a contribution to make, and many of our contributions take time to hone and cultivate, years of preparation and study and hard work. Can we find that balance in which we live fully in the present, fulfilling the plans we make to ensure that to the best of our ability our moment in the sun is worthy of our talents, passions, and dreams? Can we dance with abandon even as we craft the vision of our lives and follow our course steadfastly? There’s no contradiction here; rather we can find in this seeming paradox the liberation I believe Ortner speaks of.

For each wild and precious life,

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 Issues in the News: Farm Bill

Every five years an issue comes around that affects not only every child, woman, and man in the U.S., but also nonhuman animals, our environment, and people around the world. The Farm Bill.

Currently Congress is struggling to cobble together a Farm Bill that can pass through both houses. But because the Farm Bill is so large (the current Senate version has more than 1,010 pages) and complex -- involving legislation not for just food, but issues such as conservation, trade, nutrition, forestry, and even energy policy -- that it has a significant impact on our food system, and thus the health and well-being of people, animals, the natural world, and others around the globe. It's an important piece of legislation that concerned citizens should be informed about. Here are a few resources that can help.

  1. GOOD offers a brief infographic overview called "Making Sense of the Farm Bill," and is also running a series, called "Forked Up," which tracks current news and issues related to the U.S. food system, including several stories about the Farm Bill.
  2. Grist is also running a series of blog posts keeping up with the Farm Bill process and issues citizens should know about.
  3. NPR ran a recent story about "Why the Farm Bill's Provisions Will Matter to You."
  4. A coalition of organizations and people concerned about food policy and the U.S. food system have created a primer, Food Fight: A Citizens' Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill, which offers helpful information about the issues involved.
  5. The Senate has recently released a version of the Farm Bill (technically titled the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act 2012). You can get an overview and follow updates here.  
~ Marsha

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What We See Depends on What We Look For

Image courtesy of frankieroberto via Creative Commons.
Recently I came across this quote: "What we see depends mainly on what we look for." (John Lubbock)

It reminded me of the powerful story, based on a West African folktale, that Mary Pat Champeau, director of education, shares every summer at IHE's student residency. Here's one version of the story:
There was once an elderly and wise gentleman who lived in a village. He would often spend his days sitting in the shade of a big tree in the center of the village, reading books and talking to passersby. One day, a traveler came upon his village and stopped and said, “Old man, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up at him and replied, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found on your travels.”
 
The traveler scowled and said, “Old man, I have met people who cheat, steal, and aren’t kind to strangers, and people who don’t look out for one another.”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up and, with a faint look of sadness in his eyes, said, “Oh my friend, those are the people you will find in my village.” The traveler kicked the dirt under his feet, scoffed, and marched off towards the village
.
By and by, as the elderly gentleman continued to enjoy his day, another traveler came walking through the village. Once again, the traveler stopped and asked, “Please kind sir, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”
 
The elderly gentleman said, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found in your travels.”
 
The traveler replied, “I have found people who are kind and welcoming of strangers, people who care for one another, and people who love. These are the people I have met in my travels.”
 
The elderly gentleman looked up and, with the faintest smile in his eyes, said, “My friend, those are the people you will find in my village.”

The quote and the story are important reminders for us as humane educators and concerned citizens to be mindful of our worldview. Do we mainly see the things in people that annoy or upset us? Do we focus on all the animal and human suffering and planet-wide destruction? Do we fret about all the things we're not doing? Or, do we see all the good in others and joyfully invite them to make even more compassionate, just, and sustainable choices? Do we celebrate all the positive things changemakers around the world are accomplishing? Do we acknowledge all the good that we ourselves are doing and seek out opportunities to do more?

Part of creating the world we want means keeping alive a vision of that world -- not traversing life with rose-colored glasses, but rather maintaining a dual vision: one that sees what is, while seeing what's possible; one that is aware of what's good and of what can be better; one that recognizes the role our own biases and experiences play in our own vision of how the world (and others) should be.

~ Marsha

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Youth Changemaker Brittany Trilford: The Future I Want

More than 200 people around the world entered TckTckTck's Date with History competition for a chance to tell world leaders at the Rio Earth Summit this month about the future they want. The entry by 17-year-old Brittany Trilford of Wellington, New Zealand, was chosen as the winner. Her impassioned call for action highlights the important role education plays in creating a better world. She says:

"We need innovation and imagination. So one solution would be to change our education system to embrace creativity, to embrace innovation."

As Brittany mentions, many of the people in leadership roles today won't have to reap the consequences of their actions. So what kind of future does Brittany want?

"I want a future where education encourages innovative thinking. I want a future where we run with natural processes and not against them. I want a future where leaders will stop talking and start acting. I want a future where leaders lead."

