New on IHE Student Voices

Need a little inspiration? Wondering what other humane educators are up to? How they're manifesting humane education in the world?

Each month in our HumaneEdge E-News we feature one or more IHE students or graduates, either profiling how they came to the humane education path and their IHE experience, or sharing their experiences putting humane education into action. We've created an archive of these IHE Student Voices all together on one web page.


~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Woman fights for right to run for mayor - (1/27/08)
Eufrosina Cruz wants to be the first woman mayor in her village. The problem is, the village’s customs don’t consider women citizens.

Columnist calls bottled water a scam - The Nova Scotian (1/27/08)
Plastic bottled water is ubiquitous. Should it be?

Americans may be called on to eat less meat -New York Times (1/27/08)
Explores world meat consumption, the impacts of eating animals and potential changes that may occur.

Pro-athletes trying vegan diet - Wall Street Journal (1/25/08)
Features NFL player Tony Gonzalez’s experiment with going vegan.

Couple seeks to change the world by empowering childrenThe Nova Scotian (1/24/08)
A couple will be working in Kenya for two years for Free the Children. They hope to teach children about the power to make a positive difference.

Missouri school encourages love of nature, awareness of eco-footprint - Kansas (1/22/08)
The St. James Catholic School in Liberty, Missouri, has taken several steps to “go green,” involving students in learning about the natural world, recycling, building a rain garden and more.

New training program in animal welfare launched in the UAE - The Khaleej Times (1/22/08)
A new training program is designed to educate and inspire others to “conserve biodiversity, protect wildlife and enforce…laws.”

Ideas to help parents, teachers connect kids with nature -The Peterborough Examiner (1/22/08)
Teacher & columnist Drew Monkman shares some of his ideas for helping kids connect with nature.

Climate Change chief calls for lifestyle changes, including eating less meat - (1/16/08)
Rajendra Pchauri, head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, asked people to make changes in their lives in order to help curb negative impacts of global warming: “don’t eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper.”
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WebSpotlight: Big Think Can Spark Big Ideas in Your Students

Does race still matter? Is climate change a human rights issue? What inspires you? What do you believe? Who are you? Do the rich have a responsibility to the poor? Why are you vegan? How is technology changing politics?

A lot of people -- especially younger people -- are used to having one-way conversations with experts: the experts talk and we listen. Big Think is trying to change that. Still in its Beta version, Big Think is striving to provide a means for people to ask and respond to big questions and big ideas. As they say on their website: "Our task is to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you."

Big Think provides "hundreds of hours of direct, unfiltered interviews with today's leading thinkers, movers and shakers" -- everyone from Mohammad Yunus to Naomi Klein, to members of Congress, to CEOs, to scientists, academics and journalists. But they also provide a means for anyone (who registers) to respond to comments, share their own ideas, and ask their own questions.

Questions are organized by topics (Meta topics, like "Faith and Beliefs," Identity," or "Truth and Justice," and Physical topics, like "Arts & Culture," "History," or "Science and Technology").

People can create and share their ideas through a variety of media (video, audio, slideshows, text), and comment and "vote" on others' ideas.

Imagine bringing experts from all over the world into your classroom (virtually) to have a "conversation" with your students. Imagine your students sharing their own big ideas for the world to see.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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I recently spoke to a class of 4/5th graders who had read my children's book, Claude and Medea. The book is about 12-year-old kids who are inspired by an eccentric substitute teacher (really a humane educator) to become clandestine activists in New York City.

After the children solve the mystery of a rash of Manhattan dog thefts, they establish Peace Power, a group dedicated to righting wrongs, whether to people, animals, or the earth.

When I spoke to this particular 4/5th grade, the students were confused by the name Peace Power. I asked them if they liked it. They didn’t much. They were flummoxed by the word “power.”

I’ve been pondering this. In our culture we tend to associate power with “power over” others. Those in power have control over the fate of other people, animals, the environment, the economy, the media, etc. Those who are disenfranchised, poor, disabled, etc., lack power. But power needn’t be perceived solely in this manner.

