What Are You Waiting For? It's Time to Begin Your Work in the World

by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Educational Programs

We have a student at the Institute for Humane Education from Kenya. During our student residency a few years ago, he told me that many of his friends spent their time waiting for work. They had great ideas but did nothing all day. His friends, like him, were college educated and had much to offer their country and their communities, but they were always waiting for some government funding to come through or a bank loan to be approved or money of some kind that would help them get started. Meanwhile, this student had launched many worthwhile initiatives in his area of Kenya, including a women's agricultural cooperative, a humane education club for school children and a successful outreach program for people infected with HIV/AIDS. I asked him where he got his start-up money and he laughed. "I never wait for money," he said. "I just start walking and the money meets me on the path."

I love that. How many of us are "waiting" for something in order to begin our real work in the world? I think it's a common theme in life, and sometimes we're not even aware that we're waiting.

So, what are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of clix.

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Refuse Revisited

My husband and I recently kayaked out to Long Island in Blue Hill Bay. This 4.7 mile long island is uninhabited by humans, and we had the beach to ourselves the night we spent there. After landing on the island, we decided to explore the interior. We found an old trail and several piles of moose poop reminded us that while there may have been no humans on the island, there were certainly large mammals! But moments later, we discovered the unfortunate evidence of humans – a beer can. I found myself feeling that not only was the landscape marred, our very trip was marred by this act of careless littering.

A few minutes later, my husband pointed out another beer can, and I felt my ire grow. Ten minutes later he noticed another. This time, I just asked him not to point them out. We didn’t have a trash bag with us, and I didn’t want to be ceaselessly reminded of humanity’s less thoughtful side.

But it became harder and harder to ignore them, especially the many that hung from tree branches. By then, we were both thinking of the Blair Witch Project and wondered what creeps had decided to turn these magnificent woods into a den of freaky, hanging beer cans.

Long into the hike, we took a side trail, although trail is a strong word for what was quite challenging to follow. The beer cans gave way to what at first seemed like graffiti on trees. The letters LA had been deeply etched into a big section of one tree, followed by several trees with vertical X’s. Were these marking a path? Seemingly so.

The next morning we decided to take a another hike, although we didn’t plan to return to the beer can trail, preferring to find some other areas to explore. And what we found was magnificent. Ancient oaks, once cut at the trunk had grown sprawling and enormous. Sweet huckleberries and blueberries still clung to their stems, providing breakfast. And within 5 minutes of each other, my husband and I both found deer antlers, mine shed within the year, his quite old and gnawed by rodents.

We realized that we were getting somewhat lost, and my husband’s iPhone with its GPS was just about out of batteries. We’d forgotten a compass, and the sky had clouded up, obscuring the sun, which would have enabled us to know what direction we were heading. So we did our best to navigate back a bit uneasily. And soon enough we found one of the trails. This time, however, the beer cans were strangely reassuring, marking the trail as they did.

I can’t say I came to like the beer cans, but I did appreciate them. Hanging from branches, they stood as beacons – albeit trash beacons – and I was glad not to be lost on this large island. When we return, I will be bringing a big trash bag to gather up the refuse, but it was strange how over the course of 24 hours my response to the beer cans could go from rage to relief.

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

Image courtesy of racineur via Creative Commons.

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Marc Bekoff: Six Reasons to Expand Your Compassion Footprint

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Professor, Marc Bekoff, has a terrific post over at Animals Change.org, focused on reasons to expand our compassion footprint to include animals, not just as species, but as individuals worth of concern and consideration. His list of reasons includes:
  1. All animals share the earth & we must coexist.
  2. Animals think and feel.
  3. Animals have and deserve compassion.
  4. Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect.
  5. Our world is not compassionate to animals.
  6. Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world.

Read the complete post here.

We at the Institute for Humane Education are passionate advocates of adding animals to our circle of concern and compassion. In fact we're one of the only organizations focused on social justice and education issues that include animals as a population deserving of non-violent treatment -- as individuals whose needs and interests deserve equal consideration.

Check out our activities focused on animal protection issues, as well as our more comprehensive activities for ideas for inspiring critical thinking about our relationship with animals and for nurturing compassion for all.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of aerodesign.pl via Creative Commons.
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Young Changemaker: Birke Baehr: We Need to Fix Our Food System

If pundits, politicians and people in charge can't figure out what's wrong with our food system in the U.S., do we have any hope? Yes, we do. Just turn to 11 year-old Birke Baehr, who, in 5 minutes, outlines a whole slew of our food policy challenges, including:
  • marketing that tries to "get parents to buy stuff that isn't good for us or the planet
  • genetically modified foods
  • factory farming
  • synthetic pesticides & fertilizers
  • food irradiation
  • expensive organic food
Birke's plan? Instead of joining the NFL, as he originally planned, he's decided to become an organic farmer, so that he can "have a greater impact on the world."

Unfortunately, Birke's vision doesn't extend to not eating animals, but he's definitely a model for what happens when passion and talents merge.

See Birke's TEDx talk (go here if you can't view it below):

~ Marsha
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Humane Issues in the News...

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

Serving others = more personal & professional success (via Greater Good) (9/28/10)

Rhino poaching jumps 2000% in 3 years (there's no typo in that number) (via Treehugger) (9/28/10)

Research shows spanking leads to negative consequences (via Child Psychology Research Blog) (9/27/10)

U.S. pledges $10 million to combat child slavery/labor in chocolate industry (via Change.org) (9/27/10)

"Are we earning for learning - or for living?" (commentary) (via Education Week) (9/27/10)

Study says "colorblindness" reduces kids' ability to see, challenge racism (via Tim Wise.org) (9/26/10)

Girl power through consumerism? (commentary) (via NY Times) (9/26/10)

"What will future generations condemn us for?" (commentary) (via Washington Post) (9/26/10)

Anti-poaching efforts help increase animal populations in Ugandan parks (via Treehugger) (9/26/10)

UN warned of "major new food crisis" (via The Guardian) (9/24/10)

Survey says Americans prefer "more equal distribution of wealth" (via Huffington Post) (9/23/10)

Philadelphia great model of urban farming (via Grist) (9/22/10)

"Afghan boys are prized, so girls live the part" (via NY Times) (9/20/10)

We need different ways of assessing students (commentary) (via NY Times) (9/19/10)

Investigation shows tracking tools used by many children's websites (via Wall Street Journal) (9/17/10)

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

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Bring Mindfulness to "Quality Time" with Your Kids

Christine Carter of Greater Good has a terrific post about mindful parenting. An interview she read on another blog leads her to question whether she's spending enough time with her kids. She says,

"This got me wondering: When I elect to work late, am I sending the message to my kids that they're less of a priority to me than my job? I won't spend time with you tonight, honey, because, frankly, my work is more important."