Watch Brittany's video (about 3 min):




Brittany will be speaking to more than 130 leaders at the Rio+20 Earth Summit today (June 20).

~ Marsha

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Does Helping One Lead to Helping Many?

Image courtesy of dfletcher via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today I wanted to share a recent essay I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here's an excerpt from "Does Helping One Lead to Helping Many?":

"Most of us find a compelling story a strong motivation to help. We respond more to a single child needing food (and open our wallets accordingly) than to a widespread famine. We are more likely to donate to an animal shelter that may save a few hundred animals a year or a new school which might educate a couple of hundred students than to a humane education organization whose work could save tens of thousands of animals or reach tens of thousands of children in that same year. This has always frustrated me, but I also understand it. I, too, am motivated by a single story, an individual whose life I can save or help. It’s why I’ve donated to sanctuaries and sponsored poverty-stricken children."

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 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.


Google Earth helps SuruĂ­ in Amazon protect their culture & territory (via Treehugger) (6/19/12)

Pollution, poverty, people of color: falling into the 'climate gap'" (via Environmental Health News) (6/18/12)

Black bears show ability to count (via BBC) (6/18/12)

Man with private zoo vows to release animals back to the wild (via The Daily Mail) (6/15/12)

"Pakistani villagers set world record for treehugging" (via Treehugger) (6/15/12)

"What do apartheid South Africa and Tucson, Arizona have in common?" (commentary) (via Alternet) (6/14/12)

"Americans want government action on climate, as long as it doesn't directly affect them" (via Treehugger) (6/13/12)

"Australia to create world's largest marine reserve" (via BBC) (6/13/12)

"North Carolina to enshrine climate denial into law" (via Treehugger) (6/13/12)

Study: teachers benefit from training on handling children's emotions (via Psych Central News) (6/8/12)

New hope for elephants, other animals under thread in central Africa  (via Good News Network) (6/7/12)


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"I Hate the Environment!": The Importance of Educating in Age-Appropriate Ways

Image courtesy of sokabs
via Creative Commons.
by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Education

One of the issues we ask our students to consider regards how much (difficult/horrific) information to share with students, and how and when to do so. We just addressed this question with our graduate students, so it has been living in me the past few days. It has prompted me to remember a time about nine or ten years ago when I began to worry that my own children, in their sheltered little alternative school, might grow up not understanding the realities of the world; and so I began showing them some important films. They were eight and ten at the time.

As a result of my campaign to open to their eyes (utterly prematurely) my daughter wrote a book called Why Are We So Stupid? about how the world would be better off without people and maybe we should kill them off (!); and my son became an insomniac because the images of animals being caught in traps and skinned for ear muffs (from the film The Witness) haunted his sleep. Needless to say, this was not the desired consequence. In addition, I happened to be at a school function where a mother forbade her son from having some lemonade because the only cups available were paper cups, and she told him they were not good for the environment. He replied (yelling): "I HATE the environment!"

Finally, I thought of an incident many years ago reading the lesson plan of one of our early humane education students (who has gone on to become a wonderful and dynamic educator/changemaker); but in this lesson plan she described "chaining" first-graders to their desks with (soft) ropes to simulate the experience of baby calves in veal crates! It was all I could do not to get on a plane to California and run an intervention. When I called her, of course, she understood my concern, and we've laughed about it since. Her heart was in the right place, as was mine with my children, and that mom with the paper cup: We wanted to raise awareness. But we did not do so in age-appropriate ways. I, in my efforts for example, awakened my children to terrible realities much too soon in ways that were inappropriate, and on top of everything else, I offered them no way to help, and therefore no hope or power. I just wanted them "to know." I would never do that again. I would err on the side of caution and approach animal, human, and environmental issues from a point of reverence, stewardship, and responsibility. The "accurate information" I provided would be, perhaps, in the form of a story that left my children feeling empathetic and helpful, not angry and shocked.

I think, as humane educators, we can sometimes feel that the onus is on us to bring information forward that has been, basically, concealed from general view; and in fact, that's true. We are educators; we should educate. It's HOW and WHEN we bring this information out that requires a certain artistic discrimination. We do not want middle-school students running out of our classrooms sobbing, or acting out wildly because they cannot quite integrate certain disturbing information. We want information about the world to come to our students when the moment opens developmentally, and they are able to accept, understand and integrate what they are learning -- and then to act in favor of the change they would like to see take place. We must take ourselves and our students into strict account when we plan our humane education lessons and activities! We must not, for example, show our six-year-old child or student Sea of Slaughter and expect her to come away feeling like part of the big, beautiful human family of creative changemakers. Chances are, she will come away feeling quite alienated from that human family and even, possibly, write a book called Why Are We So Stupid?