I very consciously named the youth group in Claude and Medea Peace Power because I wanted to juxtapose “peace” with “power” and remind readers that acting peacefully is a powerful act, and that groups that work for, and ultimately achieve peace demonstrate the best aspects of power. To harness this kind of power, we must summon such virtues as wisdom, compassion, integrity, honesty, and perseverance. In so doing we cultivate our power to create positive change in ourselves and in the world.

~ Zoe Weil, IHE President
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Practicing the Third Side

One of the books our students are required to read as part of the first course, Introduction to Humane Education -- which focuses on education and communication -- is The Third Side by William Ury. Ury's book describes strategies (prevent, resolve, contain) and roles (provider, teacher, bridge-builder, etc.) for managing and solving conflict. He outlines a way of looking for resolutions outside the us vs. them, either/or paradigm that many of us have been taught.

One of our M.Ed. students, Nadia, recently wrote about two ways she has used the "third side" strategies in her own life, and we wanted to share her experiences with you:

"Provider: A few weeks ago, my mail carrier started delivering mail later and later every day. I could see that she was in a hurry. She would zoom into the cul-de-sac with her small truck, quickly open the mailboxes, quickly stuff them with mail and zoom out fast, sometimes leaving a few box lids hanging open. I did not mind receiving my mail late as long as I received it. But then, she started skipping on ringing the doorbell to deliver my registered mail. From where I work, I could see her come and go, and when I went out to fetch my mail I would find the “come and pick up your package from the post office” notice in my mailbox. I knew that mail carriers were required to attempt to deliver registered mail once before leaving a note for the recipient. Then one day, I received no mail, which had not happened before. Since I was expecting a particular piece of mail to be delivered that day, I was frustrated. The mail I was looking for did not show up in the following week either. I had to contact the sender and the post office to inquire about it. I was starting to feel angry towards my carrier. I thought about what I could do to resolve this problem and also prevent a potential confrontation with her. I ruled out talking to her directly. I thought that she was stressed and would possibly act defensively. I also ruled out talking to her boss as a first action, because I was afraid that she might get angry and not deliver some of my mail. Then, I wondered if she has a frustrated need that I can help with. She probably needed to feel recognized and appreciated, particularly now, when she is working harder. I decided to leave an early Christmas card in my mailbox for her with a “thank you” note and a gift card. It worked. A few days later, she saw me in the yard and stopped by to thank me. Now she knows me by name and delivers my mail to the door.

"Mediator: I am friendly with two of my neighbors, and they are also friendly with each other. At least that was the case until a conflict arose between them due to a porch light that one of them left on all night. This porch light bothered my other neighbor because it shined very brightly and directly towards her bedroom window, which forced her to keep her bedroom blinds closed all the time. I thought this might be an opportunity to practice my mediation skills and invited them both for tea. When they arrived, I told them that I wanted to practice mediation with them as a school assignment. First I asked the neighbor who left the light on to tell us why she does it. She said that she lives alone and she feels safer when she can see her front and back yards clearly at night. Then the other neighbor talked and explained that she likes to sleep with her bedroom window open, or at least a little bit cracked -- even in the middle of the winter. She said that she has slept that way for 80 years and that she feels suffocated if she cannot open her window. The bright light shining in was preventing her from opening the window. We discussed using a lower strength porch light. My neighbor agreed to use a 60-watt rather than a 100-watt bulb, but that was not going to be enough. Then I suggested installing a bulb socket that rotates/swivels so that the light could be made to shine in another direction than the bedroom. Both neighbors thought that this was a good idea, but the cost of having it installed was a problem. In the end, they decided to share the cost of the installation. We drank our teas with the satisfaction of resolution and rejuvenated friendship."
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Students Can Be a Voice for Animals in Essay Contest

Know high school students who care about animal protection and who want to reduce animal suffering? Tell them about the "A Voice for Animals High School Essay Contest," sponsored by the Humane Education Network and Palo Alto Humane Society.