Carter concludes that, while quantity is important, what's more essential is being calm, unhurried and present during time with our children. She quotes Dan Siegel, author of Mindsight:
"When parents and children align their focus on each other, there is a neurobiological process…that is activated. This process, which mediates a sense of well-being, joy and elation, is at the heart of emotional attunement when one person feels “felt” and understood by the other person. This form of contingent communication is at the heart of developing secure attachments. It begins in infancy and continues throughout the life span."

Carter concludes,
"When we parent mindfully, we are simply taking in what is in the here and now, without judgment. We are aware of our own moods, and those of our children. We cease our relentless planning and our relentless doing....When our parenting is all instrumental—just accomplishing what needs to get done—we risk not just our own but our children’s happiness."

Read the complete post.

~ Marsha

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Bring the Power of Humane Education to Your Community: Host an IHE Workshop in 2011

The Institute for Humane Education is seeking organizations and schools to host a Sowing Seeds Humane Education Workshop or a MOGO (Most Good) Workshop in your community in 2011.

Our Sowing Seeds Workshop will teach participants effective ways to inspire their students to contribute to a compassionate, sustainable, peaceable world and will help them learn to bring the powerful, vital strategies of humane education to a variety of audiences.

Our MOGO (Most Good) Workshop is for people who want to do the most good and least harm for themselves, other people, animals, and the environment. Participants will learn powerful, enjoyable ways to create the world they want to see and the life they want to live.
Please email Amy by Friday, October 8 with your interest, or call her at (207) 667-1025.

Learn more about the details of hosting a workshop.

"Thank you for the fantastic Sowing Seeds workshop in Detroit this weekend! I learned so many incredible tools to incorporate humane education into the standard school curriculum, and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of passionate individuals searching to make the world a better place. Your programs change the world." ~ Megan Suzanne Moon

"The MOGO program is just what we need at this time in our history. It integrated today's pressing issues into what an individual can do to create a safe and compassionate world." ~ Clarence Widerburg
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The Change of Seasons

Over the past several days flickers have been gathering at our house. Dozens of them. I rarely see flickers, and then suddenly, they are everywhere, eating insects in the grass. The dragonflies are buzzing all over too, not just at the pond where they hatched and spent their first few weeks, but over the grass now, near the flickers. A Great Blue Heron has been hanging out at the pond, eating frogs, I presume – those same frogs who have grown big in the months since I wrote about the deafening evening choruses this past spring. The seasons bring not just changes in temperature, light and color, but behavioral changes among the animals with whom we share this place. If we pay attention, there is so much to notice. Not just the obvious migrations of birds we’ve come to expect in spring, but also the disappearance of the jellyfish once the ocean water warms in summer and the seals who move out to sea and no longer bask in the sun on the nearby rocks in fall.

Advice for the day: pay attention. There are mysteries to be unearthed all around us.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

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Banishing Bullying: 5 Anti-Bullying Resources

It seems that incidents in the media involving bullying at schools and online are ever-increasing, and parents, policy makers and others are pressuring schools to take more positive action to stop bullying of all kinds. A Harris poll from earlier this year notes that 25% of teens report that at least sometimes they feel bullied to a point that makes them "feel very sad, angry, scared or upset." Bullying isn't a problem that's going to be solved solely by schools, especially in a culture that condones and even applauds aggressive behavior. Find out more about bullying and what you as parents, educators and concerned citizens can do. Here are 5 anti-bulling resources that can help.

  1. Adults & Children Together Against Violence - Information and resources to help others "raise children without violence"; from the American Psychological Association.
  2. BullyingInfo.org - Articles, videos & tips for dealing with bullying. Also links to the U.S. government's Stop Bullying Now! Campaign.
  3. Eyes on Bullying - Offers a variety of activities, teleseminars & other resources focused on stopping bullying, as well as a toolkit for parents, educators & caregivers to help prevent bullying in children's lives.
  4. No Name-Calling Week - An annual campaign (usually in January) designed to help students & schools end name calling of all kinds and spark discussion about ways to eliminate bullying in schools and communities.
  5. Teaching Tolerance - Search their website to find lesson plans, articles, products & other resources to help teach about bullying and how to stop it. TT has also produced a 40-minute documentary that highlights one student's ordeal with anti-gay bullying. The documentary is free to schools (one per school) and includes lesson plans and other materials. Their most recent issue of their Teaching Tolerance magazine also features an article on cyberbullying.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Kristin Andrus via Creative Commons.

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William Deresiewicz: We Need a World of Thinkers and Visionaries

The American Scholar printed a speech at West Point by William Deresiewicz, titled “Solitude and Leadership" -- an interesting and seemingly oxymoronic pair of words. Speaking to some of the brightest, most hard-working future “leaders,” Deresiewicz made an impassioned plea for people who think for themselves, arguing that what we need most at this point in history are people with vision. I’ve been writing in this blog about critical thinking for some time. Deresiewicz said it all perfectly. Do read this speech.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

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Learning Tolerance as We Teach It

As educators, it can be challenging to have "soft eyes" (and a soft heart) when engaging with some of our students -- particularly those who challenge our own worldview.

IHE M.Ed. grad, Christopher Greenslate, who teaches humanities (and humane education) at a high school in California, blogs for Teaching Tolerance, and his recent post is well worth reading.

Christopher explains that he's a bit taken aback when a student asks him: “Will we be learning history from a biblical or counter-biblical perspective?”

When he later recounts his encounter with the student to some fellow teachers and one of them reacts negatively, Christopher finds himself defending the student's right to his worldview. He says,
"Although I was also surprised by his question, and disagree with looking at history in that way only, I was struck by my colleague’s immediate disregard of one of the most important values that teachers must embrace. We should ensure that our classrooms are places where all students can find pathways to make personal connections to the content. And we need to practice tolerance in the same ways we would expect of our students. Our work in building a just and peaceful world will be quickly uprooted if students are left to feel like their own narratives aren’t worth discussing.

"It’s at times like these that we must remember to be hard on the content and soft on the people—and that learning tolerance is just as important as teaching it."

Read the complete post.

