I first became familiar with the idea of formalized humane education when I studied Caroline Earle White during my undergraduate studies in history. White and others sought to increase the power and presence of kindness in society by reaching out to children and teaching them compassion and empathy at an early age. Perhaps the most famous example of such education in the United States was Our Dumb Animals which was published by George T. Angell’s Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (https://bekindexhibit.org/exhibition/publications/our-dumb-animals/), however, White, too, worked hard to create publications to educate children and adults on animal rights issues.*
So, needless to say, I was quite excited to be informed of an opportunity to see such work being promoted today!
Yesterday, I had the honor of attending a fantastic workshop put on by Zoe Weil of The Institute for Humane Education (humaneeducation.org). The workshop featured her book The World Becomes What We Teach and introduced humane educators and advocates of humane education to the concept of creating “Solutionaries.” The workshop raises important questions about the history and purpose of education, and asks participants how to visualize how to change the nature of education in order to create hope for a more positive and kind (and existent!) world. The workshop consisted of information and exercises that put us through our own paces as “Solutionaries” and showed how empowering children and young people with the tools needed to affect REAL change is the best “game changer” of all.
You can get a glimpse of the concept of “Solutionaries” and co-founder Zoe Weil’s vision through her TEDTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY
I also highly recommend her book for you or for anyone who is looking to encourage young people to make change:
I was delighted at the size of our group – I would say about 30 people – and the wide variety of attendees. Classroom teachers, zoo volunteers, employees of humane societies, veterinarians – these were just a few of the great people I got to speak with. We participated in fun and active exercises as well as splitting into teams of “Solutionaries” to address issues we selected. I almost didn’t write mine down, which was the expansion of the Animal Welfare Act to include rats, mice, birds, and farm animals, but I did. Even better, there were others who also expressed enough interest to make it a group! I kept the diagrams and materials we produced for the work – I plan on referring to it/incorporating it into future work I may do on the subject.
The most important thing I took away from my full day (it was from 9am to 5 pm) was HOPE. I know it’s always been hard to keep up hope, but it has been becoming increasingly more difficult for many of us since the changes that began in 2016. Zoe Weil and The Insititute for Humane Education are releasing their brand new website in two days – a website that will offer a 90-page guidebook for creating “Solutionaries” that will be available free of charge to anyone interested in putting this fantastic plan into action.
A HUGE thank you to The Detroit Zoo ( https://detroitzoo.org/ ) and The Institute for Humane Education for their generous time, resources, and passion for making this world a better place!
*For a great timeline of humane education, check out this post from BeKindExhibit.org: https://bekindexhibit.org/timeline/