All high school students are invited to submit an essay of up to (but no more than) 1,500 words. The essay should be one that:

  • examines either the mistreatment of one animal species or one cause of animal suffering, occurring anywhere in the world, and possible measures to reduce it;
  • cites all sources;
  • is the original work of the author and not previously published;
  • is typed and double-spaced.
First prize is $1,000.

The deadline for entries is March 10, 2008.

The contest website gives more details and provides the essays of previous winners (scroll to the bottom).
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Disappearing dirt becoming environmental threat - Seattle PI (1/22/08)
"Globally, it's pretty clear we're running out of dirt."
Some experts are warning that the loss of topsoil is becoming a serious threat. Some farmers are turning to alternative methods to try to stem the loss.

The tradition of female circumcision - New York Times (1/20/08)
The author offers a glimpse into a female genital cutting ceremony in Indonesia, and comments on the slowly growing trend against the practice.

College student teaches middle school girls about empowerment, media literacyUC Santa Cruz (1/17/08)
UC Santa Cruz communications major Johanna Wise-Levine teamed up with Healthy Girls Santa Cruz to teach middle school girls about empowerment, wellness and media literacy.

Facebook increasingly used for social (1/16/08)
Outlines the trend on Facebook of using it as a tool for positive social change. Includes an interview with Facebook’s founders.

Artist uses his work as commentary on violence, “human stupidity” - (1/16/08)
Artist Jamie Owen has a new exhibit, “Raising Cain,” that features weapons as political commentary about violence and the poor choices humans sometimes make.

House gets flack over trying to go "green" - New York Times (1/16/08)
A new plan mandated by House speaker Nancy Pelosi to create an “environmentally responsible and healthy working environment” throughout the House has some people – including members of the egg and dairy industry – complaining.

FDA approves cloned animal consumption
- (1/15/08)
Amidst much controversy, the FDA has determined that "extensive evaluation of the available data has not identified any subtle hazards that might indicate food-consumption risks in healthy clones of cattle, swine, or goats."

Audio Interview with the founder of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SECA)Social Edge (1/15/08)
Listen to this segment of a podcast about Sissy Trin, who established SECA to help young Southeast Asians deal with poverty, gangs, education and other issues in order to help them succeed.

Science teacher uses YouTube to spread the word about global warming - Yahoo! Green (1/10/08)
A Yahoo! Green blogger highlights Oregon science teacher Greg Craven’s YouTube videos about global warming, which have received millions of views.
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More Than a Label? Explore the Meanings and Motivations Behind Them

Until January 28, 2008, the USDA is accepting comments on its proposed definition of "naturally raised." The basis of their definition is that it would attest "that a cut of meat came from an animal free of antibiotics and growth hormones."

According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, a Consumer Reports survey last summer revealed that
"89 percent of consumers surveyed by Consumer Reports said 'natural' meat should come from animals whose diet was natural and free from drugs and chemicals. In the same survey, 83 percent said those animals should also be raised in a 'natural environment' -- not hemmed in small pens, for instance."
But under the USDA's definition of "naturally raised," animals would still be allowed to be intensively confined, to be mutilated, and other treatment that many consider cruel and inhumane.

Many people wanting to make more compassionate, sustainable choices often find themselves confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, and possibly inadvertently supporting practices they oppose, because many labels are either not regulated or don't mean what many think they do.

How many of your students (or you, your friends, co-workers, family, etc.) know the real meaning behind labels such as:

  • Cage-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • Dolphin safe
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Fair trade
  • Free range
  • GMO-free
  • Natural
  • Organic
  • Recyclable
  • Recycled
  • Sweatshop-free
  • Vegan

It might be an interesting lesson on seeking out accurate information and thinking critically to ask your students (or others) to define what these labels mean, and then have them research the definitions of the labels and the true meanings behind them. Tools like the Consumer Reports Greener Choices Eco-labels Center provide "report cards" on different labels, including what kind of official standards exist, what the claim means, whether or not its meaningful and consistent, etc.