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An Open Thank You Letter to Teachers

For my blog post today, I wanted to share my latest essay published at Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here's an excerpt from "An Open Thank You Letter to Teachers":

"Dear Teachers,

Another school year is over, and there’s a good chance you haven’t been thanked for another year’s hard work. That might actually be quite an understatement. Not only may you have failed to receive real appreciation for your work, your salary and benefits may have been cut while your hours were increased. You may have had more students to teach and more requirements to fulfill. You may not even be sure you’ll be teaching next fall, depending upon budget cuts, even though you are a good and dedicated teacher.

... So if you haven’t received the thanks you deserve, I want to thank you publicly now. And by “you” I mean those teachers who love to teach and do so with all their heart and soul to provide their students with what is important and necessary and inspiring and beautiful and meaningful and true and good and honest. I mean those teachers who care about kids and empower them and ignite their passions and help them achieve their big dreams. I mean those teachers who demand that their students question everything, including what they themselves teach, to ensure that they become the best critical and creative thinkers they can be. I mean those teachers who listen and care. I mean those teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach and who cannot help but impart that passion."
Read the complete essay.


For a world full of solutionaries,

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 Education and the Power of Poetry

Our friends at HEART recently posted about some of the ways that they've combined poetry and humane education in the classroom.

One of the examples they highlight are persona poems, which allow students to write from the perspective of any person, animal, or part of the world. (For a deeper exploration of "becoming another, check out our Council of All Beings activity.)

Another example encourages students to write about "the ways in which places they consider home inspire and disappoint them as well as personal pleas to make their homes safer and more caring places to live."

As HEART says:

"Having students read and write poetry while discussing humane issues is a great way to show them just how powerful the written word can be. So many of the great poets have used poetry to raise the public consciousness about important issues. Reading their works, and having students write their own pieces is a perfect way to get students thinking critically and creatively."

Read the complete post.

~ Marsha

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Summer Leadership Academy for Youth Changemakers

Our friends at Generation Waking Up are hosting a 2012 Summer Leadership Academy for young changemakers, ages 16-30, in Seattle, Washington, starting July 15.

The academy is specifically for youth "interested in bringing innovative social change skills & tools to your community, school, or organization."

Participants will get training in community organizing, creating systemic change, and inspiring action in others.

Find out more.

~ Marsha

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Report Reveals Dismal Conditions for Many Food Chain Workers

Image courtesy of National Farm Worker Ministry
via Creative Commons.
One of the humane education presentations I do focuses on conditions for workers on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. At the beginning, I ask people in the audience to share what they're own working conditions are like. While some grumble about long working hours and minimal benefits, most of those who have jobs don't mention problems like poverty wages, severe injuries, forced overtime (often unpaid), or sometimes not even being allowed to use the restroom. When I talk about these kinds of conditions for workers in animal agriculture, they're shocked and horrified that such situations are allowed to happen.

Such working conditions not only aren't the exception, they're often the default experience for many food chain workers -- those men and women (and too often, children) who are involved in producing, distributing, and selling our food.

The Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of groups dedicated to "improving wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain" recently released a report "The Hands That Feed Us: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain," which explores conditions for workers in the U.S. across the entire food chain  -- more than 20 million people.

The report is based on nearly 700 surveys and interviews with workers and employers in food production, processing, distribution, retail and service, which collectively sell over $1.8 trillion dollars in goods and services each year.

Here are a few of the highlights:
  • More than 86% of workers surveyed reported earning low or poverty wages.
  • Nearly 60% reported experiencing an injury or health problem on the job.
  • Nearly 60% lack any kind of health coverage (and 53% have admitted working while sick).
  • More than 50% reported that they received no health or safety training from their employers.
Find out more.

There are more frequent stories in the news about the public health and environmental impacts of our food system -- and even sometimes about how the animals are treated, but attention to food workers continues to lag behind. Reports like this one provide a useful resource for humane educators to deepen and expand conversations about our food system and what justice, fairness, and equity look like.

~ Marsha

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HBO Airing Documentary About Our Relationships with Dogs

Dogs are a powerful and poignant example of our relationship with animals. In the U.S. we keep millions of them in our homes. Some of us spend millions on them. For many of us, they're part of the family and bring us great joy. And we also kill them by the millions because there aren't enough homes for them. We experiment on them, keep them in tiny, dirty cages to breed and sell them, and we abuse and neglect them. Such a dichotomy.