~ Marsha

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Freeing Children to Become Ordinary Heroes, Not Just Superheroes

This post is by contributing blogger Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, a graduate of our M.Ed. program, and a humane educator specializing in helping parents raise joyful, compassionate children. Find out more about Kelly's work at her website Beautiful Friendships, and her blog, Ahimsa Mama.

One of the most powerful books I read as part of my Humane Education graduate program was Free the Children by Craig Kielburger. I have vivid recollections of sitting in a coffee shop in Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I was giving a humane parenting workshop that evening, teary-eyed as I read about the children that Kielburger met as he traveled around southeast Asia. Children who were denied an education, who performed dangerous work to support their families, who were forced to sell their bodies in brothels. The stories are heartbreaking, and Kielburger’s courage at traveling halfway around the globe to learn these stories is inspiring.

I was hopeful that reading his new book, written with his brother, Marc Kielburger, and journalist Shelley Page, called The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care and Contribute, would be a similarly moving experience. Chock-full of stories about influential changemakers and the parents and mentors who guided them through their youths, I definitely came away inspired by their examples.

Complete with tips for teaching media literacy, helping children to navigate schoolyard bullying, and encouraging them to find a gift and combine it with their passion to make a better world, this book is certainly a good starting place for parents. However, I was a little disappointed with how superficial much of the advice seemed to be. Sure, raising your children to have the courage to stand up to bullies is great, but the question remains: how? There are a million small interactions that occur between parent and child on an ongoing basis, and this book begs the question, how can we approach those interactions such that we are likely to raise creative, compassionate and conscientious children?

I was, and continue to be, humbled and energized by the example set by Craig Kielburger, but I wonder if setting his story up as one to which all children should aspire is fair or productive. I found myself thinking throughout the book that, while this young man, and apparently his brother as well, are remarkable, they are outside the norm. Clearly their parents did something right, and if parents are going to push their children to do something (not that the Kielburgers did) I’d rather see children encouraged to build a school or a well as opposed to being carted from music to sports to after-school tutoring in an effort to pad college applications and parental egos. However, I also think that for most children, just being kind and sensitive and aware and conscientious is enough. If we can raise children to have an understanding of the problems of the world, and to have the motivation and creativity to be a part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem, then we have done our jobs marvelously. Obviously, I would love to see my kids go off and change the world, but I would happily settle for their being happy, well-adjusted people who take their responsibility to their community and to other people, other animals and the environment seriously.

[Editor's note: Our Raising a Humane Child month-long online course is just a couple weeks away (starts October 4). We still have a few spots left, so sign up now to take advantage of a great opportunity to learn, grow and connect.]

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Environmental Responsibility -- An Epic Pain in the Ass?

I just read an excellent essay by J.B. MacKinnon, “In an Age of Eco-uncertainty,” reprinted in Utne Reader. MacKinnon begins: “Environmental responsibility, of late, is an increasingly epic-scale pain in the ass...." She goes on to say, “... every possible choice from diapers to cremation is overwhelmed by conflicting information about what’s better or worse for Spaceship Earth. That sound you hear? That’s every ounce of fun being sucked out of your life.”

I just laughed. MacKinnon is spot on and doesn’t hold back when describing “eco-douchebags,” those people whose holier-than-thou judgmentalness crushes every last speck of both blessed denial and even more blessed joy. But while naming the huge challenges we face in choosing accountability (as MacKinnon would say) or MOGO (most good), which I address in my book, Most Good, Least Harm, MacKinnon does not let us off the hook.

Doing nothing is not an option even as we struggle to decide what somethings are worthy of our time and energy and refuse to become self-righteous as we diligently research and strive for the accountability we wish everyone would embrace. Her rule of thumb for choosing which somethings to do? Those that feel like an adventure. That’s a nice alternative to epic-scale pain in the ass.

Zoe Weil

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Education Roundup: Immigrants, Freeskools, Summits & Superman

There's a lot going on in the education world right now, and we wanted to point out just a couple of recent tasty tidbits:

The New York Times and other news outlets have been following the reintroduction of the DREAM Act into the congressional mix, as Senator Harry Reid has plans to try to attach the bill as an amendment to a military spending bill. The Dream Act would "open a path to eventual legal residency for illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before they were 16 years old, have been here for at least five years and have graduated from high school. It would require them to finish two years of college or military service before gaining legal status."

Yes! Magazine features an article about starting a freeskool in your community, an alternative to traditional education, which taps the wisdom and expertise of community members to teach others (usually for free or very low cost).

NBC plans to broadcast Education Nation, a national "summit" on education on September 26. It seems like a great opportunity for exploration and discussion, but, as a Daily Kos blog post notes, many people are angry that parents and teachers are largely absent from the list of confirmed speakers. (Something the post doesn't mention is the lack of students -- those supposedly being served by this educational system. Their voices are just as important -- if not more so.)

The hubbub about Waiting for Superman, the soon-to-premiere documentary by the creator of An Inconvenient Truth, has been bubbling to the media fore in recent weeks. The film skewers U.S. public education, following the trials of a handful of students as they try to succeed in a broken system. But Rethinking Schools (among other organizations) is taking exception to the superficial analysis the film gives to a system riddled with complex challenges, as well as to what RS considers a "corporate reform agenda." Rethinking Schools has created an alternative campaign, NOT Waiting for Superman, to counter what it sees as "misleading information and 'simplistic' solutions that will make it harder for those of us working to improve public education to succeed."

~ Marsha

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Humane Issues in the News...

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

Closing the teacher culture gap (via Harvard Education Letter) (September/October 2010)

Controversy over "ethnic studies" issue in Arizona continues (via Education Week) (9/22/10)

"New car share service lets you rent your wheels for extra cash" (via Treehugger) (9/20/10)

Study says better educated women = more children's lives saved (via Education Week) (9/17/10)

"Keeping kids' consumerism in check" (via WSJ) (9/14/10)

Study shows "racial disparity in school suspensions" (via NY Times) (9/14/10)

New study shows kids great at web surfing, but "tripped up by ads" (via MediaPost) (9/14/10)

Taiwan police show third-side thinking with poor bike thief (via CNN) (9/11/10)

"What makes a school great" (via Time) (9/8/10)

Killing of chimps for "bushmeat" in Congo increases (via The Guardian) (9/7/10)

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

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Bringing Third-Side Thinking to Criminal Justice

Recently there was a news story about some Taiwanese police who arrested a man for stealing a bicycle. But, when they discovered how poor he was, and that the bike was to help his daughter -- who had to walk six miles daily from her school to the hospital to take care of him, the police not only chose not to press charges, but they pitched in and bought the man's daughter a bike.