Students could dig even deeper into these issues, exploring, for example, the reasoning behind having certain labels, who supports and opposes those labels and their reasons for doing so, and so on. The recent reversal of a ban on milk labeling in Pennsylvania could be one example to explore. In 2005 the egg industry was forced to remove "Animal Care Certified" labels from its cartons by the Federal Trade Commission. There have been controversies over the labeling (or not) of genetically modified food, labeling meat and products from cloned animals, changing the definition of organic, and more.

Students could even develop their own criteria, definitions and standards for food and other products.

Exploring these issues helps us hone our critical thinking skills, search for accurate information, and connect more deeply with the products and services we use and their impact on people, animals and the planet.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Is Target's Ad Off-Target?

Target has an ad in Times Square that has some bloggers reaching for their keyboards and parents grabbing for the phone and the company's What-the-heck-were-you-thinking!? 800 number. A young, beautiful woman in tight white gear lies spread-eagled with a certain part of her anatomy right in the center of the bullseye. Is this a harmless ad, reminiscent of fun, winter and snow angels? Or, is this sexual objectification?

An Adrants blogger says, "you can't tell us not a single soul at Target or its agency looked at this and didn't see a certain interpretation that could be construed as objectifying to women."

The blogger at Shaping Youth contacted Target and asked them to comment on the ad. She was told:

"Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest. Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day."

The blogger at Parents for Ethical Marketing blogged about the controversy and was interviewed for a story about it. After seeing the story, many people posted comments on her blog. She summarized the comments of those who didn't agree with her:

"I need to get a life. I have too much time on my hands. My mind is sick/in the gutter and I need psychological help. I’m a prude. I need a man. I am insecure and must control others....I’m a typical overreactive female. I wore too much makeup and obviously had my hair done. I should consider wearing makeup and doing my hair. My children are probably also degenerates and should be shipped off to social services. Bullseye, the Target mascot, should piss on me. I am a disgrace to all freedom. And I should move to North Korea."

Many of the people who have disagreed haven't debated the issue as much as made personal attacks or criticisms against the people objecting to the ad. The issue has also sparked a story in the Minnesota Monitor.

Situations like these provide excellent opportunities to engage (in this case, older) students in discussions about issues like the influence of marketing and media, free speech, the objectification of women, sexualization, and why people who disagree with someone else think it's okay to say really mean things. Questions for exploration might include:
  • Is this a harmless ad or an example of sexual objectification of women?
  • What is sexual objectification of women?
  • Some people have commented that Americans are too sexually repressed and that this is an example of sexual liberation. Others say that women allow themselves to be objectified without even knowing it, because it has become such a part of our enculturation. Which is it?
  • Does "freedom of speech" protect marketers, allowing them to "say" or portray anything that want, or should marketers be held accountable whenever they step over the line?
  • Where is the line? Who decides?
  • Why do some people who disagree with some else's opinion think it's acceptable to respond with violent or unkind language and/or to personally attack someone, instead of addressing the issue?
However people feel about the ad, it's important that we're all aware of and are thinking critically about the messages that surround us every day.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Use the "Davos Question" to Inspire Students to Think About Positive Change

"What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?"

Members of the World Economic Forum meet in Davos, Switzerland, January 23-27. This year, not only will they be engaged in discussions regarding "improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas," but they will be responding to selected videos submitted by people all over the world, who have responded to The Davos Question.

As this year's theme of the WEF is "The power of collaborative innovation," The Davos Conversation is using video as a vehicle to engage world citizens with world leaders to explore positive solutions to world problems.

It's pretty much too late to submit a video (the deadline is January 21), but watching and discussing these videos with students can be a great tool for engaging them in the Davos Question. You could have them share and discuss their own responses to the question, view the video responses of others, and then, view and discuss WEF member responses to the submitted videos (which will happen during/after the meeting).

Some of the WEF leaders have already posted videos with their views.

Perhaps students will even generate some ideas on which they can take action.

What would be my response to the Davos Question?

Use the power of humane education to inspire others to make most good/least harm choices for people, animals and the planet on individual, systemic and global levels!

~ Marsha, Web Content & Community Manager

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Humane Education Issues In the News...

