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For educators

What is humane education?

In its most general sense, humane education refers to all those activities designed to encourage children to “be kind.” Its goal is to help children develop empathy and compassion for other people and animals, respect for the environment, and the ability to make decisions based on the welfare of others as well as themselves.

Why is it important?

Fostering in children compassion toward animals is important for the well-being of both animals and children.

Furthermore, the link between cruelty to animals and violence toward people has been well established. There is now overwhelming evidence that cruelty to animals is a symptom of deep psychological problems. It’s a clear indicator of a potential for violence and abuse toward people as well. In children and adolescents, a pattern of recurrent cruelty to animals is a predictor of later aggression toward people.

So what does this have to do with you as a classroom teacher?

Everything. The research supports the need for humane education and suggests what its content should be. You know your students and influence them on a daily basis.

Properly conceived and executed, humane education programs improve the treatment of both animals and people. Humane education not only provides knowledge about animals and their care but develops empathy, respect, sensitivity, responsibility, self control and self-esteem. Including humane education as part of the regular school curriculum ensures that all children learn appropriate behaviours, not just those fortunate enough to come from stable, caring home environments.

The four goals of humane education

Dr. David Selby is a professor at the International Institute for Global Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, at the University of Toronto. His book Earthkind: A Teacher’s Handbook on Humane Education (Trentham, 1995) belongs in every school’s professional library. According to Dr. Selby, there are basically four goals of humane education.

  1. First is developing a biophyllic ethic – a life-loving and life-affirming ethic. Humane educators’ work is about creating a life-lovingness and that means a huge number of things. It means kindness and compassion and consideration to animals. It means respecting the inherent rights of natural environments to exist and recognizing the intrinsic value of animals. It means recognizing the importance for every human being of self-worth and self-esteem.
  2. Humane education is also about interconnectedness. Many human problems are created or exacerbated by the dominant Western cultural tendency over the last three hundred years to separate things into dichotomies. There’s us and them, local and global, masculine and feminine, reason and emotion, body and mind, human and animal. A humane ethic is saying that these things cannot be separated. We must see them as profoundly interwoven.
  3. A third goal of humane education is to clarify values and perspectives. Where do we stand on the issues? What are our perspectives? How do those in Western culture come to terms with indigenous groups and non-western groups in society and their positions on animals?
  4. Finally, humane education embraces democratic principles and processes. Humane education is about a new kind of learning environment in which there is far more interaction between people and far more chance for kids to speak of their own authentic feelings and experience.

animals eh?

Humane education links

We have tried to list some of the very best humane education links here.

If there are other websites that you find particularly useful and you would like to share them with other educators, by all means contact us and let us know. We would be very happy to post them here!

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