I'm not advocating "rewarding" the actions of those who've committed crimes, but our justice system often fails to account for the circumstances and situation that have led to the person committing the crime. Our blanket solution tends to be jail and/or fine for a whole range of harms.

This bringing of third-side thinking to justice was something else that I really loved about the TV series The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Whenever Precious caught up with the criminal, she didn't necessarily just turn them over to the police. She often cornered them with evidence into taking action that benefited others, while keeping their dignity intact.

A shady lawyer of her acquaintance is caught committing fraud. She makes him sign an agreement never to do it again, and then has him donate all his "ill gotten goods" to the local orphanage, where he gets attention and accolades for his "good" works. A woman comes to Precious for help. Her husband has purchased a new-to-him car for a too-good-to-be-true price. The wife knows the people her husband bought the car from must have stolen it. Precious works with the wife to "steal" the car from the husband and return it to the police so that they can return it to the rightful owners.

Maybe these aren't ideal examples of restorative-type justice (after all, it's a fictional series and must have its drama and intrigue), but they are a meaningful alternative to the lock-em-up philosophy of justice, and a demonstration that when people cause harm, the reasons are deeper than just a "bad" person.

There are lots of great examples of restorative justice and alternative programs for prisons (such as the Missouri model) that use third-side thinking.

What good programs are happening in your own community and state that are changing the "corrections" system? What can you do to help transform those systems into better ones?

~ Marsha

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Rubie, Elsie, and the Stick

Most days, I walk my dogs, Ruby and Elsie, down to the ocean. Invariably, Elsie finds a stick to bring home, although stick is really a misnomer. Little Elsie is more likely to carry home a small tree than a stick, and Ruby and I anxiously check our backs because Elsie tears along the path with the stick, banging it into us at high speed if we’re not quick enough to scoot off the path and into the woods. Ruby has taken to jumping aside long before Elsie can ram that stick into her. This morning, I was not so quick. Elsie came up so suddenly that the stick whacked the back of my legs. I sternly said “No, Elsie,” and she looked chagrined. She begin running through the woods with it and avoiding me, but because it’s hard to carry a tree in your mouth through the woods, she changed the angle, carrying it to the side so that the length of the tree was parallel to her body rather than perpendicular to it. What a smart girl, I thought. Yet, why shouldn’t she be smart? Why should I be at all surprised that she’d modify her behavior at my command? She does it all the time.

Although Elsie doesn’t speak English, she has learned far more “human” than I have learned “dog” in our amazing cross-species relationship. She adjusts to me daily, reading my voice, my posture, my movements, my moods, my desires, and tweaking her own behavior to meet both my and her own needs. I have done little to adjust to her, expecting that she will be the one to change – to go to the bathroom only when I let her out and where I expect her to go, to eat only when I provide food and not to eat or chew on the various things in the house that are off-limits (like the CDs and the furniture), to lick only as much as I am comfortable with and no more, to get off the bed on command but know that she is generally welcome to sleep there as long as she doesn’t take “my” space, to “obey” sit, stay, come, lie down, high five, hug, leave it and a few other choice commands, not to mention learning to carry her sticks a new way through an obstacle course of woods rather than a wide open path. She continues to learn how to better suit me while I blithely carry on with no concerted effort to speak her language or follow her “rules.”

Yet I know that her life is an utter joy largely because of the home and life we’ve created for her and Ruby and Griffin (too old now to run to the ocean). I’m happy she’s willing to always adjust so that the back of my legs won’t be whacked by her stick obsession.

Zoe Weil
Author of So, You Love Animals: An Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Book to Help Kids Help Animals, Moonbeam Gold Medal winner for juvenile fiction, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs and Most Good, Least Harm

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Should Humane Kids Play With Toy Weapons?

In our discussion boards for students and graduates – our “Online Classroom” in which we can all debate and discuss, ponder and process the important (and not so important) issues – someone often brings up an issue in their own lives in which they’re struggling to do the most good and least harm. We wanted to share one such question, posted by a graduate who is a parent, along with the response given by IHE President, Zoe Weil.

Q: Before I had children, I was always very firm with the thought that I would never let my child play with toys that had anything to do with violence. Now that I am a parent, I see that it's not as easy as I thought. I am still resolute that I do not want my son playing with toys like that (He's only 2 now, but they grow up fast!). However, some people don’t think it's such a big deal to let him play with pirates wielding swords, action figures that might have weapons, etc. They’ve said that they played with toys like that and played "Army" and things of that sort when they were children and didn’t turn out to be violent.

I see boys in the neighborhood running around "play fighting" and things like that and I know that my son will be exposed to this type of play whether we allow such toys in our house or not. I'm looking for some insight and thoughts from other parents who have struggled with this issue with their own children, or from others who have seen children playing with such toys and how it affected them.

It seems hypocritical to try to raise a child to be a humane, peace-loving person while at the same time allowing play with violent-natured toys. Yet, on the other hand, I wonder if making such things taboo would only make children more interested in them. What is the fascination with these kinds of toys anyway?

~ Stephanie, IHE M.Ed. graduate

A: This is a tough one, Stephanie, and I can sympathize. I did not allow any toy guns in the house when my son Forest was little, but I did allow swords. But the truth is that even if I didn't allow swords, Forest would have made his own, as he did with fingers turning into guns. When he won a water gun at a fair many years later, I didn't take it away. When he turned 13, his friend called me up to ask if it was okay to give him a nerf gun for his birthday. I acquiesced. It wasn't the only nerf gun he got that day - another friend got one for him, too, and that's what they played at his birthday party. The summer he turned 14 I let him use his own money to buy 2 airsoft guns (they looked just like handguns and shoot plastic pellets). He can't play with them at our house or on our property, which just moves them out of my personal sphere so that I can tolerate their existence. He rarely uses them, and he never uses the nerf guns anymore.

Which leads me to believe that forbidding toy weapons makes them more coveted and appealing, and that, in truth, they don’t hold all that much interest after a certain point.

But the deeper question, why do they want them, is really important. We can't pretend that we, as a species, are just acculturated to be drawn toward violence - it's too much part of our history and our species to think that this is just something our societies perpetuate. We're both predators and prey after all, with a million years of evolution in our blood that make us both altruistic and compassionate, as well as protective and territorial. We know how to fight, and we know how to negotiate. We're complicated. Swords offer children a sense of power and nobility and the chance to play out their fears and be chivalrous, not just hostile.