Mexican wrestler uses his popularity to teach others about environmental preservationPlenty Magazine (1/08)
Mexican lucha libre wresler El Hijo del Santo (Son of the Saint) has become a popular spokesperson for environmental conservation.

Minister starts movement for complaint-free worldCBC News (1/13/08)
A Kansas City, Missouri minister has started a movement to use purple bracelets to inspire a complaint-free world. (video news story)

Students learn about social justice problems personally
- (1/13/08)
A professor at Oxford College of Emory University has given his students and up close and personal look at social justice issues in the community by “immersing themselves in Atlanta’s biggest problems.”

Activist uses his artist skills to bring awareness to human rights issues - Madison Courier (1/12/08)
Tom Block is an artist who uses his skills to inspire awareness of and positive action on human rights issues.

Teachers create website on climate change - (1/10/08)
A group of teachers in Wales has created a website to serve as a resource for other teachers about climate change.

Sustainability needed for success of students
- Community (1/10/08)
A recent UK study reported that “poor environmental quality will inhibit the delivery of the ‘Every Child Matters’ outcome.” The UK government is striving for all UK schools to be “sustainable” by 2020.

Activists, students use games & movies to teach others about human rights - Yemen Times (1/08)
The Young Leaders Development Foundation in Yemen recently sponsored a celebration of International Human Rights Day by offering games, movies, puzzles & more to teach and inspire others about human rights.
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Humanity By the Numbers: The Miniature Earth video

Many of us trying to grasp the details of the lives of the more than 6 billion other humans around the world can feel our brains melting at the attempt. It's challenging enough for some to empathize with our immediate neighbors and community members, but with 6+ BILLION of them?

That's why tools like The Miniature Earth are so useful. This little video helps viewers connect with others by distilling and quantifying humanity into numbers and ideas that are easier on our brains -- and more likely to inspire us to think critically and compassionately about others.

The video uses Donella Meadows' "State of the Village Report," in which she reduced Earth's human population to 1000 people, and, keeping the same proportions, calculated statistics such as ethnicities, religions, income distributions, and so on. The information for The Miniature Earth video has been adapted and updated.

Viewers can imagine themselves as one of the hundred. Would they be...
  • One of the 9 disabled?
  • The one with HIV/AIDS?
  • One of the 67 non-Christians?
  • One of the 43 without basic sanitation?
  • One of the 6 that own 59% of the entire wealth of the community?
  • One of the 7 educated at a secondary level?
  • One of the 97 without Internet access?
  • One of the 71 living on $2 a day or less?
The images are moving, and the statistics included provide excellent opportunities for discussion and further exploration, especially for humane educators wanting students to delve into human rights and social justice issues.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Behind the Veil: Media Messages About Muslims

Is this girl in the picture a friendly neighbor, or a terrorist waiting to bomb everyone I love and subvert government and religion? According to Rudy Giuliani's new campaign commercial which began airing in Florida recently (thanks Muslimah Media Watch), people with brown skin -- especially those from the Middle East -- are "an enemy without borders," "a people perverted" and part of "the next crisis a moment away."

Compare those images and messages with a music video posted on Sociological Images about "Humanizing American Muslims" in which American Muslims share some of the things they want to say to the rest of the world, to show the commonalities in all of us.

Both of these videos have been making the blog rounds lately, as bigotry, hatred, fear and propaganda regarding Muslims and Islam continue to flourish. Videos like these provide a great opportunity to discuss important issues with students regarding the messages prevalent in Western media about people of the Middle East and Muslims, as well as stereotypes and propaganda.

