By Chris Parrucci
Humane Education isn’t a subject in school or a fun topic for an after-school program; humane education is a movement. It is a movement that advocates for children, who are more than test scores, more than soon-to-be participants in the workforce. At it’s core, humane education aims to create a society of compassionate, empathetic citizens who are willing to take on and overcome the toughest challenges in society, protecting animals, people, and the planet.
As in any movement, the day-to-day struggles can be disheartening and, at times, even overwhelming. It can be easy to get caught up in the daily minutia and forget about the big picture. Recently, I had a conversation with someone unfamiliar with humane education, and he asked, “What is HEART trying to do? What are you trying to accomplish?” At first, I scoffed at the question, assured that I had a quick and easy response in my back pocket. As the seconds faded between his question and my response, I realized that it had been a while since I thought about the ‘big picture’ and needed some time to gather my thoughts.
The following day, I sat down and thought about this question and promised myself I would write out a response. In my mind, this led me to ask another question, a more important question. “What does the world look like once HEART succeeds? When our mission is complete, how has the world changed?” As big as this question seemed, the answer quickly escaped my fingers and found its way onto my keyboard. For me, this is what the world looks like after the humane education movement triumphs…
Every elementary, middle, high school, college, and university will recognize the importance of and actively foster empathy, compassion, responsibility, and critical thinking in their students. These traits and skills will be seamlessly incorporated into all curriculum from math and science to art and health. These skills and traits will be fostered in conjunction with lessons on social justice issues faced by local communities and the world at large. Personal empowerment and global responsibility will be key components to every student’s education, mandating all educational institutions equip their students with the necessary life skills to help create a better world for people, animals, and the planet.
Educators will have the training, knowledge, motivation, and tools to guide students towards global citizenship and prepare them to grapple with world challenges. Educational institutions will place just as much value on creating responsible world citizens as they currently do on test scores and graduation rates. Students will not only be viewed as learners, but also as leaders and changemakers, and educators will value and promote compassion, respect, and empathy in their lessons as well as in their practices.
From the moment a student enters a classroom, they will learn both explicitly and implicitly that compassion, empathy, and respect are traits to be celebrated, that an inquisitive and critical mind is something to be cherished and nurtured. Throughout their academic careers, students will develop these traits, as well as others like reverence, patience, and generosity. These values will be fostered by their teachers, classmates, and all those who share their communities..
Each student will be challenged and prepared to understand the root causes of societal injustices facing oppressed people, exploited, abused animals, and a polluted environment. Students will not only understand the underlying causes of societal ills, but will also be equipped with the necessary skills to address these issues and affect both personal and communal change.
When a student enters college, they will continue to see humane themes incorporated throughout their classes. All subjects, be it political science, creative writing, or organic chemistry, will be taught within the context of helping students become individuals who have a passion and compassion for all living beings around them.
Federal, state and local governments will have passed legislation in support of the inclusion of comprehensive humane education-themed topics in K-12 public school curriculum. These legislative achievements will be enforced by passionate and invested education departments and other administrative agencies who appreciate the vital importance of teaching these topics, skills, and personal traits.
The general public will be aware of the term “humane education” and will support its inclusion in their communities and educational establishments. Parents, politicians, and society at large will look at humane education as a vital component to a child’s complete education.
Humane education is a movement, and when it succeeds, the world will be a dramatically different and better place for it. Have you joined the movement?
Photos Credit: Jeshu John/designerspics.com