In its new documentary about dogs, which airs Monday, June 18, HBO explores pieces of this conflicting relationship. Here's their brief synopsis:

"Americans have always had a love affair with canines, but lost amidst the pampering are unpleasant truths about dog ownership, care and commerce. One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal offers an eye-opening, three-part portrait of America’s complex relationship with dogs."

Find out more.

~ Marsha

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Mission Hill School: A Revolution in Learning

What if students in schools were empowered to take charge of their own learning? What if they were shown sincere trust and respect -- every one of them? What if essential qualities like empathy were an everyday part of learning? What if the focus wasn't on "What facts do I need to teach today?" but instead were "What life and citizenship skills can I help model and impart?"

It's always heartening to see a school stepping outside the traditional paradigm, and the Mission Hill School in Boston, Massachusetts, offers an important model of what's possible. Enjoy!




What other schools do you know about that are revolutionizing education?

~ Marsha

(h/t to Sam Chaltain and GOOD)

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We Don't Need More Gandhis - We Need More People Acting on Their Ideas

Image courtesy of six million dollar dan
via Creative Commons.
Note: Zoe is on vacation, so please enjoy this repost from 6/3/09.. 

In my book, Most Good, Least Harm, I share stories of individuals who’ve created positive change through volunteerism, philanthropy, innovation, entrepreneurship, and activism. When I lead MOGO workshops, I invite participants to consider the ideas of a few individuals who’ve made a difference for others and to imagine their own ideas. We all have them. Unfortunately, they may lie below the surface, seemingly inaccessible. Perhaps as children we were told our ideas were impractical, or we were humored, cute creators of finger paintings and crayon drawings, instead of encouraged to be real visionaries.

I remember a pivotal moment in my childhood when an adult took my ideas seriously. My best friend, Robin, her brother, Tory, and I, would often play together as children. Robin and Tory’s father was Victor Kiam, entrepreneur and businessman. Victor became well known as the man who liked Remington shavers so much that he bought the company (Remember those commercials? “Shaves as close as a blade or your money back.”). But, before Remington, Victor ran other businesses. Robin, Tory and I liked to create skits and commercials, and Victor encouraged us to come up with ideas for a commercial for his company. He wasn’t just indulging us. He was serious. I truly believed that if we came up with something really good, he’d truly consider using it. I felt empowered and appreciated. I knew my ideas mattered.

My own father was also a businessman. And he was one of the best, kindest, loving men I’ve ever known. I adored him, and 24 years after his early death, I still miss him terribly. When I was little, he sometimes took me to work with him. He was the vice president of a textile company, and it was so much fun to hang out in the art room where artists designed the fabrics. I got to paint to my heart’s content, and I was often very excited to show my dad my work. I asked if he’d ever consider using my art. I was indulged and humored, but the truth was I knew that my art would never make it onto a pillowcase. Now, my father wasn’t the president of his company as Victor was, so he may not have been able to offer his daughter the possibility of such an achievement, but there was something deeply disappointing in knowing that there was no chance, no matter how good my work, that it would be welcomed in this world of commerce.

How many of us have come to believe we have no real ideas or products of merit, nothing within us to lead, to create real change? I recently gave a MOGO talk, and afterward a woman told me that she felt a bit depressed afterward. “We can’t all be like you,” she expressed. “I’m not Gandhi.”

Well, I’m sure no Gandhi either, but that’s not what the world needs. We don’t need more Gandhis; we need more people who believe in their capacity to bring their creativity to light and manifest their ideas. We need more people who, as children, were given the gift of knowing that their ideas – if good – could be made real.

You have dozens of ideas, maybe below the surface just waiting for a bit of excavation. Dig in. What ideas do you have? Make them real. Make just one of them real. It matters that you do.

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 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.


What observing animals can teach us about human health & mental illness (via NY Times) (6/9/10)

"Earth may be near tipping point, scientists warn" (via LA Times) (6/7/12)

"GAO report questions whether bullying laws protect all students" (via Education Week) (6/7/12)

"Students and teachers join forces for social change in East L.A." (via GOOD) (6/7/12)

"Meet Aparna, Mumbai's Teenage Sex Educator" (via NY Times) (6/6/12)

"International trade drives biodiversity threats in developing nations" (via Nature) (6/6/12)

Study: estrogenic hormones in dairy wastewater persist for years (via Treehugger) (6/6/12)

"What are gestation crates?" (via CNN) (6/6/12)

Oceans' biodiversity on course for collapse if we don't act soon (via Mother Jones) (6/6/12)

Disney phasing in ban on "junk food" advertising on programs for kids (via LA Times) (6/6/12)


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Bringing Humane Education Into Science & Social Studies: Two Examples

Humane education can be integrated into nearly any subject. Educators who've taken our courses have come from backgrounds as diverse as art, foreign language, business, science, and early childhood education.