Some of the comments made & questions asked by bloggers about Giuliani's video include:

"What really busts my brain about this is the images of women he uses. He uses a group of women, clad in white (this color usually associated with purity, goodness, etc.) who are singing. What is threatening about singing?!" (from Muslimah Media Watch)

"...the first clip is of a group of dark-haired men pumping their fists in the air. We don’t know where they are, what religion they are, what nationality they are, or why they’ve gathered and are pumping their fists in the first place. These men could easily be at a political rally in India or even Venezuela. Lumping them in with images of Osama bin Laden plays on Islamophobic and racist assumptions that all brown (hypothetically Muslim) men do when they gather together is make trouble." (from Racialicious)

"There is a shot of a group of children in fatigues, with one child cheering while the voiceover reminds us that “the next crisis is a moment away.” So, despite the fact that this child might actually be cheering for a soccer match, the commercial leads us to believe that he’s really cheering for the destruction of America and freedom." (from Racialicious)

Another similar video that provides material for discussion is "Stop the Clash of Civilizations" from It explores the commonalities of cultures (primarily American and Islamic) and promotes the power of people to enact positive change. What's especially interesting (and sad) are some of the incredibly hostile and hate-filled comments from the video's viewers.

There are a variety of examples available in the news and media to explore messages we receive about Muslims. If we want a more just, compassionate world, it's important to make use of them to spark critical thinking and empathy with students.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Blogroll: "Sociological Images" as a Tool for Humane Education

When exploring issues related to human rights, the environment, animal protection, and culture, images can be a powerful tool -- the whole "a picture paints a thousand words" concept.

Today I happened upon a blog that posts images "to use in sociology (and related) classes." Recent posts on Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing focus on topics such as "feminizing toughness," sexism in politics, pro-gun PSAs, and even posters "opposed to the criminalization of prostitution." As this latter example indicates, not all images are appropriate for all ages!

Sometimes, the blog's authors include a bit of commentary or suggestion for analysis, such as a recent post about "consumption as activism."

Contents include ads, posters, video clips, examples of products, graphs, links to websites, and more, and posts are organized by topic, so that browsers can see all the posts related to issues of interest -- everything from objectification to race and ethnicity to health to consumption to violence.

I was amazed at some of the images here! A great tool to spark discussion.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues In the News...

Rwanda using radio to help (1/8/08)
Musekeweya is a popular radio soap opera that promotes unity and healing in a country divided by a history of hate and genocide.

More people signing the “compact” to buy less - Star (1/8/08)
The Compact, a movement begun in San Francisco, which asks people to pledge to buy nothing new for a year (with specific exceptions), has grown from a small group to thousands of online members all over the country. (Note: You may need free registration to access this article.)

Social networking sites using the power of the ‘net to change the worldAustin American-Statesman (1/7/08)
Highlights a few of the social networking websites that are using cyberspace to help others.

UK enacts junk food ads ban for the under 16 set - Blackpool Gazette (1/7/08)
A lot of parents, health experts & others support the ban. Others question its impact.

Aussie computer program helps students around the world connect on environmental issues
The Sydney Morning Herald (1/7/08)
Creators of the “Study Wizz” recently launched the new program, which creates a virtual international classroom to allow students around the world to learn about environmental issues and to exchange information and other resources.

Conference aims to help students become social justice changemakersLondon (1/6/08)
Take Action for Kids is a conference bringing together about 500 middle and high school students with social justice organization leaders to help students develop their own social justice plans to implement in their communities.

NGO, educators working to include human rights education in Saudi Arabia -Arab News (1/5/08)
The National Society for Human Rights held a workshop with representatives of schools and colleges in Saudi Arabia to “discuss steps to include human rights in the curriculum.”

Colorado couple has idea for “slavery theme park” in HaitiDenver Westword News (1/3/08)
A couple wants to help people commemorate the horrors of slavery and Haiti’s slave revolt by creating “Memory Village,” a sort of “slavery theme park,” which would allow participants to “be” slaves for a day. (Thanks to Racialicious for posting about this.)

Study reports that kids are adversely affected by marketing and ads – (12/10/07)
A recent UK study on the impact of marketing, advertising and consumerism on young people discovered that marketers are “damaging” children in a variety of ways, including increased bullying, obesity and depression. (This one’s from December, but I just found out about it from

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Your Life is Your Message

Recently, I learned about John Edwards' new house. House isn't quite the right word to describe the 28,000+ square foot estate he has built. The "house" portion is over 10,000 square feet and is attached to an 18,000 square foot recreational building with a swimming pool, basketball court, bedrooms, study, bathrooms, and more.