Forbidding guns doesn't stop the impulse. I remember my husband being more concerned that if we had a daughter she'd want to play with Barbie dolls. Well, I loved my Barbies and I turned into a feminist just as my husband loved guns as a kid and turned into a gentle, compassionate man.

As a kid at camp, I LOVED riflery. Just loved it. Wanted to go to the camp I went to because they had riflery. I never wanted to shoot anyone, but I loved shooting targets. I don't know why really. A sense of accomplishment, gaining a skill, the idea of it, the discipline, the challenge.

These questions go to the core of who we are as humans. We can try to deny our impulses and our children's impulses, but where does that get us? The key in life is to choose kindness, compassion, honesty, generosity and integrity over cruelty, apathy, deception, greed and laziness; we have the capacity to manifest all of these and much more, but if your son is drawn to sword play, can you help him to use his sword to protect others? And if you choose not to allow any weapons of any sort, be prepared to reconsider as he gets older. In the spirit of openness, engage in dialogue about it; find out what's important to him.

~ Zoe

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49 Rolls: Honoring Aging

The eve of my 49th birthday, at the end of my Aikido class, I did 49 rolls. It’s a tradition in our and other dojos that on our birthdays we do as many rolls as years we’ve lived. It’s a bit counter-intuitive though. When my young friend Zak turned 16 this summer, he only had to do 16 rolls. Why on earth would we do more and more as we age?! Imagine a centenarian taking a 100th roll!

Yet I love this tradition, one that honors our great capacity for endurance with each passing year. That invites us to celebrate age with more, not less, of what we’re capable of. It’s a way of honoring age with the greatest degree of respect and admiration.

I look forward to 50 rolls in 2011 and to the belief that I can achieve ever more as I age, not less.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of babasteve via Creative Commons.

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The Perils of Colorblindness

Most of us have probably heard someone say "I don't see color" or claim to be colorblind. And certainly, the intentions behind those statements are probably good ones. In "The Perils of Colorblindness" an essay from the new book, Are We Born Racist?, from the Greater Good Science Center, teacher Dottie Blais reveals just how damaging being "colorblind" can be.

She recounts an experience with one of her African-American students, who approached her after class one day. This is the exchange they had:
“'You ought to quit trying to make us white,' he said matter-of-factly. 'All these stories you’re making us read are by white people, about white people.' His eyes pointed to the open textbook on my desk.

"'Julian, I didn’t select these stories on the basis of race,' I said emphatically, stunned by the implications of racism. It was the unpardonable sin in a school where 70 percent of the students were ethnic minorities.

“'Maybe you should have,' he said, almost in a whisper, and left the classroom to silence."
A lot of educators and others have reverted to the "I'm colorblind" mantra in an attempt to remove racial bias from their classrooms and communities. But, as Blais discovered, that's not how it works. She says:
"What I didn’t realize until the incident with Julian is that colorblindness has an ugliness of its own. The paradoxical truth, according to a 2004 study by Northwestern University psychologist Jennifer Richeson and her colleague Richard Nussbaum, is that the ideology of colorblindness may cause more rather than less racial bias, a result that echoes other research findings."

Read the complete essay.

~ Marsha

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Equipping Kids to Battle the Marketing Monstrosity

A new study says that today's kids are becoming uber web-savvy, but still have significant trouble distinguishing online ads. Last week an article in the Sacramento Bee expressed concerns about the role of corporations in helping shape curriculum for schools. And this week Susan Linn from the Center for a Commercial-free Childhood blogged about "corporate influences on what children learn in school," highlighting Sponsored Educational Materials (SEMS), which are materials created solely by corporations or corporate trade groups for use in schools.

In a culture that doesn't give kids a rest from being seduced and stimulated by advertising and other marketing strategies, it's important for children to possess super-savvy media skills, so that they can think critically and deeply about the messages and products being foisted on them at every turn, and can learn to make joyful, mindful, positive choices that affirm the lack of connection between happiness and stuff.

During last night's Raising a Humane Child Twitter Party, one parent mentioned that she and her kids play a game. When they watch commercials, they ask themselves questions about what the ad is trying to sell them. My husband and I (when we had a TV) used to play a similar game, only it was with the news - which stories are "news" and which ones are actually corporate video (or print) news releases?

If you want to help children protect and empower themselves from marketing and advertising, here are a few useful resources. You can use humane education activities like these:

Analyzing Advertising

Students learn to be ad-savvy by exploring the pervasiveness of ads in their lives and by analyzing what ads are trying to sell…and trying to hide.
Recommended for grades 5 and up.
Time: 45-60 minutes

Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.

Participants learn and use the C.R.I.T.I.C. technique to enable them to bring critical thinking skills to any information they receive, whether from industry, non-profits, government or media.
Recommended for grades 6 and up.
Time: 30-45 minutes

It Ads Up

This activity explores: How do ads influence us? What strategies do ad designers use to target different groups of people? How can we recognize those strategies and our own triggers?
Recommended for grades 8 and up
Time: 30-45 minutes

Not So Fair and Balanced: Analyzing Bias in the Media

This lesson plan helps high school students take a closer look at prejudices, the biases that media contain and perpetuate (such as in what they do and don't report on, or how particular genders or ethnicities are portrayed), and the ways we are influenced by those media biases. Recommended for grades 9 and up.
Time: One week of 45 minute class periods

Take Two

Unveil the manipulation inherent in marketing and corporate branding and awaken the creativity of your students by having them explore commercials aimed at them and then empowering them to create new commercials with a positive message.
Recommended for grades 8 and up.
Time: Two class periods, one week apart

(Check out our other culture and change humane ed activities.)

and consult books like these:

Marketing Madness
by Michael Jacobson and Laurie Ann Mazur
Westview Press, 1995.
Photos, examples, stories – a fantastic introduction to the effects of marketing on citizens.

Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood
by Susan Linn
The New Press, 2004.
A very important book on the effect of consumerism on children. (Check out a few teaching ideas for use with the book.)

Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child & the New Consumer Culture
by Juliet B. Schor
Scribner, 2005.
An eye-opening account of commercializing childhood & what concerned citizens can do.

If we teach children critical thinking and media literacy skills, then they will learn to reflect carefully and ask questions, rather than just blindly accepting what they hear and see.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Pesky Library via Creative Commons.