But knowing that humane education can be integrated into your subject area and actually feeling confident about doing so while meeting standards, dealing with tests, and addressing potential concerns from administrators, parents, and others can be challenging. That's one reason we love highlighting how other educators are exploring important global issues in their classrooms.

The latest issue of Rethinking Schools offers two useful examples for science and social studies teachers.

High school science teacher Amy Lindahl writes about the cancer unit she always taught and how her own students' stories led to Amy to reenvision the unit to include a deeper and more complex exploration of the issues. She says:
"I needed my students to understand that cancer is a disease of societal inequity, genetic predisposition, and personal choice—albeit choices rooted in the nature of our society. My lessons needed to take a hard and direct look at the uncomfortable questions I had sidestepped. And the curriculum had to guide students to a place of hope and activism."

Amy ends her article with this important revelation:
"I realize that other science teachers may balk at the idea of trying to tackle so many social issues in a biology class. Believe me, I had the same misgivings. Each previous year, I had been lulled by the little voice that insisted, "Isn't teaching the health inequities in our society somebody else's responsibility? Aren't social studies teachers supposed to do that?" Overwhelmed with the science standards and skills I am responsible for teaching, I had made my excuses and walked away from the hardest questions my students ask. But, as I look back and face those questions more honestly, I see that our students need and deserve a new curriculum. As science teachers, we must guide and support them as they grapple with the difficult questions our lessons inspire. Our students are ready to look at the prejudice and inequities in our society straight on. They are waiting to be taught how to demand a better and healthier world. Let's help them do it."
Read the complete article.

Social studies teacher Julie Treick O'Neill explores the positive and negative impacts of various forms of energy with her students. She says:
"I wanted students to look critically at our current energy system, which relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels and to begin to explore lower carbon options—everything from specific alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind, and solar power to market-based initiatives such as cap and trade, carbon offsets, and efficiency incentives. I wanted students to understand that every energy source has trade-offs."
 In her Rethinking Schools essay, she recounts her students' experiences exploring the impact of natural gas that's acquired through fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Her students look at information shared by the natural gas industry and explore the validity of those claims. Then they do the same with the information given in the film Gasland.

One of Julie's students said, “When we watched Gasland I believe everyone became scared and felt that there was no hope. But what is better? Knowing the real-life scary facts, or just to be ignorant and easily persuaded?"

Read the complete article.


These units would be even richer and more relevant if they included the concerns of animals and the earth in their explorations; but both of these teachers are integrating essential elements of humane education into their curriculum: encouraging students to seek accurate information, think critically, and examine positive alternatives -- something nearly every teacher can find a way to do.

~ Marsha

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12 Children's Picture Books That Challenge Traditional Gender Roles

Image courtesy of gregw via Creative Commons.
Each May and June in the U.S. we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day. Moms usually receive pretty, smelly, "girly" stuff, and dad's get yet another manly tie, cologne, or something to BBQ. Just one of the countless ways we perpetuate the stereotypes and biases about what women and men are supposed to like and be like. And our media, marketing, language, and culture about these expectations and assumptions filter down to the youngest of us.

Research shows that even young children can quickly fall into these sex-based stereotypes and prejudices. In honor of celebrating our gender diversity, here are 12 children's picture books that challenge traditional gender roles.
  1. Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2006. (32 pgs) Gr. PreK-2.
    When Nate discovers dance, he knows he’s found his passion, but his brother’s assertion that “boys don’t dance” causes him to have doubts.
  2. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book by Jacinta Bunnell. 2010. (40 pgs) PreK-2.
    While actually a coloring book, the diversity of interests by these characters (such as the prince who wants glass slippers) is perfect for celebrating and exploring gender variety.
  3. The Basket Ball by Esme Raji Codell. 2011. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-2.
    When the boys won't let Lulu join their school-yard basketball team, she hosts a "Basket Ball" where girls from all over trade-in ball gowns for b-ball gear & show off their stuff.
  4. Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola. 1979. (48 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    Oliver has to deal with classmates who harass him because he prefers activities like painting, reading, and dancing, instead of playing sports.
  5. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert. 2008. (32 pgs) Gr. 1-5.
    Every night, Bailey dreams about dresses. But in the daytime, his parents tell him he shouldn't be thinking about dresses because "You're a boy!" Then Bailey meets someone who is inspired by his passion.
  6. The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein. 2002. (40 pgs) Gr. K-3.
    Because Elmer has different interests than the other male ducks, they taunt him and call him a sissy. When Elmer saves his Papa, the other ducks come to realize that Elmer’s specialness is something to celebrate.
  7. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. 2001. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    King Wilfred teaches his daughter the same knightly skills he taught his sons. But when she turns 16, the King insists on a joust, the winner of which will win Violetta’s hand in marriage. Violetta has other plans.
  8. Elena's Serenade by Campbell Geeslin. 2004. (40 pgs) Gr. K-4.
    A young girl in Mexico wants to be like her papa and become a glassblower, but such things are traditionally only for boys.
  9. I Look Like a Girl by Shelia Hamanaka. 1999. (32 pgs) Gr. K-3.
    Each girl imagines herself a wild animal and dreams about what she can be.
  10. My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. 2010. (32 pgs) Gr. PreK-3.
    Dyson loves pink, dresses & his tiara. He also likes to climb trees. He's a Princess Boy, and his family loves him exactly as he is.
  11. The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch. 1992. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    Princess Elizabeth rescues her prince, who has been nabbed by a dragon, only to discover she's better off without him.
  12. William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow. 1985. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    William doesn’t want the train or basketball his dad gives him. He deeply wants a doll. No one understands – some even call him a sissy – until his grandmother steps in.
~ Marsha