If John were a libertarian, I don't think I'd be dwelling on his house, but he claims to be a populist supporting the working and middle classes. He says he supports environmental initiatives. I'm just stymied that someone who supports the "little guy," who says we have to address climate change and environmental degradation, could choose to build a 28,000 square foot home. It doesn't matter that his new home gets a gold star for energy efficiency; it's still an enormous resource and fossil fuel guzzler that, if emulated by the masses he hopes to lift up, is entirely unsustainable. It doesn't matter if he buys carbon offsets. I'm glad he does, but the extravagance of his estate lies in stark contrast to his daily populist speeches.

As William Elery Channing said, "May your life preach more loudly than your lips." In the case of political leaders, I like to hope that their personal lives are aligned with what they preach, profess, and promote. I don't mean to pick on John Edwards. I feel the same way about all political leaders.

May each of us strive to model our message.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Humane Toolbox: New Activity on Marketing, Branding & Globalization

We're surrounded by marketing and advertising that tells us what to buy, who to be, what we need to be happy. Finding our way to thinking critically about ads and marketing, challenging the way we've been branded, and considering the larger impacts of our choices is essential in today's world. We have a new humane education activity -- We Have You Surrounded -- with a series of activities to help students (grades 9-12) explore issues of branding, marketing and globalization.

Done as a whole, the lesson plan could take several weeks. Some of the individual activities could be used on their own.

Sample activities within We Have You Surrounded include students:
  • “Testing” their ability to identify corporate logos and images versus those of “social justice” groups.
  • Cataloging all the products/brands they encounter during a portion of their day.
  • Discussing the impact of being surrounded by certain types of messages while other types are sparingly present.
  • Researching a chosen product to assess its life cycle and impact on people, animals and the planet, from beginning to end.
  • Exploring the business practices of corporations and developing a guideline defining good corporate citizenship.
  • Exploring the impact of economic globalization on others.
  • Role playing a scenario that involves a multinational corporation’s activities in another country and brainstorming solutions that benefit all and harm none.
Check out our other Humane Education Activities.

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Lions & Tigers in Zoos, Oh My!

Zoos are frequently in the news whenever a new zoo baby is born, or when the zoo is hosting a special event. Increasingly, though, zoos are in the news because yet another animal has died, or because of concern over the care and well-being of the animals. Recently, controversy has arisen again, with the Christmas Day deaths of a young man and an endangered tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. Some animal protection groups and animal supporters are calling for tighter regulations, some for zoos to stop keeping larger animals, and some for zoos to stop existing all together.

Controversies like these provide an excellent opportunity for humane educators to explore issues surrounding zoos, animal captivity, oppression, habitat destruction, the preservation of species, and what kind of relationship we have -- and should have -- with animals.

Here are a few ideas:

Lead a discussion about zoos and animal captivity with students. Questions might include:
  • Should zoos continue to exist?
  • Are zoos a necessary evil? Are they a complete good?
  • Does it depend on the zoo? On the animal? (Should only certain animals be held captive in zoos?)
  • Should the money spent on zoos be spent on preserving habitats instead?
  • Even if our intentions are well-meaning, do humans have the right to hold other species in captivity?
  • Are zoos an excuse for allowing more habitat destruction?
  • Can a zoo give an “authentic” experience, since the wild animals aren’t in their native habitat?
  • If zoos continue, what would the ideal zoo look like? Is there enough funding and support for zoos to be transformed into this “ideal”?
  • What’s the best way for people to learn about wild animals?
  • What would the animals want?

Survey students about their preferences, and encourage them to do the same with friends, family, fellow students and others. We recently posted a survey for IHE's students and grads on our Online Classroom about whether or not zoos should continue to exist. We used the following options:
  • No zoos, no way, no how. No exceptions.
  • We need zoos to help animals; the benefits to the species outweigh the harm to the individual animals.
  • Zoos should be evaluated and left open (or closed down) on a case-by-case basis.
  • Zoos should exist, but certain animals do not belong in them.
  • We should keep zoos and work toward making virtual zoos, using video & other technology.
  • What do you mean? Zoos are awesome! We need them!
(So far, the "no zoos" option has been the most popular by a significant margin.)