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A Plea for Critical Thinking

A couple of months ago, I was watching a film with my colleagues that was largely aligned with our general worldviews, and I tried to the best of my ability to bring the same critical eye to this film as I would to one that was not aligned with my worldview. It took effort, obsessive note-taking, and commitment.

Most of us tend to believe what supports our worldview and disbelieve what does not. To me, this may be one of the most dangerous impediments to positive change and growth, and watching people parrot opinion disguised as fact dashes my hopes again and again that we can truly create a peaceful, sustainable world.

I recently watched a film on YouTube produced by the New Left Media that showed clips of interviews with people attending Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally earlier this month in DC. The perspective of the producer is clear, and we all know how editing can cast interviewees in a negative light, promoting the agenda of the director. A film produced by a “New Right Media” of a left-leaning rally would probably be as equally unflattering to the interviewees as this film was.

Even knowing that the producers had an agenda, there is no way to fully distort the words of the interviewees. Glenn Beck has said on Fox News that Obama is a racist, but at least one person at the rally refused to believe this. Yet this same person readily believed myriad other things that Glenn Beck and others say to him, reinforcing his worldview. And sadly, don’t most of us do this regardless of our politics and beliefs?

This post is not meant to condemn any ideology or group; rather, it’s meant as a plea to all of us to commit ourselves to the hard work of thinking critically, of believing nothing until we have ascertained its truth, of hearing many perspectives and refusing to accept the “truth” of TV soundbites, especially when they come from opinion pundits rather than reporters and when they simply reinforce our own worldview.

There are many problems in the world, many atrocities happening as I write these words, a planet in the process of warming, species becoming extinct at alarming rates, yet there is nothing that makes me despair as much as a populace that willfully refuses to think critically.

The greatest hope for our future lies with a generation that has been taught critical and creative thinking as the most essential tools for problem-solving. That generation will not come about, however, if we ourselves refuse to embrace these skills and if we continue to deny it the greatest path for a healthy and peaceful future.

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

Image courtesy of critical thinking asylum via Creative Commons.

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IHE is Searching for Our New Executive Director - Is It You?

Help build a more sustainable and peaceful world. The Institute for Humane Education (IHE), headquartered in Surry, ME, seeks a full-time executive director to lead our unique non-profit that brings people the knowledge, tools and motivation to create a humane world. Comprehensive humane education connects the issues of human rights, animal protection, and environmental preservation and provides learners with the skills to create positive change in the world.

We offer graduate level training in humane education, humane education courses and workshops for teens through adults, in addition to working to advance this field in the educational system and within social movements.

Applicants will ideally have the following qualifications:

Fundraising: Proven track record of increasing fundraising through mix of major donor cultivation, grant writing, general appeals, and events.

Leadership and personnel management: Ability to inspire, develop, and oversee staff. Past supervisory responsibilities for staff of three or more people. Experience with remotely located and part-time staff a plus.

Marketing, program management, and publicity:
Demonstrated results increasing program participation and revenues and gaining media exposure.

Finance: Understanding of nonprofit financial reporting, developing and managing a budget, overseeing financial transactions, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Strong writing skills: Ability to create clear, accurate, compelling communications to donors, foundations, program participants, newsletter recipients and web and blog visitors.

Board management: Experience with appropriate reporting, engaging board members in oversight activities, managing board-led fundraising efforts, helping run board meetings, and recruiting effective board members.

Planning, analysis and monitoring: Skill in strategic planning processes with board and staff, including recommending priorities and goals, assessing results vs. plan and determining course corrections.

Interest in and commitment to humane education issues: Basic understanding of human rights, animal protection, and environmental preservation issues and the connections between them. Strong interest in continuing to learn more. Commitment to modeling humane and sustainable values.

Education experience: Experience and/or knowledge of K-12, higher ed, alternative education and/or education reform, including understanding of challenges to bringing humane education into schools and curricula.

Computer skills: Knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Word and, to a lesser degree, PowerPoint. Expertise in Filemaker, graphic design software and html helpful but not required.

Salary: $44-50K

Please fully acquaint yourself with our organization through our website: www.HumaneEducation.org and send resume, cover letter, and referrals to: Zoe Weil, zoe@HumaneEducation.org

Download a copy of the above job announcement. (pdf)

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Be a Changemaker: Join the Global Work Party on 10/10/10

Joan Baez said "Action is the antidote to despair." If you're feeling down and disempowered about the global climate crisis, then mark your calendar for 10/10/10 and go to 350.org to find a Global Work Party near you. More than 1,000 groups in over 100 countries have already organized an event, from repairing bicycles to encourage alternative transportation, to planting trees, to installing solar and other energy efficient products.

~ Marsha

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Humane Issues in the News...

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

Corn industry wants new name, better image for high fructose corn syrup (via Huffington Post) (9/14/10)

When it comes to education "it's time to listen to the children" (via Huffington Post) (9/14/10)

Sponsored Educational Materials in the classroom (via CCFC) (9/14/10)

Time poll on state of education in U.S. (via TIme) (9/9/10)

"Animal advocates surpass NRA in political influence" (commentary by Peter Singer) (via Forbes) (9/9/10)

EU bans use of great apes in animal testing (via AFP) (9/8/10)

Humane educator searches for "animal hero kids" (via TCPalm) (9/8/10)

"Forget what you know about good study habits" (via NY Times) (9/6/10)

"Our conflicted relationship with animals" (via Salon.com) (9/5/10)

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

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Humane Education in Action: Revealing the Intersections of Justice

"An idea that people struggle with at times is that social justice means social justice for everybody. We do not get to pick and choose who gets it." ~ Paul Gorski

A lot of schools celebrate "diversity" or host culture fairs, but how many students, teachers and communities move beyond that into deep, authentic conversations of race, justice, gender, equity, oppression and other issues surrounding social justice? Paul Gorski is founder of EdChange, an organization that develops resources, workshops and projects dedicated to progressive change grounded in social justice and equity in schools and communities. He and his partner, Jennifer Hickman, have created a platform for helping educators and activists integrate the lens of comprehensive social justice (human rights, animal liberation, environmental protection) into their teaching.

Paul and Jennifer were kind enough to share with us about their work.

IHE: Paul, what led you to your passion to create a just and equitable world through education?