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Ethics Without Indoctrination

 Note: Zoe is on vacation, so please enjoy this repost from 12/22/10..

In an essay entitled “Ethics Without Indoctrination,” from a now 20-year-old issue of Educational Leadership, Richard W. Paul writes:
“If we bring ethics into the curriculum – and we should – we must take pains to ensure that we do so in a morally unobjectionable manner. This requires us to distinguish clearly between espousing the universal, general principles of morality shared by people of good will everywhere, and the very different manner of defending any particular application of these principles to actual life situations as conceived from a particular standpoint (liberal, conservative, radical, theistic, nontheistic, American, Russian, and the like.”

This is such an important point, whether written 1,000 years ago, 20 years ago, or 20 years hence, and it represents such a fine line to walk as an educator. Every one of us has a bias. Even if our bias lands us squarely in the mainstream and is perceived as moderate, it is still a bias. None of us is immune to the culture that shapes us, the opinions we hold dear, and the particular ideologies that embody our values in day to day life. It may appear that we have no bias if we find ourselves in the proverbial middle, but this is false. This is why Richard Paul’s quote above is so well-articulated, and so important for educators in general, and for humane educators who teach about the interconnected issues of human rights, animal protection, and environmental preservation in particular.

The universal principles of morality that Paul mentions would include such values as generosity, kindness, compassion, integrity, honesty, courage, perseverance, and wisdom and would exclude such things as cruelty, corruption, exploitation and abuse of others, deception, and so on. But what one person considers cruel may be different from what another considers cruel; and one person’s perception of exploitation may be another person’s perception of opportunity. How can the humane educator – whose goal it is to explore ethical issues, invite positive change, and encourage innovative ideas for a healthy world – balance her own vision of what that world looks like with what a particular student’s differing vision might be? How can the humane educator teach about ethical issues while painstakingly avoiding indoctrination?

Here are some ideas:
  • Choose one of these two approaches: Either be honest about your biases and explain their origin and your thinking OR choose to remain utterly impartial in discussions and encourage students to think critically, whether they are articulating your own position or one that you do not share. My personal approach is to be up front about my biases. The truth is that I am choosing texts that provide a point of view, and not choosing other texts. I may try to “balance” the reading, but there is a bias in my choices. Invite your students to critique you and your choices.
  • Be stalwart in your commitment to require those who share your views to be vigilant in supporting their perspective. And be open, receptive, and ready to learn from good critical thinking that leads to different positions. Further, be willing to being persuaded. Be as ready to change and grow from what you learn from your students as you hope they will be open to changing and growing because of you.
  • Agree on fundamentals. Invite students to generate a list of humanity’s best qualities and narrow these down until your class is in agreement that these are indeed fundamentals. Bring back all discussions about systems to whether and how they uphold these fundamental values. Be prepared for complexity and apparent contradictions. Remember physicist Niels Bohr’s statement that the opposite of a great truth is often a great truth.

All education has the potential to veer into indoctrination, not simply education about ethics. Be vigilant. Our world needs more critical and creative thinkers, not more believers.

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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Beauty and Gratitude: A Must-See TEDx Talk from Louie Schwartzberg

"Beauty and seduction [are] nature's tools for survival, because we protect what we fall in love with. It opens our hearts and makes us realize we are a part of nature." ~ Louie Schwartzberg

Thanks to my friend Jaymi at Treehugger I saw this lovely and inspiring short TEDx talk (less than 10 minutes), in which cinematographer and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg showcases some of his work with timelapse photography (especially of nature) and features clip from his film about gratitude. Soak it in and enjoy!




