In my last post, I wrote a response to an excellent post at Cooperative Catalyst titled, “What does it mean to be well-educated?”. As the creator of the first M.Ed. program in the U.S. focused on humane education, I’ve had to think about this question a lot, but in a very specific way. I’ve had to ask myself, “What does it mean to be a well-educated humane educator?”
Having completed two master’s degrees myself, I knew the typical liberal arts master’s degree format: take courses of interest from a variety of professors; write the (usually) two long (20+ pages) papers; do this for two years and receive a degree. One of my master’s degrees is in English Literature, and my husband can’t quite believe how many classics I’ve never read yet still received an M.A. I’ve never read Dickens, Melville, or Hawthorne, for example. Hard to believe. But I did read lots of Shakespeare (I took a whole course just on Hamlet), the Bloomsbury authors of England, lots of utopian and dystopian novels, and the Romantic poets. Still, there are huge gaps in my education because I took the courses that interested me. There was no body of knowledge I had to possess to be granted my degree.
When I was creating our M.Ed. program, I realized there was a body of knowledge I wanted each student to have. For our students to be well-educated humane educators, there were certain books and films and ideas with which I felt they needed to grapple. I read hundreds of books to narrow down our reading list to those I felt were key components to their education, and each year when I revised the curricula, I read another hundred. And so every student who enrolls in our program reads core books (with many others recommended) and completes many specific (short) assignments designed to help them to become the best humane educators they can be. Students can request a different book (if they’ve already read it or feel it isn’t of greatest value to them personally) or propose a different assignment (for the same reason), and these requests are usually granted. But there is a body of knowledge I want them to have and carefully crafted questions/assignments I want them to address and explore.
At times this seems so prescriptive, so different from the graduate programs I participated in. But to be well-educated and well-rounded as a humane educator, I have felt that there are key texts that will provide them with the right mix of knowledge, approach, and understanding for educating others to be solutionaries who understand the interconnected issues of human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, and explorations of culture and change. I have taken a similar approach as any trade school – whether medical school or law school – an approach that says: in order to be successful at this profession, you need this particular set of knowledge and skills.
What does it mean to be well-educated? It depends upon what you are being educated for.
Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education
P.S. In Fall 2011, IHE will resume its M.Ed. in Humane Education program — the only program of its kind in the U.S. — with a new affiliate. To receive more information about the program and an application when this program is launched, please contact Amy Morley at Amy@HumaneEducation.org.
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Filed under: animal protection, education, Environmental Preservation, human rights, humane education, Institute for Humane Education, social justice Tagged: | animal protection, curriculum, education, environmental protection, graduate programs, human rights, humane education, knowledge, Master of Education in Humane Education, schooling, skills