PG: Many, many factors pushed and pulled me in the direction of social justice education work. From the time I was a kid I was struggling to understand the relationship between some of the bigotry in my own family and my experience running in diverse circles. I started looking for opportunities to understand these complexities a little more deeply and was very lucky to find a group of folks during my late teens and early twenties whose lives were dedicated to human rights and social justice work. If it wasn’t for those folks — Charlene Green, Allen Saunders, Bob Covert — I’m not sure where I’d be right now, because there were plenty of forces tugging me in other directions. They were activists, but their activism came through education, both in terms of doing community education and in terms of transforming the education system to be more equitable and just. The most important thing they helped me do was take all of this energy I had to dig into things and push boundaries and focus it into thoughtful action. Without the three of them, there would be no Paul Gorski, social justice educator. There would be no EdChange.

IHE: Jen, much of your life’s work has been dedicated to animal protection. How did you become involved in the intersection between social justice education and the welfare of animals?

JH: My awareness of this intersection has evolved and grown over the years, and in many ways is still in its infancy, but I’ve always been sensitive to the vast and unnecessary oppression so many disadvantaged humans face, particularly where some communities of people are disproportionately affected by some of the worst environmental abuses. The more I studied the environmental and animal protection movements, the more I saw the overlap and similarities between human oppression and exploitation and non-human oppression and exploitation, and what strikes me in particular is how the oppressors and exploiters are often the same. In terms of translating this awareness and activism into education, that’s where my partner, Paul, comes into the picture. He is the educator, and I’m just beginning to explore where and how I might turn my passion and experiences into transforming human awareness and behavior through education.

IHE: Tell us a little about EdChange, SoJust.Net and the Multicultural Pavilion. How did this all get started and why?

PG: In my work in the worlds of multicultural and social justice education, two things always stood out: (1) a lot of organizations focus their work with schools and other organizations on “celebrating diversity” and “heroes and holidays,” but very few dig deeper than that, helping organizations address deep-seated and institutionalized inequities and injustices; and (2) there always have been great social justice education resources, but they tend to be very, very expensive. I started EdChange ten or so years ago as an organization dedicated to pushing the discourse beyond “celebrating diversity” and providing free resources for educators and activists. In essence, though, EdChange became a sort of umbrella organization housing, in a conceptual way, a variety of projects I was working on with some very, very cool colleagues and comrades.

It all started, actually, with the Multicultural Pavilion—a site I started building in 1995. SoJust and JUSTICE: the People’s News are two of the free online resources designed under the auspices of EdChange. The former is a collection of historic materials—songs, treaties, poetry—related to human rights and social justice. The latter is a free email aggregator designed to distribute a weekly collection of news articles about social justice, environmental justice, and animal liberation concerns from publications around the world.

IHE: The Multicultural Pavilion includes a new section dedicated to humane education, exploring the interconnectedness of human rights, animal protection and environmental protection. Many organizations concerned with social justice issues don’t include all elements of that triad in their circle of concern. What led you to do so?

PG/JH: The beautiful thing about EdChange’s flexibility is that it allows us to work with people who have philosophical frameworks that are similar to mine, but who apply those frameworks to other kinds of activism. So Jen and Paul meet. Jen and Paul share a similar activist outlook informed by progressive ideas and critical theories, but Jen applies her framework to animal welfare and Paul applies his to human rights and social justice. Paul hears Jen talking about her work against factory farming, against animal exploitation for human entertainment, and so on, and Jen hears Paul talking about his work to challenge consumer hegemony, systemic racism, and heterosexism. The big a-ha moment comes when Jen and Paul realize that the biggest abusers of animals are, as well, the biggest abusers of humans and the environment. Take any corporation that systemically abuses animals—KFC, for instance—and it’s quite easy to see how the triangle fits together: animal abuse, environmental abuse, human abuse. So we added a modest page to the Multicultural Pavilion, realizing there are several better resources on these sorts of issues. But we felt that addressing animal welfare on a long-established, award-winning web site dedicated to multicultural education might encourage cross-discourse. And by the looks of this interview, it has!

IHE: Jen, you initiated the Humane Education Station on the site. How have teachers and other users reacted to adding animals and the environment to the circle of social justice concern?

JH: This is new and in formation, so feedback is coming in, and we’re looking for more insight into how we can make this better and of greater use to social justice educators. We’re looking to add additional teacher resources that can be applied to the classroom and feel strongly that to be fully socially aware in any context, you must open your mind and your activism to include all humans and non-humans alike.

IHE: Paul, in a recent essay, you said: “I, a social justice educator, have come to see animal rights, social justice, and environmental justice as movements that, separately, cannot be whole. And I can not be whole in a spiritual sense, nor in my roles as an activist and educator, if I don’t understand deeply, and work at the intersections of, all three.” What would you say to social justice educators and activists who don’t see that connection among those three movements?

PG: To be clear, I think it’s important to have people and organizations working intently in all three areas, even if they focus a bulk of their energies in one of the three. But if I don’t, at the very least, understand the connectedness, I’m missing part of the picture. This is a bigger problem in social justice circles, as it is in animal welfare circles: a sort of lack of willingness to see complexities and intersections. So we have sexism and heterosexism in anti-racist movements; racism and heterosexism in feminist movements, and so on. But when we step back to see the bigger picture, all of this abuse feeds a bigger corporate-capitalist machine. I can’t imagine how we’ll stop this machine if we don’t find ways to do it together rather than competing with each other over whose issues are more important, over funding sources, over who’s more progressive. So in that essay I very purposefully used a language of ownership. I see the intersections. I’m lucky enough to have a life partner who helped open my eyes to some of the intersections. Now that I know, I compromise my humanity and my activism if I pretend I don’t know.

It’s critical, as well, that I acknowledge that, as somebody who fits the “privilege” profile around most identity dimensions—as somebody who identifies as white, male, heterosexual; as somebody whose first language is English; as somebody who is lucky enough to have a job—I have a sort of luxury to work across issues, to summon the energy to do so, because I do not expend energy dealing with being targeted with racism, sexism, and so on. It’s one thing to fight for social justice, but it’s something altogether different to fight for justice while one is experiencing injustice. So I do not imagine myself as being in a position to judge what other folks who claim “social justice” are doing. But for me, knowing what I know, I understand that I cannot be a social justice activist if I am not, as well, an animal liberation and environmental activist.

IHE: For teachers who are new to thinking about social justice as an integral part of education, what messages and elements of social justice are you finding receive the most welcome (when you’re speaking at conferences and writing articles), and which meet more significant resistance? How have you been working to overcome resistance to social justice in education?