~ Marsha

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4 Reasons to Sign-Up Right Now for IHE's July MOGO (most good) Workshop

Wherever we offer our day-long MOGO (most good) Workshop, people tell us it's "life-changing" and "trans-formative." This summer (July 14) we're hosting a workshop in our own backyard: IHE's beautiful 28-acre campus in Surry, Maine.

Our MOGO Workshop helps you put your deepest values into practice, connect with others who want to create positive change, and identify a path of action for becoming the joyful, effective citizen you want to be in your own life and the world.

Need a little more incentive? Here are 4 reasons to sign up right now for our July workshop:

  1. Get help and inspiration for feeling more joyful, prepared, and mindful about making big and small choices that reflect your values.
  2. Get ideas for becoming involved in your local and global communities.
  3. Find it easier to talk with other people about issues that are important to you.
  4. Gain skills and motivation for educating others and working toward creating more humane systems.  
Here are 2 bonus reasons:

  1. Maine is fabulous in the summertime! Not only is IHE's campus gorgeous, but the breathtaking Acadia National Park is only a 45-minute drive, as are a variety of other fun and memorable attractions.
  2. You can be one of the first to enjoy our new guesthouse, right on IHE's campus! Immerse yourself in a beautiful setting and enjoy an inexpensive option to the local inns and motels.
Find out more about our July 14 MOGO Workshop or click here by July 1 to take advantage our earlybird rate.

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Humane Issues Round-Up: Dolphin Dilemmas

In the last month there has been so much in the news about dolphins, and the issues have been so varied and exemplifying of the interconnectedness of animals, people, and the environment, that we wanted to highlight some of these recent stories. Singly or collectively, these issues serve as great springboards for discussion (whether in the classroom or with colleagues).


  1. While the Peruvian government insists that the recent deaths of nearly 1,000 dolphins off the northern Peruvian coast are due to natural causes, experts insist that the deaths are linked to sound waves from seismic tests used to locate oil deposits.
  2. A new report highlights how U.S.-based company, Yahoo!, profits from the sale of whale and dolphin meat via its website Yahoo! Japan.
  3. Studies show that dolphins can learn undesirable behavior from each other (such as begging for food from humans). Dolphins who learn to beg are more likely to be injured or killed by boat strikes or fishing nets.
  4. Scientists have developed a new device that may one day allow humans to communicate with dolphins.
  5. Recently the World Trade Organization ruled that the U.S.'s "dolphin-safe" tuna label discriminates against Mexico.
  6. The U.S. Navy recently admitted that its use of explosives and sonar could potentially harm more dolphins (and other marine mammals) than previously thought.
  7. Two dolphins who have been held in captivity in Turkey have finally been released after more than a year of preparing them to live in the wild.
  8. In a first-of-its-kind ruling, a judge in South Korea has ordered the release of five captive dolphins who are imprisoned in small tanks at a theme park. 

~ Marsha

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    5 Reasons for Educators to Sign Up for IHE's Online Course: Teaching for a Positive Future

    We at IHE believe that at its core, education is about helping students become leaders and changemakers for a healthy, just, compassionate world. Our month-long summer intensive version of Teaching for a Positive Future is designed to help educators do just that.

    Countless educators, from classroom teachers to community activists, have told us how valuable the course has been in helping them connect with their vision of education and their desire to nurture a generation of solutionaries. Here are 5 reasons we think educators should sign up for Teaching for a Positive Future:

    1. It's Flexible, Relevant & Online. Since the course is online, you can take it from wherever you live, and the flexible curriculum means you can customize it to best fit your situation and needs. And what could be more relevant than exploring the most pressing global issues of our time?
    2. You'll connect. Teaching for a Positive future gives you four weeks to nurture deep connections with other teachers who share your passion for creating a better world through education, and with whom you can share ideas, gain new insights, and learn new strategies during the course and beyond. Our Online Commons (the discussion forum) is one of the most valuable aspects of the course.
    3. You Get 2 for 1. Our bonus exercises and resources mean that you basically get two courses for the price of one. The bonus packet includes 20 additional exercises and several additional resources to help you extend your learning and continue to integrate humane education into your work and life. The bonus packet is only available to participants of Teaching for a Positive Future.
    4. The Course Instructor Has Education in Her Blood. Course instructor, Marsha Rakestraw, comes from a long line of teachers and has been an educator at the PreK-graduate levels, having taught a variety of subjects in a variety of settings. Some of her worst and best experiences have occurred while as a student and a teacher, and she passionately believes in the power of education to change the world.
    5. You Can Earn CEUs. Further your professional development credits by earning 4.5 Continuing Education Credits (CEUS) through the University of Maine (which are often applicable to other states).

