Last week I offered a mini humane education course for a class of 6th and 7th graders. I taught the students for 90 minutes each morning, weaving together the themes of critical thinking and compassionate choice-making in an effort to help free these students from the influences of advertising, peer imperatives, and desires that eclipse their deepest values, as well as to invite their conscious commitment to examining their lives and creating a better world.
Although I spent many years teaching young people (reaching about 10,000 students annually), I no longer visit classrooms much because I spend my days writing and training adults to be humane educators at IHE. Teaching this 6/7th grade last week was not only a treat, it was a reminder of the incredible power of humane education to raise awareness and ignite dedication to a thoughtful life.
The students’ last homework assignment was to each complete a personal MOGO plan that outlined their intentions for how to incorporate what they’d learned into daily choices, future effort at learning, and involvement in actions that lead to substantive changes in the world . On our last day, they shared their commitments. One after another they talked about what they planned to do – simple things like wearing a sweater in the house in winter and keeping the heat down, not throwing their relatively clean clothes in the laundry, eating less meat. They also talked about more involved actions, too, like joining groups dedicated to solving entrenched problems. Every single child shared something he or she was going to do to make the world better, and every child listened attentively to the others. It was beautiful.
Perhaps the most exciting moment came when I asked the students a question about my book, Claude and Medea, which they had read in school. I had urged them, from the first class to the last, to question both me and any information or statistics they would hear or read. I also urged them to express their opinions openly, because all would be respected, whether they were part of the majority or a single voice that disagreed. Many students comfortably let me know that they didn’t think that Claude and Medea’s dangerous and illegal rescue of stolen and abused dogs was the right thing to do. You might think I was disappointed that so many thought that my protagonists had behaved wrongly, rather than just heroically, but I was absolutely delighted. They had absorbed one of my most important points: think for yourself.
When I left after the last class, I was a bit teary. Several students had rushed up to hand me the kinds of thank you cards that make teachers realize that their work matters. But more than that, I was filled with a rare sense of deep optimism. Imagine if all students were offered humane education, given the tools to think for themselves, the inspiration to make a difference, and the knowledge to make good choices. Imagine the problems they would solve and the world they would create. The sooner humane education becomes ubiquitous, the sooner such a healed world will unfold.
Image courtesy of Sleestak66.
Filed under: humane education | Tagged: "Claude and Medea, humane education, power of choice, schools | 2 Comments »