PG: Working with teachers is wonderful! I would say the idea of improving conditions for kids—of doing whatever we can do in order to accomplish this—is most welcome. As for resistance… An idea that people struggle with at times is that social justice means social justice for everybody. We do not get to pick and choose who gets it. So it’s not OK to say “I will fight for my students of color, but I will not fight for my LGBTQ students.” My biggest challenge, though, tends to be engaging people in real conversation about class, poverty, and economic justice. The hegemony around those issues is so deeply embedded—the myth of meritocracy, the conflation of democracy and capitalism, and so on.

IHE: What advice would you give to other educators who might like to integrate social justice/humane education issues into their teaching, but don’t know how or are concerned about the obstacles to doing so?

PG/JH: Social justice and humane education are not topics or subjects. Instead, they are frameworks. So it’s not always about adding a bunch of new material. Instead, it’s about engaging with material through a different set of lenses; asking a different set of questions.

Take advantage of organizations that offer free resources (in addition to IHE and EdChange: Teaching Tolerance, Rethinking Schools, and United for a Fair Economy are good places to start). And find networks of other teachers who are interested in these movements, both to share resources and to share support. It’s also important to point out those areas where it can be counter-productive to work in silos, and instead bridge those gaps with awareness and without fear. For example, imagine the liberation individuals and communities could see if we accepted, as a premise, that you can’t fully fight domestic violence, and help those who are victimized, without seeing the non-human victims as fully integrated in the cycle of abuse.

IHE: Any future plans, dreams or projects?

PG/JH: We intend to build and run an animal and human refuge and retreat center in Costa Rica, for starters....

Paul Gorski is the founder of EdChange and the Multicultural Pavilion, as well as an assistant professor of Integrative Studies in George Mason University's New Century College, where he teaches classes on class and poverty, educational equity, and environmental justice. Paul is a frequent consultant, trainer, author and lecturer on social justice issues and serves of the board of directors of the International Association for Intercultural Education.

Jennifer Hickman has a strong and passionate work history dedicated to conservation, environmental justice and animal welfare. She has worked for the Galapagos Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, and Esquinas Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica and has volunteered for several other organizations. In addition to her work with EdChange, Jennifer is the Events Manager in the Philanthropy Department of the Humane Society of the United States.

Jennifer and Paul live in Washington, DC, with their cats, Felix, Poo-Poo, Meepy, Unity, and Buster.

~ Marsha

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Join the Free PeaceWeek Virtual Event

Get engaged in creating the shift to a world at peace. Register for the free PeaceWeek Global Telesummit for Building a Culture of Peace, September 14-21, 2010.

More than 50 inspiring peacebuilders are featured for this special, virtual event, sponsored by The Shift Network and The Peace Alliance. Here's a blurb from the website:
"PeaceWeek will unite pioneers from around the world together for the largest virtual peace summit ever created, culminating with the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21st. It will be a celebration and exploration of everything that is working to foster peace, from the family level to whole nations.

"Our featured pioneers are building the practices, structures, and systems that can help evolve human society. Individually, they are deeply inspiring. Taken as a whole, they offer a remarkable picture for how to help evolve our world, covering topics such as:

* Personal Peace Practices
* Healing Collective Wounds & Trauma
* The Economics of Peace
* Addressing Global Hotspots
* Social Justice
* Politics of Peace
* Science of Peace
* Media & Peace

Find out more.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt via Creative Commons.

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Seeing the World From Another Side: Aikido and MOGO

Last night I was teaching our Aikido class because our sensei was away, and one of the students was talking about what he perceived as some others’ faulty views. Then he reworded what he’d said, reframing his point by saying that these others may simply have different views from his own.

The first technique we practiced had us moving in such a way that when someone tried to punch us we wound up facing the same direction. Safe from harm, we stood right next to our “opponent,” gazing toward the same wall. We could see the world from his perspective. I pointed out that this technique actually served as a metaphor for this student’s comment. Can we see the world from another’s perspective – one that is different, perhaps sometimes faulty?

If instead of responding to an attack with a block and counter-attack, we deflect, move out of the way, and face the same direction by blending, we have a multitude of opportunities for response. We can figuratively and literally see the world from another’s eyes. We are safe but close, neither fleeing from the conflict nor resorting to violence. Our eyes are open to a new angle. This requires flexibility, responsiveness, and the melding of a variety of techniques to be able to adjust depending upon the situation.

Whether faulty or different, we all have views we hold dear and we all find ourselves critical of other views. But if we can react by blending and facing the same direction as others, instead of immediately casting blame, we have the opportunity to find peaceful resolutions to conflicts and develop greater understanding.

It won’t always be the case that conflicts end with acceptance and understanding, but the Aikidoist still attempts to stop the conflict without causing harm. This “most good, least harm” (MOGO) approach in a martial art serves as a reminder that we must continually seek to understand others’ views in order to find the most peaceful resolution to conflicts.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of Darij & Anna via Creative Commons.

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Make Every Day a Day of Peace

Peace. Something that most everyone says we want, yet it remains elusive –- in large part because we don’t actively work for it. September 21 is the International Day of Peace, a campaign to bring awareness to the importance of peace, to encourage positive acts of peace, and to offer a day of ceasefire and non-violence worldwide.

It's terrific that the annual Day of Peace is inspiring more acts of compassion and non-violence worldwide. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, "We must make every effort for the promotion of peace and inner values." But, as journalist and peace teacher Colman McCarthy says, "Why are we violent, but not illiterate? Because we are taught to read."

If we truly want a peaceful world, then each of us must live each day as a Day of Peace, and encourage others (and teach our children) to do the same. Every choice we make, every action we take has a consequence and an impact. If we want a peaceful world, then we have the power to choose one:
  • by communicating compassionately;
  • by paying attention to how our choices affect others (people, animals, the earth) and making choices that do the most good and least harm for all;
  • by refusing to support violence and destruction, whether it manifests in our daily lives or as part of a system;
  • by supporting and nurturing positive systems;
  • by helping make it easier for other people to make peaceful choices;
  • by connecting with others who also strive for a truly peaceful world for all;
  • by supporting those with the power to create significant positive change.

As you're going through your day today, pay attention to the choices that you make. Are you choosing words and actions of peace? How might you manifest peace in your life more? How might you support the transformation of destructive systems into peaceful ones? What obstacles are preventing you from living the life of peace you seek, and how can you overcome or avoid or reframe those obstacles?

Want to explore the International Day of Peace with your family or in your classroom? Here are a few resources to help you:

International Day of Peace
Peace One Day
Roots and Shoots Day of Peace

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Elaine Vigneault via Creative Commons.

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