    Teaching for a Positive Future is also a great way to refresh and reinvigorate your teaching soul. Sign up now for our next session (July 9 - August 3.)

    Please help us spread the word about Teaching for a Positive Future. Share this post with friends, family, colleagues, and educators whom you think would benefit from our online course. Thank you!
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    On Our Must Read List: Compassion, Inc.

    We haven't read it yet, so we can't recommend it, but Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help by Mara Einstein (Univ. of CA Press, 2012) is definitely on our must-read list.

    Deep down, we're compassionate people. In our beyond-the-speed-of-light world we're also really busy. So when we're presented with an opportunity to help others that doesn't inconvenience us much -- and gives us something pretty cool in return -- we're likely to embrace it. After all, what's wrong with getting something for doing good? As we've been told by government, media, and corporations: shopping = philanthropy. Only, in truth, it doesn't.

    Einstein, who is an associate professor of media studies at Queens College and an independent marketing consultant, bares wide the mythologies and misperceptions we've been fed about cause marketing. Among the themes that Einstein explores:
    • corporations often invest money in charitable causes not because of an inherent interest in philanthropy, but because doing so offers great exposure for their branding and products;
    • corporate charity campaigns often have not-so-charitable elements. Here's one example noted in this recent interview of the book:
    "Proctor and Gamble’s ran a popular promotion some years back claiming that for every bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid purchased they would donate $1 toward saving wildlife. But, if you read the fine print, you discovered that after reaching their targeted goal, Dawn stopped donating the dollar even though they continued to keep the claim on their label and reap the benefits of their do-good image."

    • many of the corporations giving in the name of good are actually doing a lot of harm;
    • viewing global problems through the framework of "buying for good" misleads people about how complex these problems are;
    • tying the fates of many charities to corporate cooperation can cause governments to abdicate their responsibility to the common good and to help those in need;
    • shopping does NOT equal philanthropy. As one review notes:
    "Philanthropy through consumerism takes us further away from the suffering of others, making it more difficult to be in touch with our compassionate natures. When we benefit by buying a product, it robs us of the satisfaction of truly giving to another person. It also inures us to the suffering of others, argues Einstein, making us feel we are doing good when, in fact, we are shopping."

     Einstein's book doesn't spend all its time calling out culpable corporations and complicit nonprofits. She also highlights companies that authentically and sincerely merge their mission for profits with their mission to do good.

    Books like Compassion, Inc. can help us remember the importance of thinking deeply and critically about they ways in which we work to create a better world for all.

    ~ Marsha

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    No Child Left Unkind: Building Humane Education Competencies

    Note: Zoe is on vacation, so please enjoy this repost from 9/29/2008.

    Teachers are expected to educate their students so that they are competent in certain subjects, and No Child Left Behind and state laws require that students pass tests demonstrating their knowledge and competencies. While it’s important to know that we are succeeding in our goals as teachers, and that our students are actually learning and developing the skills we endeavor to impart, the danger with constantly measuring our students is that we may begin to teach simply to enable them to pass multiple choice tests and neglect what’s harder to measure, but ultimately more important to learn: to think creatively and critically, to connect relevant issues of our time to our personal responsibilities, actions and choices, and to make healthy, positive choices for ourselves and others.

    If we believe that the primary goal of education ought to be the ability to participate effectively and enthusiastically in the unfolding of a peaceful, sustainable and humane world, then there are certainly competencies we will want our students to have:
    • the ability to think critically and creatively about the challenges we face, as well as the messages that bombard us from all sources, so that we gain freedom;
    • the awareness and understanding of our individual responsibility to do more good and less harm, so that we gain commitment;
    • the tools to make positive choices and be problem-solvers, so that we gain empowerment.
    There is no standardized test to measure these competencies, and such a test would potentially undermine the very creativity, process-orientation, and flexibility that education should seek to cultivate. Yet we must ensure we’re succeeding in our goals as educators. How can we do this?

    We can observe our success in the projects our students take on and the outcomes of their efforts, witnessing their commitments in action. We can “test” their skill at recognizing fact from opinion and thinking critically with entertaining activities that allow them to analyze and deconstruct all sorts of messages, from advertising to media to government to textbooks. We can engage them in group projects and witness their sense of empowerment grow as they succeed in solving or contributing to the solutions to local and global problems. If we’re attentive and creative, we can know that our efforts to raise a generation of creative citizens and “solutionaries” are working.

    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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