Students could freewrite about what it would be like to be confined to a small, artificial environment for their entire lives, eating and doing the same things repeatedly (with little variation), and have most of what they do each day observed by others. Students could share what they wrote and then have a discussion.

Students could choose an animal, research its natural behavior and habitat, and develop a list of “optimal” natural conditions and needs for the animals. Then students could visit their area zoo and compare the experience of the animal in captivity with that in the wild. How “optimal” is the zoo animal’s life?

Students could research zoos to find out answers to questions such as:
  • What is needed and how much does it cost to run a zoo?
  • What types of regulations exist and who oversees the fulfillment of those regulations?
  • How much does it cost to house and take care of a particular animal?
  • How do zoos "acquire" their animals?
  • What happens to “surplus” animals?
  • How long do animals live in zoos versus in the wild?
  • What is the daily life of the animals in zoos like?
  • Why do most people go to zoos? How do they behave/what do they do there?

Students could also design the zoo of the future. Maybe it’s a zoo with multimedia presentations and interactive activities, and the only live animals are disabled animals that cannot be returned to the wild; maybe the zoo contains no animals at all!

(Note: A few of these ideas are adapted from the book Earthkind by David Selby.)

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Happy New Year! Make a Positive Difference

One of the students in our Master of Education program sent a group email on New Year’s Eve. In it she implored her “beautiful friends” to “start with switching off the light, talking more to your neighbors, loving deeper your partner, creating less suffering to animals in farms and circus chains, making organic dinners for your friends, volunteering for an hour a week for local kids....” She went on to say, “there is so much joy one can create in the world.” Her message was so heartfelt, so impassioned, so direct, yet I doubt any among her recipients felt defensive. This is what we need to tell our friends, our children, our students, our neighbors, and ourselves.

If you want to lose weight this year, do so. If you want to start exercising, great. If you want to stop smoking, wonderful. But please, in 2008 make a positive difference in the world, too.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Jared Diamond op-ed on consumptionNew York Times (1/2/08)
Jared Diamond, professor of Geography and author of books such as Collapse and Guns, Germs & Steel, offers an op-ed about world consumption rates and the need to eliminate wasteful practices.
(Note: You may need to register to be able to read this one.)

Cable TV has the power to inspire positive change
The Economic Times (1/2/08)
A recent study determined that cable TV has had an influence in changing attitudes toward women in India.

One person can change the world” – Press & Sun-Bulletin (12/31/07)
A columnist highlights several people in her neighborhood who have made a positive difference in the lives of others in the last year. Good examples of one person being the “change you want to see in the world.”

More students getting “back to nature”Boston Globe (12/31/07)
The Dennis C. Haley Elementary School is highlighted as just one of many schools around the country that are beginning to reconnect their students with the natural world – not just for the benefit of the environment, but for the benefit of the health and well-being of the students.

Human activity driving megafauna to extinction
BBC News (12/27/07)
Researchers have discovered that human activities are having an enormous negative impact on the world’s large land mammals.
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Get Inspired for 2008 By Remembering 2007

Happy New Year!

A great way to get inspired in 2008 to work toward a more compassionate, sustainable, just world is to look back on successes in 2007. There were many, but I thought the "Top 10 Youth Activism Victories in 2007" from Wiretap were inspiring.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed and despairing about the problems of the world. Recently a friend of mine said, "It would just be so easy to give up and forget about it. Sometimes it's appealing to think about just turning my back and focusing on my own life."

That's why reading about the actions of others -- including the actions of our youth -- can be so inspiring and transformative. From the Step It Up and Power Shift campaigns for the environment, to Bay Area youth shutting down a hazardous waste facility, to youth working for education and justice and health care, to protesting war, our young people have been very busy.

Just imagine what's possible for the new year and beyond!

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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